To get the best out of your athlete or team, you’ve got to play to their skills and create an environment conducive to success.
Athletes, like all professionals, need to be motivated and incentivised to keep on track. As a sports coach, the role falls to you to lead this charge. Much like a manager in business, or CEO of a company, the hierarchy can influence the culture of the company.
However, there’s a few actions that can be taken to ensure athletes can flourish and seize their potential. Here’s a few:
Have a role
Sports coaching courses teach us the importance of two-way communication. The coach-athlete relationship should be symbiotic, where feedback is elicited from both sides.
This is important, since the key to success is making athletes feel like that have an important role to play. As much as they need the sports coach to realise their sporting ambitions, the coach needs the athlete to fulfil their career goals. Both need each other.
Hosting one-on-one meetings every week is a good place to start. Provide constructive feedback, praise achievements, and most important of all – invite team members to share feedback too. What can be done better, what have they enjoyed this week, is there anything to tweak or change?
Creating an environment of mutual respect is a key identifier in successful partnerships.
Learning from mistakes
Mistakes will happen, failure will be faced. But it’s the journey and not the ‘winning’ that is most important here.
A supportive sports coach will help to develop a climate where mistakes are viewed as part of learning.
The first step in this is recognising times when challenges haven’t been met. Athletes should be taught to accept responsibility for their actions, then asked how they could have changed the outcome. This is a proven way of learning from mistakes in a constructive way.
Autonomy for success
In executive coaching we’re taught that autonomy, competence and relatedness are core skills to install in our teams.
As a leader, it’s important to put this theory in to practice. In doing so, it helps builds self-determination skills, which are essential for a long and successful career in the competitive world of sport.
Strengthen their strengths
A good sports coach will identify the strength of a team or individuals. Knowing where personal strengths lie will help to hone these skills to their optimum. There is always room for improvement. Think about ways you can offer mentorship, training or external candidates for consultation, so that athletes can build on their core strengths.
In a culture of positive thinking, it’s important to recognise that we are all work in progress. Records exist to be broken, science is redefining the industry all the time.
This means offering regular feedback to athletes in a constructive way. Provide resources and support to help them realise their goals, and show empathy where required. This will go a long way in their overall sense of worth.
You can also help encourage self-improvement by recommending training courses, new kit and experimental techniques. This also shows a personal investment in people, which goes a long way in feeling valued.
Ambition is a strength that should be encouraged. By promoting leadership, you are inviting athletes to take responsibility for their actions, and possibly the actions of others too.
A sports coach can encourage this by letting athletes make important decisions, and giving them greater responsibility. This might be from nutritional needs for a balanced diet to reviewing kit suppliers. Planning for the future is another way to help them grow as individuals too.
It’s a given that we are more motivated when feel passionately about something. Therefore, helping to create an environment that inspires creativity is important for long-term success.
This can be achieved by mixing up aerobic training routines, trying new exercises and routines, inviting new ways of thinking and working together. Using different places to train, new techniques to try.
The importance of recognition
In every industry, whether it’s sport or science, recognition is cited as one of the key indicators for employee morale and motivation levels.
Studies have shown that the vast majority (88%) of employees in companies that had value-based recognition programmes felt more positive about their work, compared to only 65% that didn’t.
Aim for a culture where athletes are regularly praised for achieving goals and recognised for their individual progress, through goal setting, performance reviews and feedback sessions.
As a result, you can expect; an increase in productivity, greater employee satisfaction levels, a stronger athlete-coach bond, and a positive mindset when it comes to performance.
Be the change
The role of a sports coach goes way beyond being a mentor. It involves being a role model to your team. This requires practising what you preach, and treating athletes with the same respect you would expect.
Being a positive role model, also means sharing personal stories and antidotes, to create an appreciation and understand of the struggles they are too going through. As someone an athlete looks up to, think about ways you can support this.
And finally, it’s important to keep challenging athletes to achieve their goals. This is why having a clear plan of short, medium and long-term goals is effective. Additionally, it’s why goals should be reviewed and updated.
Stretching your athlete to their potential also shows that you have belief in their abilities – a motivational tool in itself.
Keen to unlock your potential as an individual or business?