Choosing the right coach

Many people bill themselves as a Life Coach or Business Coach and give assurances they can help you become healthy or wealthy. A coach provides knowledge, motivation and encouragement to help you achieve a specific goal. A good coach is able to objectively assess your disposition and abilities, with an eye toward collaboration. In other words, a good coach will identify your ‘potential’ and push you through perceived barriers you would impose on yourself in the absence of external impetus.

As ‘Coaching’ is an unregulated profession, it is always prudent to thoroughly check a Coach’s credibility and suitability before engaging service and shop around before making a commitment.

Choosing the right coach


A variety of certifications are available; but many require as little as a weekend of training, or can be earned via self-study on the internet with little if any accountability, much less verification of practical ability.


In athletics, a Coach leads and coordinates effort for a team or individual to perform well in competition. But that is only half the story. Think about a favorite teacher or coach you have had in the past. Your first thoughts are probably of personal bests experienced due to that person’s instruction and leadership. But if you achieved something of significance during that time you will also recall periods of frustration, discomfort or disagreement. ‘Fit’ refers to the sustainability of the relationship throughout both the highs and the lows.

Learning, in any context, is often portrayed as an adversarial relationship. The coach is frustrated by the athlete’s intransigence (lazy, not willing to ‘get with the program’, inability to conceive the ‘big picture’). The athlete can likewise be upset by the coach’s seemingly unreasonable demands (egotism, too-high expectations, unfeeling). The assumption is that the interpersonal tension is the only way to break thru barriers to experience personal bests; i.e., forcing the athlete to rise to the challenge.

There are certainly instances where adversarial relationships have produced success. But there are also instances of successful coach/athlete pairings where they determined shared goals and collaborated without rancor to achieve them.

Research suggests a few best practices, but coaching remains an art. The most successful interactions acknowledge the individualistic response to certain styles of teaching, encouragement or motivation. The best outcomes derive from finding a good fit for coach and athlete.

Potential outcomes

The purpose of Coaching varies by the setting and relevant goals. Although the following table divides Coaching skills between Athletics, Business and Personal; many of them overlap categories. Bottom line, there is more to Coaching than simply telling a client what to do. 

Athletics Business Personal
Lead to more wins or a higher ranking Guide to greater income, more sales, promotion Facilitate improved health and greater happiness
Set and direct a training schedule Help prioritize responsibilities Counsel relationship and lifestyle choices
Teach and refine skills Recommend and reinforce effective work habits Serve as an information resource for problem solving
Advocate for fair play and equitable application of rules Interpret effective practice for a productive workplace Provide counsel for intra- & interpersonal relationships
Maintain equipment Guide resource selections Suggest new tools

An effective good coach collaborates to clarify goals and determine abilities relative to those goals.

An ineffective coach applies a set methodology toward a standardized goal, regardless of the learner’s evident abilities or stated interests; meaning the finds herself working toward a goal she did not choose.

An effective coach supports diligent exertion toward desired goals in a way the learner cannot produce by herself. In other words, the effective coach keeps your nose to the grindstone when you are tired of a task but have not yet achieved a ‘training effect’.

An effective coach provides motivation to rise above perceived limitations, leading to a higher level of performance than the learner initially assumed possible.

Coaching shares a lot with teaching, including the presumption that it is so easy anyone can do it. But any good teacher will tell you that teaching requires specific skills. And if you have experienced poor teaching, it was probably because those skills were lacking.

Bottom line, you contract a Coach to help you achieve your own goals. If it appears the Coach has separate, self-serving goals; the relationship will not work. A Coach deserves to be paid for their knowledge and expertise, and nothing more. An effective Coach sets goals by which you will know, for a certainty, you are approaching your purpose. Lack of progress is the most obvious indication of ineffective coaching. In which case, return to the top of this article and start over. 

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