Over the years, the field of sport psychology has focused on assisting athletes, placing them in the spotlight. While the coach can be involved in the overall process, the primary goal has always been to improve the performance of the athlete. One of the untapped/underutilized resources of sport psychology continues to be how the field can play a vital role in coaching development since coaches can also undergo many of the same tribulations as an athlete. At times coaches may experience higher levels of stress and anxiety than their athletes due not only to the high demands and expectations of the job, but also to the fact that despite the amount of preparation they have provided, their athlete’s performance is ultimately out of their control in that moment.
As a coach you can only GAIN by seeking support from a sport psychologist or sport psychology consultant. However, if you are unsure of how one can help here are some ways:
If you look back on any sport-related movies, you may come across a scene where the coach ‘loses it’ and lashes out by throwing an object or overthrow a table, usually out of frustration that the team or player is not doing what they are capable of. Although this may not be your modus operandi there are times where you may feel like you’re going to ‘lose it’ and the message you want to relay may not be received or communicated properly. We are human and yes, we do get upset! However, in times like these knowing your role is vital (i.e. what do I want to provide as a coach.) If we want athletes to perform, what amounts to throwing a tantrum is not the way. Yes, it may work once or twice but it is also important to ask yourself “is this how I need to behave to get my athletes to perform” and if so, is this a behavior you are willing to engage in frequently?
In working with a consultant coaches can learn to gain control of this behavior and provide more constructive feedback. Coaches can also learn their triggers and work towards developing techniques to help them remain unruffled. Furthermore, consultants can also help you manage your day to day stressors which have the ability to influence the manner in which you conduct training sessions with your athlete/s.
Communication is essential. We have all heard this saying, but how many of us can consider ourselves expert communicators? Is there that one athlete who just does not understand the task despite how much you try to explain it? Chances are your mode of communication may not suit this athlete and as such, limits their understanding. Working with a consultant can help you understand the various methods to communicate and in turn increase your ability to get your message across. Similarly, in non-technical settings communicating with your athlete/s is important as it fosters coach-athlete relationships. Working with a consultant can aid in developing areas such as interpersonal skills which can only add to your coaching portfolio.
Coaching is a tough job. At times the frustration levels may rise to the point where you question if the job is the right fit for you. This thought process may not happen often; however, the reality is that coaches encounter many obstacles that hinder their effectiveness whether it may be an athlete’s attitude, team finances, technical staff or lack of support… the list can go on. Undoubtedly motivation levels can and will fluctuate but working with a consultant can help you navigate these obstacles, so your feelings will not affect your main role, which is to coach. I say this because often our internal feelings and emotions often seep through into our everyday activities and although you may think ‘I’m handling this’, the behaviors that we show don’t always reflect that. Furthermore, developing a greater understanding of your motivation can also translate to assisting your athletes and their motivation, making it a win-win situation for everyone involved.
In the sporting world the coach is revered as the one stop shop for athletes needs however it is important to recognize that the coach will at times need support. This form of support not only exists with directly assisting with the team or athlete but also to acknowledge that the coach needs to have a safe place where he/she can off-load, let their guard down and seek assistance with personal grievances and development.