In one of our recent coaching advice posts, we discussed the importance of coaching the mindset, not just technique. Closely aligned with this is the importance of developing a strong coach-athlete relationship.
Creating a positive working environment is a great motivator for both athletes and coaches alike. As our previous post suggested, coaches who approach training through military style ‘shout and command’ tactics will quickly find their students demoralised and motivated only by a fear of failure.
Let’s look at this from another perspective.
Imagine sitting in your workplace each day, with your boss shouting at you for the entire day? How long could you last? How long before your motivation wanes and resentment towards your employer builds?
In such an environment it doesn’t take long before your performance levels drop as your self-esteem hits rock bottom. The same is true in a coaching relationship.
Remember Who You Are Coaching
The big problem here is that the athletes in your charge are children, not adults. As adults, we are able to express ourselves, communicate discontent and take action to remedy the situation.
Children, however, are not as adept at communicating their feelings. They arrive at each training session with a desire to learn and trust in your coaching methods. They have no flexibility in the training provided and no ability to defend themselves.
Are You Pulling In Opposite Directions?
This kind of ‘yelling and telling’ environment is a slippery slope. The more demands placed on them, the greater the chances they will not want to perform. At this point, a tug-of-war then develops between unhappy athletes and an aggravated coach – a situation no-one benefits from. This is where our coaching advice comes in.
Within any high performing culture, morale is an important asset. In sport, the rapport between coaches and athletes must take precedence over the potential rewards.
Rapport Must Come First
Building rapport is easy. Truly, it is. The first thing to remember is that you should treat others as you would expect to be treated yourself – be courteous and respectful – they are a child first, athlete second.
This is the secret to long-term morale, not winning medals, titles and tournaments. Sure, these things bring about a sense of accomplishment and an injection of confidence. Sadly, however, these quickly fade once training resumes again.
Often coaches become immune to the emotions of their students, developing instead an inferior, sterile form of teaching.
The coach who invests in the emotional well-being of their pupils and takes time to build a rapport with them will discover that happier people perform better.
Rapport Building Coaching Advice
Where many coaches slip is in failing to get to know the athletes they teach. Find out more about them and their life – Do they enjoy school? What did they do last weekend? What are their favourite things?
The most important element in building rapport is trust. Make sure you build it, don’t break it.
Being approachable and showing empathy will make it easier for your pupils to share their concerns with you. Children will not communicate if they feel intimidated or fear consequences.
Show you can cater to the needs of individuals as well as the group, and treat everyone equally. When it comes to giving feedback, make it positive and authentic – they need to feel it is genuine.
The Best Coaches….
Are those who have the best understanding of their athletes. As Tony Robbins said – “Most teachers know their subject, but they don’t know their students.”
While it may be easier to build rapport with the parents than the students themselves, shifting your focus to the child is essential if you are to develop a deeper understanding of them.
Why? Because this is the only way you can hope to discover what drives them, what motivates them, their inspiration, their goals. More than this, you will learn how to read their emotions, feelings, and even their body language.
The time you spend developing a great coach-athlete relationship is an investment – one which will save you time, and make your coaching much more fulfilling.
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Coaching Advice article by Nick Ruddock, Pay Subs Online’s Resident Coaching Expert.