We have all done it.
We have all been involved in debates, discussions and deliberations about what coaching is.
Some people say it is about teaching and learning skills. Others say it’s about sports science and applying a scientific method approach to planning and periodisation. Others say it’s about communication and caring. Still others believe coaching is about emotions like passion or it’s about values like commitment, honesty, integrity, humility, courage and discipline.
To add to the confusion, you get the coaching “zealots” who are promoting one type of coaching philosophy over another (in an effort to create a commercial success from their theories about coaching) who are convinced coaching is about the ABC Technique of Coaching or Homer Simpson’s Guide to Effective Coaching or some whiz bang made up word like Coaching Readiness for Accelerated Performance (I hope you spotted the acronym)!
Coaching is about one thing above all others…engagement.
The one thing that separates great coaching from average coaching is engagement: it’s what it’s all about. The ability to consistently engage the hearts and minds of your athletes – it’s what we strive for – it is the very essence of coaching – it is what makes coaches (and athletes) feel alive.
- A training session without engagement is just a bunch of people exercising together;
- Communication without engagement is just talking;
- Sports science without engagement is just measurement;
- Periodisation without engagement is just a plan;
- Having the world’s best facilities and equipment without engagement is just window dressing;
- Coaching without engagement is…..not coaching.
Lessons for young coaches…
As an inexperienced coach, you continually seek new ideas, try new products, learn new techniques and bright shiny exercises machines. You become obsessed with finding a short cut, a quick fix, an instant answer, a miracle ingredient to fast track the improvement of your athletes.
And there are plenty of people out there ready to offer it to you!
So you buy videos and books and new gym equipment and DVDs and testing products and supplements and keep looking for something – that one thing that will enhance your coaching performance.
But, no matter what you buy, no matter what you read, no matter what you watch, in the end, the effectiveness of everything you do comes down to the level of engagement of your athletes.
You spend millions on a state of the art gym but…your athletes turn up late, don’t warm up, don’t stretch, train with poor technique, don’t rehydrate and perform their exercises with minimal effort so…you might as well have built them a garden shed and given them a few big rocks to throw around.
You spend weeks planning a meticulously detailed periodised plan. Every session – every cycle – every session is planned to moment but… your athletes train with poor technique, they execute skills in training poorly and with no attention to detail, they demonstrate poor skills execution in training as they fatigue and only give 80% effort on their fitness work so….you might as well have made it up on the day.
You agonise over recruiting the best possible players for your team. You study the videos. You agonise over the statistics. You analyse the test results. You recruit who you think are the players who will win you that illusive title but….they have poor discipline, can’t manage alcohol, don’t eat or sleep like professional athletes and never give you 100% on the training field so… you might as well have just recruited my mum (a wonderful woman but no athlete!).
So why is engagement so critical? And it is critical – it underpins everything.
Because athletes (and coaches and managers and staff for that matter) who are truly engaged with what they are doing, consistently train and compete to their full potential and….from potential comes peak performance.
No one wins by giving anything less than their best: winning happens by consistently preparing and competing to your full potential.
And this is the real gift that all the great coaches possess – to be able to turn involvement into commitment – to be able to turn desire into action and to be able to turn potential into performance.
- Use any technique or philosophy or paradigm or coaching school you like in your coaching: what you do, is up to you – the critical issue is engagement;
- More than ever coaching is about how – not what. You can get any “what” you want from the Internet. Want to really improve your coaching– forget buying books on physiology, biomechanics and nutrition – forget buying heart rate monitors and lactate analysers – invest some time, energy and money into enhancing your ability to engage your athletes to the full extent of their potential in every training and competition activity.