The job as a coach is to help athletes/teams climb mountains, to navigate, strategize and prepare for the ascent through sport and life. In the beginning we help them enjoy the ascent of small hills (challenges) letting them explore and be creative and then helping them gain the confidence and capacity that they require to climb larger and more challenging summits.
In sport, like climbing a mountain, as an athlete climbs through the levels and age groups and closes in on their own summit of success, the need for an increased capacity of skill, work and confidence becomes mandatory along with the ancillary resources the athlete will require to sustain and continue that ascent.
Coaching is an absolute pleasure, but we continually remind ourselves what our role truly is. Inspire athletes to overcome their fears and chase their teams. Empower then with the tools and confidence they need to challenge their goals and finally prepare them as best as we can! Here are a few tactical thoughts that we employ when lifting up our athletes.
- Have a barometer of success
In most team/skill based sport it is important to remember that training/strength and conditioning increases your capacity to train/practice hard, longer and at a faster pace so that theoretically you can acquire new skills that can be expressed at that pace.
Whether we are talking about your athletic capacity in the gym or your technical/tactical skills and knowledge on the ice, find a way to know where you stand and be intention in your practice to chase down the skills and performance improvements you need at your specific stage of development.
2. Find a "climbing group"
When a team is put together, it is usually put together to "WIN A GAME" or purely based on who the best players are. Perhaps the better way to look at it is to find a group of people who are as (or more) passionate then you are about preparing to "make that climb" as an athlete.
3. Find opportunities to FAIL in practice
Yes we said it. Some of the best coaches in the world find ways in practice to UP YOUR RISK and allow you to fail in a safe way. This is not meant in a way that would put athletes in danger, more when executing a skill, challenge yourself to a) get to a point where a skill is happening automatically and then once it is b) up your risk and intensity to a point where you might fail. I want to be clear that it is our job as a coach to ensure the safety of our athletes at all time (we aren't going to put an athlete under a load we know they can't handle) but it is also our job to teach our athletes when to take themselves out of their comfort zone, which is usually where real growth occurs. The real challenge is to find the balance between safety and risk in development.
Too much safety...no growth
Too much risk...increased chance of injury or decrease in confidence
In the gym this might mean working on a more complex speed pattern or perhaps a change of direction drill that has a higher degree of difficultly. The important point is that while coaching this to find the correct challenge for the athlete that isn't too far of a stretch, one that if worked on, failure will turn into success and eventually that skill will be the one that is automatic.
4. The only time to look back is to see how far you've come, and help others do the same.
Obviously we aren't talking about admiring your pass coming through the neutral zone. But I do think it's important for athletes to take a second, reflect and be proud of their journey and grateful for those who have help them get there. In most cases of sport, the ascent to the professional/semi professional ranks is one that takes well over decade, be sure to take a moment and enjoy the view with your loved ones!
To our coaches we interact with, ask yourself, are you continually helping athletes increase their capacity and confidence but providing them a road map of success.
To our athletes, are you putting yourself into the right growth mindset to practice in a way that facilitates growth?
Make today a good day!