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Why Do You Coach The Way You Coach?

Written By: Nico Messer

Lately, I have been spending more time in my car for the daily commute to practice which has provided me with time to catch up on saved Podcast episodes in my library. The discussion during one particular episode from The Talent Equation went into the WHY and raised the question “Why do you coach the way you coach?”.

Let me tell you - it’s a great questions and really got me thinking! And let’s be clear - there is no simple, right, or wrong answer to it!

Although, listening to the episode, the simple answer seems to stem from a positive or negative experience during our own days as athletes or from our (coaching) education. And I would be lying if I said that isn’t part of my WHY. However, curious to find a more satisfying answer, I did what most people probably do with questions these days - I googled it.

Despite leaving me with the feeling of opening a Pandora’s box, it also provided me with great context to “the way” one might coach and I will share that further below. First however, let’s tackle the WHY which seems to be strongly connected to what one might call a “coaching philosophy”. Your WHY should be a clear and concise statement defining the impact you are trying to make in your athletes’ lives. It is the very first part on my professional resume entitled “Objectives”.

Providing the athletes with a positive experience that gives them the opportunity to achieve their full potential and using their sport as a holistic means of individual development.

Have you ever given any thought to where your coaching philosophy came from? The first step into developing a coaching philosophy is to define a set of personal coaching standards, values and principles that will guide you throughout your coaching career. Becoming aware of why we coach, how we interact and respond to athletes the way we do is important because the moments that will define your coaching are not those with a stop-watch in your hand - they’ll be the times when you need to make hard decisions, inspire athletes during difficult times and stand tall when your values and principles are challenged!

Going back to the second part of the question - ask yourself (or even better your athletes) what it feels to be coached by you. Two coaching stereotypes, transactional or transformational, will most likely determine how it does feel to be coached by you. Transactional coaches use athletes as tools to meet their personal needs for validation, status and identity. They look for what they can get out of coaching and not what they can give. In comparison, transformational coaches impart life-changing messages, are athlete-centered, and use their profession to nurture and transform athletes. A transformational coach realizes the power of the coaching profession to inspire, motivate and produce positive change in his/her athletes.

Unfortunately, in our culture, success is most often defined by the outcome on the scoreboard. Despite the fact that results are an important aspect of our profession, I would recommend to focus your definition of success on the aspects of coaching you can control - the endless opportunities to influence, empower and inspire that eventually will allow you to mold athletes into better people, not just better athletes.

To sum things up and actually trying to answer the question - I am in part a product of all the coaches and athletes that were part of my path as an athlete and coach. Despite or more likely in spite of these influences, I was able to define my own standards, values and principles that are at the root of why I coach the way I coach nowadays.

Please do share your “WHY” and your “WAY” with us in the comments!

Nicolas Messer is in his second season as the Head Coach of the Swim Regio Solothurn in Switzerland and the founder of the ProSwimWorkouts platform. Previous coaching stops included working with the High Performance Program of the Swiss Armed Forces and other club teams in Switzerland. Nico has also spent time living and coaching in Scandinavia (Sweden and Norway) as well as in the US.

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