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Who is Jordan Spieth and Why Should We Care?

Part II: Is coaching the magical and essential ingredient to success?

What is the magical quality embodied in successful coaching relationships? Jordan Spieth and his coach Cameron McCormick clearly have it. Many other athletes and coaches have it as well. This notion of coaching and teams being critical to success is not new or relegated only to sports. It has, in fact, existed for ages.

Our evolution into higher order thinkers originated with certain actions including teamwork and bi-directional learning experiences. From social science research we have learned that human beings are community oriented, needing and wanting connection with others. Consider early native tribes and their cultural practice of the young learning from their elders. Or the emergence of apprenticeships in Europe during the Middle Ages, with the young learning skills from masters of the arts or trades. During the 1800’s – 1900’s, the terms and functions of ‘coaching’ and ‘mentoring’ became formalized in the factory, in the corporate boardroom, and in athletics.

Fast forward to present day school improvement efforts. Implementation Science, a well-known research-based framework for change, has revolutionized how we do school improvement ( One of Implementation Science’s major components is coaching—high-quality, job-embedded, continuous coaching. While few would argue its value, the reality is that we do not always find the time, talent, or resources to implement a strong system of coaching.

Evidence from a hallmark coaching study conducted by Joyce and Showers (2002) impresses upon us the value and necessity of ongoing job-embedded coaching. Their research clearly illustrates that while teachers benefit from training, modeling, and time for reflection to gain knowledge and skill, it is not until they have received ongoing, job-embedded coaching that they actually implement what they have learned. Application of acquired skill and knowledge is key to impacting students, and coaching is essential to changing teacher practice. (See table below.)

Table adapted from Joyce and Showers (2002) and taken from

The State Implementation and Scaling-up of Evidence-based Practices (SISEP) Center

(July 2014)

The coach is a game changer. Without a coach, the individual is left to implement newly-acquired skill and knowledge with challenges and competing priorities at every turn. Training cannot be a “one-shot deal,” it must be an ongoing component of a collaborative and supportive learning culture. After all, where would Jordan be with only a few lessons from Cameron?

Coaching is a cornerstone of school improvement at every level—district/school leadership, teachers, and students alike. We are creatures of community; we improve and perform best when we work together and learn from each other. Therefore, I urge us all to reflect on the following questions:

Who do you mentor or coach to share your experiences and expertise?

  • If you are a coach or mentor, is it a mutual learning experience?

  • Who mentors or coaches you?

  • Does the culture or community you work in incorporate coaching and mentoring?

If not, why not and how can you help incorporate coaching/mentoring?

  • Are we reaching our full “Jordan Spieth” potential? And are others with whom we work reaching this potential?


Kelly Valmore is a Senior Staff Developer for the Program Evaluation and School Improvement Services Division at Measurement Incorporated.

Please learn more about our evaluation and professional development services on this website.



Apprenticeships. (last edited 2017). Retrieved September 12, 2017, from

Despain, D. (2010, February). Early humans used brain power, innovation and teamwork to dominate the planet.

Joyce, B. R., & Showers, B. (2002). Ch. 5. Designing Training and Peer Coaching: Our needs for learning. Student Achievement Through Staff Development 3rd Edition.

Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Knight, J. (2011). Unmistakable impact: A partnership approach for dramatically improving instruction. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Michielsen, Erik. (2009). Simon Sinek: The Fundamentals of Mentoring Relationships. Daily Motion, Capture Your Flag. Retrieved from

The State Implementation and Scaling-up of Evidence-based Practices (SISEP) Center. (2014). eNotes, Training and coaching-Starting with a plan. Retrieved from

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