3 Pillars of Coaching Success: Self Reflection, Accountability, and Internal Self Esteem

As coaches, educators, and leaders in gymnastics, our ultimate goal is to help our athletes achieve success and reach their full potential. However, this is not always an easy task given the enormous amount of work and knowledge it takes.

Many of us are simply trying our best, having to ‘fail uphill’ to learn the methods and strategies that work best with individual athletes.  We are not perfect, and sometimes our own biases, insecurities, or personal issues can get in the way of providing the best possible guidance and support.

After thousands of hours consulting with teams and talking with gymnastics professionals, as well as having my fair share of mistakes, I wanted to share some best advice around this subject.

The Habit of Self Reflection


I feel it is crucial for coaches and leaders to practice self-reflection on a regular basis. By taking the time to reflect on our own actions, beliefs, and attitudes, we can gain valuable insights into what we are doing well and what we need to improve.

“Was this the best way to run practice leading up to a meet?”

“Is there new science about technique, flexibility, or strength I should be taking the time to read?”

“Is my communication style not resonating with co-workers or athletes?” 

This, in turn, can help us become more effective leaders and better able to support our athletes. Not to mention, it allows us to slowly bcome happier at work as we find better methods, help with finding success, and feel we possess a growth mindset.

Self-reflection is not just about looking at our successes and failures objectively like meet scores. It also involves taking a critical look at our own biases, assumptions, and blind spots. For example,

“Do we tend to favor certain athletes over others, even if unconsciously and not with malicious intent?”

Do we have preconceived notions about what it “takes” to be successful?

Are we open to feedback and willing to make changes based on that feedback?

To make a habit out of this, I highly recommend people blog 15 minutes per day, or maybe 60 minutes at the end of the week, to journal about these types of questions. Or, block 60 min for coffee with a close trusted friend/colleague to debrief the week of training/meets and see what needs to be dealt wth.

The Bridge of Accountability

While self-reflection is the start, accountability is also essential. we actually have to do something about that feedback. We need to hold ourselves accountable for our actions and decisions and be willing to take responsibility for any mistakes we make, or feedback we get.

This not only helps us to grow as leaders, but it also sets a positive example for our athletes. When they see us taking ownership of our mistakes and working to make things right, they are more likely to do the same. This is one of the hallmarks of great coaching.

In my younger years of coaching, I was far from accountable for managing my own ego and personal life habits. This bled over into my coaching and directly undermined my mood as well as my energy levels at the gym.

My ego and insecurity was real barrier to the effective self-reflection and accountability I mentioned above. It made me blind to the ways in which our daily choices and behaviors are impacting our athletes.

For example, if we are more concerned with appearing knowledgeable or ‘in control’ than with actually helping our athletes succeed, we may be more likely to make decisions based on our own ego rather than on what is best for our athletes.

Similarly, if we are insecure about our own abilities as coaches or leaders, we may be more likely to resist feedback or dismiss criticism, rather than using it as an opportunity for growth.

For this area, I believe that creating a ‘Most Important Task” is useful from the journaling or meeting offered above. From the time of reflection, write down one actionable item that you could start doing the next day to make improvements. Then, when you wake up and start your day, make sure that item is at the top of the list when you start your work duties. If it relates to personal life accountability, make it the first thing of your day.

The key is to keep in mind that you are doing this for yourself, to make improvements based on self-reflection, not because someone told you to.

This leads to the biggest foundational pillar of them all – internal self-esteem sources.

The Base of Internal Self Esteem

As coaches and leaders, it can be tempting to rely on external sources of self-esteem to validate our worth and success. We may feel that winning meets, athletes we coach getting certain scores or making national teams or getting scholarships, achieving a certain title or status, or receiving social media validation is the key to feeling good about ourselves and our accomplishments.

However, in reality, relying too heavily on these external sources of validation can be damaging to our own well-being and can hinder our ability to be effective leaders.

External sources of self-esteem are often fleeting and unpredictable. They are dependent on factors outside of our control, such as the performance of our athletes or the opinions of others. This can lead to a constant cycle of seeking validation and approval, which can be emotionally draining and lead to burnout.

On the other hand, internal sources of self-esteem are more stable and sustainable. They are based on our own values and beliefs, and are not reliant on external factors.

For example, if we focus on being kind and supportive to our athletes, and on working hard to the best of our own ability, we can feel a sense of pride and satisfaction in knowing that we are doing our best to help our athletes succeed regardless of meet scores or teams made.

When we rely on internal sources of self-esteem, we are less likely to become overly attached to external outcomes and less likely to base our self-worth on the success or failure of our athletes. We also leave ourselves very vulnerable to mood swings based on the opinions and judgments of others. Never put your

This, in turn, can help us to remain more level-headed and objective, and to make decisions that are in the best interest of our athletes, rather than solely focused on our own personal gain or validation. I strongly recommend not depending on any one, or any thing, for your levels of happiness, motivation, or self esteem.

To cultivate internal sources of self-esteem, we must be willing to reflect on our own values and beliefs and to prioritize the needs of our athletes above our own egos or desires for external validation. This may involve setting realistic goals and expectations for ourselves, practicing self-compassion and self-care, and seeking out support and feedback from others.

For this, which is oftten the hardest, I personally felt that formal therapy was the most useful. But, I know not everyone finds interest in that or has the means to attend.

Instead, try journaling two columns of internal vs external motivators for you, and honestly write down in each column what motivates you day to day. You mind find some interesting insights that lead you to want to look inward about things. And then, you are back and Self Reflection in Step 1 🙂

So, just a short blog today with some thoughts I’ve been brewing on. Hope it was helpful!

– Dave