My first gymnastic’s coach, back in the 1980’s trained us like little football players. For the entire Summer we worked out from 9-5, yes, you read that correctly. Our mornings were spent conditioning. We would start our day with a three mile run and then continued to sprints along the side of the building. We would jump on the spring floor for over 30 minutes, then we would do our normal pull-ups. push-ups, etc. etc. After our morning conditioning, we ate lunch. After lunch we started our events.
I remember the Summers were difficult, long, hot, and so much fun that we couldn’t wait to go to gym everyday. We loved how much our coach challenged us. He pushed us, he believed in us, and even today we talk about the old days. Of course, not every day was amazing and he said some mean things. He weighed us in and told us to lose weight. He would threaten us with punishments if we didn’t do what he asked. He sat me out almost every practice because I was a pain in the butt. But he meant well. Most coaches trained their athletes that was in the early 80’s.
He didn’t try to hurt us, he was just being an Old-School coach.
As humans, we have evolved over the years and have made tremendous advancements on Earth. The Horse and Buggy seemed like the best idea ever, it was purposeful, efficient, and generally effortless for the riders. All we had to do was sit and let the horses do all the work. However, overtime we realized that engines and cars could be even more purposeful, efficient, and effortless. Today we are still evolving and inventing better cars.
When we find better, more purposeful, and efficient ways to do things, we evolve, adapt, and change.
When we talk about “Positive” coaching, Old-School coaches think that it’s all about lowering standards, coddling, and it is used because the athletes are weak and can’t handle what it takes to be a great athlete. They tell me that “positive” coaching won’t achieve goals, because you have to be careful with everything you say, and you can’t push kids. These coaches say they have had great success and win with their Old-School coaching styles, why would they change? Those are very fair questions.
If athletes are winning, why change?
The Horse and Buggy was replaced because it was slow, rough, and the horses left a lot of mess in the streets. The original gas cars were better, but they were not very safe for the driver nor the environment. Once we see we have a problem to fix, humans are pretty good with looking for solutions. We have improved cars with better engines, seat belts, air bags, computers, they have better gas milage, and they continue to be safer for the driver and the environment.
Once we know we can do better, we must change.
Old-School coaching styles may have worked, but what if you knew they could cause psychological damage to the athletes? Would you still use them?
What if Old-School coaching caused the athletes to have lower self-esteem, less confidence, or higher anxiety? Would you still use it?
What if you knew that if you psychologically broke your athlete down, they may stay down? Would you still want to?
What if calling your athlete fat could cause them to become bulimic, anorexic, or had body image issues long after sports is over?
What if your athlete feared you and didn’t respect you?
What if your athlete worried more about the repercussion of them making mistakes in competition rather than focusing on what they needed to do to hit?
What if you were able to train your athlete to handle pressure and compete with internal confidence and focus?
What if you were able to empower your athlete to believe in themselves that they were brave enough to try any skill you asked?
What if they respected and trusted you so much that you and your athlete were a unbreakable team. You taught your athlete that they were able to take on any skill, any event, any competitor, and every competition?
If there was a better way to coach, would you try it?
Old-School techniques are almost the same as coaches still using a Horse and Buggy to travel to their sporting competitions. I am sure Old-School coaches think they look modern and cool. I am sure Old-School coaches think that as long as they are winning, they are doing the right things. They probably only care about winning, because they need it to keep their own ego afloat. They MUST care about themselves way more than they care about their athletes. If they DID care about their athletes, MORE, maybe they wouldn’t call them names, punish them, intimidate, make them feel inferior, break them down, humiliate them, and make them believe that they are not worthy of a respectful and caring coach/athlete relationship.
Positive Coaching doesn’t create weak, needy, coddled, and entitled athletes. It creates autonomous, empowered, strong, balanced, hard working, detailed oriented, motivated, purposed, and self-confident athletes that know what they need to succeed. They can use those techniques to not only to dominate and succeed in sport, but also to dominate and succeed after sports is over.
Evolving, growing, and improving as coaches is the sign of an amazing coach. Changing doesn’t mean you were wrong, it means you are smarter and wiser now and you want to do better. It is time to get rid of your Horse and Buggy and do an upgrade. Trust me, you don’t look as cool as you think you do.
We know better, we MUST do better.
Written by 1992 Olympian, Author of Breaking Through a Mental Block, and Mental Coach, Wendy Bruce. For more information on Mental Training or to bring Wendy into your program for Workshops, Camps, or Clinics, visit www.psyched4sports.com.