I had the following email from a driver coach. Ring true for you? Here’s my perspective to give you some direction and, hopefully, confidence. Remember, just because you enjoy driving doesn’t mean you’ll enjoy being a driver coach. This might be why…
“The biggest concern I have about growing my coaching [business] is about my credentials or lack of. I’m too old to be chasing racing dreams and use championship wins as credentials. How much does having a degree in engineering matter vs self taught & focused studying? I worry no one will take me seriously because I don’t have those.”
Better Driver = Better Coach… Right?
What I’m reading here is an assumption that “If I’ve more wins and qualifications, I’ll get more driver coaching work.” Right?
To be honest, I do think its a fairly common – and logical – perspective. But is it true?
Take a minute to think this through. Why does your performance ability really matter? Yes of course the driving and engineering help. But does being better at these things automatically mean you’ll be a better coach? Maybe. Maybe not.
In this article I give you my perspective, from talking to leading driver coaches, Olympic coaches and from my own experience as a driver coach.
Spoiler alert; The good news is that I do not believe you have to be able to drive faster than your client to be a great driver coach. OK but if not then what do you have to be great at? Read on to find out ??
Driver Coaching Is About Them Not You
If you feel similar to the driver coach who wrote in, then I’ve a couple of questions for you.
Imagine you have a new driver who you are working with. Picture them in your mind. Now can you answer the following with complete certainty:
- What really matters to this driver?
- Can you describe precisely what success looks like… for them?
I think most would struggle to answer these questions with certainty. And in fairness you might assume it is “go faster” because that is “obvious!”
Don’t take this the wrong way but many driver coaches could benefit from thinking about coaching slightly differently.
Improving as driver requires an internal focus – “How do I get better?”
Coaching differs. To coach you need an external focus – “How do they get better?”
Subtle but significant. A great coach needs to be less driver, more coach.
Lets explore that a bit more…
The Only Driver Coach Credentials You Really Need
In my experience, you don’t need any credentials other than evidence that you have helped similar drivers, with similar ambitions, to succeed. Everything else is a nice to have.
In case you don’t believe me, let me give you an example.
I have interviewed Rob Wilson on the podcast – its a good show you should check out.
Rob is a (the?) world renowned driver coach who’s coached 75+ Grand Prix drivers, F1 World champions (like Kimi & Nico), plus half the current F1 grid, half the current Indycar grid, half the current Supercar grid… etc!
How many championships has Rob won as a driver? What about races? Do you know?
Do you care?
As a driver, would you not jump at the chance to be coached by Rob?
Yes of course you would!
Why? Because he’s a legendary driver coach, not because he’s a legendary driver.
Driver coaching is not about what you can do… it is about what you can do for them.
Get Collecting Testimonials
The credentials you need are testimonials, word of mouth, case studies or even examples you bring out when talking to people – just take a listen to the other coaches I’ve interviewed on the podcast like Ross Bentley, Scott Mansell for example.
If you have evidence of relevant success, then the choice for your driver comes down to chemistry, trust and your personal style.
Of course, these are also things that you can work on but unfortunately that stuff boils down opinion. Chemistry is largely out of your hands. Plus you are simply not going to get on with everyone you could – on paper – help.
If you don’t have these types of credentials, then as a driver coach, accumulating them should be higher up on your list of things to do than any engineering courses or personal race wins. Imho.
Do You Know What “Good” Looks Like?
Yes, being a better driver and/or a better engineer helps. But the reason why it helps is because it gives you a sense of “what good looks like” in a car.
I’m not saying you don’t need to have some good experience of successfully driving on the limit, understanding the different phases of a corner, of being able to read data and have some idea of vehicle dynamics, to be a good driver coach.
All this technical grounding is important and the reason why would I make a pretty bad horse riding coach (I’ve worked with Olympic dressage coaches and frankly – in my eyes – all the riders looked the same!)
Your job as a driver coach is NOT to be a better driver than your clients.
Your job as a coach is to make them better drivers.
The skills you need to be prioritising are not your own driving or engineering credentials. You want to be developing ways to work out how you can really help a driver to achieve what they want to achieve.
And, if you have tried driver coaching you will appreciate, in practise, this is not as easy as it sounds!
Ever had a situation like this? ??
Coach (You): “There is about 0.5 seconds to gain into T1. You’re braking at the 500 board but, look here in the data, you can brake at the 300 and still be more than fine.”
Driver: “Sure ok. I’ll try that next time out…”
Broom broom… then:
Coach (You): “Looks like you’re braking at the 500 still… Want to run me through that?”
Driver: “Oh was I? Ummm…”
Changing a drivers behaviour is not easy… not at all… and that is really why they are paying you.
Beware of Assumption Driver Coach!
As a driver coach you can’t assume you know what your driver wants to achieve!
Your first job as a coach is to get them to tell you what is success for them. To articulate, what their goals are.
You’re likely to have an idea “lap faster!” but you need to dig into that a little more. Get specific.
You can’t assume they have the same ambition, or indeed commitment to the cause, as you would have in their position.
Find out what they really want out of the time with you.
What they say might surprise you. Listen.
Ask Your Driver – “What’s a win for you today?”
Get them to define their own success – however modest.
Your job as a driver coach is to then work backwards, using all your skill and experience to break down the steps they need to go through in order to achieve their goals.
And nothing more. This you might find especially hard because what comes easy to you might not for them. They might be happy with a much lower level of attainment.
You need to be clear between you what that is. Accept it. Then go for it.
Success is judged by their definition – not yours.
Obvious? Maybe but that thinking certainly wasn’t natural for me at first.
The Performance Plan
The breakdown to achieve their goal becomes their “performance plan” – for the day, the week or the season. It is a tool we use a lot in Olympic sports and formalising it – written or verbal – can help you (both) a great deal.
Your challenge is then to see how far you can get your driver along that plan, and towards their goal, in the time you have together.
For a track driver, this is when you’ll be looking at profiling all their vision, line, braking technique and all the fun stuff like that. All the “tools” that you’ve learned, which you now want to help another human being learn to.
Ask Your Driver – “What areas do you feel you need to improve?”
Putting their performance plan together need not be done in isolation – get your driver involved.
You want them to own that plan as much as you do.
You want them to “buy into” the plan so you don’t get situations where they agree to your face, and then do something completely different on the track. Like the earlier example.
Get your driver to help prioritise what to work on with you. This might be a bit strange for them if they’re used to being instructed what to do.
If your driver has a question, your coaching goal is often to help them work out the answer on their own – even if you could tell them straight away.
A bit like parenting, watching them struggling when you can help immediately is tough. But your driver will thank you for it. And personally I think this bit is the big difference between coaching and instructing.
A Driver Coach Should Check & Challenge
Your job as a coach is really to “check and challenge” your driver. To explore your drivers thinking. To clarify your own understanding. And to steer the conversation so the driver “gets it” … just like you do.
If they think their vision is great, then pull up an onboard and get them to talk you through it.
Get them to do the “Point on the screen where you are looking now… “ exercise. But remember… this is not to ‘catch them out,’ but to evaluate how much work is needed for them in that area.
I know of coaches who, depending on the students goals, have a whole diagnostic they run through with their drivers. This helps to set goals, keep focus and record progress.
It also builds trust and alignment between driver and coach. You want everyone rowing in the same direction.
Take a listen to the coaches on the podcast show for more specifics on how they do this – looking up, gear changes, flat car, smooth controls, end of braking points, platform control … etc.
You’re A Team: Get On The Same Side Of The Table
As a driver coach, for however brief you’re together, you’re part of their team now. Your goal is to build on your drivers strengths, find and improve on their driving opportunities.
A famous multi-gold medal winning Olympic diving coach once said to me, “Samir, my job as a diving coach is to extract all of your genetic potential as a diver.” And what he could have followed up with is “it is not to be a better diver than you.” Which of course he is, but that is not the point!
I say all this to hopefully give you more confidence in yourself.
To help you focus on the right things to become a better driver coach.
Things that will help you win work with great clients, who come out of their experiences with you raving about what you’ve done for them.
Plus, hopefully to steer you away from the assumptions that I see many driver “coaches” or “instructors” make. That of thinking ‘coaching’ is all about the coach showing that they are a better driver. You’re not in competition with them!
Driver Coaching is not about driving faster than your students.
I’ve coached guys who are way way better drivers than me. Smarter too. But I my contribution was a clear idea of how they could improve. And they did. The fact I couldn’t do it as a driver myself is immaterial.
They went faster, achieved their goals and so we (I) succeeded – just like you can.
Good luck! ?
Section 2 of The Motorsports Playbook
If you’ve found this useful then I really do think you’d benefit from getting my book. Why?
Well I’ve had number of top driver coaches and Olympic coaches on the podcast show. The book is a summary of what everyone had to say and the whole of section 2 is on coaching!
Here is the complete intro to the coaching section:
Extract from The Motorsports Playbook
Coaching is a strange role. Ask 10 people to “define coaching” and you will get 10 different answers. It is odd because coaching is not a word – I imagine – that many people would think they would struggle to define; yet so it seems?
Motorsports and coaching haven’t traditionally sat together. Every football team, hockey team or tennis player has a coach – or coaches! For whatever reason, in motorsports, coaching has not been deemed so critical. My belief is that is changing.
The lessons in this section start to explore the subject of coaching. You might be wondering how prevalent coaching is or even what the purpose of coaching is? What are the dimensions of coaching? Is there any cross over from the world of Olympic coaching?
You might already do some form of coaching yourself – formally or informally – as an engineer, manager or even as a friend to another driver.
What are the ways you could improve your support? Are there methods you can use to offer more value? For example, are there any suggestions for extracting better driver feedback? What about how could you communicate better? How about methods to encourage greater performances from your driver – even when they are still far from that first podium?
What are things you should avoid when coaching or instructing? How important is driver confidence and what are things you can do to give the driver more of it?
Personally, I find coaching a fascinating subject. The lessons here have certainly made me think. Let’s start with the elephant in the room question: ”Do track drivers even need coaches?” …
I hope you check out the book, including the free samples and if you do get it, that you find it valuable.
I genuinely learn something new every time I read it – and I spent 3 months making it! ?♂️
Personally my favourite format is the audiobook as I like hearing what my guests had to say. It is great to listen to when I’m travelling in the car.
The 1-pager key takeaways I also use all the time to remind me of the insights contained that otherwise I forget – or to help me when I’m stuck.
Remember, even if the book is not for you right not, if this has been useful please sign-up to the newsletter below and let me know ???