At my practice I see a lot of young athletes seeking answers to questions relating to how they can maximize their athletic abilities. Because of these goals, it is quite common that we examine their mental toughness, specifically with respect to confidence, focus, motivation, and resiliency. Strengthening mental toughness is a big piece when it comes to performance enhancement, but there may be even more specific insights that might best come from asking the coach this one simple question: What can I do to improve?
Why guess when you can know for sure?
When I begin working with an athlete and ask him or her what needs the most improvement, I often receive general answers around the fairly predictable theme of “I need to play better.” While this might sound like an informative response, it really doesn’t tell me a lot, nor does it give us specific goals that we should pursue for future improvement. Think about this another way that might help clarify the point — if your car wasn’t running properly, simply telling the mechanic “it’s not running right” probably won’t tell him much. In order to get your car running smoothly again, your mechanic would need to gather information about your car, and then provide unique, specific feedback for you to resolve the problem.
In sports, the great news is coaches already possess the unique information about you and your game, and are therefore in a terrific position to identify areas of weakness that could use improvement. Within a matter of moments, coaches can tell you if you need help with your speed, strength, endurance, resiliency, focus, or motivation, but it’s up to you to solicit your coach’s feedback. Only when we specify problems can we best improve a situation, and in sports often the best example of this approach to problem-solving occurs when an athlete asks the coach what he or she can do to improve their athletic abilities?
Talk to the coach
Why sit there and randomly work on parts of your game that may or may not lead to maximizing your athletic abilities, when you can instead approach the coach and learn exactly what needs to most help? Some athletes have told me that they have chosen not to talk to the coach because it may be perceived as weakness, but I would argue the exact opposite. Countless coaches over the years have told me directly that the appreciate athletes who look for any way possible (legally and ethically, of course) where they can improve their game. When athletes seek to learn how they can get better, the result is often stronger rapport, better trust, an appreciation of the seriousness of the question, and of course, specific feedback and instruction for future improvement.
Why try and guess how to best improve your abilities when you can learn exactly what needs the most work by simply asking the coach? Some athletes see this as a sign of weakness, but the reality is it’s actually a sign of strength when athletes shelve their ego and open their mind to feedback that can help (even if it isn’t always fun to hear). Work smarter, not harder, by tuning in to the coach and using the feedback he or she provides.