An Example of Coaching from Coach K

May 7, 2013

As a coaching relationship takes time to develop and continues, there comes a time when the coach simply needs to get out of the way. Legendary men’s basketball coach at Duke University and winner 3 NCAA National Championships, Mike Krzyzewski (Mike is also known as simply “Coach K.”), tells a great story about the need for a coach to get out of the way at key points in the growth of a coachee.

pic of Coach K

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Coach K told the following story when he was asked, “How do you help them [his players] see what they have to offer?”

One of the best leaders by far of all time is Shane Battier, who now plays for Memphis. In the first practice of his senior year, the team had finished stretching, and I’m getting ready to talk to them to give them a bit of motivation—just a little 1-minute talk. Before I start, Shane gets them together and he says some things to the team. I said, “That’s pretty good. I don’t think I can top that.” I told Shane after the workout, “That was good. If you want to do that every day, you can.” He said, “I’ll do it every day.” I never again spoke to the team before practice for the rest of that year. 1

Two important parts of this story serve as great examples of when a coach needs to get out of the way of a coachee.

  1. It was Shane’s senior year. Since it was Shane’s senior year at Duke it means coach K had been Shane’s coach for three years. (Coach K might have even coached Shane for four years up to this point if Shane “red-shirted” his freshman year.) Shane had been well coached and was probably ready to take on more responsibility and leadership as a player.
  2. Shane was good at what he took initiative to do. If Shane had tried to give a motivational talk and the talk was not good, Coach K would not have allowed Shane to give more motivational talks. Once a coachee has been coached for a significant time and finds something he is good at, then that is the time when the coach steps back and lets the coachee go, which is what Coach K did.

Coach K’s story illustrates the lifetime of work which the Apostle Paul performed, perhaps most eloquently done in the life of Timothy. There came a point in time when Timothy had his chance to lead, to do good and make a difference. When that chance came when the church of Ephesus needed him, he was ready due to the coaching of Paul.

The hope of current Christian leaders is to do ministry much the same way—coaching potential leaders to develop their character and skills as leaders—thus allowing the word of Christ to be honored and spread around the world.

Question: What example of coaching have you observed in your own life?


  1. Sim B. Sitkin and J. Richard Hackman, “Developing Team Leadership: An Interview with Coach Mike Krzyzewski,” Academy of Management Learning & Education 10, No. 3 (2011), 495.

Christopher L. Scott

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Christopher Scott is Small Groups Pastor at Rocky Hilly Community Church in Exeter, CA. He has more than ten years of experience leading volunteers, running nonprofit programs, and teaching the Bible in small group settings. He holds a bachelor's degree from Fresno Pacific University and master's degree from Dallas Theological Seminary.

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2 responses to An Example of Coaching from Coach K

  1. Christopher, this is a great example of the Coachee becoming a Coach. – One of the greatest examples I observed actually involves my wife. My wife used to teach at a private school at the church we were attending at the time. The school director (who also coached the high school basketball team) Took advantage of every encounter with the teachers to invest in them. He did not just teach, but he challenged the teachers and he pressed them to stretch themselves. He also did the same with the kids. The biggest thing was he was fully engaged every day, and he never lost focus of building great leaders in both the kids and teachers. He gave them room to spread their wings and make mistakes. Some 20+ years later there are not too many weeks that go by that my wife does not talk about a lesson she learned during that time.

    • Jon,

      Your wife is very fortunate to work for someone like that. To work for someone who believes in you, wants you to grow, and helps to encourages that growth is a great thing.

      Thank you for sharing.

      In my life, I have been coached by a man named Steve, After five years of him coaching me, I am now starting to coach others. It is a great experience and I am grateful to have had someone who believes in me.

      Thanks for sharing, Jon.