The Most Effective Coaching Technique
How do you get the ULTIMATE gains?!
Feel like you are constantly banging your head against the wall? Maybe you are struggling to control your athletes and you always feel like you are spinning your wheels and getting nowhere. Athletes aren’t listening, they are always doing their own thing, you feel disconnected as a coach yet you care so much about their success and their efforts. What the heck can you do as a coach? How can you improve this situation? Find out now how to master the most effective coaching technique!
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As coaches, we feel like we know so much about our realm of work. No one has spent as much time doing research, no athlete could possibly understand the information that we know and there is no chance in hell that an athlete can contribute to our systems of training! Athletes are idiots, if they just listened to me we would all be in a better place!
There very well might be some truth to these statements. In fact, I just had an experience with a thrower where he randomly asked, “Do you think I should focus on the low left foot now?”
Did I feel like hurting him? For sure. My first response was, “Legend! (sorry Lejj, throwing you under the bus here) Why didn’t you listen to me 6 months ago?!?!”
Then I did some reflection. Over the last 5 months, I have been working with a therapist regarding my emotions. My personality is that of a pinball machine mixed with a nuclear reactor. My thoughts go all over the place and I have historically REACTED instead of listened and observed prior to a reaction. This is a skill I have been practicing frequently with my athletes. Instead of reacting and wanting to scream and yell, I take note of my physical response, then I proceed to LISTEN and when I listen, I listen thoroughly.
Being strong-willed is a very positive attribute for any coach and personally, I believe my will has gotten me to this point in my career, but part of being a good coach is making progressive growth over and over again! Over time, I have recognized that as a coach, I need to listen to my athletes deeply. I need to understand their frame of reference, the judgment, and biases they have regarding their situation, I need to see their perception of reality and listen to the information they are providing me as a direct path to the inside of their brains. By listening to my athletes, I can predict responses in training, I can determine scenarios in competition and even prevent blow-ups from happening.
The Peak for Big Results:
From a physiological perspective, my peaking and periodization have been based around Athlete Reactive Analysis. As I understand the physical response to stimuli, I have been able to predict peaking periods and incredible performances have been a great result. However, I have also added a serious point to this system. During my physical analysis of their response, I have started to create a discovery period to their personality as well!
It is incredibly important to understand how each athlete likes to communicate. Some athletes want to talk to me right after their training, this is ok as long as it is undivided and not interfering with other athlete’s progress. Athletes that tend to be quieter may not EVER communicate to me directly, but if I can approach them and tell them exactly what I am noticing and is on my mind, they almost ALWAYS will respond to me and let me inside their brain (*cough *cough Hayley…).
Other athletes really just want to complain. That is ok, too. Listen to their complaints but you must make eye contact with them while they complain. A simple lesson I have noted is that individuals will complain and talk over very long periods of time, almost aimlessly, if I don’t make any eye contact and act as though I am not interested. But this is something I learned from my brother, a Wim Hof Method instructor. Eye contact creates a bond and empathy between two parties. People feel more connected and happier AFTER the initial eye contact. This is why athletes complain WAY less when I make eye contact. If I look them in their eyes, they know I care and when I don’t respond to their complaints but log them internally or in my notebook, they start to recognize that maybe their complaint is a bit unwarranted.
Clarity in Conversation
As the conversation finishes up, I almost always like to reiterate exactly what the athlete says. If it is regarding an injury, I want to make sure I know how they are feeling and this helps me adapt their programming. If they are bitching about nonsense and I repeat what they say, the individual almost gets embarrassed about their complaints and they start to self-reflect a bit more before fully shitting their brain of negativity on me.
Not only will I repeat their discussion but I also ask for more. I want to dig as deep as I can into their psyche. This takes me back to the skills I have been learning through therapy. The greater empathy I can have for others situations, the more I can understand their point of view, their struggles and even understand what makes them tick as an athlete and person. I want to repeat what they have expressed, I want to ask further if there is anything else, and then I want to remain silent and not react.
This leads to a comfort zone. Comfort creates trust, the trust then leads to greater execution of my system of programming and ultimately it helps me understand who they are and where they are coming from. It also helps me manage their internal strife or any issues that they may be having with other athletes or clients inside the gym. The training environment at Garage Strength is phenomenal and the less negative tension we have in the room, the greater the environment becomes!
Listening to athletes is absolutely imperative. Listen to every word. Log their thoughts and processes and use them to better yourself as a coach. Listen to their thoughts in a non-judgmental manner. Be empathetic and understand their point of view and attempt to rehash their point of view with them to help them grow individually. As the athlete grows, you too will continue to grow from a stress management perspective AND from a coaching perspective. The simple tips for the long term success? Right here:
1. Make sure you don’t have your phone out, avoid distracted listening.
2. Make sure the setting is decent for a discussion.
3. Listen to their statements while making eye contact.
4. Repeat their statements to ensure the situation is clear.
5. Comfort is key.
Verbalize alternatives or your own thoughts AFTER you have an internal discussion and can present your ideas in a controlled/methodical manner.
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Dane Miller is the owner and founder of Garage Strength Sports Performance. He works with a select handful of elite athletes building comprehensive programs for strength and sports performance. Several times a year he leads a seminar for coaches, trainers, and athletes.