• 8 Differences Between a Writing Coach and a Football Coach

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 11 comments

    For many of us, the word “coach” summons images of some square-jawed dude or dudette gripping a clipboard in his/her meaty paws, a shrill whistle around his/her beefy neck, and a demonic, otherworldly red face out of which pour buckets of spittle and furious commands to give 110 percent, to be aggressive, and to leave some vague “it” out on the field or court, because in order to succeed, “you’ve gotta want” some ostensibly different but equally vague “it.”

    Right? Maybe I have bad associations with “coach” because I’ve only dealt with athletics coaches.

    Does “writing coach” conjure similar impressions? Maybe it summons no images at all? Although we constantly and shamelessly brag about our staff of talented writing coaches, with good reason, lately we’ve received several emails asking, “What is a writing coach?”

    [Tweet “”A writing coach will never force you to shower against your will. Though he may hint at it… “”]


    So, What Is a Writing Coach?

    Well, duh! A writing coach is someone who coaches you on writing. Just like a life coach coaches you on life, and an acting coach helps you become a better actor, and a closet coach (they exist) coaches you on closet organization.

    OK, there’s more to it than that. A writing coach should serve as an integral part of your support system as a writer. A good writing coach helps you overcome obstacles. She provides support and guidance, serves as a cheerleader when necessary, kicks your ass when necessary. While she may do some editing of your work, she is not your editor. You can use her to fix problems on the page — issues with plot, character, setting, tone, etc. — but she will also help you off the page. You’re having trouble finding time to write? Chat about it with your writing coach. You need some deadlines and accountability? You and your writing coach can create a schedule of due dates and progress reports. You think you’re a terrible writer and all you really want to do is give up and never write again? Your writing coach will do his best to talk you off the ledge.

    What he should not do, ever? Is make you fill a giant jug with Gatorade and drag it to your coaching session. And if he does, you’ve hired the wrong writing coach.

    To make this distinction even clearer, I’ve compiled a list of differences between a writing coach and a standard (clichéd) football coach.

    [Tweet “”A writing coach serves as a cheerleader when necessary, kicks your ass when necessary.””]



    The 8 Most Important and Obvious Differences Between a Writing Coach and a Football Coach


    1) A writing coach will never force you to shower against your will. He may hint at it, or even suggest it, gently. But only when the situation grows dire.

    Which, let’s face it, it may. Nobody has ever said about a writer, “She’s so dedicated to her craft, and her personal hygiene is second to none!”


    2) A writing coach will never pat or smack your ass, no matter how well you do in the session. Also inappropriate: towel-snapping, purple nurples… basically anything that causes you physical pain.

    Your writing coach may high-five you, but probably shouldn’t, because a high-five is rarely anything but awkward.


    3) A writing coach will never chew tobacco during your meeting. Even if you do. But please don’t.


    4) A writing coach will never make you run wind sprints. Because writing is a marathon, not a sprint.

    To that end, our writing coaches are authorized to make you run laps, but never more than five at a time, and never at harder than a trot. And he or she may not stand at the finish line and slap your ass every time you complete a lap. [See rule #2.]


    5) A writing coach will never blow a whistle right up in your grill.

    When our writing coaches blow their whistles, they always do so at a respectful remove.


    6) A writing coach will never grab your jersey and scream into your face.

    But this is mostly because you won’t be wearing a jersey to your coaching session. Right? Not that you can’t; there’s no dress code. But seriously, you probably shouldn’t, if for no other reason — though there are plenty of other reasons — than to help your writing coach avoid the temptation.


    7) A writing coach will never be a character in the classic pornography trope involving coaches, cheerleaders, and locker rooms. I know this one, unlike the others, doesn’t directly affect you as the writer. And I haven’t done exhaustive research, so I suppose I shouldn’t definitively state that such a scene does not exist.

    This does not mean that you should go in search of one.


    8) A writing coach will never say “Let’s huddle up.” Because there are only two of you. And because it’s a super-stupid thing to say, regardless of how many people are involved.

    [Tweet “”A writing coach will never chew tobacco during your meeting. Even if you do. But please don’t.””]


    Hi, Coach O’Brien!

    There are other differences, but those eight are obviously the most relevant.

    At WriteByNight we offer several coaching services — all of which are fully customizable — including book coaching, private instruction, writer’s block counseling, and accelerated coaching. And we have many talented writing coaches in our locker room, ready to assist you. (But not like that!)

    If you’re interested in learning more about our coaching services, request a free consult today.

    (Side note: I wonder if any of my high school or college coaches read this blog. If so, hi! And I am so totally not referring to you in that first paragraph, the meaty paws, the beefy neck. Nope, totally not you.)

    (Unless you’re Coach O’Brien. In which case, you are the template. Rest assured, I’m still not giving 110 percent. Because it’s still impossible.)

    [Tweet “”Our writing coaches are authorized to make you run laps, but never more than five at a time.””]



    Did we miss anything important in the above list? How are writing coaches and football coaches similar? (Funniest response wins free books in the mail.) Coach O’Brien, whassup? Let us know in the comments section below. 

    For weekly writing-related goodies in your inbox, join our mailing list, which you can do in the right sidebar. We’re also on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Hint hint.


    Linked2WriteByNight co-founder David Duhr is copy editor at the Texas Observer and contributes regularly to the Dallas Morning News, Publishing Perspectives, the Observer and others.





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    B. Holloway

    A writing coach shoudn’t wear those short shorts made of sweatpants material, like most football coaches do. The ones that hug their man (or lady) bits tight. Where if they bend over, if they even can, you can see the plumber crack. Plumber crack should be called coach crack.

    Betty G.

    Maybe a writing coach will never cut you from the team.
    Because there is no team. And a writing coach already
    knows that there is no I in team, because writing coaches
    know basic spelling, and he won’t tell you that there is no
    I in team because he assumes that you know basic spelling.

    Betty G.

    Ooh! A writing coach will never throw a challenge flag. He may challenge you to write better, but he’ll never ask for a review. He’ll ask for a revision rather than a review.

    Just throwing out ideas as they come.



    If I were going to make a movie about a sports coach:

    A Walter Matthau/Tom Hanks-type caricature about a grouchy, sloppy-drunk has-been with a gentle heart who, despite his flaws, pushes you to be the success he always knew you could be, despite your flaws.

    If I were going to make a movie about a writing coach:

    Same guy.

    (insert rimshot here) Come on, you know I love you, right?


    Reading this, I picture Sean Macguire, the character by the beloved Robin Williams, the therapist in Good Will Hunting. So maybe a good writing coach is a battle-trained psychotherapist?

    […] post about what a writing coach isn’t got us thinking about what a writing coach is. A teacher? a trainer? an editor? a therapist? a […]

    […] 8 Differences Between a Writing Coach and a Football Coach […]


    If you picture this as a script for a stand-up comedy routine, and not a blog post comment, it might *just* be funny. I’m feeling a bit insecure. (pause) I don’t know if I can make this funny. (humm, pause, stutter) I think a writing coach is a lot like a football coach. (pause) I *want* my writing coach to be like a football coach. I want him on the sidelines, encouraging me to get back in the game. When I’m slacking, I want him to tell me to get off my duff and run a few laps then write… Read more »

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