The line between business management and sports management is somewhat blurred. For it seems ever present that techniques used by senior leaders and CEOs in business, are similar to that of sports coaching.
And why shouldn’t they be.
For success of any type, you need a strategy. Careful goal setting and objectives must be set, and the right team hired, who should be recognised and rewarded along the way. It takes a village as they say.
Whether in business, in sport or in personal training of any kind, there is one common goal that binds this together. That is creating a thriving culture, allowing individuals to grow.
Creating an environment of learning is something they promote on sports coach courses. As such, we look at some of the ways to build the right framework in order to get the very best out of your athletes.
There’s many reasons to set goals. Yes, it’s important to have something to work towards, but more than that, it’s about pushing athletes and never remaining complacent.
In sport of all disciplines, it’s important to stay hungry, and this can be achieved by continuing to push boundaries and setting challenging objectives.
Problem Solving is “The Journey“
While it can be tempting to step in and help at any given point, a good sports coach will understand that’s not always the right approach. Challenges, no matter how frustrating they can be, sets foundations for a future problem solvers. It is essential to let athletes find their own way out of problems, if they are to truly learn from it.
Engagement is key
However, that’s not to say that you remain hands-off. The role of a sports coach is to be a good mentor and this means offering support. Engage with athletes when you’re coaching, use it as a two-way street, make it interactive, share your wisdom.
Ask questions that make your athletes ask questions – feed their curiosity. It’s no good to spoon-feed your athlete, get them thinking for themselves.
Reinforce positive behaviour
A tried and tested way of creating an environment conducive to learning, is to reinforce positive behaviour. Much like a self-fulfilling prophecy, when people feel good about their behaviour, they (consciously and subconsciously) try to repeat their actions that they believe lead to reward.
Positive reinforcement can be as simple as a nod, to honouring an athlete with an award for their efforts.
Recognition can take many forms, but one of the most important is by acknowledging someone’s efforts. Motivating, inspiring and encouraging, a gentle ‘well done’ or ‘good work’ goes a long way in keeping an athlete productive and appreciated.
This is a technique proven to work in business as much as it does in sport. Across the board we see that good sports coaches and managers alike inherently understand that people need to be recognised for their contribution.
Praise hard work
In sports psychology, we are taught to reward effort, not achievements. It’s the taking part that counts more than the winning. For instance, the athlete that gets up at 5am to meet training practice deserves to be recognised for their efforts and commitment. Not only to encourage and maintain their enthusiasm, but it also sets an example for other athletes to follow. A good leader will recognise hard work as every bit as important as the outcome of their efforts. That here is key.
You might think that money is the number one motivator. You would think wrong. In sport, in business, in life, feeling valued ranks as one of the highest factors in important values. Research has shown that people who don’t feel valued, don’t perform to their optimum. So, go out of your way to make your athletes feel valued and appreciated.
Furthermore, show interest in their growth and development. You are in it for the long-haul together, so it’s important to be a support on this journey. Discontent drives relationships apart, you want to avoid that by always taking an interest in your athlete’s life.
It’s critical in the role of a sports coach to show as much commitment to the partnership, as the athlete is putting in. You can show your interest in growth and development by tracking performance, recognising success and by actively encouraging them strive for their goals.
Invite your athletes to ask questions. Provoke your teams to think outside the box. You don’t need a sports coach qualification to know that these behaviours and actions lead to success.
In a study by social commentator Malcolm Gladwell, he debunked the theory that smaller class sizes were better in schools. Instead, he found that critical to a student’s outcome, was their ability to be in a thriving and challenging environment with a diverse amount of views in thoughts and experience.
The same is true of athletes, which is why it’s important to promote curiosity and independent thought in training and beyond. Working in a team or with other athletes can offer differing views and perspectives that may not have been considered otherwise.
Finally, but perhaps crucially, it’s important to create an environment of trust. Without this, the athlete-coach relationship has no future.
Start as you mean to go on. Organise one-on-one meetings to take time to listen to your athlete, and offer constructive feedback. Create an environment that is open, where you are known as the sports coach they can talk to – a friend and a mentor.
In teams and clubs, this is especially important, since teamwork requires trust above anything else. Promote respect, and create a culture where team members can be honest and open with their feelings and each other. You will soon see that what happens off the field, is often an indicator for their ability to come together on the field too.
Keen to unlock your potential as an individual or business?