Difference Maker Reflections #1

Being a difference maker is about more than simply helping people. It requires thinking on at least three levels.

At MVMT we support dozens of coaches and sports development professionals to learn the process of creating both sporting results and social outcomes at the same time.

We have found consistently that coaches focus heavily on the difference they can make for the people they coach, with little focus on the impact they can have on a wider community and often neglect the impact their coaching has on themselves.

We’ve developed a simple model that provides a framework to encourage reflection on the impact of our coaching on ourselves, the people we coach and the community we serve.

The three impact circles start with the circle of control (coach) then expand into the circle of influence (players) and then the circle of concern (community). Beyond this is a fourth circle of systemic impact (currently a work-in-progress…).

Exploring WHY we coach

MVMT Founder Simon Turner and Alan Keane (Great Britain Basketball Under 20 Men’s Head Coach) recently hosted a Zoom call for difference maker coaches. This session was used to help coaches explore WHY they coach.

Coaches were asked to complete this statement:

I help players become, experience or grow…
Coaches followed along to create a hierarchy of the positive outcomes they might generate from their coaching. Here is an example of a completed pyramid from Alan Keane:

Try this activity for yourself. See where it leads you.

If you want to join future Zoom calls just subscribe to our email mailing list (down below).

How does your story shape your coaching?

To highlight how a coach’s life story impacts the way they coach we spoke with Sam Messam. Sam is the Head Coach of the Under 16 Men’s at City of Leeds Basketball Club and Senior Lecturer in Sports Coaching at the University of Lincoln. Here is Sam’s response to ‘how does your story shape your coaching?’

Sam’s answer:

I grew up in an area of deep deprivation. I had difficulties at school and I experince racism first-hand. Throughout all that, I found safety, belonging and identity through sport.

As a result, I focus on creating a safe space when I’m coaching and building a sense of belonging. I prompt the players to talk about ‘who we are’ as a team to get them thinking about identity.”

Consider what aspects of your early life experiences stand out to you as an adult. What values and norms did you form at an early age that are still important to you today? And how is your coaching shaped by the stories you tell yourself about your life and your coaching?
4 steps to a clear coaching philosophy

This subscriber only email generated a host of replies from coaches. 4 simple steps for ordering thinking are proposed to help coaches identify and refine their coaching philosophy:

  1. Who do you coach?
    What are the needs of the people you coach
  2. Why do you coach?
    What problems do you solve for the people you coach and the community you serve?
  3. What do you coach?
    What technical / tactical concepts fit best with who you coach and why you coach?
  4. How do you coach?
    What are the best methodologies for teaching what you coach? Do these methods fit the needs of who you coach and why you coach?

As an example of this in practice, here is the philosophy from MVMT Founder Simon Turner:

Who – I coach ‘serious amateurs’. They love to play and want to connect with other people who take the sport seriously, but don’t take themselves seriously.

Why – I support their mental wellbeing by creating an environment that enables them to form lasting connections with each other. This also creates a ‘community of interest’ around our club that brings people together.

What – We share the ball on offense and allow players to make decisions. I focus on passing, reading the actions of other people and communicating. On defense, we ‘build a wall’ together and help each other.

How – Our practices are made up of various modified games, with a focus on players working together to solve challenges within the games. Meanwhile, I ‘coach on the move’ – roaming around the edges of the playing space, asking players ‘W’ questions while they wait to re-enter the action..

One coaches response to why they coach:

“To give my athletes the opportunities that weren’t there for female athletes when I was their age. To help their social and mental well-being and develop them into better individuals both inside the basketball world and outside.”

Knowledge v Beliefs

This email asked coaches to think about the differences between their knowledge and their beliefs:

Acquiring knowledge is easy. Challenging beliefs is hard.

You may never get another opportunity like this to slow down, rethink and challenge your assumptions about sport. So what if we pushed pause on gathering new knowledge for just long enough to allow time for a different mode of thought?

What if we shifted our focus to challenging our beliefs?


What do you believe to be true about sport?

Here’s some example beliefs about sport and coaching:

  • I help all the people I coach
  • Players want to win
  • Sport is inherently good
  • Competition reveals character
  • I have great relationships with the people I coach
  • I know what’s best for players
  • Elite sport role models inspire participation
  • My success as a coach is determined by wins and loses
  • The people I coach value me for who I am, not the power and position I hold

Which statements did you linger on the longest? Which ones made you pause and reconsider?


Consider these questions:

  1. What would you need to see or learn to change your mind about one of your beliefs?
  2. What objective evidence do you have for the difference you make in people’s lives through your coaching?
  3. How much of your reflection time is spent acquiring new knowledge versus challenging your beliefs?

One coach replied with a very honest and important reflection:

“I am more guilty than I would like to be of trying to gather knowledge more than challenge my beliefs. I sometimes find if I am not being mindful that I buy books that I know I am going to ‘like’ the message of.”
What are you afraid to change?

As the world around us changes, coaches need to change with it. But how? This subscriber only email helps coaches tackle that question:

3 ways to improve your coaching:

  1. Coach harder
  2. Coach smarter
  3. Coach more courageously

It’s the actions we take in category #3 that determine whether we become a difference maker.

What are you are most afraid to do or change within your coaching?


  1. Recognising that when I use questioning with players I am sometimes being manipulative, not player-centred
  2. Sharing with my team that I sometimes doubt myself
  3. Acknowledging that when I’m frustrated, I sometimes speak to players in a tone that I would never accept from them when they are talking to me
  4. Telling players (and stakeholders) that winning isn’t my number one priority
  5. Abandoning the drills that have worked for me in the past
  6. Recognising that I avoid raising issues of conflict between players
  7. Asking players for anonymous feedback about how I treat them
  8. Acknowledging that anger has no place in my coaching
  9. Honestly acknowledging to myself that I’m questioning my love for the game
  10. Letting go of intervening when I see a player mistake it might look like I’m not coaching

Which examples resonate with you?

One coaches reply to this email showed the great care and thought they put into their coaching:

“Thank you for your questions it’s unbelievable how long I spend over your emails reading over and over because there is so many thoughts be drummed up. A pleasure.”

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