As a sports coach, you can expect to come across a myriad of personalities in your team. Extroverts and introverts, perfectionists and protagonists, and all that’s in between. It takes time, patience and good communication to cultivate a cohesive partnership with individuals or team members.
But how much does personality and personal values have an impact on behaviour and how can this be used to its advantage?
In this section, we look at how values shape intentions, and how this impacts our output. As a sports coach, it’s imperative to know the sports psychology that underpins sustainable high performance and how behaviours play a key role.
The Importance of Behaviour
Sport is an unusual and somewhat contradictory industry. It’s driven by passion, but demands control and calmness at times when emotions are running high. Years of hard work can be undone in a matter of seconds, when the difference between winning and losing is negotiable.
We can all think of athletes that have lost their cool at times of stress; Eric Cantona, Boris Becker, Serena Williams, the list goes on. It’s not uncommon nor a judgement.
When looking at behaviours for success, it’s useful to think of athletes we respect. Those in positions of leadership – captains, managers even sports coaches. We remark at the coolness of Gareth Southgate and admire the composure of Andy Murray. Why? Because they display behaviours and personal values that we look up to and admire. They are role models and leaders, expressing the right set of attitudes and values in which others can learn from. In simple terms, it’s about professionalism and discipline, and this is very important in competitive sport.
Change for Good
Personal values can be shaped by a number of environmental factors; childhood, family, friends and personal experiences. However, these are likely to stay with us and shape who we are, as Psychology Today explains; “Your values will influence your decisions related to your relationships, career and other activities you engage in.”
Therefore, the first step in understanding behaviour is to understand the individual. Everyone has different needs, different backgrounds and different childhood experiences. In your team or individual, take the time to get to know each member.
It may be the reason why one athlete is always on time for training every day, while others are consistently late. All this can shape the way a sports coach interacts and responds to their talent. But most important of all, it’s about bringing out the best in them.
Behaviours for Success
Since we have established that personal values drive behaviour, as well as support decision making, we can look at the ways in which sports coaches can help develop key behaviours in athletes, these include:
Dedication: In sports above any other industry, dedication is a prerequisite. This is seen in time spent in training and practising a skill, as well as extra-curricular activity to support one’s overall performance. But dedication isn’t just about one’s commitment to the sport in the physical sense. It’s also about taking the time to get to know people in your team. In doing so, it will make collaboration even easier – this is an ideal to work towards on and off the field.
Collaboration: One of the most important traits in an individual is the ability to work well with others. This doesn’t just mean getting on with people, but also having the willingness to collaborate with them too.
In sport, where different opinions and approaches are often challenged, it’s important to be able to keep an open mind. Therefore, a behaviour to help develop is willingness. This is the willingness to accept and work with people, regardless of how personal values of personal differences may affect them. It’s a great reflection of maturity, and shows great people skills to be able to find ways around problems. Plus accepting personal differences in order to achieve a shared goal is admirable. In sport, this can often mean leaving your ego at the door, a discipline that can be hard to nurture in some personalities. However, it is one of the hallmarks of a good leader, and is essential to hone.
Communication: Look at any leader or sports coach you respect, and you’ll see an open and honest dialogue with the people around them. This is no accident, people who can articulate how values of the system connect them, have a distinct advantage. Try and promote openness in your work.
Goal Setting: A great driver for team success is for a joined-up approach. This often happens where performance goals are aligned to both personal values and team values. Therefore, the ability to see the bigger picture and to get everyone working together for shared goals, is always the ambition to work towards.
There are plenty of other helpful behaviours that successful sports coaches can help develop in their team members, such as;
- Being good role models
- Continually learning and developing
- Being positive
- Asking the right questions
- Respecting wellbeing and mental health
- Striking for a work-life balance
- Accepting responsibility and failures
- A strong work ethic
- Not scared to take on new challenges…
- …And neither scared to ask for support
Demonstrating Preferred Behaviours
There are many ideals in sports coaching to aim for. While it’s not always possible to achieve them, one should always aim for preferred behaviours, such as:
- Behaviours that express helpfulness and willingness, in order to help other’s identify and connect to system values
- Due diligence to sense check that values inform the programme’s decision-making process in the right way, without the incidence of bias
- Delivering key messages effectively, with clarity, transparency and explanation
Personal values develop from a number of environmental influences. Combined with our personality, these influence the way we behave and act. While it’s not uncommon for these to be shaped from a young age, a sports coach has the ability to work with a team or athlete to get the best out of them.
We all have the ability to change and improve within us. In competitive sport, being the best version of ourselves can give us a real competitive edge. Using sports psychology and being aware of behaviours is once such way to enhance this.