Always Strive to Improve Your Clubs Most Important Asset – Your Coaches

If there was a HELP WANTED sign on the Gym or Sports Club owners door, this might be how that sign would read:


COACH. Must work extraordinary hours for measly pay. Must shoulder great responsibility for athlete success. Must balance athletic performance requirements with individual athlete needs. Must follow direction but also initiate creative efforts.

Off Season Off (Jut Kidding). Must remain emotionally detached but psychologically connected at the same time. Must possess otherworldly sense of humor. Must be PR expert and relationship professional in dealing with parents. Required characteristics: self-starter, reflective, sensitive, dedicated, data-savvy, street-smart. Championship experience preferred.

As owners and managers, there is an enormous amount of pressure on us to staff our gyms, teams, and clubs with strong, effective, intelligent people that produce winners. We feel the push to hire the best person and to simultaneously make the right fit and appease “political” forces (parents).

Doing that is not as easy as one might think.


Consider the words of experts:

“It is clear that effective coaches have a profound influence on athletic achievement”
“High-level athletic performance by athletes requires high-level instruction by their coaches.”
“The single greatest determinant of athletic performance is not socioeconomic factors or funding levels. It is instruction.”

First, we can train and maximize what our current coaching staff can do through effective use of coaching, professional development opportunities, differentiated supervision practices, and continuous training.

Second, we can hire great coaches. And if you’re a club or gym owner who has ever had to fill a coaching vacancy, you know how hard that is: Hard as a coffin nail.

It’s difficult to do what leadership expert Jim Collins (Good to Great, Built to Last) suggests is necessary: Get the right people on the bus, and put them in the right seats (2001). Fortunately, we have a set of guidelines for you to follow the next time you’re faced with a spot on your coaching roster with no name next to it.


Recruit. Public relations is not someone else’s job. Go find the great coaches, and encourage them to apply. Talk to your competitors about potential candidates. See who is winning at other competitions outside your league. Look online and see who is winning elsewhere. Get the word out that your fantastic club needs another fantastic team member.

Scour. When the applications and resumes are in, go through them with a fine-toothed comb. Know what you’re looking for, and look for it. If you need some fresh ideas, search for someone trained in another state. If you need an infusion of spirit and attitude, check personal social media. Don’t just fall victim to the blas, mind-numbing page-turning exercises that are so enticing. Scour.

And when the candidates come in for an interview, don’t hesitate to ask them to do some on-the-spot coaching. You will learn whether that resume was a carefully proofed facade or if the applicant can, indeed, coach.

Collaborate. Hiring isn’t something you should ever do solo. Invite the key players in the gym to participate in screening papers, describing desirable traits, and interviewing. This isn’t to absolve you of any culpability if the person turns out sour; it provides wider perspectives to help ensure you’re selecting the right person.

Elicit. During the interview, elicit the information you really need. Keep in mind what soft skills (qualities like work ethic, resourcefulness, personality) and hard skills (sport expertise, rules knowledge, real experience) you require in this position. Craft and ask the questions that will elicit that information. Look for the candidate’s true colors peeking through the veil of finely crafted answers — really take this time to figure out who this person really is.

Scrutinize. When you have narrowed your field to a finalist (or two), dig into their closets and check out the skeletons. Call their references, even if they wrote glowing letters. If you hadn’t noticed, it seems anyone can get a fabulous letter (or seven) in his or her file, and it’s hard to determine how authentic they are. Go back and re-read everything in the application folder. Pick up every bit of information you can. If they are coaching minors IT IS A MUST TO DO A BACKGROUND CHECK.

Ensure. Eliminate vacillation. If you’re not sure, the answer is always “no,” and you start over. If you’re sure, and I mean really, deeply, truly, assuredly positive that this is the right person at the right time for the right seat on your bus, then (and only then) go for it.

I can’t stress that last point enough: Unless you’re absolutely, positively, unequivocally, irreparably certain that this person is the right person, then remember the words of wisdom from Nancy Reagan: “Just say no.” You can’t expect to get the right people on the right seats of the bus if you simply pick “the best person of the field of candidates we interviewed.”

It’s preferable to wait, fill the position with a qualified assistant, and keep searching. Wouldn’t you rather have the right person for 163 days (and a assistant for 17) than have to put up with the wrong person for 180 days (and allow it to drain you of your resources, sanity, self-confidence, and your clubs reputation)?

If you’re not convinced, call your colleagues and ask them to tell you about a time that they hired the wrong person. Hear the still-simmering frustration in their voice. Feel the anguish in their expressions. Dab the tears from the corners of their eyes. Censor the profanity with which they describe this horrible series of events. Just learn from their mistakes so you don’t repeat them.

Let’s select coaches better.

Our athletes deserve the best. The very best. The right people. In the right seats.

You drive the club. It’s up to you!