For athletes to perform to the best of their ability, coaches in today’s game need to establish effective relationships with their players. Successful coaches are successful motivators, first and foremost. Coaching and athletic performance have a direct correlation with one another. If the athlete does not trust that their coach believes in them, the player will not grow to their greatest potential. Establishing a positive athlete-coach relationship is critical to achieving effective communication. Effective communication is necessary for building the base of your relationship with your player. Each athlete reacts differently because every player is unique. To be an effective communicator, a coach one must determine how to connect with each athlete. As a coach, observing how a player performs after being criticized says a lot about them. Will the player respond positively and listen to the coach, or drop their head and flaunt poor body language? Each athlete responds differently accounting for both the beauty and hardship of being a coach. However, “no relationship, whether on the playing field or off, can blossom without communication and the relationship between players and coaches is no different” according to a 2018 study.
By Aniyah E. Fisher
When becoming a coach, like all jobs, there are certain aspects that can separate you from the average coaches. One of the most important aspects for improving your program is team culture. Athletes often perform better when they feel like they are a part of something. A team culture revolves around the coach’s philosophy. Find ways to encourage your team and communicate the strength and diversity of your team. A 2020 study suggested coaches inspire each student athlete to become a part of the team’s identity and take pride in being part of something bigger than themselves. If your team buys into your culture as a coach, winning will come with it if everyone stays focused on the goals set for them.
Effective goal setting is also something to keep improving as a coach. Developing a set of effective goals and expectations is important to managing a team’s success. Long-term goals are not always the answer. Short-term goals are often more effective in teaching in a shorter amount of time. Some examples of short-term goals are points allowed in a three-game stretch, to a specific quarter in one of those games, or even in a scrimmage in a practice. Academic and training goals can improve the overall performance of your team. Goals are always able to be revised once you set them. If adversity strikes or the goal is too easily achieved, don’t be afraid to revise those goals. Providing consistent feedback to your team is also important. Without providing feedback to your athletes, they will not know how to improve. Feedback is not always verbal. Players will pick up on body language and facial expressions quickly. It’s crucial to pick out the positives after a loss, though it may be difficult to do at times. This feedback should be both positive and constructive. Some may think yelling and harsh feedback rarely helps athletes improve, but it’s about how your team responds to it. Whatever your team responds best to is what you should enforce. Finding the right combination of positives and negatives will come with experience, but that is one of the responsibilities that come with coaching. Athletes are all humans, and they all respond differently. Some individuals prefer to be praised in front of a group, while others respond better to one-on-one confrontation. Even if an individual has a poor performance, finding ways to encourage specific improvements can lead to a better cohesiveness.
Instruction and constructive criticism are two more important aspects within feedback. As a coach, keeping an appropriate sense of perception is necessary. During a season you may find yourself putting all your eggs in one basket. You may be facing a local rival opponent or bemoaning the fact your best player got injured and will miss some playing time. Distractions like these separate the good coaches from the bad. Good coaches understand that keeping the game in perspective is key. Getting tied up in your team’s performance minimizes all the hard work put in by your athletes. Providing guidance and support for your team is beneficial for growth when adversity hits. Teaching competitors how to cope with both success and disappointment is one of your tasks as a coach. When trying to become a better coach you should never stop learning. The best coaches are always learning more about the sport they love each day. Never think that you know enough, or that you know it all. Figuring out what works and what does not is all a part of the process. Don’t be afraid to fail. Continuing to add to your arsenal of knowledge will only lead to positive growth.
High performance coaches take an integrated approach to training that include many different factors. Among these are physical, mental, and psychological training. To get an athlete to perform to their highest level, it’s important to address various situations where a player may struggle. High performance coaches are not always associated with high level athletes. They work with a vast array of players and help them develop in both individual and team skills (when applicable). “High performance coaches combine physiology, kinesiology, and psychology in their training and often serve as role models, mentors, teachers and community leaders” according to a 2020 study. An example of a high-performance coach is Olympic coach Glen Mills. Mills has been hailed as “the man behind Usain Bolt’s record shattering career.” His coaching technique is unique because he coaches a person and not a machine. One of Mills’ philosophies is that he believes training the mind to “learn to lose to learn to win” is crucial, because it eliminates the fear of losing. This is just one specific example of a high-performance coach with one individual athlete. There are infinite coaching philosophies with an infinite number of connections awaiting to be made with different athletes.
5 Ways to Become a Better Athletics Coach. Ohio University. (2020, February 3). https://onlinemasters.ohio.edu/blog/5-ways-to-become-a-better-athletics-coach/.
Anonymous. (2020, October 23). Glen Mills Training Program – Sprint Training From Usain Bolt’s Coach. SportCoaching. https://sportcoaching.co.nz/glen-mills-training-program/.
How Coaches Can Impact Athlete Focus. (2018, February 7). https://www.ncu.edu/blog/how-coaches-can-impact-athlete-focus.
What Does a High Performance Coach Do? (2020, August 5). https://sm.hhp.ufl.edu/news/what-does-a-high-performance-coach-do/.