by Glen Coblens, MA
Most coaches agree that sports are more mental than physical. Yet most athletes focus more on their physical skills. Coaching is the same. In addition to working on game strategy and skill development, coaches should focus more on proper breathing techniques, communication, preparation and goal setting. How do successful coaches stay in the moment, be calm during tense competitions, make strategic decisions and clearly communicate to their teams? The time and effort they put in way before working with their athletes will provide them with a strong base to rely on.
- Just like athletes, learning proper breathing techniques can help coaches. Circle breathing, where you take deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth can lower your heart rate, help you think clearly and focus on the task at hand.
- How coaches communicate with their athletes is just as important as what they communicate. Athletes want to feel validated in their thoughts and feelings. The goal is for each athlete to reach his/her potential and if it is a team sport for the team to reach its full potential. Coaches who make the effort to value athlete’s comments and provide clear and constructive instructions in return have greater success in achieving this goal. In addition, coaching is about developing relationships and helping athletes grow and develop as people. When an athlete feels validated, they are more likely to increase their effort, “buy into the game-plan,” feel better about themselves and perform at a higher level.
- Sports provides lessons for life and preparation is the key to anything in life. Successful coaches are good at focusing on what is needed and preparing a plan to accomplish it. Plans can include a slogan such as “Win the Day” (former University of Oregon and current Philadelphia Eagles football coach Chip Kelly) to motivate athletes and teams. Knowing your athlete’s strengths and weaknesses is vital to preparing a successful game-plan. “Work on your weaknesses but play to your strengths” is a saying that may help coaches improve their preparation.
- How does your physical body know what your mind expects from it if you do not set a goal? We instruct athletes to set goals all the time, but coaches need goals as well. Whether it is a season, practice, competition, individual athlete or overall team goal; document your goals, read them aloud and refer back to them often. Use trigger words to remind you of your goals and help you stay relaxed and focused throughout the season, practice or competition.
Mental training is not just for athletes. For the same reasons why athletes benefit from mental strength, coaches will benefit as well. If you want to help athletes improve, have more success in competitions, improve your self-esteem and self-confidence take time to practice the skills outlined above. After all, coaches are developing tomorrow’s leaders. The better we lead today, the better they can lead tomorrow.
SPINw consultants work with coaches individually and in groups. Contact us for more information.
Additionally, check out our Psychology of Coaching Workshop coming on May 4th, 2014.