Sports Science Roundtable by Daniel Martinez
Strength and conditioning coach, Daniel Martinez, recently talked to a roundtable of seven coaches and trainers from four different countries about several sports science topics. This is the fifth in this series of Sports Science Roundtable articles.
Daniel Martinez: What are some important steps you have taken to impact buy-in from other staff and coaches?
Cory Innes: Get into the field and know your sport inside out; visit them often in their sport environment. This not only shows them you really care about them, but will increase your knowledge and allow deeper, more meaningful conversations about performance with the coach. You need to have the ability to communicate on a deep level with the athlete and coach about their sport, as well as see them in their daily training environment, or you will lose their confidence. You also need to be honest, genuinely caring, and knowledgeable, as well as constantly seeking answers.
Another important step is to be open-minded and allow input from coach and athlete into the training process. Help educate them about what you do and invite them into the gym regularly. These ideas go for fellow staff members, too. Take time to really understand what they do and how they contribute. Let them tell you and don’t assume that you know.
Cory Kennedy: There are many different elements that affect buy-in with coaches, so I will outline a few. First, our training philosophy is built on understanding the athlete’s well-being, and working within that understanding to reach our training objectives. You can’t just say you care—you must show daily that you care about the athlete’s health and overall enjoyment of the process. This comes from robust monitoring, and frequent conversations with athletes and coaches, with the monitoring often just serving as the jump-off point for the conversation.
The second element is regular reporting on workload data or other observations. We try to sit down weekly with most teams, often without a fixed agenda, to update on anything pertinent. There should also be a physical or digital report that goes with it. Finally, be very clear with training objectives when you can. Sometimes you are after subjective qualities that are difficult to measure, and that is OK. Other times, when you have a measurable outcome, state it and stand by it. Then update everyone involved on progress. If you are chasing strength, how much exactly? If speed, how fast? Being very clear with outcomes and results buys a lot of trust.
Devan McConnell: The only thing that I have consciously done to create buy-in is to continuously educate both the staff and the players. I think it is absolutely crucial that I bring the info to them in a way that they can understand, and that is non-threatening. A person in my role must never forget that we are the support for the coaches and athletes; we are here to serve. My job is to inform them of the appropriate information and my interpretation of that, and make it clear that moving forward, whatever the ultimate decision is (speaking specifically of the coaching staff), I will be on board regardless of whether that decision is in line with what my data says. This, in itself, creates buy-in: It might look like a big step backwards from time to time when a coach “just doesn’t get it,” but by remembering that it is ultimately his team, and not mine, it usually ends up being one step back, and two steps forward with regard to the overall buy-in and my ability to have significant influence.
Jonas Dodoo: Education towards high performance. Provide transparency and show vulnerability. Love and patience.
Mike Boykin: We are fortunate at ALTIS that the performance model and details described above are embraced by our staff, including the track and field coaches, strength and conditioning coaches, and therapists. Having interned with multiple S&C coaches in university settings and assisted in the development of a variety of Olympic sports, the common denominator among support staff that receives the greatest buy-in from other staff and coaches is the ability to speak a common language. The better you understand what the lead coach is looking to accomplish and the methods they will use to do so, the clearer you can portray your message in a way that is meaningful to them.
The common denominator among support staff that receives the greatest buy-in from other staff and coaches is the ability to speak a common language. ~Mike Byokin
Nate Brookreson: I have been deliberate with my communication and kept ego out of the way. I have always kept conversations focused on the well-being of the athlete so that we avoid agendas that are divisive and opinionated. With regard to staff, I think of it less as buy-in and more as “how are we going to provide the best service for our student-athlete and provide a galvanized message to the sport coach?” I make sure that we address specific topics centered on creating a robust and proficient athlete, and what our roles and responsibilities are in this process. With athletic training, that might be how we can better screen and gather information on the athlete up front and over time, how we can complement each other in terms of corrective/exercise selection, and how to periodize the use of recovery strategies and modalities. With nutrition, it is centered on optimizing blood profiles, educating the athlete on food choices that maximize their training adaptations, and teaching them to create and maintain good nutritional strategies.
Buy-in from sport coaches revolves around asking them to articulate what questions they might have about their athletes and how we can answer those questions using data from practice, competitions, or training; providing a detailed analysis of the yearly plan and our rationale behind our choices in training; and being honest with them regarding practice planning. Buy-in is earned by making sure that their athletes are ready to meet the challenges that they present to them in training, which requires conversation about their goals, training philosophy, and important competitions. No matter how much is going right, concerns will always arise as a season passes. It’s my job to make sure they understand the long-term training goals.
Patrick Ward: We create reports that take the analysis and put pieces of it into a more consumable form for staff and coaches. Presenting information in meetings has been helpful to provide deeper context around what they observe in the basic reports. It also allows for discussions on which players may need more assistance from staff to maintain health and well-being while going through a grueling season.
The next installment of this Sports Science Roundtable series is: “Making a Difference in Athletic Performance.”