• Ryan Panzer

What football coaching taught me about workplace coaching: Introduction

Updated: Dec 6, 2019

It seems almost cliché to suggest that the best learning experiences I have had as a workplace coach have come from my volunteer work as a high school football coach.


Yet after years of taking coaching courses, attending coaching webinars, reading countless books and blog posts, and attending every coaching workshop that I could find, the fact remains that none have taught me so much about this practice as the 15 to 18-year-old football players with whom I have the good fortune to work with.





Coaching a sport is instructive to the workplace coach for two reasons. First, sports provide a daily, consistent setting to hone one's coaching skills. In the workplace, a coach might have 30 minutes to work with a coachee in any given week. During the football season, a coach has 2-4 hours to work with their coachee every single day. Second, sports provide a level of radical accountability, in which your work as a coach will be put to the test in every drill, in every practice, and of course, in every game. Sports create a rapid feedback loop that immediately indicates whether or not the coaching was effective. That feedback loop involves far more than wins and losses. The loop involves the progress of individual players, the cohesion of entire teams, the character that teams demonstrate in moments of adversity. Given the number of coaching interactions and their subsequent rapid results, coaching a sport is the ideal laboratory for anyone that would learn the emergent practice of workplace coaching.


This post is the first of a series on what football coaching taught me about workplace coaching. In this series, I'll explore four lessons I have learned on the football field that continue to influence the way I coach at the office.


  • Part one: Don't identify flaws and shortcomings. Use appreciative inquiry to maximize their strengths and skills.

  • Part two: Don't coach people to perform better. Coach people to live out the team's identity.

  • Part three: Don't hold everybody to the same standard. Coach different people differently.

  • Part four: Don't be the team's only coach. Be the one who turns the team into a team of coaches.

A wise football coach from Wisconsin once said that winning isn't everything. It's the only thing.


He was wrong, of course. When it comes to sports, winning is a fickle and unsustainable objective. But when it comes to developing talent, coaching may be among the only things capable of driving sustained and efficient performance improvement. So buckle that chin strap, lace up those cleats. It's time to take the field.

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@ryanpanzer

Leadership developer for digital culture. Writing a book with Fortress Press, coming in December 2020!

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