Think back, reflect on the best teachers or coaches you ever had. Chances are, it wasn't what they taught you that made you love learning from them... It was likely their personality, unique way of delivering information, ability to lite a fire in your belly and make you work harder than you ever though possible.
I had many coaches between the ages of 5 and 22. Some were bad, some were good, and a few were great.
Lets start with the bad coaches. They didn't necessarily write a bad training program and it wasn't their inability to deliver a training session. In general, what made them bad coaches was their lack of passion and dedication. It was all about ego, all about them, and not about developing great athletes.
The good coaches were kind of in between. They wrote a good program, had a lot of experience and knowledge, they cared about the team and loved coaching. But something was missing. It seemed like they facilitated an environment that catered for mediocre results. It was OK if someone didn't show up for a training session, it was just fine if athletes were always late, and the athletes never got to have any input in the general program, races or training sessions. There was no commitment, no connection, no high performance attitude. It may work for some, which is why I classified them under the good, not bad category. It didn't work for me though, as I was seeking greatness.
I had a handful of great coaches while I was racing, but there is one that made the most impact. When I was 18, a running coach told I can keep doing what I was doing and be a good runner, or I can make some changes and become a significantly better runner. I didn't really think twice - I jumped with both feet into a training program that completely took me out of my comfort zone... and it payed off.
That coach had this amazing ability to get the most out of me. He gave me feedback without sugar coating anything and without BS. He was passionate about running, coaching, going faster, and he was tough: It was either GO time, or GO HOME time. He didn't only make me a better and faster runner, he continuously made me step out my comfort zone, he innovated and he engaged me in the process, which is something that made a world of difference. He had a 'go out there and WIN' mentality that I loved, and I ran faster and faster as a result.
Now, go back to the top of this post and read the first paragraph again. If you are an athlete, what kind of coach are you looking for? Obviously, a coach that I classified as bad or good may be classified as a great coach by another athlete! If you are a coach, what kind of attitude do you have towards coaching?
One thing to remember though, is that there are no right or wrong answers here. For example, the coach I classified as great, had the same attitude towards training and racing as me, which is why it worked, but I am pretty sure he would have scared away a beginner runner and they would have classified him differently than I have...
Take home message here? If you’re an athlete looking for a coach, do your homework to find the right coach for you. Ask a prospective coach the right questions and find the right coaching fit. The same thing applied if you're a coach!