Properly preparing for any event as a sport person requires a level of personal dedication that affects every aspect of their life: their sleep, their diet and of course their training. But few people make it there on their own. At the top level all athletes have a team of people all working towards optimum performance helping them become physically and mentally prepared. Of everybody in that team the coach has the greatest influence, bringing their knowledge and experience to devise training systems, play strategies and psychological processes to ensure the competitor has the best chance of winning.
What makes a good coach?
At the top level former champs often become great coaches. Famous partnerships like Andy Murray and Ivan Lendl and Ray Reardon and Ronny O’Sullivan prove that experience really counts. In addition, many top sports folk are coached by family like the Williams sisters and their father, former Olympian Sharron Davis and her dad, and Andy Murray and his mum in the early days, so familiarity is a plus too. But there’s an additional factor which outweighs the above. Coaches inspire, and the words they say become the mantras of their wards and often permeate beyond into popular culture, even when the sports person concerned is fictional. Take Rocky Balboa, even if you’ve not seen the film you’re probably familiar with the line his coach Mickey Goldmill delivered:
“What’s can’t? There ain’t no can’ts. There’s no can’ts.”
Countless sports people in the real world quote, congratulate and seek out their coaches after every success… just as Ellie Simmonds did when she won gold in the Paralympics. Her first words were:
“I am exhausted. I just can’t wait to see my coach.”
So what the coach has with the sports person is a very unique and very powerful relationship. A great coach trains the body and the mind of the sports person in equal measure so they can succeed because they believe they can succeed. A great coach works on a psychological level to motivate the player to train their bodies harder and build their mindsets with mantras, visualisations, experience and wisdom. They learn the inner workings of the person they're training to tap into their strengths and diminish their weaknesses.