Over the course of this paper, the practical applications of a strength and conditioning coach will be discussed. More specifically, a look at the applications being transferred to the sport of football when elite and youth athletes are being coached. Issues such as respect and accumulating authority will be observed when prioritising the coach and athlete relationship. The paper will further analyse issues that may arise between different sets of athletes and how those issues compare.
Fundamentally, the coach must understand the value of building positive coach and athlete relationships. This is to help them implement what they want from a group or squad of players that most commonly will have varying cultures, experience levels, ages and squad values to the management and the team (Maderer, Holtbrugge & Schuster 2014). Player adherence, along with trust must be built. This key principle, of which gaining player respect will ultimately develop the results that are required from the coach alongside the sets of players they are expected to increase performance levels with. Furthermore, building trust from sets of players can imply a direct correlation to coach loyalty. Players putting their faith in the methodologies, applications and principles of the coach can show a direct relationship between the coach having loyalty, not only with their own abilities, but that of the cohort of players they are working with (Hampson & Jowett, 2012). As a coach, taking a thorough look at the players, from a personality and traits perspective may have a comprehensive effect on the style of coaching implemented on individuals the coach works with. It will provide valuable data on individuals or groupings of players that will help when selecting practical applications from the coaches tool box to build the coach and athlete relationship. For the purpose of this paper taking a look at the applications needed by the coach when working with elite football athletes in comparison to youth athletes may give similar and differing outcomes. These may be positive and negative for the coach. Chelladurai (1978), suggested successful coaches must help athletes develop upon skills. It was implied this could be basic skill right through to technical and tactical skill. The statement also interpreted that the coach must help prepare an athlete psychologically and interprets this as the most important factor for coaching success. It is something that helps build strong athlete and coach relationships.
The stereotypical elite footballer will have a value that is considerably higher than just any other footballer within a squad, particularly in comparison to a youth athlete who has yet to break in to the first team. This status comes along with responsibilities that the coach must understand and therefore resonate with. Examples such as; higher frequencies of match time, that as a consequence means a smaller window for recovery as well as diverse personality traits, often indicating egos, wages and experience levels. On average these players are of an older age group, with less priority on improving but greater emphasis on maintaining. Understanding these commonalities for a coach is a key factor in selecting an approach to take during different phases of a pre season, mid season and off-season. Furthermore, understanding a players level of experience within the weight room in a strength and conditioning environment will help the coach determine where a player lies during basic periodisation and how this can be integrated to a players on and off season schedules. Martinek (1988) proposed after an analysis on varsity female volleyball players, that successful coaches who offered greater amounts of data feedback to athletes were more successful than those who didn’t do so as much. How the elite athlete respects the value of strength and conditioning may come down to various factors that are dictated by a players psychology towards its value and how the coach can translate its importance back towards them. Bloom (1999) observed teaching behaviours of an expert basketball coach and discovered successful coaches provide training and instruction to their athletes more often than any other coaching behaviour. This finding gives further clarification on the need for the coach and athlete to build relationships through applied practice and data collection. However, it was the first study of its kind and for this reason more research is needed in the area to clarify this position. A.J. Manley (2013) hypothesized that athlete expectations were created by reputations held by the coach. A coach’s reputation based on their experience levels influence athletes behaviours towards them. This was clear over athlete’s attention, effort and consistency of persistence to the coach’s instructions.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, handling youth athletes who are looking at the prospect of breaking in to a first team may present itself with a different set of applications for the strength and conditioning coach to command a positive coach and athlete relationship. Issues such as over enthusiasm to progress can cause problems later down the line if foundations are not built. By this, looking at individual starting points for each athlete and monitoring how much progress is needed to break in to a first team squad, from a physical performance perspective, will give the coach comprehensive data to move progressively with the athlete. Data can be a great feedback tool to use when trying to build a positive relationship with any athlete; this will definitely help protect a youth athlete from doing too much to soon. Using too much volume on areas of performance that are not needed will waste time rather than again, enhancing the recovery principle for performance. Understanding an athletes training age and helping them make incremental progressions will psychologically have a positive impact on the coach athlete relationship and the trust built overall between coach and athlete. This is imperative in comparison to moving too quickly with an athlete and watching them crash and burn, not only in the weight room but also on the football field too. Myer (2009) found that the young have a lesser risk of resistance training injury in relation to joint sprains and muscle strains than adults. They also found that the majority of weight room injuries were as a result of accidents that could have been prevented with better supervision along with a higher standard of strength and conditioning practice. There is also a lot more room for a coach to develop skills with youth athletes that can be transferred in the weight room and on the field of play. Promoting optimal function rather than dysfunction is a primary concern and goal for any strength and conditioning coach, however time with an athlete can often hinder the emphasis given to this principle. This is especially true when league games are a priority and players have to be ready for them. The importance of winning is a lot higher at first team level than it is at youth team level; meaning room for development is greater with youth athletes. There are at least eight sub principles that sit under the philosophy of physical training objective for sports preparation. Awareness, all round development, consistency, repetition, visualisation, specialisation, individualisation and structured training (Yessis 1987; Schneidman 1979; Matveyev 1981; Vorobyev 1978). The Russians differentiated the importance between physical education and sport. They stressed the importance for maximum physical and mental drive. Thelwell (2013) discovered that initial demands on coaches and their perceived level of coaching abilities come down to things the athletes see the coach wear, the gender they are, their physique and the coaches spoken about reputation. This may be particularly true and a challenge for the coach when dealing with young inexperienced athletes who are after the fashionable stereotypical coach.
To conclude, the coach and athlete relationship is fundamentally important for the coach to establish their philosophies and its reflections are seen in the athlete’s responses towards the coach. Ultimately this is seen in the athlete’s progressive results as a feedback mechanism to show coach athlete coherence. A coach who shows an understanding for the athlete’s individual dynamic correspondence towards their sport, in this case football, and all the movement attractors that they may face can ultimately start to command respect from athletes willing to work hard and develop. Building experience overtime through these principles can also enhance the coach’s ability to command and build the coach athlete relationship regardless to whether the athlete is elite or youth. This applies in any given sport for any given athlete. It is therefore clear to see that a coaches professional practice applications should follow a comprehensive principality. Recognising the athlete, their sport and the dynamic correspondence involved for each individual. The only differences come in the way in which the coach translates their practices back to the different individuals and the way in which they translate their personal philosophies. This helps to gain a positive coach and athlete relationship. Professional practice fundamentals such as the needs analyses are essential tools in indicating to athlete’s clarity in mapping out periodisation. It also gives feedback through normative data to give the coach and the athlete a better understanding for each other and the outcomes that are desired. Hatfield, (2008) further justified the importance of individual care by stating; A coach who can measure psychological occurrences, probe the relationship between psychological variables and performance whilst being able to apply theoretical knowledge to improve athletic performance, is one who can relate to individuals rather than generic groupings.
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