Pursuing performance goals can be a grueling challenge for even the most dedicated and ambitious of us. It can be even more difficult to motivate others to stay focused and committed on the path of progress, but that’s just what coaches and trainers have to do. As the team leader, it is your job to promote a cohesive team that meets the needs of not only the team but of the individual members themselves.
Too often coaches and trainers focus solely on skill development while failing to foster a motivating environment. Even skilled and talented athletes will lose their steam without sufficient stimulation during training so here are some tips to help you help your athletes be the best that they can be:
· First, recognize and accept that motivating your team is your problem. Many coaches and trainers mistakenly believe that motivation should be the sole responsibility of the athlete and if they are not motivated then they do not want it bad enough.
· Take the time to get to know each of your athletes as an individual not just part of the team. Each has his/her own goals, strengths and weaknesses. Find out what makes each of them tick and you will have a strong foundation for motivating them to push their boundaries.
· Provide a stimulating environment that provides a sense of security yet still manages to challenge each member to explore his/her potential.
· Be a teacher not a judge. Focus on progress not on winning or losing.
· Always end practice on a positive note. All of us have our good days and bad days. All athletes have good and bad practice sessions. Always end with some kind of positive reinforcement. Try to find at least one thing that went right and point it out to remind you both that practice was not a waste of time and effort. Highlight even small improvements and accomplishments to boost confidence and motivation.
· Encourage your members to set and attain goals. If your members are also part of a team guide them to set both individual and team goals that are specific, realistic, measurable, and challenging yet attainable.
· Communicate. Keep the communication channels open. Encourage your members to ask questions and take an active role in their training. Explain why you are asking them to do the same drills over and over again because sometimes they need some help to see the bigger picture.
· Lead by example. The best way to motivate your team members is to inspire them. Be someone who they can aspire towards. Be true to your word, reliable and consistent. Being a little unpredictable can make practice interesting but remember that they need to be able to rely on you. Don’t tell them something that you cannot back up with evidence. Being caught out in a lie can seriously hurt your credibility and damage your members confidence.
· Consistently reward hard work and effort. Make it public to help encourage others to try hard as well. Ensure that you reward effort not just achievement.
· Provide timely and specific feedback but also encourage your members to evaluate and critique their own performances. When individual’s feel they have more input and control they generally feel more invested in their commitment.
· Pay attention. Recognize signs that one of your members may be struggling with an external situation that may affect not only their performance but also that of the team. If a member is experiencing significant conflict in his/her home or struggling with addiction s/he may drop out without adequate support and appropriate help. Develop a list of resources to refer your members for immediate help if you suspect s/he may be experiencing some personal issues that are affecting his/her performance and emotional well-being. Do not try to resolve these yourself. A coach should be someone who his members can turn to for support but leave the counseling to the counselors.
Assuming a coaching role can be extremely rewarding but it carries some significant responsibilities. If your team seems to be dragging and members are losing interest of dropping out it’s time to evaluate your own leadership style. Are you doing all that you can to help keep your members motivated and on target to being the best that they can be?
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