I previously wrote the post If you think it’s them you should think some more. Basically, it’s about coaches failing to accept at least some of the blame when they don’t get the most out of their players/team. Sports Psychologist Dan Abrahams takes it a step further. In particular, he addresses the idea that attitude and energy are solely the responsibility of the athlete.

To quote Dan:

“…if I may respectfully say, no matter how complicated it is, a coach can absolutely influence effort and energy. And if you’re a College coach…a full-time coach…then I would argue it’s incumbent on you to strive to do so. Coaching effort and energy should probably be front and centre of your coaching practice if it’s your job! (If I may respectfully say).”

I should note that while Dan’s main sport focus is soccer, the motivation for his post was something said by a college basketball coach.

Anyway, one of the memes you come across on social media and elsewhere is the idea that athletes are in control of their attitude and energy. Notably, it’s often coaches posting and sharing those memes. In doing so they (probably unconsciously in most cases) absolve themselves of responsibility for player engagement.

It’s certainly true that we cannot control what’s going on outside our interactions with the players and the team. No one is saying we do. What we absolutely can control, however, is what we do – and the environment we create – that influences attitude and energy while we’re with them. This is something every coach needs to take responsibility for.

A very simple part of this is how you start and end practices. And, as Dan notes:

“…it’s about engaging in coach behaviours that help you notice which players may require your attention prior to training. Being human, some players will arrive at the field, the pitch, or the court a little flat or lethargic or distracted on occasion. That’s more than ok, and it’s your cue to go have a chat with them. Make them smile. Remind them of their Player Development Programme, or take them to one side and give them a chance to share what they’re feeling.”

I encourage you to read the full piece. Don’t be the sort of coach that makes excuses.

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John Forman
John Forman

John is currently the Talent Strategy Manager (oversees the national teams) and Indoor Performance Director for Volleyball England, as well as Global Director for Volleyball for Nation Academy. His volleyball coaching experience includes all three NCAA divisions, plus Junior College, in the US; university and club teams in the UK; professional coaching in Sweden; and both coaching and club management at the Juniors level. He's also been a visiting coach at national team, professional club, and juniors programs in several countries. Learn more on his bio page.

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