Coaching the Uncoachables

Coaching the Uncoachables


When it comes down to it, the day to day coaching of sport is not that difficult.

Get the physiology right. Teach the basics well. Come up with sensible, logical game plans and competition strategies. It’s not rocket science.

However, these things are not coaching. They are merely teaching the mechanics of the sport: they are more about learning than leadership, more about information than innovation and more about instruction than inspiration.

And, these are not the things that determine success: these are not the things that mean the difference between winning and losing.

The things that do determine success and the things that do mean the difference between winning and losing are much harder to find and even harder to measure.

They are the un-coachables: those intangible, elusive factors which make champions champions and winning teams unbeatable.

So, how can you Coach the Un-coachables?

What are the Un-coachables?

The Un-coachables are eight factors which you will not find in any coaching text book. You will not learn about them in any coaching course. You can not research them on Google and your can’t do a PhD on them.  They are not tested for in talent id programs and no one has found a piece of equipment to measure them. But, their impact on performance is immeasurable. Their role in success unparalleled. Their place in excellence unmatched. Their effect on winning unsurpassed.

The Un-coachables are:

  1. Desire
  2. Desperation
  3. Hunger for success
  4. Determination
  5. Resilience
  6. Passion
  7. Motivation
  8. Unbreakable self-confidence

So, now you have to ask…..if these un-coachables are critical for success, and I am a coach, and I want my athletes to succeed, how can I coach things that can’t be coached?

Great question. Here’s how.

Coaching the Un-coachables is what Coaching is really all About

The difference between a good coach and a great coach lies in their ability to coach the un-coachables.

Sure planning and programming are important. Teaching skills is important. Getting the physiology right is important.  Great communication skills, vision, leadership, knowledge of the sport etc etc – it’s all important, but your capacity as a coach to coach the un-coachables is what it is all about.

You can train someone to coach the coachables: i.e. the physical, mental, technical and tactical aspects of your sport relatively easily. A well designed coaching course, some intelligent assessment processes and some ongoing professional development and continuous improvement and bang! We have ourselves a coach who can coach all the things in our sport which are coachable.

And, with the amazing resources of the Internet, anyone, can find out anything, anytime, anywhere and for free so increasingly anybody from parents to presidents can learn the coachable things just by turning on a computer or smart-phone.

But does that mean the coach, and more importantly the coach’s athletes will be successful? No.

Because the things that really matter are the un-coachables.


So how do you Coach the Un-coachables?

The short answer is, you don’t.

By that I mean, you don’t include coaching the un-coachables in your coaching process and your learned coaching methodologies.

You coach the un-coachables by understanding the individual athletes you are working with and providing them with the environment and opportunity to discover the un-coachables for themselves.

You can’t force someone to have “desire”.

You can’t run a training program about “desperation” or “hunger for success”.

You can’t get a motivation expert in to create “motivation” in your athletes – it does not work.

You can’t artificially create “passion”.

You don’t coach the un-coachables: you work with your athletes and help them to discover the un-coachables for themselves.


Be a human being first, then a coach

All the un-coachables are core human characteristics. They may be hidden behind a stack of text books about physiology or under a bookshelf loaded with motivation manuals, self-help books and sporting autobiographies but they are there all the same.

The art of coaching is being able to tap into these core human characteristics, both in yourself and in your athletes. It’s about understanding yourself and your athletes and creating the environment that is needed to encourage and induce those characteristics to be expressed in all aspects of preparation and performance.


And the million dollar question. Can all athletes discover the un-coachables for themselves and in doing so become champions?


For many athletes and many coaches, sport is never more than the coachables. They believe that all they need to do is hit the gym, buy the supplements, work on their techniques, do the training, add some water and pow! They will win. But they are wrong. Very, very wrong.

Because we have reduced coaching to a set of rules about periodization and planning, training systems and structures, programs and processes, tests and techniques, the un-coachables are rarely even seriously discussed, let alone taught.

The un-coachables: the critical ingredient in the success of every athlete, every team and every coach are usually put in the too hard basket and ignored: replaced by our focus on the “real” and the more measurable and tangible aspects of coaching: the things that can be taught and learnt.

You can measure VO2 max: you can’t measure the athlete’s determination to push themselves to almost unconsciousness striving to do their best in the test.

You can measure peak Lactate levels: you can’t measure the athlete’s desperation to succeed: so desperate that they will endure the burning pain in their legs and agony in their lungs as they fight to find their limits.

The things that really matter in sport can not be measured: but that does not mean they are not absolutely vital to succeed.

Coaching success is much more than just training, education and development. It’s about being yourself, about understanding yourself, about believing in yourself, about being honest with yourself and who you are and expressing that through your coaching.


  1. Coaching the un-coachables is what coaching is all about. Anyone can learn the “coachables” – those aspects of sport which can be measured, seen and heard.
  2. But winning, success and performance is all about the un-coachables: the hard to define, difficult to measure and impossible to create aspects of sport.
  3. Ultimately success in coaching is determined by your capacity to coach the un-coachables, and, as these factors are core human factors, to be a successful coach you need to focus less on coaching the coachables and more on being yourself: your real self.
  4. Invest time and resources into learning and accepting who you are as a human being, then greatness in coaching is possible.


Wayne Goldsmith

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