When it comes to getting the best out of your athletes, a successful sports coach will understand the importance of self-discipline, responsibility and leadership.
Underlying all of this is the sense of getting students to care about what they are doing. In order to galvanise athletes, there’s a few techniques that can be adopted.
From giving athletes a platform, to teaching them to be reflective, here’s some of the most popular techniques used in sports psychology, that can be integrated in to your sports coaching job.
Good leadership is about recognising the strengths of others, so how can this be done?
Give them a platform
Give your athlete a platform to share their voice. This might be in regular team meetings, by encouraging them to run a personal blog, or by raising their profile in the media. Not only is this a motivational tool, but it will help to grow your athlete in many ways outside of the sport.
We all know that being made to feel valued is important in the workplace – well the same is true in the world of sport.
On the pitch and in training, in competition and in qualifiers, in personal sessions and one-on-one’s, try and offer positive reinforcement.
This helps to build self-esteem and grow the next generation of leaders. As a sports coach, you will already have an inane ability to recognise positive traits, you just need to weed these out and make your athlete see them too.
Teach them to be reflective
Sporting success doesn’t stop at the touchline, or when a competition ends. Part of the process is learning to be reflective. If your athlete can integrate these experiences into future actions, they will be able to continually learn from their experience. Studies have shown that self-reflection can enhance performance. It’s therefore a vital skill for a future leader to hone.
Start with goals
As part of the leadership journey, a sports coach will want to grow independence. Goal setting is a valuable tool in the world of sport, but shouldn’t just be one-way.
Encourage athletes to set their own goals. This will encourage them to take responsibility for their actions and achievements too. Be on hand to guide them, and ensure they continue to challenge themselves – this is critical for effective leadership.
An important part of a sports coaching job is nurturing. Part of this is getting athletes to think independently, challenge assumptions and ask questions.
In doing so, you are setting athletes up for a positive future. A good athlete must be more than performance based, they will need to be able to lead a team and challenge the many obstacles they will grow to face. Therefore, encourage your athletes to ask questions, rewarding them with praise for doing so.
Be a role model
Professional athletes often express how they look up to their sports coach as a positive role model. Therefore, it’s important to cultivate a new generation of leaders by setting the right example.
There are many ways this can be achieved, from sharing the latest industry techniques to creating a thriving culture where everyone looks forward to coming to training.
Develop their autonomy
Autonomy is ever important in good leaders, since it’s required for decision making, problem solving and leading a team.
The sports coach can help develop autonomy in a team by inviting students to make decisions, suggesting different ways of working and looking at new approaches to the sport.
Give them space to make their own decisions
In any relationship, it’s important to have space for development. Athletes are on a long journey that requires time to reflect, dwell and consider different approaches and techniques.
Allow your team to grow by giving them space to make their own decisions. Encourage them to think independently and reward them for the courage in doing so.
A sports coach is the most important, but not only part of a support network. Each athlete will have individual needs that you may not be able to personally meet. That is ok too.
A good sports coach will know when to call in experts or recommend mentors in specific areas. For instance, if your athlete is struggling to achieve a well-balanced diet, then you might recommend a nutritionist. Likewise, if they need to develop breathing techniques, you may recommend a guided breathing course.
Having a support network also extends to friends and family. It should be promoted to have a work-life balance and to share thoughts, fears and concerns with others outside the industry. The emphasis on wellbeing should not be overlooked, especially with the pressures that sport can bring.
Learning from each other
One of the best way to grow as a leader, is to learn from those around us. That includes people we look up to, other athletes in the industry, and perhaps even individuals not associated with the sport.
On a day-to-day basis, we can learn a lot from the people around us. This is especially helpful in teams or clubs, where there’s a pool of talent to tap in to. Encourage athletes to shadow others they look up to or are inspired by.
Don’t be Google!
On a final word, it’s important to offer direction, but you can’t always give all the answers. Think of your role as a sports coach as a guiding influence. That means, being there to offer support whenever it’s needed, but giving them enough space to develop and learn. Sometimes this even means stepping aside as they make mistakes.
As we all know, the best way to learn sometimes, is through experience and mistakes. Never be afraid to let your athletes learn the hard way. It will pay dividends in the future.
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