This is a great article about the cost of NOT hiring women coaches. Great thoughts in this one!
One of the very first things I learned as a coach was to cater a training plan to a specific athlete. For example, it wouldn’t make sense to use Allyson Felix’s workout regimen for my sprinter athletes. However, while Olympic athletes are more likely to train differently than Division III athletes, there are some specific tools that we can take directly from them.
In the New York Times Well Blog this week, Gina Kolata speaks to several star athletes to ask them what “vaults them from the middle of the pack to the podium.” Read along…I think you’ll find some useful strategies that translate easily to any athlete:
1.”STAY FOCUSED” – Natalie Coughlin (Olympic medalist in swimming) said that she used to daydream while swimming laps at practice. It wasn’t until she changed her thoughts to her technique that she actually saw improvement. Using my sport as an example, I used to get lost in my thoughts a lot while out for a run (and still do!) However, ever since I became a coach, I now think more about my form – where are my arms? how are my feet hitting the ground? are my hips under me? Not only has this helped my running overall, but I also think it has lessened my chances of injury.
2. “MANAGE YOUR ‘ENERGY PIE'” – “Energy pie? All the things that take time and energy — a job, hobbies, family, friends, and of course athletic training.” Steve Spence, a self-coached distance runner who competed in the marathon in the 1992 Olympics and now coaches at Shippensburg University, said “There is only so much room in the pie.” If your athletes are anything like mine, then this one might pose some challenges! I probably spend more of my time coaching athletes on time management than on our sport! However, it is time well spent and pertinent to those who juggle a demanding academic environment, a varsity sport, a job, etc. My mom once told me that “the stick doesn’t burn at both ends.” It is nearly impossible to put 100% effort into everything you want to do. Prioritize and focus on what’s most important.
3. “STRUCTURE YOUR TRAINING” – Meredith Kessler began racing Ironman triathlons at the same time “she was working 60 hours a week at a San Francisco investment bank and trying to spend time with her husband and friends.” While she eventually decided to quit her job to focus on training, some tactics she utilized while still at work included the structuring of her training, namely learning when it was appropriate to train endurance versus speed. Every workout should have a purpose (and one that you can explain to your athletes)!
4. “TAKE RISKS” – Helen Goodroad’s childhood dream was to become an Olympic figure skater. Then she grew to be 5’11”. “One day, when Helen was 17, a coach asked her to try a workout on an ergometer, a rowing machine. She was a natural — her power was phenomenal.” To make a long story short, Helen ended up taking a risk by leaving her figure skating dream behind. In return, she was recruited as a rower at Brown, was invited to train with the junior national team, and won a world championship with the under-23 national team. She spoke about “leaving her comfort zone” which my high school coach used to tell us all of the time and is something I will never forget (he even had a poster with his own depiction of breaking down “walls”).
5. “THE OTHER GUY IS HURTING TOO” – Brian Sell raced the half marathon at the US championship in 2006. With two miles to go, there were two other runners by his side. His realization was: “Those other guys must be hurting as much as he was, or else they would not be staying with him — they would be pulling away.” So he made up his mind to stay with them no matter what. He won by 15 seconds (and went on to race the Olympic marathon in Beijing in 2008). This strategy works! I am a firm believer that a good chunk of one’s performance comes from the mind and heart, the two parts of one’s body that still fight even after everything else has given up. I can attest to this when I ran my 5K PR (personal record) last year. I had nothing left in my legs, and while it would have been much easier to stay at that pace where I felt comfortable, that’s not how races are won (or PRs are broken). I had to step out of my comfort zone.
Kolata, G. (2013, January 14). Training Insights from Star Athletes. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/14/training-insights-from-star-athletes/?emc=eta1
In July, I had the opportunity to coach a boat at the Olympic Games. I have assisted with the team and coached at the World Championships for the past four years, so I knew the athletes and the routine at international competitions. However, my last trip to the Olympics was in Atlanta in 1996 when I was an athlete not a coach. Occasionally I got nervous leading up to this event, but my general philosophy has always been: racing is racing, and we train for it every day. That said, from my experience as an athlete, I knew that the Olympics are a bit different … just enough that it can really throw off an athlete’s performance. My goal as a coach this summer was to make the environment and experiences as close to “normal” as possible to allow the athletes to perform at their best with focus and without added distraction. I was working with one of the most successful international rowing coaches, and with his guidance, we were able to have a successful Olympics.
We are now nearing the end of the fall semester, campus is quiet, the office is still, and the holidays are right around the corner. Our team has left campus, excited to be done with finals and to spend time with their families.
It is now our job to walk that fine line of giving them their time to relax and recharge while at the same time motivating them to work out, take care of themselves, and prepare for the spring season.
Why is motivation important? Here are a few points that are apparent in both the athletic and business realms (great website: www.managementstudyguide.com):
1) Motivation will help improve the level of efficiency.
- Players will want to practice, train and play. The more they do this, the more likely they are to produce positive results.
2) Motivation will help lead to achieving team and personal goals.
3) Motivation enhances the relationship with others.
4) Motivation leads to a stable environment where coaches and players are on the same page and working hard towards positive team and individual results.
So now for the how. Here are a few things that as a coach you can implement or take on to help with building motivation in your players.
- Use a self-evaluation. In order to evaluate others, you must know your strength and weaknesses and you also must gauge your level of motivation.
- Know your staff. As a coach, you should work to get to know each and everyone of your players. It is never too late to start this and they will see that you are investing in them! You will learn what they need to be motivated and how you can motivate them. It also tells them that you care about them and their success. That in itself can be motivational.
- Give feedback constantly. Everyone likes to know how she is doing, so give her that knowledge! Your team will have to self assess and you are an integral part of helping them do that. In order for them to play to their strengths and build their weaknesses, they must know what those are, and feedback helps with that. Base your feedback on facts and your own observations.
- When they do something good, let them know! Give them recognition in front of their peers, tweet it, post it, email it. For younger players, let their parents know as well. It is great to acknowledge those who are the best, but it is imperative to recognize those who also go above and beyond their individual targets. Build them up!
- Be who you want them to be! Be a role model for your team and your players. They will learn what to do/act and what not to do/act from what you do.
- Use your mouth…by SMILING. This ultimately can go a long ways with keeping your team motivated and they know that when coach is happy, they as individuals or as a team must be doing something right! It helps to build trust and acceptance between player and coach.
- Respect your players. Respect them as individuals and for what they bring to your program. Everyone has a gift, sometimes it is up to you as the coach to recognize the gift and to have it recognized by teammates.
Motivation may just be the missing link to your program!
Nicole Moore Head Women’s Lacrosse Coach Stetson University
I have the pleasure of running into my high school coach every time my team has a meet at Haverford (not to mention my college coach as well!). Even though my high school coach is retired, his love for the sport of track and field, and his passion to interact with young people, are things he will never let go. Therefore, he comes to these meets as the starter, the official guy that shoots the gun at the start of each race. But he is much more than that.
He has left quite a legacy behind, both at Overbrook and Central High Schools. All of his athletes can attribute a personality trait, a strength they have, a career aspiration, etc. to being on his team. As we stood in the infield of the track this past Saturday, he told me that he had recently dug up some old records from the cross country seasons during which he coached me (credit robert). The season of my sophomore year (his first year as the cross country coach), we won the Philadelphia Public League Championship for the first time in Central’s history. We continued to win the following three years that I was there, under Coach Rosenfeld.
Rose (as we all called him), then told me a story about an end-of-season banquet that he held in Chinatown (I had graduated). One of the “tough South Philly” guys got up and read a speech, nearly in tears, about how Mr. Rosenfeld had impacted his life, and how this night will be one he’ll never forget.
Mr. Rose turned to look at me and said, “You know, it’s not the times or statistics that matter most, but the relationships I have formed over the years and the impact I have had on kids. That’s what coaching is all about.” And I could not agree more.
Body language is a powerful tool and one that we as coaches use everyday with our athletes and those around us. Many times our athletes will emulate how we communicate on the field, to each other, to the officials, and to their opponents. It is our duty to closely examine how we (and our athletes) communicate.
I was recently told a story from a very wise coach who told me about being a Palm Down Program. We were conversing about the use of body language and the affects it can have on a team and the team culture.
This wise coach told me to think about one of the most commonly used gestures in coaching. I quickly thought of the exasperated coach, arms stretched, palms up, questioning a call by the official or the decision making of a player. That thought then morphed into an image of a soccer player, arms up, palms up, after a call that she did not agree with. From that, the picture of a disgruntled fan, arms up, palms up, yelling from the bleachers.
All of these are examples of negative body language all had palms up.
We need to be a palm down program. Think about it. Arms out, either to the side or in front, but with the palms down, what conjures in your mind? We have this? Slow it down? Control? Calmness?
Key words, control and calmness. This gesture can bring both for your players and your program.
Instill it in how you coach, both during games and in practice. Talk to your players about the difference between the two, ask them about what they perceive when they see such gestures and challenge them to them examine their own body language.
Become a palm down program and build up the team.