Key To Success: Coaching | Jennifer Magley

Michael Jordan hits the game winning shot and looks over to the sideline. Serena clinches the match and smiles towards her player's box. The Patriots shower their leader with Gatorade after another championship. Who are these elite athletes acknowledging in their greatest moments: their coach.

Photo: Jennifer Magley at Integrating Women Leaders Conference (Indianapolis)

These coaches did not run a single sprint, take a shot, or make one tackle and yet here they are standing in victory on the sidelines.

Sports are a large part of our culture and the concept of coaching has been around since the 19th century. In fact, “the first use of the term "coach" in connection with an instructor or trainer arose around 1830 in Oxford University slang for a tutor who "carried" a student through an exam. The word "coaching" thus identified a process used to transport people from where they are to where they want to be.” Interestingly the first use of the term in relation to sports came during the Civil War in 1861.

While coaching is widely accepted and respected in athletics it is still a fairly new concept to the general working public. Often it is a perk for the C-Suite level executive, a luxury reserved for those who can afford to invest in themselves. Yet, the truth is we all invest in ourselves every day. Each decision we make from what we put in our bodies to the types of activities we participate in are an investment. Perhaps it’s not that coaching is unaffordable for the every day Joe but that Joe would rather not change.

It can definitively be said that there is not one athlete who has ever succeeded without a coach. John Wooden said it best, “A good coach can change a game, a great coach can change a life.” Coaching is the key ingredient to any form of success whether it be in the boardroom or on the basketball court.

Here are the top benefits of having a coach:


Remember when you said you were going to workout this week? Surely you do, but who asks you about it? Is there a person in your life that holds you accountable for keeping your word to yourself?

Sometimes, when there is such a person, chances are no one asked them to take on this role. Thus they are a nag rather than a source of inspiration. It is not your romantic partner’s job to be your life coach. 

A good coach is comfortable with uncomfortable conversations.


It turns out that we do not learn from experience or from teaching. We learn from reflecting on what we have experienced or heard. Self reflection is powerful but if I were to ask you what your top priorities are right now, chances are “reflection” does not make the list.

A good coach is a master questioner and creates the space for you to provide the answers to what is hindering your progress.


Each coach is different with varied backgrounds and credentials. As a former NCAA Division I Head coach and athlete my coaching style draws from sports culture. Often my clients receive much recognition in the form of media exposure, industry awards, and contracts yet not many people are lining up to celebrate a completed workout plan that week. 

A good coach recognizes and celebrates the victories of their client.


Trust between a client and coach is paramount to success. Growth and progress is a process that requires measurement. Basic goal setting states that a goal is time bound. By having weekly or bi weekly meetings with your coach you are able to see if you are having results. If not, it is the coach’s job to adjust until the client clicks that key into place.

A good coach expects results and the client produces.

Perhaps the most important dynamic with having a coach is fit. In sports this is true as well, from the fire breathing Bobby Knight to Zen master Phil Jackson, athletes respond to coaches based on desired communication style. Having a coach that understands who you are and how you are inspired is mission critical. When the feeling of leveling up begins to claw at your conscious and you want accountability, reflection, recognition, and results then it is time to have a coach. To rephrase an epic quote, “When the client is ready the coach will appear.”

Jennifer Magley is a former professional athlete, speaker, author, and high performance coach. Article originally appeared on More information can be found at and videos on YouTube.

Jennifer Magley