Being coachable may be the most important factor that determines success. We see this in many areas of business, life, sports and also in dance. It is essential for competitive dancers to be as coachable as possible and for coaches to understand how they can support their students on this journey. Being coachable goes beyond the drive to learn skills. It is an attitude to constantly change and grow.


Top couples are often also the most coachable without losing their independence.


As much as there is to say about the attributes and skills a good coach should have to coach, is there to say about the attributes and skills dance students should have to be more coachable. A coachable dance student is fully committed to his or her own development; is eager for feedback from others and has an open mind to anything that will improve his or her self. Being coachable is not for your coach, it is primarily for yourself and your partner/team and as with all aspects of dance, this can be learned and improved.


Let’s make a side by side comparison of being coachable versus having challenges in this area.

An Un-Coachable Student  A Coachable Student 
Doesn’t listen and has barriers to feedback or suggestions. 

Defensive, argues and wants to be right (doesn’t have to be openly verbalized).

Reluctant to talk about weaknesses. Is not aware of them and/or in denial of having them. 

Does most of the thinking alone and believes that looking for input from others is a sign of weakness. 

Takes suggestions as personal critiques , and rejects most of the suggested ideas based upon emotions. 

Looks for shortcuts and has difficulty accepting input from more experienced people. 

Often looks for short term results and personal gratification. 

Quickly demotivated by failures, mistakes, or setbacks and has a strong tendency to blame circumstances or other people. 

Has a hard time to sincerely give credit to others. 

Listens with an open mind and welcomes, even seeks, feedback and suggestions. 

Looks for understanding of others’ point of view and doesn’t feel attacked.

Has an open attitude towards discussing strengths and weaknesses, is often very aware of them. 

Looks for input from others. Is convinced that coaching and getting input is a good thing.

Thinks about the process more than the results and can assess ideas and suggestions from others objectively.

Stays on the learning curve and welcomes challenges given by others (coach, teachers)

Has a long term focus and is fully aware that every thing is a team effort.

Doesn’t get demotivated by failures, mistakes or setbacks. Sees them as learning and is eager to improve or solve.  Looks for self-improvement without blaming others.

Has an attitude of gratitude.

To summarize the significant difference between someone who accepts coaching and someone who doesn’t: Someone who struggles to embrace coaching is very reluctant to accept guidance or input from others, and has a strong belief that he/she has outgrown the phase of needing help.  He/she actually believes that this ‘independency’ is the ultimate way to reach what they are after. On the other hand you have the coachable person who knows how to seek and accept guidance without being dependent on it. They recognize that high achievements can only come when you leverage skills and knowledge from others. 



Being coachable is essential for success

Being coachable is not just a strong willingness to learn. It’s an attitude to constantly change and grow.  A coachable person has the capability to accept and to look for feedback, to acknowledge their own areas of improvement, to overcome setbacks and to integrate and act on new information.

Someone who is less coachable has very few questions. Un-coachable students have a hard time staying in touch with day to day reality and discipline. Their internal world is often run by self-importance and  self-doubt. It is very difficult for these students to accept the gift of guidance from more experienced people who’s desire is to share their wisdom and insights to help them grow.

The more coachable you are, the faster you learn, the better you deal with mistakes and set backs, and the more likely you are to reach the goals you’ve set out to achieve. You will also notice more consistent results from performances and competitions.

This may be hard to accept for the person that is more challenged in this area, but being coachable is the most important factor that distinguishes successful people from the unsuccessful. We see this in many areas of business, life, sports and also in dance. 


That leaves us with the questions, if you are not coachable can you become it and if you are can you improve it? The answers are yes and yes.


Being coachable optimizes the learning process

Students who have a harder time accepting coaching, look only in themselves for improvements and believe they know better and are without faults. Typical things you hear from them include blaming external factors, partner, floor, music, coach etc. With the right coaching we can help these students change these false beliefs. On the other hand, students with a lot of self-doubt don’t blame external factors but are nevertheless more difficult to coach; you might hear things like I’m not good enough, I’ve never been musical, I’ve never been fast, I’ve always had weak ankles etc.

The common thread here is false belief. Either, ‘I’m good we need to change something else,’ or ‘I know it’s me but it can’t be changed.’  Helping students to overcome these false beliefs will change ‘being coachable’ of the student drastically.


This model will give 5 key points on how to increase ‘being coachable’.

  1. Unbiased and objective listening: show the difference between what’s being said and what’s being heard. 
  2. Spectrum of emotions and emotional states: Help them to grasp these states and understand how to change emotional states. 
  3. Acceptance: Spend time to teach and demonstrate ‘acceptance’ of what can and can’t be changed at that moment.
  4. The power of now: Support them to see clear distinctions between the past (feedback), the now (what needs to be done) and the future (how can we make long term improvements) 
  5. Trust: Give trust and ask for trust. A team player trusts its team without expecting the mistakes to cease altogether. If a coach demonstrates that attitude to a less coachable student, drastic changes can be expected.


In my decades of (dance) coaching I’ve seen students/dancers make radical changes in their attitude towards coaching and being coached. It’s also fair to say that we are all coachable and more challenged at this at different times. Once people see that being coachable makes a dramatic difference in the results that can be achieved, huge shifts in being coachable are made. In this article I emphasized the student/dancer’s side. Needless to say that we can only get a full picture of being coachable if we also look at this topic from the side of the coach and what he/she can do to improve and support his/her students in the area. In future articles I will highlight the role of a coach and the correlation between motivation and a coach. I welcome any feedback or suggestions.

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