Interactions with athletes are littered with opportunities to have a positive impact on their lives. It requires being present to their needs, what they’re asking, and what they’re open to at the present moment. Your athlete might be preparing to start an event requiring a little bit of last minute technique and mental preparation coaching. Or on the flip side of the event an athlete that just DNF’ed (Did Not Finish) might require some immediate empathizing and encouragement to allow the distress of the event to wear off before exploring what caused the DNF. These are prime opportunities to have a lasting impact on the athlete’s future performance, whether it’s the event they’re about to start or the event after the DNF’ed event.
Last minute preparation is a very individualized process, however sometimes there are certain obstacles that can potentially derail our routine. When this happens I encourage athletes to have the courage to bring their concerns to the coach to work through whatever is going on. What a coach does with this opportunity is crucial to the athlete’s performance. The coach must acknowledge the athlete’s awareness of their own process, be very attentive to the athlete’s specific needs, and ensure that the athlete’s needs are met by the conversation. In this scenario the coach must take a holistic approach to ensure that the athlete is mentally and physically prepared for the upcoming event.
DNF’s can occur for a variety of reasons depending on the sport. The cause that is being addressed here is physical and mental preparation. This is a vulnerable time for an athlete because this is what they have prepared for. This situation calls for a much different response than the previous, but both require complete and total presence to the athlete. It’s the coach’s responsibility to figure out what happened, and wait for the opportunity to educate the athlete on what and why it happened. Then the coach must work with the athlete to implement a plan to ensure the same mistake doesn’t reoccur.
Allow this post to be an invitation to be present to each and everyone of your athletes. They’re individuals with different needs. It is your responsibility to meet those needs. I believe in your coaching ability. The question is do you?