Shift in training philosophy…
Due to the changes in sport and social culture over the last decade, we felt as if some of our athletes desperately needed more attention than we were able to give them. We needed a different approach…
We asked our athletes what they needed most? What they were seeking? Most athletes felt as if they need to play faster. But when you dig deeper into why they don’t feel fast, or what coaches are asking them to do, the responses were much more detailed than a simple speed program could cover.
Many needed to be quicker, more elusive, or the ability to explosively separate from opponents. Others needed confidence with the ball, creative problem solving, and skillful precision. Some athletes needed to get stronger, more powerful, or improve their fitness to play faster late in games.
And it was becoming increasingly difficult to focus on each individuals needs in large groups of athletes coming in once a week. We just couldn't provide enough focused coaching for each athlete in the limited time we were with them.
But there was an even larger problem...
Many of our athletes were beginning to talk about the PSYCHOLOGICAL CONFIDENCE factor that was derailing their motivation to practice. They talked about feeling anxious, depressed, fearful of making a mistake or just feeling burnt out. The older the player, the more often these responses came up. It was becoming obvious that we needed to be addressing the psychological aspects alongside the physiological aspects.
So we changed our structure to better align our system with what our athletes needed...more reps, more confidence, more focused, deliberate, intentional coaching. To do this we needed to decrease our group size and focus our efforts on individual need.
It starts with a focus on RELATIONSHIPS…When our athletes were coming in 2-3 days a week, year round, we had more time to get to know them (even in large groups). In recent years, as time constraints (more practices, more travel, more activities) limited our athletes ability to get in more days, it's become more difficult to build these relationships.
Better communication builds a more positive, motivating, stress-free, environment for a relationship to grow, for athletes to learn, develop and appreciate the process. If we get to know our athletes, and they feel comfortable communicating with us, we can coach more intentionally towards their needs.
Coaching is not just about leading athletes towards successful performance outcomes (wins, speed and skill), but maybe more critically, about creating a better psychological outlook on life and sport (self esteem, enjoyment and positive habits). To do both we have to understand our athletes interests and motivations.
To MOTIVATE and INSPIRE our athletes we have to understand what drives them… If we have established a good relationship and can communicate efficiently with each athlete, we can become more intentional with our feedback. This helps build interest. And athletes that are interested become inquisitive and excited to learn.
When athletes become INQUISITIVE…they listen more intentionally. They focus more purposefully and give more concentrated effort towards the task. Inquisitive athletes are curious, confident, seekers. They want to mine the coach for information and are more receptive to feedback. This requires trust in the process and the coaches intentions…importance of building the strong relationship.
Once motivated, inspired and inquisitive they passionately DIG DEEPER INTO THE TRAINING…being involved in a training program becomes more than just showing up. The athlete begins to actively engage in the process, willing to try, not fearing temporary failures, appreciating small wins, focusing their efforts towards mastering every detail.
Training sessions become more deliberate, and effort becomes more focused. Athletes want more reps, ask more questions, refine their skills and develop a confident understanding of how each aspect impacts their performance.
But it all starts with building better relationships. By decreasing group size we were able to...
- Understand athletes needs, motivations, and interests (communication)
- Build trust ,and remove fear and anxiety (positive environment)
- Find ways to motivate, and inspire effort towards a specific need (connect with goals)
- Feed curiosity and get excited for small wins (coach enthusiastically)
- Focus attention and intentional feedback towards critical aspects (deliberate practice)
- Lead aspiring young talents to discover athletic confidence and unlock potential (our mission)
This is what we are chasing, this is our mission, and why we needed a change towards smaller groups.