First, I want to give a shout out to our members for suggesting topics to us regarding coaches. This was one of them, and I know there are many more to tackle.
We were asked, “When does my improv troupe need to get a coach.” I think it’s when your team is ready to organize, commit and wants to become better. At first when you form, you might not need a coach right away. You need to organize your thoughts as a team and get on the same page.
I wrote two blogs regarding how to organize teams – Read these and then continue.
When your troupe is organized and knows what it wants to do, a coach can come in and help you realize your vision. A coach can also read your improv bible and be able to guide your team towards your goals.
How to Pick a Coach?
1. Vet a coach – If you’ve organized your troupe, as read above, then go watch some performers or teams that fit your vision or are close to what you like in improv. If you’re looking to create your own new form, then go see a team that has done that too. Who’s their coach? Maybe if you like one of the performers on that team ask them if they’d be interested in coaching. I do think not all performers make good coaches, but it’s a start and you gotta at least try.
2. Teachers – Well this goes without saying, if you’ve taken classes at your local improv theater and loved a teacher ask him or her to coach you guys. They are usually more seasoned and have seen it all.
3. Try a coach out – So you got a coach! YAY! That doesn’t mean they’re your coach for life. Try them out for a month or so and see if you like them. If it’s not a good fit that’s okay. Here’s how you can approach a coach: Ask the coach if they’d be interested in coaching you for a couple months. After that couple months, as a team, evaluate how you think you’re doing as a team and how you think your coach is doing. If they’re doing great, then ask then extend them for a 6 month run and then evaluate from there.
I’ve said that every team needs a coach in blogs before, and people have disagreed with me. I often wonder why. I still have never heard a good excuse not to have a coach. Can you imagine a movie without a director, or a broadway play without one. Pure chaos. Hopping out of your team to coach while you’re in it does not work. You are trying to achieve group mind with your fellow improvisors and jumping out of that can only hurt the team. If one day I come across a team that is absolutely amazing and they never had a coach, that will be the day I say, “Hey you’re right teams don’t need coaches.” But to this day I have never seen it. Even if they had a good show, I can see room for some coaching. Having said that, teams that are vets and have been coached for years and are now flying solo that’s a different story altogether. Should they do a coaching check in once in awhile. YES! My team King Ten that’s been together for 13 years still gets a coach on a quarterly basis. Why? To push ourselves and to never become content with what we are doing. As artists we always must push ourselves past what we think we can do. And a coach is a great way to help you get to that.
Nick is Camp Director and Founder of Improv Utopia an improv retreat for adults in California and Pennsylvania. He is also one of the founding members of the National Improv Network and performer and teacher at iO West as well as member of The Sunday Company at The Groundlings. He has also taught many workshops around the country.