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Matt Blandford
Talent and Performance Self-care and development

The Road to Becoming an Elite Coach

Sharing research findings on what it takes to become an elite coach

Becoming an elite coach is not easy and is far more than just ‘collecting’ coaching badges. In a study where I interviewed elite coaches about their development history, I found that many of these coaches shared experiences outside of formal coach education, which they believe helped them to reach the elite coaching environment.

There were some common themes which came out of the research into how to become an elite coach.


  • Get yourself a mentor (or mentors) who you respect greatly, not just someone you deem to be an expert but someone that you look up to and exhibits good coaching skills.
  • Coaching is made up of many different aspects, so don’t be afraid to use different people to learn about different aspects of coaching.
  • Do remember, however, that not everything they say is gospel, so decide for yourself (filter) what advice to use.

Get experience

  • You can never have too much experience. All of the elite coaches interviewed said that you’ve got to have ample experience in elite sport to be able to coach effectively at that level.
  • This experience doesn’t have to come from playing at an elite level either, you can learn the technical and tactical knowledge you gain from playing by amassing plenty of hours coaching.

Never stop learning

  • As a coach, the moment you lose that thirst for knowledge, you will begin to stagnate.
  • The best coaches believe their peak is always ahead of them, and will still go out of their way to learn, be it from reading, mentors or other sources.

Interpersonal skills

  • Do not ignore the development of your interpersonal skills. Elite coaching is not just about having in-depth technical knowledge.
  • Good communication and the ability to build and maintain strong relationships are the hallmarks of any good elite coach.

Keep adding to your CV

  • Some coaches have professional playing careers behind them, which will get them elite jobs, but in the modern era of sport, specialist skills like IT and applying recent research can set you apart as a coach and help you secure that elite coach role.
  • What is your unique selling point as a coach? What strengths will you bring to the environment?

The road to becoming an elite coach is long, often challenging and reasonably uncharted, however research is starting to explore how coaches can make transitions towards elite performance. 

Related Learning

  • A Head for Talent

  • What is Talent?

  • Getting Better, Better


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Matt Blandford