What is different about the best coaches? How do they consistently deliver champions – even in different locations, with a different group of athletes, and against different competitors?
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Without question, coaches need a sharp eye for physical talent and a knack for recruiting. However, the best coaches are masters at creating consistency across their program by addressing what leadership experts call ‘individualization’. This means they study each athlete in order to tailor their approach to the unique needs of that individual. They understand that ‘one size does NOT fit all’.
It sounds like common sense, but it is not common practice. Maintaining a dual focus requires intention at the highest level. Championship-caliber coaches understand and employ this. They know every athlete is a complex bundle of both physical and mental capabilities.
Over the years, researchers in every sport have developed scientific and objective methods to evaluate an athlete’s physical abilities. They may look at speed, strength, agility, sport-specific motion, flexibility and stamina.
Physical abilities are only half, if that, of the performance picture. Elite-level coaches are able to uncover the unique mental make-up of each athlete. How are they motivated? How do they compensate for a weakness? How do they respond when they’re intimidated, in pain, or dealing with a tough opponent or under pressure? Which athlete should I call upon to inspire the team and who is better at admonishing fellow players?
The good news is there is an equally scientific and objective way to answer these questions about the mental make-up and performance of an athlete. The use of scientifically based psychological instruments such as EXACT Sports Mental Achievement Program and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator are great ways to provide a more complete understanding of how to practice and train athletes given their innate physical and mental strengths and deficiencies. When you know how an athlete is inherently wired, you can better motivate, teach them how to handle pressure, and ultimately, help them realize their full potential as leaders and team players.
In your role as a coach, you need to discover who each athlete truly is and learn the right vernacular to enhance their brain. Expectations you set will be slightly different for each athlete, the way you interact, persuade, and correct will be different. The way you nurture a strength, give compliments and why, and the way you develop a weakness will be varied.
As a coach, you do not want to label or select based on an athlete’s ‘mental map’. . That said, results certainly can help you understand your athletes and what type of position or role he or she is best suited for, which players tend to perform better in a team situation versus a single situation, and which athletes will lead more by example or be the leader who rally the troupes into high octane action.
As a coach, it is your job to connect this kind of information to your athletes. It provides individualized guidance to help each athlete unlock and unleash their fullest athletic potential and create a winning consistency across your program.