The Athlete First Approach Is The Best Approach

The athlete-first approach, or philosophy, whatever you want to call it, is about working to understand individual athletes’ needs as critical components of the learning process.

This approach doesn’t imply that the athletes do what they want, and unlike some of my detractors have said, “that the athlete tells the coach what to do.”

Athlete first approach
Athletic Performance

On the contrary, this positive coaching method revolves around conversations that establish proper boundaries between athlete and coach. It is about creating an environment of trust in which the athlete feels secure in telling the coach what they need to thrive.

And that last part can be problematic without the proper level of trust because athletes often don’t know what to do to improve, so they must trust the coach to lead them to the right resources.

This part brings me to a critical point in this conversation – athletes, as we all do, need to learn to train. In essence, we need to be taught how to learn. I’ve said before on this blog that discipline athletes know what resources they need and work to seek them actively.

I can summarize that last paragraph by stating that athletes should be in charge of their training, in part at least. Coaches bear the responsibility of instilling this principle in their athletes. And we can do this through respectful and open discourse.

The Approach

The Athlete first approach works on the premise that athletes are complex social beings and that respecting that complexity is crucial to a healthy career in sports.

I’ll submit here that those who openly decry my coaching methods as soft or overly permissive are intellectually and morally lazy. Considering how someone’s emotional and psychological condition affects their work takes effort, but all the evidence points to it as the best possible approach.

On that note, if you easily conflate compassion and kindness towards children with permissiveness or being too soft, you may have to check your own psychological stability.

PS: I’m not soft in the gym or anywhere else. I raise my voice sometimes, but unlike bad coaches, I always attack the behaviour, not the person. And I definitely never use offensive words to explain my position.

Imagine, for instance, a world where we apply this approach to everyone.

Thank you for reading.

Coach José


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