By Bo Hanson, 4x Olympian and International Coaching Consultant
20 years ago elite sports teams were lucky to have a strength and conditioning coach. Today, professional teams have an essential coaching staff that can include up to 50 people. However, to maximize the contribution of specialist coaching staff and ensure they aligned with the team’s culture and goals is essential to making the team environment a success. We have talked about the importance of having an aligned team, but having an aligned coaching team is just as critical.
Advantage of Specialist Coaches
If I think back to my own experiences as an athlete, one of the things that we didn’t have was a massive range and diversity of coaches. Where we are at today, with an array of specialist coaching staff and roles, there are significant positives. The 2008 Olympic Study found the third highest factor for an Olympic Medal winning, or personal best performance was a strong support staff.
The main advantage I can see is the role specialist coaching staff staff can play in developing the relationships between coaches and athletes. They are another set of eyes and ears who are attuned to helping the athletes be their best more often. This means they can relay vital information back to the head coach and give a perspective which otherwise could not be attained.
The Challenge of Aligning Goals
Every strength when overused can become a weakness. It is important you are aligning your Specialist Coaching staff with the rest of the coaching squad to ensure athletes aren’t getting mixed messages. This is the biggest issue with a large coaching team. Think of it this way. The more people, the more complexity, the more likely each has their own unique view and way of communicating this. The end result can be confused athletes.
With the hundreds of teams we have worked with, we often see specialty coaches existing in silos. They would work on the periphery doing what they need to do but there usually isn’t a strong level of alignment between them and the main coaching team. These specialty coaches often didn’t have a great knowledge of the team’s goals or language, symbols or culture.
Creating an Inclusive Environment
For a culture to be fully aligned, everyone needs to be included and feel as though they had input into creating the culture. Whether your specialty coaches work with the whole team or specific athletes, you need to be sure they are being included as part of the team. They should be subscribing to and being held to account on the same team values, behaviors and goals as the athletes.
When we are working with a team, we don’t differentiate between playing and non-playing members of the team – we literally mix everyone in together. The benefit that this creates is a very strong and unified team culture where everyone’s goals are absolutely aligned. Most importantly, specialty coaches feel included. When they feel included, they feel as though they can have a genuine level of ownership in what happens within the program. They’re no longer seen as someone who stands around the periphery of the team, they’re an integral part of it.
What Are the Advantages?
When a support staff member feels included and directly subscribes to the team’s culture and goals, lines of communication are opened. This is incredibly important in a sporting organisation as each individual member of staff can develop relationships in a variety of different frameworks.
Support staff can offer valuable insights to the Head Coach regarding their players.
The coach-athlete relationship is one of the most important aspects of sporting performance and specialist members of staff who have often been seen as outside this relationship can, in fact, have an influential role on that relationship and overall performance of the team. Aligned support staff can help foster better relationships within the team by helping athletes to better understand the head coach especially and sometimes even decipher their messages and true intent of their communication. If you want more on this topic, we highly recommend our article on the Coach-Athlete Relationship.
Because of the important role of all coaches involved with a team, we provide a team package for the coaching staff as well. To work better as a coaching team, you need to understand what makes the other coaches on your team tick. After all the coaching team are the most visible role models for your athletic team. How you work together, communicate and understand each other is vital to get right. Understanding your fellow coaches and how you work best together, further develops your ability to complement each other’s skills, abilities and strengths.
If you enjoyed this article, you may also value our transcript on Bo Hanson speaking on the Importance of Specialist Sports Coaches. At Athlete Assessments we’re here to provide you with excellence in service and to help you be your best. If there is anything we can do to be of service, don’t hesitate to contact us.