Book Excerpts For Coaches

Why should you care about athletic coach strengths?

Skill development in the athletic arena can be enhanced when coaches get their players to understand how their strengths help them improve performance, and enables them to enjoy their participation in a sport. Coaches create success by promoting conducive environments that help their athletes play to their strengths sets.

We interviewed one coach who had a player unknowingly and continually testing the coach’s view on the importance of teamwork. The player acted independently and did not feel compelled to conform during practice drills and tactical situations. The player did what he felt like doing in certain situations, which tested the coach’s patience. The player was impulsive, but he was competent in scoring points on offense. He was creative; passing and shooting the ball in ways no other players could match. However, when the coach pointed out the error in the player’s ways when he did not perform well, the player became anxious and performed poorly. Not until the coach realized his player’s top strength was creativity did he begin to find ways to help the player use his creativity in other ways that supported the team, as well as this player’s individual performance.

Spotting Players Strengths

A high school coach, who was very clear on how his performance and rela­tional strengths helped him as a coach, once received a phone call from a former athlete ten years after that student’s graduation. The former student-athlete invited the coach and his wife out to dinner to celebrate some milestone in his young career. During dinner, the former athlete explained the foundation of his success and thanked the coach for something he had said to him more than a decade earlier in the heat of athletic competition. The athlete assumed that the coach was as clear about remembering his words of wisdom as the athlete was. “Remember what you told me when I asked you about the right approach to an upcoming match?” And the coach smiled politely at him, realizing that he had no idea about what he had said or that something said in the heat of the moment could possibly have had so much influence on this young man.

“Remember, you said: ‘This is not the time to try anything new. You are an accomplished athlete. Go with what got you there!’” His statement was about having the athlete play to his strengths. The young man went on to explain that this simple phrase had sustained him and motivated him to persevere in challenging times since. It had given him confidence to trust himself. As coaches, we have an authority that we are not always aware of or in charge of. Things that some coaches take for granted may have more impact on players than they could ever imagine.