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5 simple practice upgrades (that cost nothing)

Working effectively with athletes and coaches demands a unique blend of communication, understanding, and clarity. Whether you’re a sports scientist, a trainer, or a coach, refining these skills can significantly enhance the impact of your work. Here are five key areas to focus on:

1. Mastering the Art of Questioning

The Power of Quality Questions: The questions you ask can open doors to deeper understanding and effective solutions. Keep your questions clear, open, and direct. Avoid leading or loaded questions; instead, aim to encourage thoughtful responses.

Practical Tip: Start conversations with questions like, “What specific challenges are you facing right now?” or “How do you feel about your current training regimen?” These open-ended questions invite detailed responses and provide valuable insights.

2. Restating to Gain Clarity

Summarise and Add Knowledge: Often, simply rephrasing or summarising what the athlete or coach has said can bring clarity to the problem. It shows that you’re listening and helps to confirm your understanding.

Practical Tip: After discussions, summarize the key points and add your professional insights. For instance, say, “So, if I understand correctly, you’re struggling with… Is that right?” This not only reaffirms their concerns but also demonstrates your engagement.

3. Outlining Your Solution

Communicate the Process and Expectations: Clearly articulate the solution you propose, explaining the typical results, the process, and how it might feel. This transparency helps set realistic expectations and builds trust.

Practical Tip: When proposing a training change or new technique, outline the steps involved and what the athlete or coach can realistically expect. Be honest about both the potential benefits and the challenges they might encounter.


4. Clarifying Your Role

Set Expectations for the Work: Make it clear what you need from them to do your job effectively. Whether it’s commitment to the training programme, honest feedback, or consistency in practice, setting these expectations upfront is crucial.

Practical Tip: Communicate the actions they need to take and why these are important. For example, “For this program to be effective, I’ll need you to…”

5. Committing to Follow-Up

Establishing Accountability: Be clear about when and how you will follow up. This not only holds them accountable but also demonstrates your commitment to their progress.

Practical Tip: Set specific dates for follow-up sessions or evaluations, and stick to them. For instance, “Let’s schedule a follow-up in two weeks to assess your progress and make any necessary adjustments.”


These five areas can significantly upgrade your effectiveness in working with athletes and coaches. It’s about fostering open communication, setting clear expectations, and being committed to the process. With these strategies, you can build stronger relationships, drive better results, and contribute more effectively to the success of the athletes and teams you work with.

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