Whether a school teacher, mentor, adviser, or actual coach. These skills can be applied anywhere!

5 Practical Ways to Develop a Killer Instinct – For Coaches

The critical consideration for a coach is – “If I believe the development of a Killer Instinct is important for success in competitive sport, how can I coach my athletes to learn, develop and master a “Killer Instinct””

1.    Coach your athletes to perform to their potential in the competitive environment – not just to be great trainers. For example, in sports like running, swimming, cycling and rowing it is a relatively simple task to coach athletes to learn good technique and to be able to execute a potentially winning time in training. But competition is so much more than times, distances, heights and speed. It’s about coaching athletes to perform to their potential at maximum speed, when fatigued and under pressure in competitive environments. Create challenging situations and problem-rich environments in training that demand your athletes learn to perform in competition conditions. Coaches are overly focused on “text-book” coaching – that is, coaching athletes to master sports techniques and skills and to achieve target performance levels in training but don’t spend enough time on coaching their athletes to race, to compete and to flourish in performances, i.e. how to win.

2.    Create Competition in Training. Look for opportunities in training to match athletes in simulated competitive situations. Teach them to embrace moments in training where they can learn competitive skills. Challenge them to ask more of themselves than they ever thought possible. But…and this is essential…coach them to learn from losing – in effect teach them how to lose. No one wins every time they race or compete or play. The critical concept then is not so much to avoid losing – it’s to give everything you’ve got trying to win – then if you don’t win – to learn quickly, learn effectively and move on.

3.    Coach Mental Re-direction. There’s a wonderful saying in coaching: “Losing is not the issue – everyone loses at some stage in their careers. It’s how you chose to react to losing that makes all the difference”.  When athletes perceive they’ve failed – coach them to think about, talk about and most importantly act differently. Many athletes will naturally take losing “internally” – i.e. they’ll become overly self-critical, blame themselves for the failure and may even commence a potentially harmful period of negativity and self-deprecation. Coach them to learn from losing. Coach them to focus on their performance – and coach them to focus on the aspects of their planning and preparation that make a direct impact on future performances. Give them the tools they need to re-direct their hatred of losing into a powerful catalyst for commitment, continuous improvement and effective change.

4.    Bring sporting parents along on the journey. A vital step for coaches to include in their coaching strategies to develop a Killer Instinct in their athletes is to inform and educate parents about the concept. It is important that parents see winning and losing in perspective and as part of the overall learning and development journey of their child. Messages and lessons taught by the coach in training need to be positively supported and actively re-inforced by parents so that the athlete’s overall learning environment is effective and consistent. For example, work with parents and educate them how to react to their child’s victories and failures equally. This is a difficult concept – but vitally important in the development of every competitive athlete. It is natural for sporting parents to overly praise their child for sporting successes while treating perceived failure either negatively or ignoring the poor performance altogether. Coach the parents of your athletes to see losing as just one part of their child’s lifelong learning, integral to the development of competitive skills and performance characteristics and that their reaction to losing has a significant bearing on the response of their children to failure. Help the parents to see losing for what it is – an opportunity to motivate and inspire positive behaviours and increased commitment and to be comfortable talking with their children about these positive aspects of competition when they lose.

5.    Be a “hard” coach. And this is possibly the toughest challenge for every coach. Think of the best coach you’ve ever seen, met or heard of in your sport. The All Blacks head coaches. The leading athletics coach in the country. The number one cycling coach in the nation. What are the most common adjectives used when people discuss their coaching qualities? Tough. Hard. Uncompromising. Totally committed. Being a coach of athletes with Killer Instincts means you need to develop one yourself. In short – you need to become a hard coach. So what does “hard” mean in terms of coaching – what is a “hard” coach? Does it mean yelling, screaming and pushing athletes to their physical limits through relentless hard work? No. A hard coach is one whose personal commitment to the success of their athletes – and themselves – by necessity means a reluctance to compromise on the highest possible standards in planning and preparation. A “hard” coach never needs to raise their voice – volume is never an indication of uncompromising commitment to coaching excellence. A “hard” coach is one who demonstrates a Killer Instinct through the refusal to accept anything but the best an athlete can do at any given time. A coach who is driven by a Killer Instinct will set the “bar” at a level which they know will increase the likelihood of performance success for their athletes and who will then refuse to lower that bar in the face of any conditions, situations or challenges. In short – becoming a coach who demonstrates a Killer Instinct in everything you do is the best way to coach and inspire the development of a Killer Instinct in your athletes.




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