The People Academy team begin their exploration of the people dimension with elite sports coaches

LOS ANGELES, California -- Getting off to a dynamic start was our goal.

A couple of weeks ago, The People Academy team gathered at the home of LA Galaxy to kick-off their programme to develop Olympic coaches from Team USA.

Joining us in Los Angeles was our first cohort of coaches. Responsible for the training and development of high-level athletes, each of them has world-class credentials and expertise within their specific discipline. Between them, the cohort covered a broad spectrum of Olympic sports - including summer, winter and Paralympic events.

 
Team USA Coaches  - from L-R: Dave Burgering (diving), Guy Krueger (archery), Teresa Skinner (Paralympic track & field), Mike Jankowski (snowboarding), Dave Denniston (Paralympic swimming),   Michelle French (women’s soccer), Peter Foley (  snowboarding & skiing) 

Team USA Coaches - from L-R: Dave Burgering (diving), Guy Krueger (archery), Teresa Skinner (Paralympic track & field), Mike Jankowski (snowboarding), Dave Denniston (Paralympic swimming), Michelle French (women’s soccer), Peter Foley (snowboarding & skiing) 

 

In case you’re wondering, all of these coaches have been extremely successful throughout their careers – collectively they boast a mind-boggling number of Olympic medals! Clearly, they are leaders in their field; and there’s nothing new we could ‘teach’ them about the mechanics or tactics of their respective sports!

Instead, the programme has been designed to help Olympic sports coaches raise awareness of their behaviour and communication style - with an emphasis on how these inherent traits impact the people around them.

There’s so much I’ve learned. The biggest thing is recognizing that the things which hold me back are also my strengths - and I need to adapt for the person I’m communicating with.
— Olympic Coach

Since this was the first cohort to go through our training, we felt it was especially important to focus on setting a high benchmark that would energise the entire programme. We realised that our content needed to be tailored to our audience – in this case a collection of coaches immersed in the world of sports.

Exploring the People Dimension is the foundation of the programme. All of the coaches are profiled using a psychometric tool, and then participate in a series of exercises designed to cultivate a rich understanding of both themselves and others through a simple behavioural model.

However, this doesn’t just involve looking inwardly; because everyone is different, it’s equally important to focus our attention on the people around us. For sports coaches, this means adapting their approach to coaching based on each athlete’s unique personality traits. Not only can this help strengthen the coach-athlete relationship, it could also be the key to unlocking improved performance.

I’ve learned in 30 seconds how to coach more effectively than in three years of coaching some of my athletes
— Olympic Coach

A couple of exercises in particular highlighted the value of recognising how different we all are. Our ‘Speed Coaching’ exercise (based on the principles of speed dating!) involved the coaches describing in 3 minutes the type of traits – as well as the parameters for the relationship - they would look for in their own ‘ideal’ coach.

 
 

As you would expect, they all had a different vision of what their ideal coach looked like! The key message here is that using a ‘one-size fits all’ approach to coaching each of them isn’t likely to generate optimal results – while it might work for some, it’s also likely to alienate others.

The first thing I’m going to do is share this with my athletes so I understand their profiles and they understand mine
— Olympic Coach

Another exercise that made a powerful impact was our ‘Athlete Profiles’, where we put the spotlight on four prominent athletes from around the world. By looking at their career history, interviews, and articles written about them, we were able to paint a clear picture of where they would sit on the psychometric spectrum.

We asked the coaches to evaluate information we had prepared on each athlete and ascertain their profile. The next step was to think about each athlete within the context of the coach-athlete relationship by breaking down that dynamic into core pieces - such as delivering feedback, setting goals, approach to training and making decisions.

The next question we posed them was really crucial, and helped to open up a new perspective on coaching - “how would you adapt your coaching style specifically for each of the four athletes?”

This is the essence of coaching. You can have all the technical knowledge in the world, but if you can’t reach people, you won’t be effective
— Olympic Coach

Our aim was to make a great first impression, and the feedback we’ve received from the participants has been tremendously encouraging! With more cohorts anticipated over the next couple of years, we’re pleased to have made such a positive start and are looking forward to building on this foundation.

 
 

All of the attending coaches also made an impression on us – we were delighted with how open, enthusiastic and willing to share they all were. As some would say, “it takes two to tango” - and the coaches certainly contributed plenty to making the session a success.

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