The Responsibility of Coaching and the “Key” Element

By Todd Kolb
February 3, 2016


Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.’

This familiar turn of phrase haunts coaches and teachers alike, suggesting that the ability to instruct is less important than the ability to perform. However, I have learned firsthand that the opposite is true: the greatest gift an athlete can give is their ability to coach. And coaching comes with substantial responsibility.

To sum up the impact a coach can have on an athlete would be too great an undertaking, so I will instead focus on one single aspect of the coach’s responsibility: awareness.

Throughout my years as a golf instructor—and even during my short tenure as a youth basketball coach for my kids’ teams—I’ve noticed how important it is for a coach to be aware of what an athlete brings with them to instruction.

The guidance I provide to my players, whether it be the introduction of a new skill or a new way of looking at the game, has lasting effects. My ability to acknowledge the time and trust students invest in me is the cornerstone of a successful student/instructor relationship.

Golfers of all levels of ability seek me out to help formulate a plan for long-term improvement of their game. My students range from eager kids with their eyes on the high school golf team to tour golfers putting their careers in my hands.

The faith they have in me is tremendous. I am entrusted to help them bring their game to new levels, and to help them achieve things that they may not even realize they’re capable of.

With each lesson, each directive I offer, I make sure to acknowledge what my instruction means for the player. When I give a student a new move to work on in their golf swing, they will literally spend hours and hours, and hit thousands of balls, working on my suggestion. I am amazed and grateful for the trust they willingly give me to help guide them in their development.

I feel lucky that it is my voice in their head as they hit the range in the early, misty morning to practice.

As a golfer who has filled the role of both student and teacher, I see firsthand how important a job it is to instruct. And beyond that, I see how important it is to be aware of the time and trust students invest in me.

It is my advice to all teachers to make it a part of their practice to think beyond the lesson, to acknowledge students’ faith in your ability to take them someplace new in the game of golf, and to recognize the time they invest outside of each lesson—that it is your influence that helps to inspire the methodical dedication necessary to master the skills you have taught them.

And it all starts with awareness.


  1. After retiring from 37 years of teaching high school and coaching various sports, I accepted a golf coaching position at a local high school for the varsity ladies team. ‘Awareness’ was a vital part of the teaching process I brought with me and you are correct in stressing its importance. I came away from that first year with a million thoughts about what I need to do better and what I did successfully, with those ten players. Being ‘aware’ of their strengths and weaknesses was the starting point. Being ‘aware’ of how much I could push them to improve their skills, try new things and guide these daily exercises into making them better golfers and better teammates was quite the challenge. Showing each of the ten girls that I cared about even the smallest achievement put us on a path for having a memorable season both as individuals and as a Team. Awareness was important for me the entire season in helping us achieve our long term goals.

  2. Dear Sir: I’m a 71 year old wannabe golfer. Taken many a lesson(s) with few positive results, probably me, but I feel that many of my instrs. had a method with no flexibility to build a swing that would work for me. 5′ 8″ 135,never expect to be a long hitter – sort of a Paul Runyon type. But I’m a “military” golfer. So after all these yearsi’m going to turn myself over to you. Looking for help with 3 wwood thru putter. Any help is appreciated.

  3. Coach Mac,

    Thanks for sharing your experience and comments. As you know, coaching any sport is all about connecting with the player, getting them to believe in their own ability and helping them see what they are truly capable of achieving. All good stuff!

  4. Bill, sorry your experience with golf instruction has not been more positive. There are many wonder golf instructors out there and we just need to help you find one that connects with your needs. It is unfortunate that instructors are still teaching a method and not the person. Let me know how I can help. Best of luck!

  5. I’m a lifelong golfer, age 62. Some injuries (fractured spine, pelvis, left wrist, ACL) have hindered my ability to play well anymore. I’d like to get my PGA teachers certification and teach. What is the best way to do that?

  6. Reynal, great aspirations. Never too old to attempt to learn and grow. Here’s a helpful article from the PGA that we hope you can use:

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