What Separates a Good Coach From a Great Coach?

The difference between a good coach and a great coach could mean winning or losing. A coach teaches and provides guidance to athletes. But a great coach understands each of their athletes, their strengths and weaknesses, what drives them, and how to get the best out of each athlete or player.

But what makes me qualified to talk about coaches — more specifically, what makes one good, and another great?

I’ve worked with a few coaches when I used to run, one of which coached team GB runners. I’ve also interviewed a bunch of athletes on sports injury and discussed the coaching approach and how their coach reacted and supported their recovery and return to training.

So, I’ve seen first-hand the difference between a good coach and a great coach. But I’ve also read up on the literature to provide further details and insights into the very best coaches.

What makes a great coach?

Many coaches are good at what they do — they train their athletes for competition, and many of them go on to succeed. 

But from personal experience and from talking to others, great coaches provide equal attention and interest to all of their athletes. I’ve heard time and time again (and you might have too) of the coach who focused on their “star athletes,” paying less attention to their other athletes who then get injured or fall out of love with the sport.

And sometimes, a coach can give terrible advice — I’m talking about running through injuries and not listening to the symptoms the athlete proclaims (fortunately, this one is not from personal experience).

A great coach is someone who:

  1. Listens to the needs of their athletes
  2. Knows how to keep training fun
  3. Understands sports injury and how to prevent it 
  4. Practices excellent communication 

Keep reading to find out more about each trait.

“I think the most important thing about coaching is that you have to have a sense of confidence about what you’re doing. You have to be a salesman, and you have to get your players, particularly your leaders, to believe in what you’re trying to accomplish on the basketball floor.” — Phil Jackson.

Listens to the needs of their athletes 

A good leader coaches a team, while a great coach coaches their athletes.

For example, some athletes respond better to lower-intensity training than others — if they train too hard too often, they’re more likely to become injured. Likewise, other athletes require more intensity to reach their peak and are less likely to encounter injury.

Athletes and coaches should have a communicative relationship — coaching shouldn’t be a dictatorship; it should be more of a democracy.

Great coaches listen to the needs of their athletes and adapt the training to best suit them.

Knows how to keep training fun 

We’ve covered the topic of athlete burnout a ton on the Rewire blog — it’s so important. Therefore, coaches should have an awareness of burnout, including the risk factors and how to prevent it.

You can have the most talented and hard-working athlete in the world, but if they succumb to burnout, they may never set foot in the pool, on the court, or on the track again. 

Dr. Ralph Richards, former swim coach at the Australian Institute of Sport, states the importance of variety in training — helping to combat mental fatigue and burnout [2].

For example, you could include some kind of fun competition into training once in a while. You should also mix up the sessions so you’re not repeating the same workout week in and week out.

Variety is key here — a great coach has a mix of key sessions and knows when their athletes need a break from their training with something a little more relaxed and fun.

Understands sports injury and how to prevent it 

The number of sports injuries is increasing. For example, one study from 2021 investigating the epidemiology of sports-related injuries in 498 amateur and professional adolescent athletes found a staggering 40.4% of athletes experienced an injury in 2019 [1]. That’s almost half of the athletes in the study. 

Higher injury rates were associated with a mix of factors, such as increased hours spent training, not performing warm-ups, using inadequate sports facilities, and performing improper technique without the supervision of a coach.

A great coach teaches their athletes the importance of warm-ups and cooldowns and reinforces proper technique. While some risk factors cannot be eliminated entirely, a great coach knows how to minimise these.

Moreover, any great coach should have an excellent understanding of sports injuries and how to prevent them. This includes preventive exercises, proper warmups and cooldowns, and knowing how to listen to their athlete’s concerns, and respond appropriately, e.g. prescribing rest and not encouraging the athlete to push through the pain (again, advice I’ve heard other coaches tell their athletes).

A great coach practices excellent communication 

Excellent communication between coaches and athletes is fundamental. 

A great coach knows how to talk to their athletes, understand their needs, and adapt the training to best suit them. 

While communication is a two-way street, a great coach is easy to talk to and offers exceptional advice to athletes who need it most.

“Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.” — John Crosby.

Coaches can use Rewire to help their athletes reach peak performance

If you’re a coach, you can use Rewire to gain a better holistic understanding of your athletes. You can measure their daily readiness, identify trends in performance, recovery and fatigue states, and even understand factors impacting their performance across physiological, cognitive, and emotional domains. Rewire for Teams allows coaches to make informed coaching recommendations and support a culture of health and wellness amongst athletes. 

Rewire is the ultimate tool for coaches and practitioners — allowing great coaches to do exceptional work. 

Book a free consultation today to learn more about how Rewire can help your team.


References:

  1. Prieto-González, P., Martínez-Castillo, J.L., Fernández-Galván, L.M., Casado, A., Soporki, S. and Sánchez-Infante, J., 2021. Epidemiology of sports-related injuries and associated risk factors in adolescent athletes: An injury surveillance. International journal of environmental research and public health, 18(9), p.4857.
  2. https://memberdesq.sportstg.com/assets/console/customitem/attachments/burnout-rrichards.pdf
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Brain Endurance Training for Athletes: What You Need to Know

What is brain endurance training, and how can athletes benefit? 

Do you want to increase mental resilience, decrease mental fatigue, and benefit from quicker decision-making? If so, then brain endurance training could be the secret sauce to unlocking a new level of athletic performance.

Brain endurance training (BET) is a type of neuro-training that focuses on targeted training towards a specific area of the brain responsible for goal-driven behaviour, effort perception, and impulse control. Training the brain and temporarily increasing mental fatigue during exercise has been shown to increase physical endurance while reducing the rate of perceived exhaustion (RPE), as found in a 2015 study

By training the mind during exercise — stationary cycling, running and walking, for example — you can increase mental fatigue to improve mental resilience while reducing the perception of pain, fatigue, and exhaustion, to allow athletes to perform at higher intensities without getting tired as quickly.

This blog post will explain the concept of brain endurance training in more detail, rounding up current studies on BET and how it benefits athletes.

Does brain endurance training improve physical performance?

Mental fatigue is caused by prolonged periods of demanding cognitive activity. However, a build-up of mental fatigue negatively affects physical performance in humans, as mentioned by Marcora and colleagues

During exercise, especially intense competition, we build up increased mental fatigue. And the more tired we become, the more likely we are to make errors regarding decision-making. We’re also more likely to experience a decrease in other cognitive abilities and may encounter a performance decline.

To help showcase the impact BET has on athletes and non-athletes alike, we’ve gathered together three studies — continue reading below for a round-up of the science. 

BET training on professional-level football players 

One study investigated the effect of brain endurance training on professional-level football players. 24 players were assigned to either:

  1. The control group
  2. The brain endurance training group 

Both groups performed 20 supervised physical training sessions. After each session, the control group listened to 20 minutes of neutral music while the BET group performed 20 minutes of cognitive training. 

After 4 weeks of training, results showed improved reactive agility — with fewer fouls — in the BET group and significantly faster decision-making (RSA random test). The control group also showed a significant decrease in performance in the same test. Aside from these results, there were no other significant differences.

So, what does this study suggest? This research provides evidence that BET, combined with football training, is more effective than standard training in boosting cognitive and physical performance in professional football players.

BET training on healthy male adults 

An earlier study also looked at the effect of BET, although instead of analysing professional football players, the study population was healthy male adults. 35 male adults were allocated to one of two groups:

  1. The control group
  2. The brain endurance training group 

The two groups trained on a stationary cycle ergometer for 60 minutes at 65% VO2 Max 3 times a week, for a total of 12 weeks. During each session, the BET group performed a mentally fatiguing task on a computer, while the control group did nothing other than cycle.

Results found an increase in VO2 Max in both groups — which was to be expected — but also found a significant increase in time to exhaustion in the BET group. Similarly, RPE was significantly lower in the BET group compared to the control group.

The findings of this study support the previous study, suggesting that not only can elite athletes benefit from BET, but regular healthy male adults can, too. Brain endurance training can alleviate fatigue and reduce the perception of pain during endurance exercise. 

BET training on healthy undergraduate students 

And finally, we have another piece of research, this time from 2020, which explores the effect of concurrent brain endurance training on 15 females and 21 male healthy undergraduate students. 

Similar to the other two studies, participants were randomly assigned to one of two groups:

  1. The control group
  2. The brain endurance training group 

Tests took place over 8 weeks and consisted of 26 sessions. During each test, the BET group performed a 5-minute endurance task — participants were to generate as much force as possible by squeezing a handgrip dynamometer with their dominant hand once per second, cued by a metronome. The test was performed under 3 conditions:

  1. Following 600s of a 2-back working memory task
  2. While performing a 2-back task
  3. On its own (solo)

The 2-back test, also known as N-back, is a stimulus working memory test which requires participants to decide if the current stimulus matches the previous one presented several trials ago. The 3 tasks were separated by a 5-minute break. During this break, participants completed a self-reporting questionnaire. Baseline physiological measures were also recorded between tests. 

Results found a 32% task improvement in the BET group and evidence to suggest changes in prefrontal cortex oxygenation. The BET group also showed greater performance scores in post-testing cognitive tasks relative to control. Rhythmic handgrip performance also revealed better performance than physical training alone. 

The findings of this study are in line with the two previous studies, suggesting that BET training combined with physical training can reduce mental effort during physical activity, regardless of gender and athletic ability, as long as the participant is somewhat already healthy.    

Reduce mental fatigue and improve physical performance 

Brain endurance training has been proven to be effective in reducing mental fatigue and increasing mental resilience during exercise. Professional athletes, and the wider population alike, can benefit from this type of neuro-training. Adding brain endurance training during or after exercise will improve physical performance while reducing cognitive fatigue.

If you’re looking to add brain training to your exercise routine, consider the Rewire Neuro Performance Hardware — a pair of ergonomic buttons that allow you to perform brain training endurance while running, stationary cycling, walking, or weight lifting, for example. Neuro-training is also free on our mobile app — try this 3-minute session for beginners to get started, or check out our free web-based mental toughness challenge


References

Dallaway, N., Lucas, S.J. and Ring, C., 2021. Concurrent brain endurance training improves endurance exercise performance. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 24(4), pp.405-411.

Kane, M.J., Conway, A.R., Miura, T.K. and Colflesh, G.J., 2007. Working memory, attention control, and the N-back task: a question of construct validity. Journal of Experimental psychology: learning, memory, and cognition, 33(3), p.615.

Marcora, S.M., Staiano, W. and Manning, V., 2009. Mental fatigue impairs physical performance in humans. Journal of applied physiology.

Staiano, W., Merlini, M., Gattoni, C. and Marcora, S., 2019, June. Impact of 4-week Brain Endurance Training (BET) on Cognitive and Physical Performance in Professional Football Players. In MEDICINE AND SCIENCE IN SPORTS AND EXERCISE (Vol. 51, No. 6, pp. 964-964). TWO COMMERCE SQ, 2001 MARKET ST, PHILADELPHIA, PA 19103 USA: LIPPINCOTT WILLIAMS & WILKINS.

Staiano, W., Merlini, M. and Marcora, S., 2015. A randomized controlled trial of brain endurance training (bet) to reduce fatigue during endurance exercise. In ACSM Annual Meeting.

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Fueling for Success: The Importance of Personalized Hydration with Andy Blow, Sports Scientist and founder of Precision Fuel & Hydration

Join us in our conversation with Andy Blow, sports scientist, former elite triathlete, founder of Precision Fuel & Hydration.

In this episode, Andy Blow talks to us about:⁠

✔️ How personalising your own carb, electrolyte and fluid intake can lead to big differences in performance
✔️ The impact of hydration supplementation
✔️ Common mistakes by athletes
✔️ Sweat tests
✔️ Carb fuelling and meeting nutritional demands.
and many more…

We hope you enjoy this episode! ⁠


Looking for advice on your fueling plan? Click this link to book a free 20-minute hydration and fuelling strategy video consultation with the athlete support team at precision fuel and hydration. You can also use the discount code REWIRE15 to get 15% off your first order at precisionfuelandhydration.com

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Overview of Rewire’s Neuro-Training System

What is Neuro-Training?

Neuro-Training is cognitive training that involves mentally fatiguing activities to induce mental fatigue to help augment training stimulus and build more resilience.  The traditional way of building mental resilience and grit is to push your body very hard during training, hoping for a side effect that translates to more resilience. The problem is that while this works initially it has diminishing returns over time and can lead to burnout and injury as you will need to continually push yourself harder and harder to realize some form of benefit. Neuro-training is a direct path to mental resilience and targets the specific area of the brain responsible for goal driven behavior, sustained attention and the perception of effort. Neuro-training allows to you to layer on additional cognitive load without the negative consequences or risk of injury from over training. Learn More

How it Works

The Rewire system allows you to perform neuro-training before, during and after workouts using the built-in cognitive training system in the Rewire app in combination with the patented Neuro-Training hardware (only needed for brain training while working out). The most common response inhibition test is called the Stroop test where the subject tries to match the ink color (large word) with the matching word meaning (small word).

(On Left) example of neuro-training workout | (On Right) example of neuro-training Stroop task

How Does the Neuro-Training Hardware Work?

The neuro-training hardware consists of patented ergonomically designed buttons and straps that allow you to perform audio and visual based brain training tasks while working out. This first-to-market innovation enables a brand new way to train both the mind and body at the same time.

Running Example

Cycling Example (For Indoor Use Only)

Features of the Neuro Performance System

  • Neuro-Training hardware consisting of ergonomically designed buttons and straps, wireless Bluetooth technology with rechargeable batteries
  • Library of neuro-training workouts that can be done before, during and after workouts
  • Connects with standard power meters and heart rate monitors to track physical performance
  • Audio and visual-Based neuro-training
  • Voice controls (audio only neuro-training)
  • Comprehensive training analytics for cognitive and physical analysis over time
  • Custom workout builder for creating workouts for a variety of different sports including:
    • Cycling (indoor use only)
    • Duathlon
    • Functional Fitness
    • Flexibility Training
    • Powerlifting
    • Running
    • Triathlon
    • Walking
    • Weightlifting
    • Yoga
    • And More
Custom workout builder for creating mental and physical workouts

What is the Science Behind Neuro-Training?

The science of brain endurance training (BET) was first established in 2009 and has been validated across a variety of different sports. As validated in the lab and numerous peer reviewed studies, BET works by targeting the anterior cingluate cortex (ACC) with a specific type of cognitive task called response inhibition i.e. impulse control tasks.

The anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) is the frontal part of the cingulate cortex that resembles a “collar” surrounding the frontal part of the corpus callosum

Many studies attribute specific functions such as error detection, anticipation of tasks, attention, motivation, and modulation of emotional responses to the ACC.  In the landmark study in 2009 and subsequent studies, scientist proved that the ACC is also responsible for managing the perception of effort which has been shown to be a limiter to athletic performance when this part of the brain is fatigued during challenging physical and mental efforts.

These response inhibitory tasks such as Stroop taskgo/no-go and others add more cognitive load to the brain creating an adaptation overtime that translates to a greater level mental resilience translating to improved physical performance when an athlete is under mental and physical stress

What Athletes & Coaches Are Saying

“As a professional athlete, I’ve known firsthand the importance of training the mind and body to push the limits of performance. Rewire’s latest platform makes mental strength training more accessible to athletes everywhere with easy-to-use tools to help them reach their goals.”

Kyle Korver NBA All-Star & Director of Player Affairs and Development for the Atlanta Hawks

“I have been using the app for a few months. It has helped me set the proper mindset before workouts, disconnect before bedtime, and gauge my mental readiness on a daily basis. I have also been enjoying working on the Neuro-Training component during some of my indoor rides.”

Matt Hanson Professional Triathlete and Coach

“With the app it’s giving you a controlled environment and structure so that you can choose when you want to to add mental training to your workouts and you can do it as often as you’d like.“

Laura Kline Elite Ultra Runner & Endurance Athlete

“Mental health and strength is so super powerful, but despite that, athletes rarely train it. With Rewire Fitness there is a new platform where it’s accessible and easy to train.”

Marc Anthony Klok Professional Footballer | Liga 1 club Persib Bandung and the Indonesia national team

Neuro-Training Sports Examples

These examples are to give some idea of how one may fit neuro-training into fairly standard weekly plans and periodisation models for the given example scenario. These are not exhaustive but aim to put some paradigm and context to the above information. 


Endurance Athlete

  • More neuro-training in base building, off-season and pre-season phases and less in-season.
  • Try to avoid neuro-training before key workouts and races. 
  • Good times for neuro-training: during or around easy volume (60-90mins Zone 2 of a 5-zone model for instance). 

Team Sport Athlete

  • More neuro-training in base building, off-season and pre-season phases and less in-season.
  • Try to avoid neuro-training before skill training and game days.  
  • Good times for neuro-training: Conditioning days, easy lifting days, rest days. 

Strength Sport Athlete

  • More neuro-training in base building, off-season and pre-season phases and less in-season.
  • Try to avoid neuro-training before technically challenging days, key sessions and competition days.  
  • Good times for neuro-training: Conditioning days, easy lifting days, rest days.

Ready to Change the Way You Train?

Level-up your mental and physical performance by ordering Rewire’s Neuro Performance System today (available while supplies last).

What Is The Purpose of Being Mentally Fit

The purpose of mental fitness is to achieve a state of well-being, feeling calmer and more prepared to tackle a mix of life’s responsibilities and challenges. 

Being mentally fit does not mean achieving a high IQ test score or being able to read a book a day. Mental fitness is a lot more holistic — it’s less about one thing and instead a mix of components and exercises that create a healthy mind.

This blog post will explain more about the purpose of mental fitness — we’ll discuss what it means to be mentally fit, the benefits, a few exercises to get started, and more.

What does it mean to be mentally fit?

Physical fitness relates to how the body looks and functions. If you exercise regularly, you improve your health and reduce your risk of disease. If you lift weights, you’ll build bigger and stronger muscles. If you run or cycle long distances, you’ll better develop your cardiovascular system.

But what about mental fitness? While exercise improves physical fitness, it also improves mental fitness. When we exercise, our brain produces and releases endorphins — also known as “feel-good hormones.” It’s why you feel happy after exercise, and it’s likely one of the reasons you keep going back — whether you realise it or not.

The purpose of being mentally fit is similar to that of physical fitness — to improve the function of your brain and how you think, feel, and react to the world around you. And while that may seem somewhat far-fetched, it’s actually rather straightforward.

What are the benefits of mental fitness? 

As you likely already know, there are many benefits to focusing on mental fitness.

For example, benefits include:

  • Increased presence and focus
  • Improved sleep quality and quantity 
  • Increased resilience 
  • The ability to be more present
  • Build confidence
  • Improved cognitive function 
  • Build new skills 

Unsurprisingly, the benefits are centred around how we think, feel, and interact with various situations.

For more benefits, you can check out our mental fitness training guide for beginners.

Mental fitness training — a few exercises to get started

If you want to get bigger muscles, you go to the gym and lift weights. But if you want to train your mind, you need to adopt a different approach.

As previously mentioned, your mental fitness is made up of several components. For example, this could include how much sleep you get, how stressed you are, whether or not you exercise regularly, your immediate environment, and so forth. 

There are, of course, plenty of exercises you can do to get started:

  • Regular exercise
  • Practice mindfulness
  • Do mind games
  • Read
  • Increase awareness and reduce stress with journaling 

Regular exercise

Let’s start with a more obvious one: regular exercise.

The CDC states that adults need 150-minutes of exercise each week. Ideally, this should also include two days of muscle-strengthening activity. We recommend splitting the 150-minutes throughout the week — 30 minutes a day, five days a week, or something similar to best suit your schedule.

Exercise releases endorphins — these make you feel good, can elevate your mood, and improve your outlook on a certain situation or even life, in general.

Regular exercise should be a part of your mental fitness routine — it’s easy to do, it’s super rewarding, and you’ll feel great physically and mentally for doing it. 

Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness and meditation often go hand in hand, but you can do one without the other — meditation is not the only form of mindfulness.

Despite this, many people find that meditation helps them achieve a more calm state of mind and improves focus and concentration.

But you can exercise mindfulness in different ways — it could be a short walk, perhaps creating a list of things you’re grateful for, gardening, cooking, or performing another hobby that you find rewarding.

We’re all different — you may enjoy yoga or meditation, or you might find that noting down your thoughts and tracking your goals in a notebook works best for you. You can also try our Rewire mindset recovery sessions, or, if you prefer, our open recovery post-workout deep mind and body session. And if guided sessions are more your thing, click here to give one a go! 

Do mind games

There are loads of mind games that help reduce stress and improve cognitive performance and function. For example, it could be something as simple as a crossword puzzle, sudoku, or a game of chess.

Alongside traditional games, there are also reaction tests and other brain-stimulating tests and activities that increase cognitive function and focus. We recommend trying a mix of Rewire neuro-training sessions, designed to temporarily increase mental fatigue, and build long-term mental fitness. If you’re reading on mobile, click here to try a 3 minute neuro-training session.

Read

Regular reading keeps the mind healthy — it stimulates the mind, reduces stress, improves knowledge, and facilitates better focus and concentration. 

Also, reading may keep the brain active, potentially slowing the onset of dementia in Alzheimer’s disease by up to five years, as found in a 2021 study

Increase awareness and reduce stress with journaling 

Journaling can be as simple as writing down your thoughts for a few minutes each day. But writing down how you feel can increase awareness, contributing to better mental fitness and reduced stress.

It’s a basic practice, but many people find it useful to note their thoughts on paper, almost clearing their heads and sharing the responsibility. 

Mental fitness is a holistic practice 

Mental fitness is a lot more holistic than you might think. Improving your mental fitness is not as simple as going for a run, playing a game of chess, reading a book, or performing reaction tests.

Instead, it’s a mix of several activities — there is no finish line, and you must constantly perform these activities to ensure optimal mental fitness.

To get started with your mental fitness journey, we recommend using the Rewire daily readiness assessment. The short 90-second assessment looks at your unique needs day-to-day, recommending specific neuro-training and mindset-recovery protocols to set yourself up for success.  

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References:

Ciomag, V. and Zamfir, M.V., 2016. The Benefit of Physical Exercises of our Own Body and Health. Univers Strategic, (2), p.26.

Horowitz, S., 2010. Health benefits of meditation: What the newest research shows. Alternative and Complementary Therapies, 16(4), pp.223-228.

Wilson, R.S., Wang, T., Yu, L., Grodstein, F., Bennett, D.A. and Boyle, P.A., 2021. Cognitive activity and onset age of incident Alzheimer disease dementia. Neurology, 97(9), pp.e922-e929.

Winter-Hébert, L., 2019. 10 Benefits of Reading: Why You Should Read Every Day. lifehack. org, Retrieved, pp.22-4.