The 5 Phases of Coaching

This article is greatly influenced by John Maxwell’s terrific book “How Great Leaders Lead”.

The 5 phases of coaching describe the development of a coach. You cannot skip steps, and you will be on different levels with different athletes. For example, you may be a Phase 3 Coach to someone that you have worked with for years, but a Phase 1 coach with an athlete you have just started working with.

Phase 1 Coach

In this phase of coaching the only reason athletes listen to the coach is because he or she has been given the title “Coach”. There is no real leadership or respect. Trust is minimal and there is not much of an athlete/coach relationship. Athletes only follow Phase 1 coaches because the have to. Phase 1 coaches see high turnover in their memberships, minimal results and often feel threatened by other rising coaches.

Phase 2 Coach

Phase 2 coaches have transcended the role of “Positional Coach”. Athletes follow Phase 2 coaches because they want to. This level of coaching is attained by building relationships with athletes. At this level coaches are emotionally and psychologically invested in their athletes. These coaches are skilled in reading their athletes. They know their athletes goals, what motivates them, if they like to be yelled at or sympathized with. Phase 2 Coaches know when to push their athletes and when to back off. Coaches at this level are entertaining, friendly, get along with their athletes and are genuinely liked. Phase 2 Coaches characteristically have fun classes, and their affiliates are very social. The dangers of Phase 2 is that if you do not develop your leadership past this level you will most likely loose highly motivated athletes that are looking for more direction and results.

Phase 3 Coach

Athletes follow Phase 3 Coaches because of what they have accomplished for others. A Phase 3 Coach can point to a handful of instances where they have helped athletes achieve measurable results such as; a member who has lost 60+ lbs, getting someone get off diabetes medication, training an athlete to a sub 3-hour marathon, multiple members of the gym having sub 2:30 Fran times, or developing an athlete to a Regional-Level.

Phase 3 Coaches are respected in their fields. They are knowledgeable, educated, and able to communicate in a language that is understandable and has direct impact on the performance of their athletes. These coaches can identify good and poor movements and have the skills to correct them tactfully while keeping their athletes engaged and motivated. These coaches can teach/lecture, give the “why’s” behind theories, and expand on areas if needed. At this level momentum comes into play and more and more athletes get results. The issue of getting people to “buy in” seems to go away, and there is more confidence in the coach/athlete relationship on both sides.

Phase 4 Coach

A Phase 4 Coaches get results for every athlete on a personal level. Athletes aren’t following the coach because of what the coach has done for someone else – they follow and believe in Phase 4 Coaches because of what the coach has done for them on a personally. You are only a Phase 4 coach to an athlete if you have made THEM better. What you have done for someone else is what Phase 3 is all about. Phase 4 coaches are completely invested in their athletes emotionally, intellectually, psychologically, physically, and every way possible. These coaches entertain, inspire, and educate almost organically. Their communication and interpersonal skills seem second nature and people are drawn to them.

Phase 4 coaches have the skills and ability to coach groups of athletes efficiently, and are able to make every athlete feel as if they are getting one on one attention. These coaches have the ability not only to see and correct faults in beginner and intermediate athletes, but can improve the movements of Olympic, Professional and Games-Level athletes.

Phase 5 Coach

This is the pinnacle of coaching and is reserved for coaches who have been in the game long enough to develop several other Level 4 Coaches of their own. Athletes follow Phase 5 Coaches because of who they are, their reputation, legacy, and what they stand for. As a Phase 5 Coach there is no need to work through the phases with athletes – they are sought after and respected even before first introduction.

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