Modern-day coaching methodologies and the power of positive psychology

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The days of yelling at players for not making it to first base are over! Or at least, they should be. Coaching has changed dramatically over the past twenty years.

As a player in both hockey and soccer, I rarely ever had coaches adequately breaking down the technical or tactical components behind how to excel in the sport. I rarely had coaches working to understand my own unique characteristics as an athlete, and involving me in the discussions about how I could impact the wider team. I spent much in the way of time waiting in lines, skating in circles, and doing “drills” that had no context or connection to how the game is actually played.

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Hopefully this coach is teaching players never to hold the stick like this!!

In many circles, these coaching methods still exist. I’ve had students in my coaching course back that up every semester, when they tell me that they’re stuck in environments where they’re being forced to implement old-school methodologies. That’s particularly unfortunate, given that there is a new-wave of coaches that understand how they would want to be communicated to as athletes, and bring that to the forefront when they work with players of their own.

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These coaches are reading articles and taking courses that detail why a games-based approach to LTAD is the most optimal way to train youth athletes. They are learning all about equity, diversity and inclusion before they even get a job working with children. We are further along than ever before. But many coaches are stuck in the past, and these coaches are sometimes in charge of deciding who deserves to progress through the ranks in the thousand-dollar coaching licenses you need to make the cost of living in the sport. Fear not, for there are other ways to make a living in coaching than the typical path of working with teams.

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Many top coaches now work with individuals either through 1-on-1 formats in person, or even online. This has existed for years in individual sports like tennis or long-distance running, but is now entering the frame in team sports, as players look to supplement their development with something extra. That might be a mental skills coach, a sports psychologist, a nutritionist, or a performance analyst. The best athletes recognize that they need to develop what it takes to excel within the scope of their team. But they also recognize that in order to do that, they need to become the very best version of themselves inside and outside of sport, through a holistic perspective that takes into account an array of skills and techniques across all five corners.

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This is where the power of working with someone outside the athlete’s environment can be instrumental to their future success. This is where you as a coach can open your services to work with more than just players and coaches in your own vicinity.

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But in any coaching format, the athlete’s individual needs must remain at the forefront. Coaching is no longer about doing whatever it takes to motivate a player to excel. It’s instead about taking all the right steps to motivate a player to excel. That doesn’t come from chopping off the legs of the opposition, but through positive psychology, reinforcement, individualized feedback, and a detailed understanding of an athlete’s life outside of sport. That might entail when to be harder on a player to motivate them, but even those conversations need to be handled with care and compassion.

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This is the number one thing that separates the coaches that make sport fun for their athletes, from the coaches that make athletes want to quit sports before the age of 13. You can still be assertive and command the group dynamics without being hard on your players, and punishing them for mistakes. You can still make sport fun while sometimes pointing out where players have room to improve. When I think about the coaches I had growing up that adopted these methodologies and cared for me as a human being, these are the coaches that fostered my love for playing sports. But it’s important to note that in every case except for soccer, I eventually had a coach that would tear down my love for that sport. Usually that was from their own ego getting in the way.

It took me years to get back into running. I still haven’t forgiven basketball or hockey.

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Coaches must remember that youth sports are not for them. The coach’s role is to get the best out of their athletes and foster a love for sport that inspires players to return year after year. The environment that a coach creates, and the way they talk to their players is imperative to that process. But so too is developing the right training designs.

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Many coaches are stuck in their ways of individualized tasks that have no context toward the game. Nearly all coaches that come to me call their exercises “drills” – to which I tell them that “drills are for your dentist”, and that we’re doing games and activities. You don’t have to exist as a coach the way that your coaches existed with you. You can be your own person, and you can be one that takes a player-centered approach to development, rather than a coach-centered approach.

If you want to take your coaching development to the next level for the benefit of your players, feel free to reach out, or check out all of my free coaching resources.


I am currently accepting new clients in my coaching & mentorship program. I work with coaches and players from around the world! If you’re interested in learning more about my site or experiencing my coaching, feel free to reach out! đź‘Šâš˝

rhys desmond – founder of themastermindsite

Across the past decade, I have worked with thousands of players and coaches across multiple sports and disciplines. I recognize the value of diving deeper beyond the first glance, and uncovering the deeper-lying ways to enhance performance. I make a commitment toward positive reinforcement, research-backed insights, and making the experience fun for those that work with me.

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