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The Difference Between Delivering and Receiving Coaching

Coaching is really, really hard. Attempting to direct a group of people that have different backgrounds, different thoughts, different strengths and weaknesses, different levels of emotional reactiveness, and different wants and needs sounds like an absolute recipe for disaster. In fact, when I think of it like that to have any successes as a coach is amazing let alone the success that many do have. I am amazingly lucky because I get to work with some of the absolute best coaches in the country that balance this all amazingly well.

One of the things I am also fortunate to experience is that I get to see coaching, performance, and development from the viewpoint of the coaches AND the players. Honestly, its probably one of the most fortunate and impactful parts of my job as a performance psychology coach. There is so much that I get to understand just by having such open access to both the inside view of the coaches and the players. The message delivery (and what the true goal and intention is) and message receiving (how it is heard and processed).

Here is what I’ve come to deeply understand – there is a big difference between the delivery and the receiving of coaching. Essentially, what the coach feels that they've said, how they’ve said it, the intention behind the words, and the effectiveness of those words, and what the player actually takes away are not always the same.

If this is the case the question that needs to be asked is what should the focus be for what we coach or teach? For instance, a coach can feel like they passionately presented great information that is going to help their player to grow, learn, and improve. The need and want of the coach has been met when they’ve done this. They love their sport and they find a ton of value for the entire team in what they just offered to their players.

However, the players are all individuals. Their needs and wants are different. They need to trust the coach first. The athletes need to feel that the coach knows their stuff, AND that the information given is actually going to help them and that it will help them reach THEIR needs and wants. Doesn’t mean the players are selfish, don’t want to win, or don’t love their team. But, they’re human and we all have needs and wants.

I get to see it happen at its very best. Elite high-performance athletes that finally reach a place where they completely understand where the coaching staff is coming from, AND where the coaches understand individual goals and wants of the players. The explanations, demands, individual player development plans that are put in place all match up with team goals and with what the players are trying to achieve. When this happens – amazing growth for the individual and the team occurs!

Let me be clear – this is not about selfishness or the athlete being about themselves and not the team. It's the definition of a great working relationship. Even in my marriage while I am completely happy to put what is good for my family (my wife and kids) first - I am still an individual that has interests, friends, and career goals. Those things keep me balanced, focused, and happy. Sometimes they must get pushed a little to the back burner, and sometimes my family has to bend a little so that I can pursue these other things. However, what I would say is that my family makes me better at my individual goals/interests, and that my individual goals/interests help to make our family better. The best of both worlds! This is what the ideal player/coach relationship looks like as well.

So, if you’re a coach, create your team values and focus and share them often with your athletes. Tell them why they matter, and what it will mean to them within their role and overall growth. But, also ask them what they are looking to accomplish and why. If you can align both it becomes an amazing relationship for all involved. And, always keep that awareness that delivering coaching and receiving coaching are two different things.

About the Author

Stuart Singer, M.Ed., and PsyD (ABD) is the Director of WellPerformance, a Mental Performance Coaching and Consulting practice, and the creator of the DoSo app . For more information regarding this topic, he can be contacted at or follow him on Twitter @wellperformance, or Instagram: wellperformance

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