Coach education and business school

The Septmeber 2013 issue of Men’s Health had an article titled “The Fastest Route to Rich” by Joe Kita, which essentially dismissed the necessity of an MBA for those entering the business world. 

“The fundamental problem with business schools is that a lot of the most successful people have never been to one,” says Phillip Delves Broughton, author of the memoir Ahead of the Curve: Two Years at Harvard Business School. “You can’t say that about medicine, for example, or law. Every good lawyer has been to law school. Every good doctor has been to medical school. But not every successful businessman has an MBA.”

As much as I, and others, advocate for some form of coach education or coach development, the truth is that very few of the great coaches have any kind of formal coaching education. Therefore, is coach education unnecessary, much as this article argued for the lack of necessity of an MBA?

Michael Focht of Tenet Healthcare Corporation said:

“I worked alongside guys who have enough degrees to wallpaper a house, but they never learned to manage people. As a result, they were never very successful…. Business school graduates are academically prepared but not people-prepared. To me, that’s the secret to success.”

Like business, coaching is a people business. There is formal knowledge that informs  one’s coaching – motor learning theory, training theory, physiology, etc. – but in the end, knowledge is insufficient if you cannot relate to, work with, manage, motivate, and communicate with people, whether assistants, players, or administrators.

This is not to suggest that coach education is useless. Understanding when and how to provide feedback or how to design a practice or how to manage pre-season conditioning will enhance one’s coaching. However, the coach needs the people skills first. Without the people skills, someone with all the training and academic knowledge might do well as a sports scientist or in some other behind-the-scenes role, but he or she will not excel in coaching. Coaching requires the people skills to be able to read players and situations, to be able to communicate to different people of different backgrounds, to be able to think on the fly and adjust to the environment.

Last week, at a coaching clinic, I was asked how long I stay with a drill, as a couple youth coaches said that the legendary local high-school coach will stick with one drill for over an hour if it is not perfect. I told them to watch me at camp the next day. I stayed with the drills as long as the motivation to continue was apparent. One day, we played rock-paper-scissors tag (hat tip to Allison McNeill of Canada Basketball) for almost 15 minutes because the children appeared engaged. Another day, we played tag for less than 5 minutes because children were standing around rather than being engaged in the game.

I once heard a coaching adage that said: “It is better to end a drill too early than too late”, and I tend to abide by that adage. I want to end the drill when there is enthusiasm and intensity rather than waiting until the players have checked out mentally and physically.

That time frame differs from day to day. The ability to read people and situations is vital in this aspect of running a practice, but that is one simple example of how people skills often supersede formal knowledge or education. In a perfect world, coach education would assist with the development of these people skills and would provide the background knowledge to inform and enhance one’s coaching.

By Brian McCormick, M.S.S., PES
Coach/Clinician, Brian McCormick Basketball
Author, Cross Over: The New Model of Youth Basketball Development
Director of Coaching, Playmakers Basketball Development League

2 thoughts on “Coach education and business school

  • Play Rock-Papers-Scissors. The winner runs to the baseline nearest to him or her; the loser chases and tries to tag the winner before the baseline.

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