Trust your coach

April 28, 2010

I have agents and coaches ask me all the time for Sparta’s nutrition plan, which is perhaps the most widely discussed benefit of our program, especially among our younger high school athletes. I have no problem sending out our “secret” recovery strategies because I know they won’t work outside of our program. The same could be said of the workouts I send our athletes when they’re away, as their teammates feel that this “special” workout will make them jump 3 inches higher too. After a decade of coaching, I have begun to realize this content is not nearly as important as an athlete’s trust.

Trust is the central aspect of our training compound and can be defined as a measure of competence, benevolence, and honesty. In the sports industry, especially within our realm of training athletes, competence is the knowledge factor. Are your coaches following the latest science? The field of sports science continues to grow rapidly, and new discoveries of the best methods to train and treat athletes are found daily. The coaches’ ability to educate themselves with this research, or connect with someone who is updated on this science, is critical to gaining your athletes’ trust. After the science, coaching experience is vital in making the minute technique adjustments needed during practice, games, or workouts. Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers, cites 10,000 hours as the minimal requirement for mastery.

I am thankful that I gained these 10,000 hours as a strength coach with university and professional teams, but felt compelled to leave this environment because of the indirect relationship to the athletes. You see my contract was renewed by an administrator, GM, or owner, not the athlete. This critical relationship with the athlete includes the benevolence and honesty aspects of trust. From an athlete’s first minute, we actively seek out a connection with the individual. The goal of this relationship is simple; to create an understanding that allows the most rapid transfer of knowledge. By knowing the best tone to convey information and the athlete’s goals, we can individualize every piece of feedback to maximize their athletic experience.

So how do we get every high school athlete to start sleeping at least 8 hours per night? Or eat vegetables every meal? We get them to trust us, they believe in the science behind our equipment and recommendations, and this feedback is conveyed in an honest way that suits each individual with only their best interest in mind.

But if you’re competing against our athletes, caring about an athlete is a waste of time when you could be just going through a coaching checklist faster. Even better is to just ignore the science, just keep guessing and following your instincts, technology is just a fad.

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