14 January, 2016

Do you understand your athletes?

Do you understand your athletes?

Photo Credit: Steven Sharrock

As coaches, we are often seen as many different things to a youth athlete – coach, teacher, leader, mental support, parental figure, role model. In today’s world where often both parents are working, the nuclear family is under strain or non-existent then the relationship between athlete and coach is much different to that of previous generations.

In my athletic performance framework, a key part for an athlete to achieve their potential in performance is to be well educated in managing their personal wellness.

I consider wellness to incorporate:

  • Nutrition and hydration
  • Recovery methods including sleep
  • Time management, personal organisation and personal management

During my time in the military leading soldiers, I was responsible for improving their performance and managing their welfare. Soldiers usually live on base, it is often their first time living out of a home environment and their first exposure to a regular income. Not surprisingly this bought about a range of welfare issues that as a young Troop Commander I often had to deal with on a Monday morning before we could commence any training for the week. 

A failure to address these issues would mean that the soldier would not perform and had the potential to become a liability for the rest of the team. Dealing with the welfare issues with youth or young adult athletes is no different. The issues they bring to training will affect their performance.

The military provides a range of education to soldiers based on the issues they have seen over the years – financial planning advice, nutrition education, personal organisation. Why – because soldiers that are able to care for their own welfare are more reliable in stressful situations requiring peak performance. 

I strongly encourage the organisations and coaches I work with to consider their athletes welfare if they want to achieve success.

Start with getting to know each individual athlete. Build the relationship between athlete and coach at a personal level rather than just a sport coaching level.

Below is what I think are big areas to understand in a coach-athlete relationship.

  1. What are their personal living circumstances?
  2. What are their big stressors and worries right now?
  3. Who do they turn to for advice and support?
  4. What does their nutrition and recovery plan look like?
  5. Do they look organised for training?

By truly understanding where your athlete is at, then you can start to provide a more personal approach to supporting their development, just as you do around their athletic performance.

Understand that you are dealing with the whole person in order to develop them as an athlete. Coaching is a journey for all involved. Also remember you cant do it all as a coach – bring other positive people in to help provide the education and support your athletes need.

© 2019 Paul Mead