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Athlete's coaching: 6 useful tips for motivation training

A fundamental part of the art of coaching is knowing when to train the mental aspect: timing is the key and context is fundamental to make your teaching effective. Coaching is extremely strategic: in some situations, the best way to train is simply not to do anything. In this article, we will find some tips on how to train the mind of the athlete and one of the most poisonous forms of regressing their training: over-coaching.

What is over-coaching?

Thoughtful guy after training
Over-coaching is when coaching tries to implement too many forms of communication at the same time, making it impossible for an athlete to respond adequately. For example, consider an athlete doing a new exercise for the first time. Too often it happens that the athlete does the first repetition, the coach calls him back to a proper execution Bring back the pelvis!, Take a deep breath!, Tuck in your chin!, Push the ground away!. The athlete does the second rep, and the coaching corrects it again Straight back!, Chin up!, Abdomen, abdomen, abdomen!, Legs, legs, legs! and so on. We'll discuss this kind of over-coaching below, but this is just one example of how coaches can interfere with an athlete’s progress.
Quit training? Not today
If you apply changes to the athlete's exercise - both internal and physical - during the first three repetitions of the first attempt at an exercise, you make a manual overbooking. The athlete is overwhelmed by the information, risks losing control of the body and will begin to move more inefficiently because the information shared is too much.

The following are the three most common forms of over-coaching: learning from these mistakes can have a huge impact on relationships with sportspeople and helping coaching become more effective.

Athlete coaching mistakes: babysitting

The worst case of over-coaching has nothing to do with cues, programming or defects of the trainer itself and for itself. The silent killer of the improvement of the athlete is the babysitting service by the coaches.

If an athlete wants to improve, even in the smallest details, he needs to develop self-sufficiency in the shortest possible time. An athlete who needs their hand-holding throughout the training process does not usually become great leaders or teammates.

Rest post workout
The key is to find the line between worrying about an athlete' performance and becoming their babysitter. Part of their success, regardless of age or level, depends on their ability to solve problems and make critical decisions. This extends far beyond the field, fitness center or any other sports venue. It's a matter of personal growth.

We focus so much on the physical construction of our athletes, but it is very important to work also from an emotional and mental point of view to their success. That's where the mental coach has to go.

It is important to challenge the athlete both physically and mentally: when they begin to show signs of growth, they must be empowered by giving them space to grow within the context in which they find themselves.

There is a great focus on the physical construction of an athlete, but it is very important to work also from an emotional and mental point of view to support their success.

Allenamento e riposo

Excessive use of coaching tips or posture cues

If used correctly, coaching tips can be extremely useful. However, many coaches rely on them too heavily and when these stimuli arrive at too high a rate, they become more of a distraction for the athlete than a form of useful communication. Coaching cues are essential, but when used incorrectly they can be counterproductive.

Types and modes of tips

Jumps from a standing position
A "cue" can be verbal or non-verbal. It can be external (the athlete focuses on something outside the body that affects movement, such as pushing the ground away) or internal (the athlete focuses on his body to influence movement, such as extending through the knees). It can also be communicated before, during or after a repetition. The correct use of the indications will change for each coaching and athlete.
There are some practices that can be summarized as follows:

  • Origin of the "cue"
  • Timing of of feedback
  • Relationship with the athlete

Origin of the tips

If the athlete is not given any context to exploit the cue, its value will be lost the first time it is used. Before giving advice, it is essential to lay the foundations for being understood, this is particularly true for cues that are shortened or paraphrased during a session. For example, in the take-off, they often teach you to carry your hips back, but during a heavy take-off, coaches often resort to the shortened and easily repeatable version, limiting themselves to a hasty hip!.
Ready to climb on the rope
An athlete and a coach must be on the same wavelength 100%: both must make sure they understand the reason for the advice, otherwise, there could be misunderstandings that, in the long run, could lead to frustration and lack of confidence.

The bottom line is to make sure that every time a new verbal cue is introduced, the athlete is given a motivation to act on it, this requires an explanation in advance of its meaning and the reason for execution.

When is the right time for the coach to give advice to his athlete?

The advice can be given before, during or after a repetition or a set: but the best time to share a piece of advice depends on many factors. Before an athlete prepares to jump, they can be taken aside and reminded what to do, for example, pushing the ground away.

Exploiting the moment allows you to enjoy a window of attention of the athlete, necessary to raise the barbell: in the mind of the athlete, the attention will be strong on the correct use of the legs and not the back to raise the bar.

Stretching from the ground
These two tips avoid numerous injuries and are relatively easy for the most athlete to digest. As such it is unhelpful to provide more than two pre-lift signals, for example: Take the bar, take a deep breath, bring your shoulder blades back, squeeze here (while physically touching your upper back) stick there and finally with your hips!

Overloading the minds of athletes means making training more difficult.

Overwhelming the minds of an athlete means making training more difficult. Also, when they are in position during a lift, the cues must be even more strategic: keep in mind that changing the posture of a person under load can be dangerous.

During a lift, there is a good time to reinforce the pre-lift signals, because it creates an additional level of attention for the athlete. Referring to the same example of take-off, since the lift is ending the lockout phase, it is possible that you insert a new cue such as “lower chin” to the next rep for those who look too high, or “keep the bar close” for those who let the barbell move away.

Riposo post allenamento
Immediately after a set, you can contextualize the ideas by providing new tips because, whatever the athlete has done, it's fresh in mind and body.

Remaining to the example of the deadlift, immediately after the set we could give a high 5 and say: Fantastic work, the last repetition was exceptional; If you feel you lose grip, here's a trick to get back into the trim [Show how you would get back in the middle set]; Continue to fight to keep that barbell near you. This will help you get the most out of it so that your core stays active, your low back is protected, Rest here, we have another set.

In addition to context and timing, the effective use of signals depends on the relationship with the athlete.

Holistic approach to the relationship with the athlete

The better the relationship, the more effective the communication. The interaction between coaches and athlete reflects a very dynamic relationship. When the coaching is involved in the life of an athlete, the complexity of the non-verbal agreement is of great importance. Coaching means not only be responsible for instructing the athlete, making him/ her faster or stronger, but also accepts the role of creating confidence, resilience to problems, helping them overcome challenges and taking an interest in them as a person as well as an athlete.
Post-workout recovery
The holistic approach covers all aspects of the individual: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. We must keep in mind that athlete have other things happening in their lives and issues such as family problems, relationships, academic stress or something else that might be difficult to deal with can negatively impact training and recovery. If the dynamic of the relationship is strictly coaches-athlete, it will be hard to impact training as the athlete will be less likely to trust the coaches.
Athlete rests
It is the responsibility of coaches to adapt to the personalities of their athlete and not vice versa. Of course, there will be compromises on both sides, but coaching must draw on that inner chameleon to complete the job. Each coaching will develop their own style of communication with each athlete and will need to adapt their approach for each of them.

Keep It Simple

The last tip is to take something complex and make it simple. Over time the definition of simple will evolve but remain just as effective, it means that the coaching and athlete are growing. It is important for the coaching to maintain an extremely high standard so that the athlete get the most out of the coaching process.

KISS: Keep it Short and Simple

The KISS principle is often underused in coaching, but it is one of those "good intentions" to have. Often a coaching trainer worries so much about the athlete's results that they overcomplicate the training process for achieving them. Sometimes, it is better to take a step back and look at the picture from a distance.
"Simple" is subjective, but these are some things that work:

  • If you want to become stronger, lift more weight.
  • If you want to be faster, train faster.
  • If you want to gain weight, eat more and lift more.
  • If you want to lose weight, eat less and train more.
  • If you want to be powerful, move explosively.
  • If you want to recover better, sleep better.

Over-coaching can kill an athlete's progression and the fight against excess never ends, coaching should continually evaluate the effectiveness of his/ her methods.

If you can identify with any of these over-coaching signals, try some of these suggestions.
Sources and bibliography

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