Ted Lasso is one of Apple TV’s most popular television series. It takes place in an English Premier League club football environment and is a loveable but powerful portrayal of love, success and relationships.
Coaching is all about relationships, so in this post, we’ll explore some coaching lessons we can learn from the series.
Key coaching lessons from Ted Lasso
As you’ll learn in SACAP Global’s Introduction to Coaching short course, coaching helps us to develop many skills and competencies. These include self-belief, intrinsic motivation, choice, clarity, commitment, awareness, responsibility, and a readiness to act.
Below, we’ll discuss what the series can teach us about each of the above concepts:
The word “believe” is a central theme of the show. We see this in the yellow “Believe” sign Lasso puts above the entrance to his office. Lasso’s motivational approach comes across as trite, especially for veteran Roy Kent. However, eventually, even he overcomes his cynicism.
The effectiveness of Ted’s approach to self-belief is challenged when Nate Shelley tears down the sign in a fit of rage. But, we realise how entrenched this concept is when the players put pieces of the “believe” sign together before their final game.
The lesson we can learn here is that it’s not only about encouraging self-belief in your team or clients. For Ted, it’s also about believing in himself enough to commit to coaching a team in a sport he knows nothing about and instilling that self-belief in others.
While the team initially struggles with Ted’s optimistic and happy-go-lucky approach, he finally gets through to some team members after giving them a book to read.
For example, he gives Roy Kent a copy of A Wrinkle in Time. This book is about taking on responsibility in a crisis that encourages him to focus on his leadership abilities. He gives Sam Obisanya a copy of Ender’s Game, presumably to motivate him to build confidence and relationships while away from his family in Nigeria.
Ted also gives Jamie a copy of The Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Fans of the show believe this classic book encourages him not to get too wrapped up in fame and lose sight of what is truly important.
These books affect the players, even if, like Jamie, they choose not to read them. Although a small gesture, it shows Ted has taken the time to see their potential. The lesson from this approach is that as a coach, you can instil real change by inspiring intrinsic motivation.
One of the most potent ways that choice plays out is in how Ted decides not to interfere in the dynamic between Jamie Tartt and the rest of the team. Most of the team despises Tartt for being a bully, especially Roy Kent. However, instead of reprimanding Jamie directly, Ted allows things to play out, ultimately empowering the players to stand up to Jamie themselves.
This example is a powerful demonstration of making empowering choices. As a coach, controlling the outcome of a specific behaviour is impossible, but you can guide your clients to build confidence in their ability to make their own choices.
Ted’s strategy starts to build once he recognises Nate’s tactical potential and brings him on board as an assistant coach. Nate proceeds to share his blunt but honest assessment of the team. While offensive, it brings to light many of the team member’s shortcomings and where they need to improve.
We should never be offensive when dealing with clients, but in Ted Lasso, this honesty was ultimately helpful for the team. Ironically, by calling out all of the players, Nate brings a sense of togetherness, as no one is spared criticism. Ultimately, this inspires the players to work together.
In a coaching setting, you can guide your clients by kindly and honestly pointing out what is holding them back and where they might be standing in their own way. Ultimately, it is important to supportively challenge your clients so that they can grow.
Arguably, Ted’s sense of commitment defines the show. Not only his dedication to the team but also to his family.
Constant ridicule from the press tests Ted’s commitment. However, he turns this to his advantage by committing to befriending others. We can see this in how he wins over critical journalist Trent Crimm.
His commitment to the team is even more apparent when it becomes clear that he has been hired as a joke but decides to forgive Rebecca (the team owner) anyway.
This devotion, while at times dogged, ultimately helps Ted win people over and guide the team to achieve professional success and grow in their personal lives.
Ted is incredibly aware of the people around him. He greets everyone and knows them by their first names, even if some are less than friendly.
However, despite his awareness of others, Ted’s central lesson in the show is becoming more self-aware. Most notably, developing this skill applies to his need to hide deep pain behind constant positivity. We can see this in how his divorce is a turning point in his life, leading him on a journey of self-discovery and ultimately facing his demons.
The lesson we can learn here is the value of developing self-awareness and the positive impact of caring and being aware of how people are doing around you.
Learning to take responsibility for your actions is a core theme of the show. Each one of the characters has to own up to something or deal with some kind of hardship throughout the three seasons.
There are many examples of how the characters learn to show up for themselves and others. One of the most profound moments is when Ted apologises to the team for not taking responsibility for his panic attacks and lying about having a “stomachache”.
As a coach, you can establish a strong rapport with your clients or team by taking responsibility for your limitations. Doing so will encourage clients to take responsibility for their actions and choices, too (which is an important part of coaching).
Of course, you don’t have to share inappropriate details, but being open can help develop a constructive bond with those you work with.
Readiness to act
As a coach, Ted is full of humorous quips but utterly avoidant when dealing with his emotions. A turning point in the show happens when Ted starts going to therapy sessions with Sharon, the sports psychologist. Sharon initially threatens him and doesn’t immediately submit to his charms. However, she eventually softens and learns some lessons from Ted herself.
Therefore, by taking the steps to deal with his anxiety, Ted becomes a better coach. By becoming more self-aware and taking action, he allows himself to develop a less rigid and more interactive playing style, which helps the team thrive and come second in the Premier League.
Learn more about coaching at SACAP Global
At SACAP Global, we believe coaching is “the art of getting the most out of who we are and what we do in the world.”
From the examples above, we can see how applicable this quote is to Ted Lasso and how it portrays the value of coaching, which can be helpful in various environments beyond the professional sports field.
The lessons discussed in this article can be practised in any workplace, which you can learn more about in Intro to Coaching and Coaching Skills for Managers. If you’re particularly interested in sports, you can sign up for our recently launched short course in Sports Psychology.