Posted in Coaching Athletes to Be Their Best

Coaching Athletes to Be Their Best

The following is the preface from the book Coaching Athletes to Be Their Best

Relationships matter in sports, and we tend to navigate them through conversation. Everything you say has an impact, for better or worse. The spoken word is that powerful. How to harness the power of words to improve relationships and trust, and to have an impact on motivation and performance, is the aim of motivational interviewing (MI). If you, a coach, decide to do more than keep silent, the skills of MI can help you avoid stumbling or wasting your words.

This is the first book on MI in sports, and we use the word coach loosely to include all involved, whatever aspect of athlete performance and development you support – psychologists, managers, doctors, or specialists in fitness, nutrition, or performance, as well as parents. All it takes to begin with is curiosity about what you say to athletes and interest in how they respond. You might be good at tactics or managing people, or you might be more of a motivator and a people person; regardless, quality conversation can be added to your toolbox. We will hazard a guess that most of the conversation skills are already quite well developed within you. Our goal in this book is to help you refine them.

The author team lived in the parallel worlds of sports and counseling for many decades, as participants and psychologists in sports and as counselors in mental health. We cofounded MI for helping people forge new lives, and this approach was taken up worldwide by practitioners of all kinds, in hospitals, schools, clinics, prisons, interview rooms, and even on street corners.

The crossover of counseling work into sports turned out to be easier than we first thought it would be. We were all using MI quite naturally in sports, with individuals and in teams, focusing on anything from strategy to technique, recovery from injury, and well-being. What quickly became apparent to us was that in both counseling and sports, people to better when they feel trusted and encouraged to lift their motivation for themselves and make plants that they take ownership of. How to do this respectfully, efficiently, and effectively with athletes was the challenge.

What, then, is MI? It’s a communication style with techniques that allow you to draw out the wisdom and answers from athletes (Miller & Rollnick, 2013). You will recognize it in what you already do, because it is based on well-established principles of good teaching, parenting, and coaching, in which a good relationship is central, where the learners or athletes are driving their own search for improvement, and where your expertise and advice are finely tuned to their needs. If you want to get better at harnessing the motivation within the athlete and handling those tricky everyday sporting conversations, then this book will help you do just that.

Does MI really work? One answer lies in the world of research, where we and others have evaluated the method in different settings, and where we have looked closely into the links among what you say, how you say it, and the outcome of your efforts. It makes a difference, and many hundred of scientific trials bear this out. Another answer to this question is more immediate, in the reactions of the athletes we are speaking to. If they are energized by your conversation, then you know you are making a difference. MI is not a rigid recipe but rather a style and skill set for connecting with athletes and helping them thrive. Athletes teach you about what is most helpful to them.

In the end, it’s up to you to try things out in practice. Your personal effectiveness and well-being was our motivation for writing this book. Good luck, as they say before you head out into action.