Some debates just aren’t worth it. I have repeatedly—and reluctantly—been involved in improvised, pseudo-philosophical theater with one eternal question on the agenda: is physical preparation a science or an art?
But why does the answer matter?
Would those who swear by science only make decisions subjected to inflexible, scientific rigor? If so, all of the so-called “injury prediction experts” would have no choice but to let the injuries predicted by their complicated models take place to prove that their models work.
Do “the art of coaching” advocates banish any systemic, organized, and methodical approach, relying solely on the creative unpredictability of their intuition? If so, they would be hard-pressed to correlate their program with such or such improvement or deterioration of their athletes’ performances.The ability to create a dialogue with athletes is crucial, but it is also imperative to communicate effectively with managers to boost performance. Click To Tweet
The important thing is elsewhere.
There is always some degree of scientific rigor and artistic vagueness in physical preparation. What is central, and what makes the difference, are human relationships: the ability to create a dialogue with athletes is crucial, but it is also imperative to communicate effectively with managers to boost performance. To do so, one must get a good grasp of the five main manager’s archetypes:
- The Technician
- The Leader
- The Intuitive Manager
- The Politician
- The Skeptic
This article will first attempt to describe these archetypes and then give some tips to sports scientists and S&C coaches on how to best communicate with each of them.
1. The Technician
Overview & Strengths
The Technician is cerebral. Endowed with remarkable intelligence, they thrive on technical and strategic knowledge. A true perfectionist, they show near infallible attention to detail and can often see what their assistants ignore. The Technician’s mind is analytical, and they spend hours and hours watching training clips, dissecting each action, and coding the slightest error.
Their remedy for defeats? Gobble up statistical data and spend sleepless nights in front of the computer. The Technician’s motto: practice and practice again in training until you testify to the perfect mastery of your players. Very invested in training sessions, they do not hesitate to demonstrate what they expect and are often able to produce the technical gesture with fluidity and flair.
The Technician can be introverted or extravagant. They generally operate in a small social circle, and it is difficult to establish a relationship with them other than a purely professional one. Unconcerned about how they may come acrosshen they want a message heard, they are not a model of emotional intelligence. On the other hand, they are devoted body and soul to the cause of the team and fully committed to the development of assistants and staff, eager to see them become technicians as well. The Technician needs to understand, to know, and to master.
Despite this technical and strategic knowledge, the Technician’s intellect is often their worst enemy. The repetition of movements and game plans in a controlled environment rarely translates into the chaotic reality of a game. While there is virtually no limit to the analytical approach and the quest for absolute mastery in training, there are many factors in a game that can compromise plans.
Technicians tend to overanalyze when there is underperformance, asking even more from assistants and staff. They are permeable to pressure and, at times, create doubt in the minds of colleagues and players. When things don’t go the way they want, the imperfections they see can take control of their emotions, which risks creating a rift with the team. Therefore, the Technician can fall into the category of prodigy coaches: those who have everything to succeed but nevertheless do not manage to bring a team to a title.
How to Connect with the Technician
The Technician appreciates details and is a consumer of information while exercising a critical mind and considering the context. They can understand physical preparation and sports sciences (at least the basics), are curious about theoretical aspects, and are anxious to improve their knowledge. To earn the Technician’s respect, it is imperative to show that you are also able to think like a technician. If you are proactive in assessing existing processes and can show how to improve those processes, the Technician will learn to appreciate what you bring to the team.If you are proactive in assessing existing processes and can show how to improve those processes, the Technician will learn to appreciate what you bring to the team. Click To Tweet
In front of the Technician, it is better to admit first that they know and understand the subject before making a proposal—this disarms their ego and makes them more receptive. However, be careful! You must work on the reasoning behind each suggestion and ensure its logic is flawless. Indeed, the Technician is equipped with a sound BS detector. All Technicians are different, but generally, they will give you their complete confidence and support you loyally in front of players and board members when mutual respect is established.
2. The Leader
Overview & Strengths
An easily recognizable archetype, the Leader is the utopian ideal for any sports enthusiast and admirer of achievement. Charismatic, driven by fierce will, and endowed with remarkable composure, they are a true source of inspiration for assistants and staff. Able to motivate their players with their vision and desire for success, they are an organization’s centerpiece.
The Leader possesses an admirable power, using their own strengths to get the best out of others. Unlike the Technician, they are content with top-of-the-range technical and strategic knowledge and add to it a real passion for personal development. Psychology, communication techniques, and emotional intelligence are part of their arsenal. The Leader likes to influence their peers, and their staff benefits from it: speeches that take guts, well-oiled presentations, revealing team-building—they know how to share their enthusiasm and transmit that thirst for success. More than anything, their impeccable work ethic makes all their staff want to progress.
The Leader also needs connection and attention, taking the time to consult each staff member individually, concerned about their feelings and motivations. Though a conflict moderator, they do not hesitate to take radical decisions when necessary and never back down.
Despite the temptation to think that the Leader has no weak points, this view is wrong. They over-think, are an insomniac in defeat, and believe they give their team everything. The Leader seeks the answers on their own when more staff involvement would make the quest more fruitful. They are obsessed with control, so delegating and trusting are sometimes difficult, leading to frustration among assistants and staff. Leaders are always eager to protect the team and shoulder the burden of criticism and responsibility for failures. They sometimes unjustly succumb to relentless pressures when bad results stack up despite all their sacrifices and work.
In the light of victory, the Leader sometimes also shows their dark side. Though charismatic, they can turn into a megalomaniac and, on a personal level, place a thirst for accomplishment above the needs of their family. On a professional level, they can impose their one way of doing things on their team and staff, gradually transforming what was an exemplary “captaincy” into an oppressive dictatorship.
How to Connect with the Leader
This is relatively easy if you’re not too introverted. Leaders are good at identifying people and know how to find the words to reach you, so it is comfortable to let them guide interactions. However, the Leader needs to know you are 100% behind them and fully adhere to their project and vision.
Let them know you appreciate what they bring to the team and remind them that you will always be loyal to them, and you should be okay. Another critical point is remaining optimistic and knowing how to stay in your lane. The Leader has little tolerance for skepticism and needs men and women who are convinced, disciplined, and ready to fully commit. They also do not accept those who behave too independently.
If you fall outside the box they planned for you, take individual initiative, or show frustration, and/or are too often the discordant voice of the minority, the Leader will quickly identify you as a potential threat to their authority and the unity of the staff. They will try to oust you as soon as possible. Be a soldier eager to improve yourself in your defined tasks, and the Leader will know how to help you develop yourself and advance in your career.
3. The Intuitive Manager
Overview & Strengths
The Intuitive Manager is often the most frustrating archetype for the physical preparation coach. Far from being scientifically rigorous or logical, they pay little attention to questions of periodization or athletic development. Surprising and impulsive, Intuitive Managers listen to their feelings and not the facts. They are influential and endowed with unwavering self-confidence, which they use extensively to persuade staff and players of the validity of their method.The Intuitive Manager is often the most frustrating archetype for the physical prep coach. Not scientifically rigorous or logical, they pay little attention to questions of athletic development. Click To Tweet
The Intuitive Manager is a true enthusiast and often a former player of the sport with an intuitive strategic and tactical understanding. They prefer to demonstrate expectations on the pitch rather than in long video sessions. Very energetic—sometimes bordering on hysteria—they approach the profession with a carefree lightheartedness and place play and fun at the forefront of their training content.
The Intuitive Manager likes to delegate and does not try to control everything: they let staff do their jobs without too much pressure or demands. They are often extroverted and sociable, having a good time and sharing extra-sporting moments with staff and players. This creates a pleasant environment that can sometimes be a source of team solidarity.
The Intuitive Manager’s whimsical nature and lack of rigor are often a source of frustration for the staff and team. Their overflow of creativity and impulsiveness complicates communication and organization and induces a threatening instability that compromises the optimization of training and organization processes. Stubborn and motivated, the Intuitive Manager does not like compromise.
Confident in conflict, they do not hesitate to discredit assistants, staff, and players if they oppose their will. They are charming, but their attitude can divide—some see the Intuitive Manager as a genius, others are annoyed by their seeming immaturity. They can completely change a club’s fortunes, turning a languishing team into a formidable favorite with an intuitive approach and ability to be close to their players emotionally but are hardly pleasant in times of crisis. Able to point fingers and publicly accuse, it is easier for them to condemn the supposed incompetence of others than to question themselves.
How to Connect with the Intuitive Manager
More than any other archetype, the Intuitive Manager wants to see your “relaxed side” as much as your professionalism. It is imperative to create an emotional bond with them, know them beyond their role as manager, and let them know you beyond your role on the organizational chart. Being too professional and closed off in your relationship will create a rift between you and the Intuitive Manager.
Introversion, judged as a threat by the Intuitive Manager, will make it almost impossible for them to give you the trust and attention you deserve. Skepticism and criticism are also sensitive points. Annoyed and sometimes even aggressive if you refuse to see things as they do, the Intuitive Manager tends to isolate and withdraw, becoming almost paranoid when they perceive too much resistance from staff and players. Therefore, it is essential to be agile and flexible when communicating ideas and opinions, making sure to give them the last word and be satisfied with a compromise. The best way is to guide them with suggestions until they provide the desired answer on their own!
Indeed, the Intuitive Manager will tirelessly defend an idea or project if they are convinced that they personally came up with it. For the Cartesian and disciplined strength and conditioning coach, the challenge will be to not get frustrated by the Intuitive Manager’s sometimes nonchalant and capricious attitude. Get to know them and be patient and positive. Once admitted to their circle, you will benefit from them listening and appreciate their creativity, enthusiasm, and remarkable sense of the game.
4. The Politician
Overview & Strengths
In a career as a physical preparation coach, there is a good chance that you will one day be under the guidance of the Politician. Seductive and a seasoned conversationalist with a keen sense of humor, the Politician knows what they want precisely and how to get it. Their network is extensive, and they spend more time in meetings and on the phone than on the training field. The Politician’s ability to be appreciated and their treasured versatility allow them to blend into the background when the results are at half-mast and intelligently publicize themselves when the team strings together good results.
The Politician has many facets—they often try to tame you by asking a multitude of questions about your area of expertise and giving the illusion of being concerned with the most minor details of the program. Obsessed with their career and image above all, the Politician does not put themselves forward and takes control only when it is personally beneficial. On the other hand, they hide behind their staff in the face of difficult decision-making, abusing cooperative strategies. Confident and efficient in individual communication, they know how to be appreciated by their players.
Too concerned with pleasing as many people as possible, the Politician often disappoints with their lack of vision and leadership. When the staff is made up of seasoned Technicians and Leaders, the combination is explosive, with the latter annoyed by the Politician’s lack of skills and rigor.
The Politician does not like discomfort and uncertainty. They refuse to expose themselves to any risks that may threaten their career and image, which prevents them from becoming a true leader. When bad results accumulate, they try to secure themselves by restructuring staff to put “their people” around them instead of remedying the team’s technical, cultural, and strategic problems. While capable of creating enthusiasm around the team’s success thanks to popularity with journalists and commercial partners, their internal staff often resents their selfishness.
How to Connect with the Politician
The Politician likes having multiple options and being free to choose what will benefit them the most. Though not necessarily closed to your suggestions, they prefer to do things their own way and at their own pace. To connect, you must agree to play their game—entertain them with light conversations and exaggerated compliments before reminding them of what you really want to suggest.With a Politician, it is appropriate to ask questions and give options rather than provide answers or defend convictions. Always let them have the final say, even when they ask you to choose. Click To Tweet
When dealing with the Politician archetype, it is necessary to be diplomatic in all interactions so that they can see your many sides. Show them that you are also able to adapt and seduce your interlocutors. An approach that is too direct and too authoritative doesn’t work with them. And if you put them in such a position that forces them to show the limits of their knowledge, then the Politician will try to discredit you and isolate you from the rest of the staff. When in front of them, it is appropriate to ask questions and give options rather than provide answers or defend convictions. Always let them have the final say, even when they ask you to choose.
5. The Skeptic
Overview & Strengths
Far from being closed-minded, the Skeptic needs to study each proposal meticulously before possibly acting on it. They can’t accept a method or system without understanding its ins and outs. Their attention to detail and critical spirit are somewhat reminiscent of the Technician, but the Skeptic is much more reserved and tempered.
Naturally calm, the Skeptic is generally introverted and keeps a certain distance from staff and players. They like stability and often work the same way for years. Getting them to change a point of view is difficult but not impossible, provided they can fully understand all the arguments put forward. Their desire to master the presuppositions and objectives of each system in a training program is their real strength, as they want to be able to explain any method in detail to their players, staff, and directors. They are also risk-averse and want to protect the team from decisions they consider extreme or too little thought out. The Skeptic creates a familiar routine conducive, of course, to precise planning (but monotonous).
The Skeptic rarely trusts. Because they’re in constant doubt, it is difficult for them to create solid ties with staff members and players. Lucid, able to keep everyone focused, and humble when good results flow, in challenging times, their lack of flexibility and almost paranoid tendencies often cut them off from the team. When submerged and drowning in questions, they tend to limit their team’s progress by refusing to let the instinct and opinions of their assistants and physical trainers guide the content of the sessions or the progress of the program. The Skeptic has a negative nature, minimizing each success and refusing everything that seems illogical. Unlike the Leader, they have great difficulty creating a solid belief dynamic and thus lack that energizing euphoria often described as the determining factor in winning a title.
How to Connect with the Skeptic
Taking individual initiative or withholding information are the surest ways to alienate the Skeptic. Their experiences dictate their current approach and their outlook on the program. When you want to take control and evolve—or even change part of the program—or when you want to make a suggestion, don’t be frustrated by their questions, objections, and lack of enthusiasm. When you are a conscientious, diligent, and passionate professional, it is normal to feel attacked, questioned, and disrespected in the face of this type of reaction and in the presence of an apparent lack of confidence.
The Skeptic is on the defensive, and if you respond defensively to their attitude, it will be tough to establish a connection for communication. Instead, arm yourself with a sophisticated argument, give them access to the stages of your reasoning, and be patient. Give the Skeptic time to digest and study your proposals. Try to find the reason for the doubt they express. Have they had a bad experience with something similar in the past? Was your argument too scientific or too abstract? Once you have identified the reason, reassure them and stay flexible.
Daily Interactions and Training Sessions: Adapting to the Five Archetypes
If you are lucky enough to work with a Technician or Leader, the doors are open to doing quality work as a strength and conditioning coach or sports scientist. When you consider the specific traits mentioned above, it is possible, for example, to orient your approach in the creation of reports. Having an impact on the program if you are working under the governance of a Politician, Skeptic, or Intuitive archetype is not a lost cause either: be ready to juggle a few tricks and wear an armor of patience, however.
Pre-Training Suggestions (by Archetype)
Technician: Of all archetypes, the Technician requires the highest level of detail and complexity in daily reports. The session plan is a very popular tool for the Technician—it ensures a precise, timed schedule for the session. The level of descriptive detail in this document must be high, allowing each staff member to fully understand their role. It is essential to include the measurable physical objectives of the session (volume and intensity) on this document. You should use a consistent Excel format that is easy to edit.
Leader: Each report is an opportunity for them to recall the objectives set, consolidate the unity of their group, and convey the values necessary for the culture established. For the Leader, the session plan is a tangible reminder to each staff member of their responsibilities and the session’s objective so that everyone can give the best of themselves. Beyond a simple roadmap, the session plan is an individual post-session reflection tool for each staff members. Physical, technical, and emotional targets are informed on this document, and the content is individualized.If you are lucky enough to work with a Technician or Leader, the doors are open to doing quality work as a strength and conditioning coach or sports scientist.. Click To Tweet
Intuitive Manager: They are not the greatest advocate of spreadsheets—planning the session is primarily the domain of their own thinking, where emotions, desires, and context are more impactful than numbers and statistics. Beautifully designed spreadsheets dressed with meaningful numbers in various colors won’t change their decisions regarding the training content. Still, a strong relationship will allow for daily conversations where the head of performance or the sport scientist can convey information that matters in a more meaningful way. With patience and investment in dialogue, key words will emerge and be enough to trigger a specific training content adjustment.
Politician: Eager to appear like the Leader, the Politician is very likely to use pre-training meetings and allow each staff member to voice their opinions about the content of sessions. However, what could seem like a dream setting for the physical performance coach to put forward a concise document comes with a catch. Unlike the Technician or Leader, the Politician doesn’t look for coherent arguments to revise their plans. On the contrary, the format often matters more than the content. Excel won’t cut it—the staff member in charge of data analysis and communicating physical expectations will need to invest time in creating a visually attractive document. Keynote, PowerPoint, and Tablo become necessities.
Skeptic: They are extremely unlikely to change plans at the last minute—no matter how pertinent the information, the timing is absolutely critical. With the Skeptic, any pre-training recommendations must be handed to them the day before. Data from the day—monitoring, RPE, etc.—should be used to inform the next day’s practice. The Skeptic needs confidence in the data presented, so an Excel document with an agreed-upon color code (traffic light system) based on sufficient statistical analysis (standard deviation or Z score) to guide them is advised.
Suggestions Within the Training Session (by Archetype)
Technician: The use and interpretation of GPS data are of paramount importance to the Technician. Often positioned as a conductor during training sessions, they need to be fed a continuous flow of information to guide assistants and ensure an optimal session. A physical trainer should be focused on managing a real-time GPS system during the session and must be able to communicate with the head of physical performance (or directly with the manager) throughout the training, providing feedback on the progress of the session, the load, and the individual situations of concern (a player too little mobilized or too active, personal records, etc.).
Leader: The staff member in charge of the data analysis must become familiar with the main objectives of the session (technical vs. physical vs. strategic) and have the emotional content to adjust feedback intelligently. While the use of live GPS is an integral part of the system, other aspects are also in the sights of the Leader: body language, the vocabulary used, concentration, and application. More likely to put the physical data reported to them into perspective than their counterparts, they nevertheless require being frequently informed about the session’s progress. Building a relationship based on understanding is fundamental for the physical trainer in charge of data analysis to adapt the intensity and frequency of these communications to the context of the session.
Intuitive Manager: Fully engaged in the training session, the Intuitive Manager does not have a lot of time to sit back and analyze. When asking questions of the staff member in charge of data analysis, they are mainly rhetorical. Nonetheless, the sport scientist can give recommendations as the training session unfolds, but the cueing should be oriented toward feelings rather than numbers. Instead of “We are a bit under the 300 meters of high-speed distance expected,” better go with something like “I feel like the guys still have a lot in them, would be nice to push them a bit.” Have a plan B and C to offer extra work if the Intuitive Manager decides to cut a session short and be equipped with alternative gym sessions and recovery strategies if the field practice goes overboard.
Politician: Preferring to watch the session from the stands or the side, the Politician is constantly communicating with other staff members. Not concerned with details or the precision of numbers, the Politician just wants to know if a change is needed. For this archetype, an injury to a key player in front of journalists at the training ground is the worst possible insult, and players complaining about the length or intensity of the practice is not a welcomed situation. Therefore, it is important to ensure players are evolving within the pre-defined boundaries of what is physically expected of them each day. Armed with trackers such as a GPS live system and heart rate monitors, the sport scientist is welcome to convey critical information and give choices.
Skeptic: The Skeptic expects the sport scientist to be ready to give a detailed answer to any of their questions throughout the training practice and needs to be updated frequently with numbers (and numbers only). For the staff member in charge of data analysis, it is important to refrain from expressing opinions when giving feedback and instead focus on facts. The Skeptic is not concerned with things such as if the players look tired; they want to know if things are going as planned—if the meters are raked, and the intensity nailed. It is not uncommon to see the Skeptic running to the live GPS numerous times during a session to personally look at the data.
Suggestions Post-Training Session (by Archetype)
Technician: Expects a training report on their desk within two hours of the session. This information is important and will help in planning the next training session. The GPS report should be detailed without being messy or overloaded. It must include a representation of the session in its entirety and the details of the individual player’s performances. It is also essential for the report to place the training session in the context of the training week and compare the session goals to the data obtained. Finally, the report must contain a statistical analysis allowing the Technician to immediately identify possible abnormalities linked to the session.
The primary statistical tool to master is the Z score, which expresses the deviation from the mean value in standard deviation. This calculation makes it possible to establish and study the outliers for each marker. These unusual values allow the Technician to make necessary adjustments. Other statistical tools are also helpful and accurate, provided they are used specifically (such as smallest worthwhile change (SWC)). Once the statistical tool has been chosen, converting this mathematical information into a simple visual rendering is crucial, regardless of the manager’s archetype.
Leader: Post-training reports are important, but the Leader prioritizes debriefings with coaches and individual conversations with players over numbers and statistical analysis. It then becomes critical for the sport scientist to sharpen their synthetic mind to produce a report where the analytical aspect is accompanied by a comment summarizing the result of the session. Very often, for the Leader, this comment contributes to the overall feedback of the session that they hold dear. The statistical precision and the choice of analysis tools are left to the physical performance staff, bearing in mind that this type of manager generally prefers a concise and visually simple report. Continue this comparative work of reflection and try to apply it to your situation to get the most out of your interactions with your manager.
Intuitive Manager: They can be found in all sorts of behavioral states after a completed training session—teasing and energetic after a practice judged satisfactory or grumpy and overly critical after a disappointing showing. The GPS report lying on their desk will experience diverse fortunes. If the Intuitive Manager is happy with the session, data will get a quick glance at best. If they are angry with the practice, the GPS report will serve as an outlet for frustration. On bad days, physical performance staff may be called in to explain why, with a guarantee of not leaving with the last word.
A simple report is enough to make the most of post-training communication. Data should occupy no more than 50% of the document, the other half being made of written comments—and do not forget to link objective data to a feeling that they will easily understand. Though the report does not need a tremendous amount of detail, be prepared to hand in a much more thorough one on-demand (bad days), if required.
Politician: It may take some time before finding the Politician at their desk after a training session—often caught in discussions with stakeholders, players, or journalists, they generally do not focus on the practice analysis until a few hours afterward. For the staff member in charge of the analysis, it is good to use that extra bit of time to ensure the post-training report is visually engaging—provide a poster-like document where data is given context and meaning. Trends, scatter analysis, and other visual add-ins will go a long way, and they prefer an analysis accompanied by written recommendations. Be concise in your statements and avoid giving instructions on what to do in the future; instead, leave them the choice of adjustment.
Skeptic: The minute a training session ends, the Skeptic is hunting for feedback: looking over the shoulder of the sport scientist as they gather RPEs, having a glance at the GPS laptop, and interrogating the medical staff on the state of unavailable players. Analyzing the practice is the first priority for the remaining hours of the day. The staff member in charge of data analysis must provide a training report quickly. The format is not a big deal, but it must be consistent—they like to have a complete understanding of what is put in front of them, and a few straightforward metrics and statistical tools are enough.
Generally, the Skeptic would rather produce their own conclusions than read someone else’s. Once the performance staff has agreed with the Skeptic on the meaning of certain data thresholds or defined a warning color code/scale, the latter will respect a standardized action plan to deal with the matter at hand.
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