How to Have Difficult and Effective Conversations With Athletes

When I was six years old, my parents enrolled me in the neighborhood summer swim team. I wasn’t very good at swimming and was generally a nervous kid, but I adored my coaches.

At my first meet, I cried to my parents that I did not want to swim and missed my first two events. Shortly after, one of my coaches came and talked to me. He walked me through the process of lining up for my event, reminded me this was my best stroke, held my hand in line, and took me to the starting block. He walked around the pool as I swam 25m to the other end and his cheery face was the first thing I saw when I reached the other end.

Had my coaches pushed me too hard, I would have fallen apart and not swam a single event. What’s worse, if my coaches hadn’t found the right way to get me to do my first event, I might never have swum in summer league, and gone onto swim for a Division I college program.

Success as both a coach and an athlete comes in part when the two parties understand one another and can communicate in a way that drives the athlete to improve over time.

While it sounds like a simple task - where the coach knows how to get the athlete there, and the athlete does the work - it’s never that simple.

Hundreds of factors play into an athlete's ability to thrive over time - from comfort to confidence to perspective on failure and success - and the role of a coach is to identify and navigate this with the athlete to help them succeed in ways they never thought possible.

Hundreds of factors play into an athlete’s ability to thrive over time - from comfort to confidence to perspective on failure and success - and the role of a coach is to identify and navigate this with the athlete to help them succeed in ways they never thought possible.

In this six-part series, we’ll explore coaching scenarios and list strategies for coaches to employ.

We’ll look at:
  1. Working with an athlete who is nervous about a workout
  2. How to talk with an athlete who is always trying to go Rx
  3. The athlete who often tries to put too much weight on the bar
  4. An injured athlete who needs help staying within proper limitations to continue to heal
  5. An athlete who is new to CrossFit and group class
  6. A pregnant athlete who is continuing to CrossFit through their pregnancy

What additional scenarios do you encounter on the shop floor? Post to comments and let us know!

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