What things do great coaches do? What helps to make them awesome? After years of working with other coaches, there are some distinct traits that seem to crop up again and again. Although this is not an exhaustive list, all the coaches that inspire me certainly tick most, if not all of these boxes (and this possibly even extends to performers and directors). I’ve also included a couple of quick coaching tips in the text below.

8 traits of a circus coach

An awesome coach wants to make a difference. Lets consider this not just a starting point, but a pre-requisite. When you want to see your students lives improve as a result of your class, this will feed into every aspect of your teaching. I love this notion as wanting to effect positive change can be applied in many different ways – some coaches are all about instilling confidence, others are focused on developing physicality, or a sense of achievement from technical expertise.

Is knowledgeable. More than just having a solid technical understanding, the ability to break down a skill is vital. Long gone are the days of ‘just do it and I’ll spot you’ or ‘watch me and copy’, teaching is more than just knowing how to do a trick, it’s an overall understanding of it’s basic elements. Even more than this, it’s an understanding of where it may lead, and how it will help your students in the long term that makes knowledge so powerful.

Has a plan. This follows on from the last point, and is not a difficult ask. Have a clear teaching framework, with both short and long term goals. Even if you are new to coaching this is easy to achieve. Quick tip: Take some time and write down the goals you have for your students and how you intend to get them there. Break it down into terms, weeks and lessons. Your plan might turn out to be wrong, but at least you will know where you are going and when to change direction.

Is Adaptable. To be adaptable and effective is a combination of experience, technical knowledge, intuition and bravery. Knowing when to divert from the plan is just as important as knowing when to stick to it. Have an open mind, no coach is perfect and we all have something to bring to the table. Your students are fluid too, being able to alter your coaching to suit their needs is an art form in itself.

Communicates excellently. You can’t impart your knowledge unless you can articulate it. At it’s core, this is an ability to talk to a group of people and have them follow your lead. Circus can be deceptively complicated, but if you can simplify an idea, it is much easier to transfer that knowledge to others. Quick tip: Choose one aspect of what you are teaching to focus on at any one point. Pick a teaching point, go over it and give your students a chance to put it into practice before moving on. Be clear in what you expect from your students and they will exceed your expectations.

Has an inquisitive mind. A great teacher is always learning – from other coaches, their students, books, courses, youtube, everywhere – be curious, and always ask the question why.

Is supportive. Acknowledge your students’ progress and look for every improvement, no matter how small. Encourage your students to keep trying when things are challenging.

Is inspired. You teach people to do amazing circus tricks! What a wonderful gift you have to give! Inspiration comes with effort, make time to discover new things, take a class, learn a new skill, go and watch shows. Most of all, be sure to celebrate both your students achievements as well as your own.

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