Strength and conditioning for young athletes is a journey more than a destination. Every athlete has performance goals that they wish to achieve, part of which will include where they need to be from an athleticism perspective. How can the S&C coach keep an athlete motivated once they achieve a goal? How does the strength and conditioning specialist adapt their style with any given athlete over the long term? Highly seasoned fitness coaches can work with athletes for many years to great effect. Here, we see that adopting an approach high in common sense and positivity will always outperform the loud, negative drill dominator!
An ever changing landscape
Setting appropriate fitness goals is the first important step for any young athlete. Initially, young performers focus upon outcomes such as increases in strength, speed, agility, endurance to name a few. One of the most important roles the S&C coach plays is broadening the athletes goals. Talented young performers will not become elite athletes without accruing thousands of hours of training and competing in their sport. Therefore, the first objective of their strength and conditioning programme must be to support their sport specific training. In other words keep them healthy enough to accumulate hours and hours playing their sport. Unless an athlete competes in the sport of fitness, being a hero in the gym will not be enough, they must be ‘fit to play’.
Outside of supporting sports specific training, any improvements in athleticism will be a welcome addition to an athletes competitive performance. Over time, the goals of an athletes fitness regime typically vary. Effective strength and conditioning coaches can ‘tune into’ their athletes and shift the motivational focus of a session to ensure that the athlete makes progress. It is unrealistic to be hitting PR’s every week. For that reason, S&C coaches must help athletes focus upon other factors, such as how well they can execute particular movements or changes to their mental approach to sessions.
The S&C coach motivational tool kit
So the need for changing motivational strategy is well recognised. How can fitness coaches achieve this with athletes on a week by week basis? We’ve already highlighted the importance of goal setting. The strength and conditioning coach must constantly refocus the athlete towards appropriate goals for each session. Reading an athletes physical, mental and emotional energy is important. Aside from the moving landscape of goal setting here are several other strategies effective S&C coaches employ:
- Planning sessions is a must do. Whilst variety is often welcomed, too much can be demotivating. The athlete needs to know that their programme is progressive and in our experience they appreciate familiarity to their sessions.
- Changing the training environment can certainly help keep motivation high. It also doesn’t require a change in the training programme either. Moving outside for hill sprints when the weather is good can boost morale an training performance.
- Changing up the tone and content of your feedback can be one of the most powerful motivational tools of the strength and conditioning. Using visualisation and story telling are great ways to focus the athlete. Give them a scenario which means they have to perform. Be careful not to be a cheerleader and commentator though. It’s a fine line.
- Being sincere when acknowledging progress is vital. This is especially true when athletes feel that their results have reached a plateau. Take time to remind them of how far they’ve come as well as the value of maintaining a high level of fitness. Point out other areas of improvement, such as movement quality, to them where appropriate. Fitness testing can also be a valuable tool but use wisely, because it can be a double edged sword.
Common sense must prevail
None of the above are rocket science. The strength and conditioning coach with a high level of intuition and emotional intelligence will find motivating athletes simple. Great motivators tend to have athletes and clients that stick around for many years. At NK Fitness we are extremely proud of our client retention and success with talented young athletes. If you would like to know how one of expert fitness coaches can help you then please do not hesitate to contact us.