The Art of Coaching Is Real – Part 3

Over the last two articles, I shared two fundamental truths about the Art of Coaching with you.

1.     The Art of Coaching is real and backed up by decades of research.

2.     The Art of Coaching is the defining variable—any program is only as good as your ability to coach it, and your athlete’s willingness to buy in to it

The third truth speaks to an important characteristic of the Art of Coaching. It also explains why just having one “style” of coaching can sometimes fall flat. It explains why some communication styles work with certain athletes but not with others.

And it all boils down to the third truth: The Art of Coaching is more complex than you think.

The truth is that coaches can never fully gain predictive control over all of their athletes all of the time, but they can enhance the manner in which they communicate with them and shape their behaviors. It just takes patience and an improved understanding of human behavior.

Every person is a puzzle, and no matter how “fired up” you are to coach them, the amount of effort they put into a session is still going to vary based on many different personal, social, and environmental factors.

I’ve made the mistake of shrugging this off. When I was a young (read: “new”) coach, I was filled with an intense sense of urgency that I was sure I could simply infuse into each and every group and athlete I worked with. I also made the mistake of thinking they were as amped up to be in the weight room as I always was.

What you quickly learn is that very few of our athletes are as excited to train as many of us coaches are.

Despite my over eagerness, some athletes bought in. Others were initially captivated or intrigued by my high-energy style and sense of urgency (for a while anyway). But then, over time, they went back to their old habits. To reengage them, I worked harder: I intensely focused on every action they performed, would blare the music, and make sure there was no stone left unturned in regards to trying to coach every rep and provide as much feedback as possible.

Another mistake, another lesson. But I was hard-headed. Whenever someone was unresponsive to a certain method, I’d go sit in my office after a session and feel dejected like I was a failure. To me, training is a tool to teach others what they are capable of, so watching some athletes go through the motions killed me!

What I didn’t realize back then was it’s not enough to just have one “go-to” coaching strategy or style that you can try and plug in to solve all problems. You have to be adaptive instead of obstinate. You see, even passion has a “dark side” and can backfire on us if you don’t know your audience, environment, or respect the timing of things.

This is partly why the Art of Coaching is so complex—much like the weather and even aspects of global economics—all of these are examples of subjects in which a cascade of different variables is constantly at play and ever-changing.

The social landscape of coaching cannot be navigated through stubbornness. We have to learn how to be flexible and how to present our ideas in unique ways.

Learning about a few key differences and understanding how to adapt your messaging will make all the difference. It’s being able to read simple cues, and based on this, selecting from a handful of proven influence strategies that will instantly make you a better coach.

The problem is, nobody teaches you this when you start out and most coaches never learn this.

I spent years learning the Art of Coaching first hand through mistakes, coaching countless groups, and by researching its scientific foundations. When I started, there were no resources for coaches that took them beyond the technical side of coaching and into its complex art, and no, the litany of leadership books at Barnes & Noble does not fall into this category.

That’s why I decided to create Bought In. Bought In teaches you which small cues to pay attention to, which questions to ask an athlete and what factors in your environment to register, so you can adapt your messaging and truly get the most effort out of every athlete.

With Gratitude,
Brett Bartholomew

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