Today, I have a guest post from Brett Bartholomew, an outstanding strength and conditioning coach who has taken a huge interest in the art of “getting through” to athletes. I find the motivation aspect of coaching to be fascinating, and that’s why I enjoy Brett’s stuff so much. This post is timely, as enrollment in Brett’s new online course, Bought-In, is open through the end of this weekend. I’m reviewing it myself and it is absolutely outstanding; I highly recommend you check it out. Enjoy! -EC

Coaching is teaching. And one’s level of effectiveness in teaching is not evaluated solely by what they (the instructor) knows, but rather by what their students understand.

Successful behavioral interventions are anchored via successful social interactions. Seems simple enough, right? Wrong. While the mantra may be straightforward, the reality is that communication and human behavior is a complex subject. If this were NOT the case, we wouldn’t have researchers in the space of behavioral economics and/or psychology who are awarded the Nobel Prize. It just doesn’t seem as important to many of us as strength and conditioning coaches because the topic has not been a focal one in our industry.

You see, we have been focused on trying to optimize human movement (and rightfully so), but we have forgotten to also emphasize human behavior.

We do still actually coach people, right?

In general, people are puzzles of needs, wants, drives and insecurities. It’s our job as coaches to find or even be that missing piece for them. And in doing so, we can gain their trust and respect all while augmenting engagement and effort which will only help our training programs become more effective in the long-run. This is not manipulation; it is adaptation! Personalized coaching strategies are the most direct way towards driving the behavioral interventions that we need to take place, so our athletes have a better chance at reaching their goals.

Below are some quick and easy-to-use tips that you should abide by whenever you are leading a session. They may seem obvious, but common sense is not common practice, and learning how to communicate in a versatile manner requires just as much fine-tuning as any other aspect of our craft.

51. Listen!

This is by far one of the most neglected communication strategies in the world – which is why a lack of it has contributed to everything from failed relationships, to people losing their jobs, to major catastrophes throughout human history. Sound a bit dramatic? Good, because the ill-effects of not being willing to close your mouth and open your ears are parallel to you as a strength coach writing a program without being aware that an athlete under your care has sickle-cell trait or cardiac issue.

Coaching is a partnership between you (the coach) and the athletes you serve.

That means flexible communication is a must. Besides, everything we do as coaches is a screen of some sort, which should provide us with data (both objective and subjective) that we can use to enhance the quality of care we provide to our athletes. We spend so much time learning about the history of an athlete’s body, but far too little time learning about their mind. You may be the training expert, but only they know what it is like to be them. You will also learn far more from them than you think.

I know that Stephen Covey quotes have been worn out, but there is a reason for that. Perhaps one of his most powerful phrases is, “most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” There is often no guiltier culprit than the strength coach as they often feel rushed due to the time and logistical constraints placed upon them while working with large groups or in general. Ask strong, open-ended questions, listen to the answers and write them down or record them just like you would data in a performance profile. Drawing upon this information will help you out in more ways than you think.

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