On Tuesday Jake and I set off to the village closest to his school where we had heard there would be soccer training at 6pm.  Living so far away we inevitably arrived first (there’s some learning there if you look for it) at 5.55pm.

Aside: In Ireland no-one, apart from me, ever gets anywhere when they’re supposed to, except of course on Communion and Confirmation days but that’s a story for another time.

There were two people there before us, who we clearly the soccer coaches and one of them, Eileen, came over to greet me, looking slightly anxious.  "We weren’t sure anyone would turn up" she said.

Within ten minutes the field was black with vehicles spewing forth pre-adolescent boys in technicoloured football shirts.  I spotted Rooney, Drogba, Owen, Ronaldo, Berbatov, Lehmann, Arbeloa, Keene… it was like the whole of the UK premiership had disembarked on our village playing field.

Eileen was speed-writing names and ages and getting writer’s cramp while Man Coach was herding them into teams, issuing instructions and sending them off with footballs to the four corners of the field.

As I stood and watched the whole operation, I thought about the lessons business and personal coaches could take – or at least remind themselves of – from this.  No, no, not to give away free footballs and premiership shirts to our clients.  Just read on…

Lessons I Learnt from a Soccer Coach

  1. The marketing for this event appeared to have consisted of a short paragraph in the church leaflet and the jungle drums did the rest.  The fact is they didn’t have to promote it or sell the benefits because they were offering something not just that people needed, but that they wanted too – some local soccer training and the promise of a new football team for the junior league.

    As a coach yoursef, have you established:

    a) what your clients’ pain is
    b) that they want a solution for it
    c) that you have a great solution for them

  2. The location and timing were right.  The pitch was in prime condition with plenty of room for parking.  It was a fantastic Spring-dressed-as-Summer evening, perfect factors for getting the kids and ourselves out in the fresh air. 

    How do you select the location and timing for your coaching programmes?  What research do you do?  Think about events – like sporting fixtures, holiday times, school pick-ups, even TV programmes – that might stop your clients joining up.  With enough motivation people will find a way to join you but make it as easy as possible for them in the first place.

  3. When I asked Eileen what their plan was for the coming weeks, she said they would trial the training for about a month, no charge, while they gauged the response levels, then review and tweak as necessary before
    committing further time and energy to the programme.

    Setting up an R&D (research and development) team and running a pilot at no or low cost can be a great business decision.  This is nothing to do with not valuing your skills or programme enough but a way to test what works and to improve your product / service.  Once it’s the best it can possibly be – and with some stonking satisfied client testimonials  in your back pocket – you can go out and market it with integrity and belief to your ‘hungry’ punters.

  4. The soccer coach had a
    day job, she told me; she had thrown on her tracksuit at work and rushed straight out to coach.

    Of course, I know at this level soccer coaches are not full-time professionals but people who work with kids because they love the game or want to do something for the community.  It did however remind me that there is nothing less attractive than a starving coach!  All my experience and that of other successful coaches I know is that it is likely to take at least two years, and often longer, to build a successful coaching business.

    Many have another business or job they work in part-time in combination with their coaching.  However much you love coaching and the energy and satisfaction you get at the end of a client session, if this is your only source of income you may struggle to survive.

    Chris Barrow, a former business coach of mine and one of the best, talks about ‘flipping burgers’ while you’re building your coaching income, anything to stop you wearing that desperate ‘please take me home and let me coach you’ puppy dog expression at business network meetings!  One of the many joys of coaching is that you can transition into it over a period of time.  Make your whopping business mistakes while you still have a salaried position to keep you afloat.  A few thoughts:

  • Work out your living expenses and current income and don’t forget to factor in the value of any benefits that will disappear along with the day job. 
  • Decide what type of financial safety net you will want to create for yourself – 3, 6 or 12 months living expenses?  There’s no right answer, it depends on how risk-averse you are and the extent of your business skills.
  • Define your niche and target market and calculate how many clients / products you’ll need to enable you to sleep soundly at night. 
  • Create a simple business plan and a marketing strategy.
  • Get going!  That’s the key you know, nothing else matters if you don’t have the confidence or motivation to take action.

If you are ready to build your successful coaching business and want the support of a long-established business coach to help you, contact me by email at to see how I can help you now.


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