It is so hard as a coach to see your athletes struggle when you know they are perfectly capable of doing whatever it is they are working towards. I wanted to share a few things that I have learned over my years of coaching that have helped me become the coach I am today. These 5 things are factors in which I believe we should be paying attention to when we find ourselves getting frustrated with our athletes especially when they are not performing at their best.

Usually the first thing we do when our athletes are out do line is stop them in whatever they are doing and talk to them about the issue. I am sure you usually ask them what is going on and why they are not performing at their best.

Most athletes will not be willing to say anything if there is something bothering them right in that hyped up moment of frustration. I have figured out that this is usually because they will be more concerned about their coach being unhappy with them, rather than the fact that something really is getting in the way of their focus. Most athletes that I have taught in the past aim to impress their coach. If you have a strong relationship with your athlete it will be natural for them to want to impress you. Most people like to impress people who delegates what and when they learn new things. My theory is, because our athletes are usually trying very hard to impress us by adjusting to the new situations we put them in, we should try our best to understand their situations as well.

So here we go. Here is the first one.

1) Home life: Their home situation is usually foreign to you unless they or their parents have communicated it to you. Even then you have to be careful because they don’t usually tell you everything. If they have communicated familial issues with you before then you already have an idea about their vulnerable triggers and therefore can easily determine what is an appropriate level of pressure to put on them. As their coach, you should be able to modify this based on the situation of each child in order to get the best out of them. For example, if the child’s parents are having relationship issues it will affect their performance for a period of time. If the child has had a family member recently pass away it could affect their training.

2) School or Social life: Their school or social life is also usually foreign to you. I am not referring to their grades or academic success level, but more the social aspects of their time outside of competitive sport. We like to think that our social lives do not have an impact on us emotionally but the reality is that it does. As coaches we need to be understanding of our athletes being bullied in school, having trouble with friends, feeling stressed about homework or school work, or even just flat out having a bad day. Have you ever been at work and just could not focus? Have you ever realized that something you thought was not a big deal really got to you emotionally and hindered your progress during a certain period of time? It’s something that happens naturally as humans because we have feelings. That being said, we have to be understanding of that happening to our athletes as well.

3) Strength level is a serious problem in competitive sport. Unless you are a very experienced coach in your sport of choice, it is very difficult to know exactly how much strength is needed at different levels of the sport. It takes years to understand the strength level and conditioning training that is needed at each level. When you see that your athlete is having trouble completing a challenge that you set out for them, take a look at their strength level and try to determine if it is appropriate for the level of skill you have them trying to achieve. My advice would be to try not to assume that you know everything about the sport and be willing to do some research or ask someone with more experience what their thoughts are on the issue your athlete is having. There is no sense in getting upset with your athlete if they are not even strong enough to physically execute the task or skill correctly. I have in the past been beside myself wondering why my athletes were not performing at the level I wanted them to be at. I thought they just had poor attitudes and a lack of motivation. There very well could have been some of that, but with some reflection and advice from more experienced coaches, I realized that it was not their attitude or lack of effort that was holding them back , but rather that the strength and conditioning for that specific element was lacking.

4) The following thing to consider would be to understand how prominent this issue is. Is this a reoccurring situation or a first time thing? Before getting upset with your underperforming athlete ask yourself if this is a new issue or if this has happened before. If this is a repeating occurrence, how often? Try and find patterns in the body language of your athlete when this issue occurs. Do they seem nervous every time it happens? Is it a certain time throughout their training practice that it is always occurring? Try and understand their “why” before putting pressure on your athlete to perform the skill.

5) Last but not least we have their attitude. Is it positive or negative while the issue is occurring. Are they pro-active in trying to come up with solutions or passive about it? This is important because a passive athlete is not one that is going to be as successful as a pro-active one. As a coach we usually feel emotionally for each one of our athletes. That is a lot of brain power so it is essential to make sure it is worth your time. A passive athlete who does not enjoy looking for solutions is not worth the stress on your as their coach over an athlete who is going to try their best to get passed whatever it is that stands int he way of their progress. You obviously want to be there and help all of your athletes but you can’t do that if they do not want to help themselves first. Try not to stress over athletes who do not want the support. This is a tricky situation when it comes to dealing with their parents if you have to. I would advise that you always keep your athletes parents updated on their child’s attitude towards the sport so that when issues occur the parents know they can’t blame or put any extra pressure on you.

By : Brittany Berezowski

“You are your own most powerful motivator and critic. Which will you be?”

-Coach Brittany-