How to Engage an Athlete
At Strength and Conditioning Education, we only take on the most qualified, competent and knowledgable mentors to ensure our students have the best opportunities within the field.
We have various mentors that specialise in a range of different sports and practices. Our mentors share their experiences and wisdom with our mentees and guide them competently through the course.
Today I would like to share with your some thoughts and advice from Dave Hembrough, our director of coaching and mentoring at S&C Education.
Dave possesses a range of skills and achievements within the field of strength and conditioning. He has ample experience in athlete consultancy in both field and gym based environments, including work as a sports scientist for Podium Performance.
Dave now currently works at Sheffield Hallam University as the lead strength and conditioning coach. Previously Dave worked with the GB women’s volleyball programme, Rugby Union, professional boxing, diving and orienteering.
Dave also has a MSc in sports injury management and therapy and a BSc in sports science.
As Dave is such an informed S&C coach, I believe some of his knowledge would be beneficial to others. One main question that many aspiring or qualified coaches ask is how to engage athletes effectiveness. I asked Dave if he could provide me an insight to his strategies and techniques…
“Engaging with athletes, friends, colleagues or even a partner is a matter of relationship building and the development of clear understanding. Trust and clarity are two simple things which are difficult to establish but essential for a relationship to work.
Interaction between two people is based on a mutual interest and appreciation but very often there’s also a ‘whats in it for me’ agenda. As coaches we should have a natural interest and an enquiring nature about people as well as a developed sense of intuition too. What does the gut say? It often tells you a lot!
The first step within any relationship is information gathering. It allows us to form an understanding and an appreciation of the person in front of us, their situation and their appreciation of their situation. These are two different things. Asking questions and digging deeper is essential in gaining understanding and perspective to then, in turn, know how committed they are to achieving a task and what the specific barriers are.
People lie and are inherently biased to protect themselves. Even if you ask simple questions don’t expect a truthful response. This isn’t knowingly a deliberate outright lie a lot of the time. Self preservation is a natural phenomena that we all do to paint the picture we’d like someone to see rather than the reality we exist in. As coaches we need to interpret the information provided and build our own picture of the situation and what we can contribute to it. We also need to make the decision of how difficult this task will be, what the challenges are, what success looks like, whether we have the skills to do the job and if the individual is willing to do what’s required to achieve the desired outcome. This was something I learnt early on in my career when I was keen and eager to help everyone while also, to be honest, a little full of myself. Promise the world, gloss over the detail and play down the hard work then lose the client after a few sessions because they didn’t have what it took or just weren’t really committed to a goal. Its easy to paint a simple picture of health, strength, fitness and athleticism but in reality it takes hard work performed consistently and frequently over a long period of time. Be honest in setting up your stall and challenge the client / athlete. Ask ‘are your goals important enough for you to do whats required to achieve them?’ They’ll thank you for it in the long run and you’ll waste a lot less time too. Clear and simple objectives with a definite process laid out. Thats good coaching.
Validation is important in engaging an athlete or client. In order for someone to want input they must perceive it as being useful and you worthy of providing it. This requires either a recommendation from someone they value or the demonstration of worth by an action or a story from yourself. If you’ve got a track history of supporting a professional team, a famous athlete or a world champion then this is easy. If you’re starting out its pretty difficult. Case studies and testimonials are really useful in this situation. Often in order to validate ourselves and to demonstrate what we know, it is easy to forget to ask questions and to rush to share own knowledge. We all know the ‘expert trap’ and its a sure fire way of losing interest and turning someone off what you are promoting. Remember ‘they won’t care what you know until they know that you care.’
So to summarise; engaging athletes or clients and building good relationships is very much a skill. Don’t be too eager and keen, take an interest and ask questions. Simple things to remember that are easy to carry out and effective. Build some good processes to gather information, show understanding, be clear with the plan and demonstrate worth and you’ll do well with relationships and with coaching.”
Some really interesting and motivational points made by Dave. He provides a clear and rational account of coaching and how to engage athletes across various levels.
If you would like to offer any extra input regarding this topic, we would love to hear your thoughts 🙂
Are you interested in being taught by one of our mentors like Dave Hembrough? If so, you can find out more information about the mentorship programme by clicking here