Writing a program for an athlete is pretty easy. Just have to put exercises, sets, and reps together in a calculated fashion and violà - a workout program is created. But if you are a jerk coach who just yells and acts angry while you conduct the session, you probably won’t get the most out of your athletes.
Some of you may be reading this and thinking “why would he say this?” and others may be thinking “shit, that’s me.” Either way, don’t do that, you won’t get too far in this field.
A youth athlete is very delicate. Most are going through puberty, dealing with their parents, searching for the right college, and an abundance of other issues. Being aware of this is huge because most of us can relate to them in some sort of way. I know this has nothing to do with strength and conditioning, but this has a lot to do with keeping the athletes around and creating a culture the athletes love.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not telling you to baby these kids - you can ask any of my athletes, I lay down the law from time to time, but knowing when and how to do this is key.
Yes, this is mostly learned from experience, but I have come to understand a few key points that have helped me get the athletes to buy in. Without getting them to buy in, they will never see as much progress and they will most likely leave.
First, we will go over what NOT to do.
Don’t be a jerk
Yelling, cursing, and screaming may work for a small percentage of athletes, but I can assure you, it will not work for most. Plenty of times, I have had athletes come from other facilities telling me how much they hated it because of a coach yelling at them and cursing when they performed poorly during the workout.
Treat each athlete with respect and make it an enjoyable experience, not a regretful one.
Motivating an athlete through a workout needs to be individualized, something I go over later in this article.
Don’t lecture them
Most athletes already hear enough lecturing from their parents, so don’t talk at them - relate to them. We were all in their position, or at least a similar one at some point in our lives.
Many times, I find parents asking me to speak with the athlete about an issue at home. It can range from college decisions to athletes getting themselves into trouble, and anything else you can imagine. Either way I relate, ask them what’s going on and try to be there for them. There are boundaries that you should not cross. You want to be a mentor, by guiding them in the right direction and being a positive role model.
Don’t step over the line
Although you want the athletes to trust and confide in you, there is a line you cannot cross. Meaning, some will go out partying and possibly participate in activities they shouldn't. I always tell my athletes,”If you decide to tell me certain things, I may not be able to keep it secret - especially if it is about your safety.” We always have to look out for the well-being of our athletes in the weight room and outside of it.
Athletes are always reminded that consuming alcohol and drugs is the best way to delay or prevent them from reaching their goals. “If you want to be the best, you need to train that way in and out of the weight room.”
There are many other actions a coach should avoid when trying to get their athletes to buy-in. The above are just a few to keep in mind while creating your culture.
Below, I will now outline what you should do.
Work backwards from happy
Speak to athletes about their goals and map out how they can get there. Showing them how they can do it and explaining it will just take hard work and dedication gets young athletes excited. Let them know you are there to help them in any way you can, in order for them to achieve their goals.
I use a simple technique regarding the athlete’s goals. I ask the athletes to write out their goals and break down each of them and how they can achieve it. Then, they write out what each goal will do for them. A lot of kids write out goals with no justification, so they end up unmotivated and unable to reach their goals. You want your athletes to visualize themselves reaching their goals and verbalize how they feel through the process.
Treat every athlete differently
Just as every strength program is different, each athlete needs to be motivated and addressed differently. It’s pretty apparent how different kids can be. Some are introverted, quiet, and have self-esteem issues. Others may be loud, obnoxious, and arrogant. Connecting with each one of them in order to motivate and earn their trust is important for the long-term success of the athlete.
Getting the arrogant athletes to be more humble and the introverted athletes to have more confidence is a success in itself. Of course, their on field performance is important. But helping shape a person for the better, is incomparable. That’s why when people ask what sport or type of athlete I like to train, my answer is always, “The kids that need it most.” The feeling I get as a coach seeing the intramural kid who barely knew how to run properly turn into a rebounding machine that out works every other kid on the court, just because I helped a little, is the best reward and what motivates me to do what I do.
If you add these simple tools to your coaching belt, it will help get the athletes to buy in. None of it has anything to do with training, it’s all about creating a solid relationship with your athletes. The athletic performance improvements will come, as long as your athletes buy-in to your program.
If you have any questions, feel free to comment below. Would love to discuss!