Fundamentals of Coaching: Encouragement Is Non-Negotiable

It’s been a while since personal trainers have felt comfortable being labeled as just “personal trainers”!  Now we have wellness coaches, performance coaches, corrective exercise specialists, kettlebell masters, fitness coaches, and my favorite, life coaches!  Regardless of what you choose to call yourself, there are essential skills to possess and master if you expect to be a successful trainer/coach.

At XCELFIT, our mantra is “Encouraging, Challenging, Teaching, Transforming”.  For me personally as a coach, whether it’s in a fitness setting or in the volleyball arena, encouragement is probably the area of coaching that I need to be most conscious of working on with my clients and athletes.  I am wired to be more internally motivated and to be pretty self-critical so I often expect this of other people.

According to a man I consider to be one of the greatest coaches of all time, Tony Dungy…

Encouragement is one aspect of leadership that you can’t delegate – you simply have to master it, whether you are predisposed to it or not.

Speaking of Coach Dungy, I’d highly recommend pretty much anything he’s written but one book that I’ve recently read that has already helped me to be a better coach is The Mentor Leader: Secrets To Building People and Teams That Win Consistently.

A few other good quotes on encouragement from Coach Dungy:

It’s not just in tough situations that people need encouragement.

You’re probably better off overusing encouragement than underusing it.

Coach Dungy quotes Goethe in the book:

Correction does much, but encouragement does more.

Coach John Wooden, perhaps the greatest coach of the past  50 years, puts it this way:

 A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment.

Another quote from Coach Wooden that can be seen by some as inspiring and by others as intimidating goes like this:

Don’t measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should have accomplished with your ability.

This is the kind of encouragement that not everyone is up to handling but it leads into another great bit of wisdom that I have always tried to lean on and have often used to encourage athletes when they are labeled as “not talented enough”.  I spent about 8 seasons training a great guy named Joe Orsulak who played for the Baltimore Orioles for several years.  Every year,  even though Joe might have ended up leading the team in hitting the previous year, it was predicted that some newer, younger and more talented player was going to take his spot.  Every year,  Joe hit the gym, the batting cage and did whatever it took to make sure those predictions proved false and more often than not they did!

Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

Calvin Coolidge
30th president of US (1872 – 1933)

Trainers and coaches come in many shapes, sizes and backgrounds but at the core of becoming a great encourager is the ability to create and cast a vision for your clients and athletes that not only inspires them but also gives them a new way to see themselves without the self-imposed and other-imposed limitations that keep them from achieving and often surpassing  their goals - that is if they even set goals!  This doesn’t mean you tell the person who is tone deaf that they can win American Idol or that you tell the guy who runs a 6.45 forty yard dash – after years of training – that he is going to win an Olympic 100 meter race on this side of Heaven.  Great leaders/coaches are also excellent talent evaluaters and are very good at helping people find the niche that they are most likely to succeed in.  Once there, these same leaders/coaches continue to nurture and grow these people to be all they can be by excelling in the fundamentals of coaching with encouragement as the cornerstone.




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