In this past Monday’s episode of the Great Quotes for Coaches podcast and in Wednesday’s video on the SlamDunk Success YouTube channel, I asked the question in the title of this post.

My focus audience for both was coaches, but I was also speaking to teachers, parents, athletic directors, principals, superintendents, and leaders of any type of organization.

If you listened to the podcast or you watched the video, you know what the ingredient is. If you didn’t listen or watch, you will find out in a minute.

Before I move to the ingredient and why it’s so important for your success, what do you think the ingredient is?

What are some of the most important ingredients someone in the groups listed above should possess?

There are many ingredients that have probably come to mind as you have contemplated the question, and I imagine they would all be important ingredients. 

As for me, if I were asked that question, I would consider some of the following ingredients as crucial to my success as a coach and leader: caring, compassion, trust, patience, respect, integrity, honesty, confidence, empathy, knowledge, & understanding, just to name a few. Of course, we could come up with a lot more ingredients that would be important for our success.

However, the one I want to focus on today is not on the list above. I came close to it with the last two words on that list—knowledge & understanding.

But knowledge and understanding are the results of the ingredient I want to talk about today. In fact, the more I look at that list, the more I realize that every one of them can be developed through this one ingredient.

“Enough of the build-up, Scott. What’s the ingredient?!”


Far too many coaches today are not receiving enough of an education on becoming the best they can be in their role as coaches.

And by the way, my focus here is on general coaches’ education. While Xs & Os and game strategy are extremely important elements to learn and study, my focus here is not on those types of sport-specific elements.

I’m talking about what I think are even more important elements like building relationships, leadership, working with challenging people, dealing with parents, building great team cultures, establishing and maintaining trust, developing confidence, and so on.

It Starts with You, Coach

The #1 culprit for coaches’ lack of education is the coaches themselves. Too many coaches just don’t spend enough time reading, listening to podcasts or books, watching videos, going to clinics, or picking the brains of other coaches, athletic directors, or coaching mentors.

On the surface, their reasons for not doing enough of these things may seem justified. But when you dig deeper and probe a little bit, their reasons start sounding like hollow excuses:

“Not enough time” is a big one.

So is, “There’s so much out there, I don’t know who to turn to.”

And the classic, “I already know what I need to know to coach the way I want to coach.”

Or one that really blows my mind, “I just don’t read.”

And while coaches may not say the exact words in any of the statements above, the ones who feel that way don’t have to—their actions speak much louder than their words.

In fact, as you read each of those, I imagine many of you had flash before your eyes the faces of coaches you know who either say those types of statements or demonstrate the attitudes those statements embody.

It’s Understandable

I understand how and why coaches would have those attitudes and believe the way they do.

I also understand that coaches are very busy people, too. Most work a full-time job all day, hurry to practice or games after work, and have to do the myriad tasks associated with the job for many more hours of each week, especially during the season.

But come on.

How good do you want to be?

Seriously… How good do YOU want to be?

Do you want to be the best coach for kids that you can possibly be?

What if your players/students had those kinds of attitudes? Would you accept any of those types of excu—-, sorry, reasons for why your players/students didn’t do or learn something you wanted them to do or learn?

Yeah, I didn’t think you would.

So why would you accept them from yourself?

And if you’re a head coach, why would you accept them from your assistant coaches?

And if you’re an AD, principal, or superintendent, why would you accept them from your staff?

It is a crucial element in the quest for success, while becoming a leader of significance in young people’s lives, for coaches (and teachers) to upgrade their knowledge through various methods of educating themselves.

Got 15-20 minutes waiting in the doctor’s office or to pick your kids up from jiu-jitsu practice? Bring your iPad and while you’re waiting, watch a YouTube video or TedTalk on leadership, team-building, or some other topic that could help you improve.

Got a 20-minute commute to and from work? Listen to a book or a podcast on your phone or your car’s stereo.

Do you normally stay up late watching Fallon, Colbert, or Kimmel? Record the show, get into bed early with a book on leadership, and read a chapter. (Or bring that same book into a certain other room in your house that you find yourself sitting down alone in for 5, 10, or 15 minutes at a time taking care of some personal business. And I’m not talking about a library!)

The point is that there are all kinds of opportunities for coaches to be proactive with their own education and start improving themselves, and those opportunities are not nearly as difficult to take advantage of as they might think.

Professional Development…

The other big culprit when it comes to a lack of education to help coaches develop and improve is the leadership/administration at their school or in their league.

I’m talking to you athletic directors, principals, and superintendents.

Every school district where I have worked (4 total) has provided professional development, in-service days, trainings, & workshops for the teaching staff at various times throughout the year. The days required to have these trainings are built into the calendar in the spring/summer of the previous year.

Before school starts up again in the fall, the administration figures out what specific trainings they will have and then gets them set up on the dates they have scheduled.

While they weren’t all outstanding, many of the teacher-trainings I attended through the years were quite helpful to us becoming better teachers, better leaders of young people, and better teammates with one another.

In most—if not all—states, there is a requirement for teachers that they receive a certain amount of continuing education credits every few years. This means that teachers need to go to workshops, trainings, conferences, and/or actual college classes that will help them continue to grow and develop as teachers.

These are all great ways to help teachers continue to learn strategies, tactics, and methods to help them be the best teachers they can be.

… for Coaches!

However, there is little to none of this for coaches and advisors at their schools.

Why don’t we demand from and offer coaches the kinds of opportunities we demand from and offer teachers?

We want them to provide kids positive athletic experiences, create great team cultures, work well with other programs, and deal with challenging athletes and parents, all while trying to win a lot of games; yet, we don’t offer them opportunities to learn ways to do those things.

In fact, consider how many coaches today are not actual classroom teachers. (I know in some states they are still required to teach, but in the majority of states, they are not.) In many schools around the country, there are more coaches who don’t teach than those who do.

This means that we have thousands of people around our country who have never been given any education or training on how to teach, lead, & nurture kids who, depending on the sport, school, and team, are in charge of upwards of 100 kids for 2 hours a day for 3-4 months every year.

However, unlike teachers in the classroom, these same people are not required to continue to upgrade their education or training on a regular basis or given opportunities to do so by their schools.


When you think about it that way, do you see how preposterous it truly is?

No wonder there are so many problems on teams and in athletic departments in schools and leagues all across the country (and, I imagine, all across the world).

Over the years, I have had principals/superintendents tell me that the number of problems, conflicts, and crises that sports and activities have created at their schools far outnumber anything from the academic side of things.

So what should we do about it?

Well, let’s start by acknowledging our own situation at each of our schools. We can then decide if we are already offering our coaches/advisors enough educational opportunities and trainings to help them deal with all that will be thrown at them throughout the year.

If we are, GREAT! We need to keep up the good work, and keep bringing people in, or having study clubs, or establishing mentor/mentee relationships on our staffs, or whatever else is working.

But if we decide that we are lacking in this area and we need to start providing opportunities for education and trainings for our coaches and advisors, then it’s time to get to work and start planning on how we want to do so.

One Great Option

There are many excellent options out there for you to start improving your athletic/activities departments through professional development. I encourage you to do your due diligence, see what might work best for you, and then contact those organizations to schedule something with them.

However, there is one organization in particular that I highly recommend you consider having in to work with you. It is the organization of which I am a member of the speaking team—Proactive Coaching.

Many of you already know of Proactive Coaching, either from the numerous times I’ve mentioned them through the years or from your own dealings with them. Proactive Coaching can provide trainings and workshops for you to help you develop coaches of significance in kids’ lives, while creating the kinds of team cultures you seek to build in your programs.

I have been a fan of Proactive Coaching ever since I first saw the founder/director, Bruce Brown, speak at a clinic 20 years ago. Over the years, I grew to love everything about the organization and all that I learned from Bruce and the other speakers on his team. I was impacted so much that I joined the team as a speaker in 2008.

I know I’m not alone in my feelings about the impact Proactive Coaching has had on me. Due to our in-person presentations, Zoom trainings, videos, books, and Facebook page, hundreds of thousands of people all around the world have learned strategies and tactics to become the best leaders they can be.

This is the time of year that schools and leagues are starting to look at next year to figure out what professional development opportunities they want to take advantage of. I encourage you to consider bringing us in to work with your school, league, staff, athletes, and/or parents.

August is always our busiest month, as athletic directors have us out to work with their coaches & athletes, and speak at their Pre-Season Parent/Athlete Meetings for fall sports.

If you are interested in finding out more about what we can do for you, I encourage you to contact me at or Rob Miller at

If you would like to see a list of the specific presentations that I do, go to the Speaking page here on my SlamDunk Success site.

Don’t leave your or your coaches’ and teams’ opportunities for success and a positive experience to chance. Get intentional about becoming the coach and leader you want to be and helping others become the best that they can be.

Start scheduling professional development trainings to help your people grow & develop. You, your coaches, your athletes, & your teams will be so glad you did.

I look forward to hearing from you and working with you and your teams soon!