The Magic Moment: When a Coach makes a Difference.

The Magic Moment: When a Coach makes a Difference.


“We do not remember days, we remember moments.”

(Cesare Pavese)

Do you remember the moment when you were a teenager and Dad or Mom told you to “save money and think about your future”?

You didn’t listen did you.

And remember the moment when you were 18 and some relative told you to “work hard and make something of yourself”?

Ignored them didn’t you.

Life is full of these moments when people, with all good intentions, give you some advice which they think will inspire you to change your life and become all you can be.

And how many times have you told an athlete make the most of every training session and make the most of your opportunities”?

And they didn’t listen.

So, what makes people listen to the right advice? How do you engage and inspire the hearts and minds of athletes and have them grasp every session, every minute, every moment as if it was their last?

The Magic Moment: When a Coach makes a Difference.


Without doubt the most frustrating times for a coach are when talented athletes, or any athletes for that matter, do not perform to their full potential.

Even worse, is when the coach knows, or at least believes, that the reason why the athlete has not performed to their full potential is due to an error or mistake or flaw in their own coaching. That somehow there was some way to have touched the heart of the athlete, inspired their mind and challenged their soul and magically, miraculously the athlete turned it all around to become all they could be.

The Magic Moment – it was never yours to begin with!

As a coach you are looking to deliver the right information to the right athlete at the right moment: the Magic Moment. The moment when the athlete is as ready to hear the message as you are to give it. That moment when you and your coaching made all the difference.

Knowing coaches the world over, you are always ready for the moment. You live for those moments.

And that’s the problem.

Its not your moment – it never was: it’s the athlete’s.

You can’t hurry magic.

Ever heard the song, “You can’t hurry love?”.

It goes:

You can’t hurry love.

You just have to wait.

You know love don’t come easy.

It’s a game of give and take.

The Magic Moment is like this. You can’t hurry athletes to be ready to listen to the message any more than your parents or relatives could have forced you to save money or study hard or believe in yourself: you have to be ready to deliver the message when the athlete is ready to hear it.

The Motivation Myth

Motivational speaking is a thriving business. And most of it is a waste of time and money.

Motivation is a myth: or at least the belief that someone with big teeth, a nice suit and some snappy sayings like “If you believe you can or believe you can’t, you are right” can walk into a room and motivate people to do something is a myth….that is unless the people in the room were ready to be motivated.

You can yell, you can scream, you can threaten, you can bribe, you can jump up and down wearing a clown suit, you can come up with all the slogans and sayings known to mankind, you can do whatever you want to but a motivation talk without the Magic Moment is just hot air.

So how do you know when the Magic Moment has arrived?

Sometimes the Magic Moment comes like a bolt of lightning. An athlete will walk up to you and say, “Coach, I want to be the best. Can you help me get to the top?”.

Sometimes it is a subtle thing and the Magic Moment evolves out of series of little changes in behaviour. The athlete arrives early for training and starts warming up without any instructions. Or they stay back to do a little extra training without being asked to. Or they do 11 repetitions in the gym when they were supposed to be doing 10.

And sometimes the Magic Moment just emerges in an unexpected situation like sitting next to an athlete on the bus and in the course of conversation they say, “I would like to break the world record coach. I dream about it sometimes. But I have never felt able to talk to you about it”.

No matter when, where, why or how the Magic Moment presents itself….be ready for it.

Coaches don’t get older…..they just get better at knowing when to use the Magic Wand!

I recently had breakfast with two of the greatest coaches I have ever known with over 80 years collective experience at international level coaching. We were discussing – you guessed it – coaching and I asked one of them why they had been so successful for so long.

He replied, “I believe you take out of coaching what you took into it. You have a box of tricks, skills and abilities that are part of who you are and what you believe. When you begin coaching, you throw everything you have at every athlete every day the same way. It’s tiring. It’s frustrating and it just does not work. 

After a while you learn that by saying or doing the right thing at the right moment, you can make a real difference to the life of an athlete. As you get more experienced you just get better at identifying that moment”.

So here’s a challenge.

Look at your own athletes.

Write down their names.

And write next to their names two things:

  1. How will you recognise when their “Magic Moment” has arrived and:
  2. What will you say and do when it does?

Share your Magic Moments with us here at the ‘Brain.

Wayne Goldsmith


  • Knut Posted November 9, 2010 7:10 pm

    First of all Wayne, thanks for your inspiring blogposts. A year ago I quitted my sportscareer as a shorttrack speedskater and started coaching. Besides coaching I’m trying to inspire people around me with sometimes similar blogposts as you.

    About two weeks ago I had a magic moment. Instead of motivating, yelling, giving my opinion, etc. I just started to ask questions. Immediately I saw a difference, they started thinking for themselves to come up with satisfying answers. Instead of getting annoyed or ignoring me they started to think for themselves. Just by asking questions and listening to what they say, my coaching became more effective.

    And about your magic moments post. I think you’re absolutely right. Thanks for confirming my thoughts every now and then. You make me think about my own coaching and it helps. I’m in the middle of the transition from athlete to coach. It’s challenging, but very worthwhile.

    • Wayne Goldsmith Posted November 10, 2010 3:50 pm

      Thanks Knut.

      I had the idea for this post when talking to my own kids last week and remembered my dad having the same talk to me.
      And just like me some 35 years ago, they weren’t ready to hear the message so it went in one ear and out the other!

      The message doesn’t really change – its the same message over and over again throughout your life – i.e. make the most of your opportunities and be all you can be – but timing is everything.

      Keep up the great work.


  • james marshall Posted November 20, 2010 3:11 am

    very thought provoking post Wayne. I find that it takes 2-5 encounters with an athlete before you can even begin to set up programmes with them. These encounters are all about relationship building and establishing a rapport.
    The more athletes I encounter, the more difficult I think it is to be a good coach.

    • Wayne Goldsmith Posted November 23, 2010 2:28 pm

      Thanks James.

      The Magic moment is different for everyone isn’t it?

      The better you know the people, the situation and the context, the more likely you are to recognise the “magic” moment when it arrives and the more likely you are to make an impact on the athlete’s preparation and performance.

      Thanks again,


  • Robin Clarkson Posted December 31, 2010 5:01 am

    Hi Wayne

    I coach field hockey and my magic moments creep in through the back door and arrive without any fan fare when the players say quietly amongst themselves “we can do this”. It’s a quiet realisation that they can achieve and that the methods that I use do work. Sometimes the magic moments come when nothing is said at all. There is a subtle change in the players demeanor and internal confidence and unless you are tuned in for it, you miss it.


    I like the wave length you are on

    • Wayne Goldsmith Posted December 31, 2010 2:43 pm

      Thanks Robin.

      That’s the key: the moment when the player takes responsibility for their own program and drives their own success rather than relying on the coach to deliver a destiny on their behalf.

      Thanks for the comment.


  • Stephen Gann Posted May 10, 2011 5:20 am


    I just stumbled across your website and I must admit, I am really enjoying reading it. I have coached youth baseball (up to 18) for several, several years now and this particular post really made sense and I agree with everything you have written.

    I have seen “the magic moment” a few times and it was terrific to hear you spell it out so well. Thank you for your writings and I look forward to reading more.

    • Wayne Goldsmith Posted May 10, 2011 7:36 am

      Thanks Stephen.

      Recognising the Magic Moments is half the challenge – the rest is communication.



  • Ada Rosabal Psy.D. Posted May 17, 2011 4:38 am

    I was chosen to begin a program of values in sports, and was lucky enough to find your name in the web.
    I have doing therapeutic work, individually and in groups including families and bussiness and now in sports training coaches in values and how to train young people in baseball and values. Your living values concept is what I know that really works.
    I am gladm that you have proven it so eloquently.
    Thank you

    • Wayne Goldsmith Posted May 17, 2011 7:19 am

      Thanks for the comment.

      Inspire kids to live a values based life, build their confidence and self belief, help them to discover their passion and teach them basic skills. If they have talent it will emerge and they will be successful.

      It is an easy formula – very few get it right.


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