Psychology for improving your coaching – Wed 7 Mar York St John Uni

7th Mar 2012

Psychology for improving your coaching   – Wed 7 Mar    York St John Uni  

Report by Pete Taylor, North Yorkshire Sport Coaching Development Manager (my words and opinions based on the workshop).  Purposely written in note form to avoid pages and pages of text!  

Delivered by the York St John University Senior Sports Lecturer John Grey the evening kicked off sharply at 6.30pm and with ‘Psychology’ the buzz word for the evening, possibly there was an air of trepidation in the room.    What were we going to learn – good question, surely attendees should have known why they were there – just a coach must do!  

So what was the night all about – certainly not all about the athlete.  More about the coach – how can the coach influence the athlete and what does the coach need to know about themselves in order to achieve success. The What.   

Why are we here?  What are we trying to achieve as a coach?  Do you know why you are coaching?  If you don’t how can you expect an athlete to know what they are there for.

Should skill, tactics or strength and conditioning come first?  No No No!!!!!

We should look at motivating your athletes first?   Ah but, how do you motivate someone if you don’t have the relationship with the athlete?

Skill – S&C – motivation – relationship – the coach.  Is this the right order or should it be the other way round? In my opinion yes it is back to front, the relationship must come first.      

The workshop was clearly going to focus on Relationships and The Coach.    Look at Chelsea – Villas-Boas did not have the relationship with the players.  The players certainly had the Skill, S&C and (some had!) motivation.    Before we can develop skills etc we must try to build the foundations and relationships with the players.

Next up – Toffee throwing.  Why?  We were soon to find out.  If we do something over and over again we will improve.  Or will we?  The scenario was set up to prove that there must be a reason to succeed.   Those present that did not understand why they were doing it were not expected to achieve, some may have done.  Bottom line is that it was only a scenario…..the ‘so what’ is… do we relate this to coaching? 

We can’t motivate someone but we can find out what motivates someone.  Give your athletes a targeted approach that is achievable.

So why did we throw toffees?   To prove the ‘The What’.  We must be able to understand (or at least know) what we are trying to achieve – give your athletes a reason to achieve………you may well just see them motivated……creating a journey towards positive action

What do we want to do?  What has just happened? Do we need to change?  What do we need to happen?  What action do I need to take? What are we trying to achieve?           

Let’s set some goals.  How do we set our goals?    

Question from attendee, Gerry Thomas, is it easier to find out what motivates an elite athlete or a grass roots sports participant?

No – each person is motivated by different things.   You, the coach, must first find out what the athlete wants, then you can help them on their journey.   An Olympic swimmer v a Sunday morning football team – very different motivation.  Many different motivations within a team – we must understand individuals and spend time doing so. 

What will make a team successful?  Lots of highly individuals that are allowed to explore their own motivations or a team that is given a goal and expected to work towards it. 

A question I thought of but did not ask – do we work out what motivates the individual or simple think of the team or required outcome?   IMO we must know the individual first.     

What do I do to create a journey towards positive action?

Why not think of coaching as creating a story:

So what makes a good story – a plot, the problem, the characters, the theme, the voice

How is your story affected – your journey to success.  If we understand the story (the plot, the problem……….) we have clarity, we build relationships and we will have actions  

Look at your squad/team/performer and work out what you have. You will/may have four types: Players, Followers, Bad & Terrorists. Keep the players, get rid of the Bad, get the followers to follow the players.  The players group will grow and the terrorists will be brought to the surface by the players and subsequently got rid of.   Simplistic I know but very important.          

We must accept that we have Blind Spots:

Do we make Generalisations…we never travel well, this ref always is bad for us, we don’t play well in the wind………

Do we make Deletions…do we give too much/or insignificant information to players that may enforce the deletion of what they are really trying to do…..

Do we make Distortions…do we distract people and therefore take their mind off what they are trying to do.        

How can we avoid this – get player feedback, discuss what they felt, have check list, diaries, ask peers.    Do we therefore need a checklist that suggests the things we need to do?   

What Leverage do we have:

What can we work on?  We have a Story and we have looked at our Blindspots.

Use Performance Profiling to work out what skills you need to be successful and then decide which are important.  We are now creating ‘the what’.

Profile your coaching – look at what components (ie feedback skills, tactical knowledge, analysis skills) your role demands – score them out of 10 according to their importance to your role.  Then look at your score out of 10 for these components and see what the difference is.  You may then have some idea of what to work on. 

What can you do to get better at those components that may have a big difference in terms of importance against your own score?     

Think about what characters you have and let their personalities come out.  

What order to we do things in, how do we get to where we want to go. 

You may just be able to ‘sell’ this to your athletes – the essence of Motivation     

You cannot motivate an athlete but you can understand what motivates them if you know them and you have a strong working relationship with them…….you will then know what motivates them.     A challenge I know but then you can set goals and develop the team and the individual.      Coaching is not easy!   

The ‘What’ must be where we all start.              

A great evening and more to think about for all those that attended ….. thanks John.

For more info or any questions relating this article please contact Pete Taylor,   


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