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Effective Communication for Athletes

"Don't complain about it, do something about it yo!"

I'm a big fan of efficiency. If I can say something really important in 19 words vs. 100, I think that's far more effective and nice to myself and others. Time is our most valuable resource, so why waste it with verbal diarrhea? Put another way, why waste your time as an athlete by not asking the important questions to the people that can actually solve those questions?

The athlete-coach relationship is a cornerstone of your success. This dynamic is more than just a series of interactions; it's a pivotal partnership that can make or break an your career. A crucial aspect of this relationship is effective communication. Reaching out to your coach when you're facing challenges or have questions isn't just advisable—it's essential. Instead of dispersing your concerns among peers or bottling them up, direct your queries and difficulties to the one individual equipped to help you navigate through them: your coach!

Seems so simple right? But in my experience, it's actually the rare athlete that does this regularly. And those athletes seem to get all the attention, all the support, and all the coaching. Sounds harsh, but it's not by accident. I personally know that athlete better than the one that doesn't reach out and ask. I'll know what they are struggling with, what they are working on, and what helps them the most. This might seem like favoritism, but it's simply a two way road where other athlete-coach interactions can often be a 1 way road and we all know how frustrating those can be.

Why Communication Matters

Imagine you're at a critical point in your training, and something isn't clicking. Perhaps it's a technique issue, mental block, or even an external stressor affecting your performance. Discussing these matters openly with your coach can lead to tailored advice, adjustments in your training plan, and strategies to overcome personal hurdles. Silence, on the other hand, can lead to misunderstandings, missed opportunities for growth, and even injury.

So what's holding you back from speaking out?

I get it. I was painfully shy as a kid and rarely spoke to my coaches. This is my biggest regret as an athlete. I chose to do things the hard way and suffer in silence rather than reach out to someone that wanted to help.

I was intimidated. My coaches were larger than life and seemed to walk on water. Why would they talk to a kid like me?

Unfortunately, I was just told that same thing. I'm not proud of that and actually have tried so hard to be as humble as possible, make a goof out of myself as often as possible, and be open to the fact that I don't know half as much as I think I know. I realize I'm 9 feet tall and can be perceived as intimidating. But that's also why my nickname is Boog! If you know, you know.

I aim to be respected, but not feared or intimidating. I never want an athlete to think twice about asking me questions.

Many athletes hesitate to initiate these crucial conversations due to fear of appearing weak, uncommitted, or incapable. However, the opposite is true. Here are a few tips to build confidence in your communication:

- Start with small updates: Share your training progress or how you're feeling after a session. This can help establish a habit of open dialogue.

- Be specific: Instead of saying "I'm not doing well," pinpoint the issue, "I'm struggling to maintain my stamina in the last quarter of the race."

- Practice active listening: When your coach provides feedback, listen attentively, and ask clarifying questions if needed. This shows you value their input and are engaged in the conversation.

Responding to Feedback Positively

Another critical aspect to 2-way communication is being able to effectively receive feedback. Feedback is a gift, albeit sometimes a tough one to unwrap. A coach's critique is not a personal attack but an effort to guide you towards your best self. Instead of responding defensively, which is a natural reaction when we feel vulnerable or criticized, practice responses that foster growth and understanding. For example, if a coach points out a flaw in your technique, instead of retorting with a "I'm doing my best," try, "Ok coach, I understand the issue and will focus on that aspect next time." This shift in response opens up a pathway for improvement and demonstrates your commitment to growth.

Pro tip: practice this at home with your parents and siblings to become an expert at receiving feedback. You're welcome parents.

Defensiveness stems from our instinctual fight-or-flight response. When we perceive criticism, it can feel like a threat, triggering a defensive shield to protect our ego and self-esteem. Recognizing this can help athletes understand their reactions and work towards more constructive responses. Remember, your coach's goal is to elevate your performance, not to diminish your efforts or abilities.

Effective communication between athletes and coaches is the linchpin of sporting success. It builds trust, fosters a positive team environment, and accelerates personal growth and performance. As an athlete, don't shy away from reaching out to your coach; they're your ally in the journey towards achieving your full potential. By embracing open communication and viewing feedback as a roadmap for improvement, you'll not only advance in your sport but also develop invaluable life skills that transcend the competitive arena. Remember, in the vast landscape of sports, the athlete-coach relationship is the compass that navigates you to success.

It's going to be uncomfortable at first. You're going to mess up. You're going to ask dumb questions. You're going to stumble over your words. But that's ok. This is your permission to make these mistakes and learn from them. Not communicating is the biggest mistake and one that's REALLY hard to learn from.

So... hit me up if you have questions! Better yet, let me know if you struggle with asking questions and I'll help you out with that too.

Thanks for reading. I really appreciate feedback on these so let me know if this hits home for you. And I'll see you on our Mental Skills Session this Sunday!

Coach Boog

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