Athletes will Improve in the Qualities their Coaches Prioritize!
By Josh Gray
If you walk down the halls of any athletic department or through any team's locker room, you would see pictures of former athletes who had great accomplishments, team and/or individual championship trophies, and the cliche' slogans such as:
"Champions play as one"
"How do you want to be remembered"?
Inevitably, if you walk through the weight room, you will see strength records in the squat, bench, deadlift, clean, etc. With social media becoming more and more popular, many coaches are posting different achievements, and progress of their athletes, which I believe is a great thing.
These numbers, awards, pictures, trophies are there to show the team/school's legacy, to give the athletes something to strive for, and to reinforce the caching staff's priorities or beliefs, which in it of itself is a great thing.
The problem arises when the qualities or achievements that are posted/displayed don't lead to improved performance or do not match the team's overall goals.
I will use one example. Most coaches want their athletes to get faster, more explosive, and more agile, yet their rewards, posts, and practice and training don't reflect that. Some of the more common rewards or achievements posted include:
"1,000 lbs club"
"Number of 300lb bench pressers or 400lb squatters
"Improvements in strength in any lift over the offseason"
"Improvement in some conditioning test"
Most offseason programs reflect this as well, consisting of high-volume lifting programs with conditioning circuits as a finisher. Practices are often a test of physical durability with no consideration for the athletic qualities that lead to winning (topic for another article).
If this is what your program prioritizes, then there is a good chance that your athletes will do their best to improve these qualities in hopes to play and with the false belief that their performance will improve.
If fast, explosive, agile athletes are what you truly want, then your posts/rewards should consist of:
"Improved 20yd and 40yd sprint times"
"Improved jump heights and/or distances"
" Improved medicine ball throw heights/distances
"Improved position specific work/ performance in agility drills"
The offseason training and team practices should also reflect this (topic for another article).
Changing what you reward will change what your athletes deem as important, and their efforts will now go into improving one of those qualities, which will result in improved sport performance.