“A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment.” – John Wooden.
It doesn’t matter who you coach — whether a youth sports team, the starting line-up for an international event, or a track and field team at your local University, you want to do a good job — you want your athletes to succeed.
The better at coaching you are, the better your performance from the individual athletes.
But how do you become a good coach? And what separates good from great?
This blog post will outline seven proactive ways to become a good coach, helping you get the most out of your athletes.
- What works for one athlete may not work for another (adopt an individual approach)
- Learn how to communicate effectively (and deliver feedback w/o resentment)
- Adopt two-way communication with your athletes
Stay up to date with the latest research
A good coach most likely already knows a lot about their sport. But even the most knowledgeable coach should keep up to date with the latest research, coaching, and training techniques.
For example, you could attend workshops that discuss other training components, such as nutrition and psychology.
Improving your skill set and remaining up to date with the research ensures you get the most out of your team. You can find marginal gains here and there, implementing new techniques when necessary.
You don’t need to incorporate all of your learnings, either. But you can try, test, and learn to see what works best for you and your athletes.
Know how to motivate your athletes
“Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” – Bobby Knight, former American basketball coach.
No athlete is motivated for every single training session — that’s just the way that it is. However, a good coach knows how to tap into each athlete’s unique motivators and goals, helping increase motivation and drive. For example, one athlete may respond well to a challenge or competition, while another may benefit from positive reinforcement or constructive feedback.
Find what works best for each athlete, and do that.
It’s your job as the coach to motivate your athletes and drive them toward success.
Listen to your athletes
A lot of coaches do an excellent job of instructing and guiding their athletes but often fall short when it comes to maintaining effective communication. Your athletes need to feel heard and understood, and you need to take on board what they have to say.
To achieve this, strive to create an environment where athletes feel comfortable expressing how they feel. One way to do this is to be available. For example, you can stay late after training if they want to speak to you, and you can also incorporate an open-door policy.
Adopting open communication can help improve athlete performance, coaching philosophies, and more. Let’s use the example of an athlete who is experiencing sharp knee pain but is supposed to run laps…
If the athlete does not feel confident to confide in their coach, they’ll run through the pain and make it worse. They might even cause themselves an injury. Conversely, if the athlete feels like they can talk to their coach, they can express their pain and frustrations and adapt the training as needed.
Communication is a two-way street — you have to want to listen to your athletes and not just close the book on what they have to say, but take the feedback onboard.
Adapt your training to each athlete
While you may have a team of athletes, no two athletes respond to training the same. One athlete may need more recovery, and another might respond differently to a certain type of training (e.g., one athlete who runs 50 miles a week may improve at a rapid rate, while another thrives on a lower 30 miles a week training volume).
Instead of prescribing the exact same training to each athlete, adapt the training to suit their abilities. If you’re just starting out in a coaching role, finding what works best can take some time. But a good place to start is simply by speaking to your athletes — ask what type of training they prefer, how their recovery is after certain sessions, and so on… a lot can be learned from a quick conversation!
Develop excellent communication skills
Knowing how to talk to your athletes is a must-have skill. If you don’t know how to communicate effectively, then you’ll struggle to motivate your athletes. Furthermore, clear and concise communication is key during a game or competition — you give instructions to improve team performance.
Work on your communication and you’ll see a big return in how your team listens and implements your instructions.
Foster a positive team culture
Building a positive team culture will help your team thrive. You could have the best players in the world, but with poor culture and zero team dynamics, they’ll struggle to perform consistently at a high level.
As a coach, aim to build a culture that you would want as an athlete. It’s your responsibility to create an environment where your athletes feel valued, motivated, respected, and a part of the team.
Below are a few ways you can start building team culture:
- Encourage open communication
- Set short and long-term goals as a team
- Perform team bonding activities
- Celebrate small victories
Prioritize rest & recovery
We touched upon this briefly already. However, no two athletes are the same, especially when it comes to rest and recovery. Despite this, measuring rest and readiness can be difficult — how do you know when to step on the gas and when to sit back and take it easy?
Rewire for Teams provides your athletes with a daily readiness assessment. We factor in a mix of cognitive, emotional, and physical readiness scores to determine how ready they are for training. As a coach, you can use these scores to decide what training sessions to do, for what athletes, and who might need a rest day.
“Rewire’s Readiness Assessment gives me really valuable insights into all aspects of my Readiness and allows me to make better training and recovery decisions.” – Laura Kline, Elite ultra runner & endurance athlete.