What Makes a Great Coach?

What Makes a Great Coach?

How do you find a great coach?  How do you recognize him/her when you find them?  How do you become such a great coach yourself?

In this brief article, I'd like to share my thoughts on the qualities that I have found to be crucial for an outstanding coach.


In my own experience and through speaking to many students over the years, I have found that a great coach is someone who has at least the following qualities:

(a) is passionate, patient, and has the energy/time to devote to coaching someone at your level. 

This is important and not easy -- imagine how many people would be willing to teach first grade students how to add numbers.  We all know that 2+2 is 4, but not everyone has the patience, passion, and energy to continually help those young kids who are just learning it. 

(b) is able and willing to tailor the instruction/coaching to your specific needs and circumstances.

Personalized coaching -- not something that works for most people, but something that works for you specifically -- takes time to craft and deliver, but is immensely valuable.  If the coach has previously worked with someone who has interests / problems / areas of focus similar to yours, this may be very helpful for you.

(c) is above your level of understanding of the subject, though not necessarily much above

An example can best illustrate my point here.  If you want to learn to drive a regular car, would you find someone you know or trust, who is a good driver (even if not the best driver) and with whom you have a good relationship, or would you hire the Nascar / Formula1 world champion?  Clearly, if you have aspirations for becoming a car racing champion, working with the champions directly is a good idea at some point in your learning path, but for most other situations it would be a better use of everyone's resources to not approach the matter so extravagantly.  It would also be easier to find a good match, because there are few champions around and they likely have less time to devote.

(d) is currently actively engaged in coaching in that domain, and learning how to do it ever better. 

I have found that teachers who have acquired a special knowledge or skill a long time ago have usually forgotten what junior students need in terms of their developing understanding of the subject, so their instruction often falls short because of that disconnect between what is needed and what is being provided.  Vice versa, someone who has more recently acquired a knowledge or skill through diligent work has a much higher chance of actually remembering what was the tough part, why it was difficult, and how to make your learning (as a student) less frustrating and more enjoyable and productive.


What else is crucial for being a great coach? 

All of us have seen examples of outstanding coaches, mentors, tutors, and teachers. 

What qualities made them so good that we still remember them?

Please share in the comment section below. 


I would like to learn from you, and also to help everyone learn from each other in the process.


  • 5 years ago



    like the article.

    one thing to understand your pupil/student.

  • 6 years ago


    I've seen many live examples of coaches (in sports and other subjects, academic and non-academic) who were extremely skilled themselves in the area of coaching, but who became lousy trainers, because they just didn't have the right approach to their students.  I've also seen the converse situation -- coaches who didn't shine by themselves (but were still competent), but who inspired their students in such a powerful way that the students benefited tremendously from the relationship.

    So, in this sense, I agree with mercho's comment that a professional qualification is a minimal requirement, but it's often not a sufficient one. 

    In many fields, people study how to become competent professionals themselves, but transferring this skill or knowledge to others is a completely different skill set which, it turns out, doesn't just come from being good at the subject domain.  There, more of the interpersonal and training qualities shine -- those I talked about in the blog article above.

  • 6 years ago


    I would think you should have a professional qualification in what ever field you are coaching in.

    If you have a professional qualification it is most likely you have what it takes.

    As gaining a qualification usually requires in depth training in the subject matter.

    A pq  would mean you have studied the required subjects and having being judged by your piers passed any relevant examines necesary in teaching the said subject.

    This is the minimum requirement necessary to coach at any level in any subject.

    I guess in Chess ideally you would have an fm,nm,gm,wgm or cm after your name,and to be playing regular chess especially OTB .

  • 6 years ago


    Hello Valentin

    I like the article very much. Many of your points apply not just to chess.

    It seems that In other sport where mechanics is used the are many other things that make a good coach. Coaches ability in comparison to the student doesn't have to be a prerequisite like in chess. Many times atheletes can be given suggested changes in order to make them excell on one technique and improve over all play.

    Chess is mostly mental techiques and creative abilities. Been there done that might be a prerequisite in chess.



                        Chess brain in the hand!

  • 6 years ago


    I think it's important to believe in your pupil's abilities (whatever they are) and boost his confidence by stressing every good habit/result. 

    But I fully agree with your overall description of a (great) chess coach Smile

  • 6 years ago


    Good article _valentin_, and very well written.

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