Becoming a Classic Coach

Have you ever found your way into a wine store with some time to kill and found yourself wondering, “What makes a fine wine … fine?” (Outside of the price tag of course!)? Same goes for a bookstore. What are characteristics that distinguish a classic, from a really good read?

I do not pretend to have a credible answer to either question, but I imagine it has something to do with predictable outcomes. Even if you are the furthest thing possible from a certified sommelier, when you pop the cork on a bottle of fine wine it smells like you are standing in the middle of a vineyard; it pours like you are in the middle of a commercial shoot with the cameras rolling; and it tastes luxuriously perfect, all with almost flawless regularity! Same goes for cracking the cover of a classic book. Words on a page flow seamlessly to paint pictures, develop characters and outline a plot. Readers are routinely transported to the time and place of the author’s choosing in a manner that induces page-turning absorption.

Conversely, I do have several decades’ worth of experience facilitating leadership and coaching training and would like to suggest almost any version of The Best Coach Ever Activity qualifies as a classic in that realm. There are variations of course, but for the most part the activity is positioned as such:

The Best Coach Ever Activity

  1. I’d like you to take a minute to reflect upon “your best coach ever.” This is the person who helped you turn a corner, get over a hurdle or achieve something of significance in your life.
  2. In the space provided in your participant workbook, document what that person said or did that distinguished them from everybody else who played a similar role in your life.

Invariably, people start writing almost immediately. This is not an activity learners struggle with or don’t understand. They dive in. Not only do they have a person in mind, they are temporarily transported back in time and have immediate recall. It’s analogous to the impact memorable music has on just about all of us. We hear a song that our brain attaches to a series of events that happened long, long ago, and we relive it with an unexplainable level of all-inclusive accuracy.

The same thing goes for discussion of this activity. In comparison to activities where even the best of facilitators can struggle to induce group participation, with this one learners simply can’t wait to tell their stories. It’s like they are offering tributes at an event in their coach’s honor. If anything the challenge facilitators face is staying on schedule as learners share memories of parents, extended family members, teachers, professors, sports coaches, counselors and managers that had a profound impact on their lives.

As for the stories themselves, they are as predictable as fine wine and classic literature.

  • My best coach always knew! She knew when to give me a push, let me figure it out or sit down and work through a problem together
  • My best coach had the ability to hold me (and others) accountable for our actions without calling our integrity or our intentions into question
  • My best coach invested in others. He earned your respect and he would never let you down. Somewhere along the line you, started feeling the same way about him
  • My best coach set the bar high. For the longest time she had higher expectations for me than I had for myself

When this exchange has been effectively exhausted, here is the facilitator question that brings this activity distinction: “With your best coach experiences firmly entrenched in the front of your minds, what stands in the way of you becoming a best coach for those you currently have the opportunity to influence?”

The answer (when you get right down to it): Not much! Classic!


  1. Identify the person you feel has been “your best coach ever.”
  2. Further identify one thing that coach said or did that distinguished him or her in that regard.
  3. Replicate that behavior (perhaps repeatedly) with an individual you currently influence.
  4. Track the impact/results.