Engagement and Coaching: The Key to Success

Engagement and Coaching: The Key to Success


Engagement is the current coaching buzzword.

Engagement is like Stephen Hawking’s book, A Brief History of Time: many people are aware of it, some have studied it but very, very few understand it.

Yet, understanding engagement, what it is, how it works and how to increase your athlete’s level of engagement in your coaching program is critical to achieving the level of success you are striving for.

Engagement and Coaching is, the Key to Sporting Success.

Engagement Defined:

Engagement is, in one word, more.

Engagement is when athletes (or for that matter coaches and people in general) are willing to and do give more than is expected.


When and Why does Engagement Happen:

Engagement happens when an athlete’s motivation meets the right environment and opportunity.

Engagement and Motivation are closely linked.

Coaches can not motivate athletes. Motivation is something which comes from within: it is the fire and the desire which drives athletes to remarkable achievements.

What coaches can do is to create the environment and provide the opportunity for the athlete to express their motivation in their preparation and performance or if you like, Engagement happens when Motivation Meets the Moment!

So what does “More” mean?

If Engagement is “More”, then what does “More” mean? What does “More” look like?

Coaches who do not understand Engagement confuse it with More Training, i.e. the more engaged an athlete is, the harder they will work. This is only one aspect of engagement and it is a very limited and limiting way of looking at engagement.

Here are a few “more” examples:

  • More volume: Athletes do more training sessions, more repetitions, more distance, more workouts than expected by the coach;
  • More intensity: Athletes give more effort: i.e. they work harder than they are expected to by the coach;
  • More skill level: Athletes focus and concentrate more on skills execution in preparation than is expected by the coach;
  • More professional: Athlete’s preparation, recovery, nutrition, self-monitoring, self-management, injury management etc are all more than is expected by the coach;
  • More pressure: Athletes deliberately create more pressure and make training more challenging and more demanding than is expected by the coach;
  • More contribution to the environment: Athlete’s contribute more to the success of the environment by helping out other athletes, helping to clean and maintain the environment, contributing to Club fundraising etc.

The “more” that an athlete will give is dependent on their motivation: understand an athlete’s motivation and you have the key to unlock the door to having them more engaged in your program.

What does Engagement look like? Here are just a few real life examples:

More volume: I was once working with a national swimming team. One of the athletes was expected to do a training set which was very difficult, very challenging and very tough in terms of intensity, short rest periods and speed. When she had completed the expected set, she looked up from the water to her coach and said, “I can do one more”. So as the other swimmers began their cool down, she continued to work to her limits and challenged herself to do more than was expected.

Her motivation: To be the number one swimmer in the world.

Her outcome: Two World Championship Gold Medals, Two World Records.


More professionalism: A national rugby team was in a training camp and they had just completed a tough training session in preparation for an international test match. The conditioning staff advised all players that they were expected to attend a recovery session at the team hotel in 60 minutes. The captain arrived first and helped conditioning staff set up the recovery environment, e.g. ice baths, stretching mats. The captain commenced his own recovery program earlier than was expected. In addition to the recovery activities that were expected, he spent more time on his own injury management needs and flexibility. As other players arrived, he encouraged them to start their recovery activities immediately and continually encouraged them to focus on the subtleties of their recovery program. At the end of the team recovery session, he remained behind to help some of the younger players finish their recovery program. He then helped team staff clean up the recovery area and was the last person to leave.

His motivation: To have a long, successful career as the captain of an international rugby team.

His outcome: Over 100 test matches for his country including captaining his nation more than 50 times.


More skill level: A tennis player was training hard for his next competition. His coach had asked him to practice against a training partner for 60 minutes. Five minutes into the session, the player decided to make the session more challenging than was expected by having to n0minate the winning scoring shot each game in advance of playing it. This meant having to think a lot more about the game, his opponent, his tactics, his technical play and his level of focus on the training activity than was expected.

His motivation: To win at the highest level.

His outcome: Top ten player in the world that year.


So, enough talk about Engagement. Time for action.

Engagement is when an athlete’s motivation meets the right environment and opportunity.

As a coach, Y.O.U. are responsible for creating the right environment and opportunity for each athlete you coach.

Discover each athlete’s motivation and work relentlessly to provide the environment and opportunity for it to be unleashed.

If you want Engagement from your athletes, do something about it.


Wayne Goldsmith


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