Conscious coaching, nurturing athletes, lousy days and real world science

sent by Nick Grantham | 7th December 2020

"Athletes are people first, and like most people, they have agendas of their own."

Brett Bartholomew

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In chapter three of Brett's excellent book, Conscious Coaching he reminds us that emotions will always trump logic! I wish someone had told me that in the early days when I thought all you had to do was create a fancy spreadsheet and explain to athletes the logic behind a certain training intervention. A combination of emotions, logic and deeply engrained behaviours sit behind every decision an athlete takes and ultimately the behaviours they engage in. If you want to influence the athletes you're working with you need to consider which element or combination of elements will unlock the door, after all, they are people first. Sure, we may be able to bring about a short-term change in behaviour by talking about facts and figures, but Brett points out that to bring about long-term change we have to understand what drives the athletes' behaviour in the first place, and we may even have to spend time helping the athlete to unlock the mysteries of their own behaviour.

Source: Conscious Coaching? by Brett Bartholomew

"Athletes instincts need nurturing and expressing, not questioned and undermined by technology."

Darren Roberts

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High-performance sport has become obsessed with 'big data' and I dare say the business world also has an unhealthy and possibly unproductive obsession with number-crunching at the expense of really understanding and nurturing the athlete, client or employee. Does big data really hold the answers to high performance? It's easy to push back against technology and data, particularly if your bias is toward a more 'human' approach to high performance. You know, the sort of approach where you have a conversation with an athlete over a coffee rather than demanding they complete yet another wellness questionnaire! I 100% agree that the support team working with any athlete will benefit from nurturing an athletes instincts, and we certainly shouldn't use technology and data to undermine their sixth sense or years of experience. However, I think we have to recognise that when used sensibly technology can inform and enhance our understanding of performance. ?I also think there are times when we should use technology to ask some difficult questions of the athletes. But ultimately I agree, the next time we create a wellness app, stand an athlete on a force plate to assess the data points it spews out or obsess over the end of quarter sales figures we must take the time to consider some of the less tangible things, that as Darren points out, "aren't easily graphed".

Source: Embrace The Chaos by Darren Roberts

"Embrace lousy days."

Dan John

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The world has become obsessed with doing more, working harder, conquering every day, blah, blah, blah! The sense that every training session has to be an absolute 'worldy' is driven by a constant diet of social media posts bombarding our mobile devices. ?Come on, give yourself a break, you're not going to post a personal best in every training session. Dan John gives us permission to suck from time to time, and in his book Never Let Go says that his focus is on the "reality of training". I'll happily stand shoulder to shoulder with Dan John on this one. Athletes I work with often expect to see progress in every session, but I'll explain to them that if they have one great session in every ten, then we are doing well! I'm not being defeatist, I'm being realistic. We need some light and shade in our training programmes, sessions that push the limits, sessions that are easier to complete and from time to time there will be some downright lousy sessions thrown into the mix. Rather than beating yourself up about the lousy days, recognise they are simply part of the training process...even better...learn to embrace them because a great training session will be just around the corner.

Source: Never Let Go by Dan John

"Anecdotal evidence is reliable because it emerges from the real world."

Harry Beckwith

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Around about 10 years ago a young aspiring S&C coach called Scott Pollock (he's now ?the senior strength and conditioning coach working with British Cycling) gave me a couple of books as a gift at the end of an internship programme he had completed with me. The books were great and I particularly like this quote from The Invisible Touch? by Harry Beckwith. It reassures me that sometimes in performance sport you can't always hang around for the scientific evidence to back what you are seeing work in training and competition. If something works in the treatment room, gym floor or training ground pitch, then use it. If there is good data to provide support, great! If not, well, just keep on doing what you're doing and wait for the science to catch up. In my opinion, anecdotal evidence and real-world examples from people that are actually earning a living from coaching are just as important (maybe even a little more important) as scientific research produced in the confines of a laboratory.

Source: The Invisible Touch by Harry Beckwith

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