Why Coaching Is About Mindset, Not Just Technique

Coaches have a responsibility to look after their athletes' mental well-being, not just their physical well-being



When you think about ethical coaching, what values and philosophies do you attach to it? Many coaches will have their own ideas about what it should look like, along with a number of irritations firmly placed under the umbrella of ‘bad coaching practice.’

New coaches often begin filled with a sense of power and authority over the young athletes they are coaching. If there is one thing Spiderman taught us it is that “with great power, comes great responsibility.”

This responsibility doesn’t just apply to the physical aspects of coaching, but emotional well-being too.

Leaving Behind The Power-Trip

The majority of coaches quickly learn to get over the initial power-trip, preferring instead to focus on developing and nurturing the all-important athlete-coach relationship.

Placing the athlete front and centre when it comes to coaching technique may not work for everyone, but consider for a moment how morale and motivation can impact performance.

For some coaches, an army PT style seems the only natural way to extract peak performance from those in their charge. Yet this ‘yelling and telling’ environment often only results in students with low morale, low motivation, and ultimately, low confidence in their abilities.

How can engineering an environment where the fear of failure precedes everything possibly result in success?

The Carrot Or The Stick?

Needing to shout at any athlete could point to one, or even two, things:

  1. Your coaching efforts to that point have been poor


  1. You are coaching someone you would rather not work with at all


Can the threat of punishment and their consequences really motivate? Sadly, yes. But not without those athletes going on to develop emotional and self-esteem issues. Do you really want your coaching efforts to be associated with such a cost? We doubt it.

The Freedom To Fail

There will be those in your classes who will excel from the outset, there will be those who show potential, and there will be those who really just aren’t cut out for it (whether they give it 100% or not).

What is important is they all have the freedom to fail – without any consequence attached.

For some pupils, it is a question of coaching their mindset as well as their technique.

As coaches (and as adults) we have a responsibility to support the people we coach through both the good and the bad aspects of the sport. Success and failure can be a roller coaster for a young mind, and as a coach, you need to be seen as the one in control of the ride and able to keep your frustrations in check.

A firm word here and there is perfectly justifiable, especially from a safety standpoint. Yet, if this is your only approach to coaching it may be time reappraise your methods to ensure you get the best from your athletes – both mentally and physically.

What creative ways have you come up with to motivate your athletes? Let us know in the comments below.


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Article by Nick Ruddock – Pay Subs Online’s resident Coaching Expert and Consultant.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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