Hello and welcome back to Brain In the Game. Brain In the Game is a podcast. It's been specifically designed for athletes, coaches, and parents who are out there looking to do this sport. Just that little bit smarter. And I'm your host, Dave Diggle. In this episode, episode 84, we are gonna look at why modern day coaches need modern day coaching, and it's probably not what you think.
Now look, I'm old enough to remember what my coaches coached like during the seventies and eighties, and fortunately enough during that time, I traveled the world as a competitive athlete and I got to experience many, many different kind of coaching styles and strategies and philosophies, strategies from where I grew up in Great Britain through to the European, Eastern European, Russian, USA, Asian.
There was a whole different influence of coaches around at that time. We didn't have the internet, so it was a really immersive experience when we traveled to get a sense of how other people did what they did. Now, I've spoken to you before about my coach, Mitch Fenner, who was an incredibly successful coach of the time.
A lot of the national team was made up of Mitch's athletes, and as a junior and a senior team, we did incredibly well dominating during certain periods of that time. So Mitch had a very, very unique coaching style, and we can sit here and unpack just his style the whole podcast, but we're not going to.
I was also exposed to our national coach, which was John Atkinson, known as Acko to all of Us. Now, his style was incredibly different to Mitch's. Acko's style was very influenced by the Russian influence of the time around how coaches should coach and skills should be taught and athletes should behave. Now, Acko was incredibly scary. Um, a lovely, lovely guy now I look back at him, but the time he frightened the bajebes out of me as an athlete, he had that very dominant coaching style around in that time. You know, I was also exposed to other national and international coaches when we were traveling.
The likes of John Perry, Mike Winestock, Jeff Davis, Trevor Low, just to name a couple. And interestingly, every single one of those had a very, very different coaching ethos and depending on their, their background, their experience, their position and where they were in their coaching progression would dictate how they were coaching at the time.
And I'm su I'm sure that you know, those of them that were near the end of their coaching period were gonna coach that way up until the day that they stopped coaching. And then there's other ones that were at the start of their journey as a coach who were just learning how to coach. And so it's important for us as coaching staff today and as athletes to recognise that coaches are on a journey too.
When I look back at the seventies and eighties when I was competing and being influenced by all of these great coaches, there was definitely a philosophy, which was, I'm the coach. You are the athlete. I know exactly what you need to do. Your job is just to go out there and do as you're told. Don't ask questions.
Don't challenge. Just rock up and do what you're told. Now, I'm not sure if that was necessarily their thought process, but it was just, of the time. Back in the seventies and eighties, athletes didn't really have a say. We didn't really have an opportunity to challenge and, and ask questions and better understand, which was really challenging for me cause I was one of those really annoying athletes who wanted to ask questions.
Now, just because those coaches coached in that style of that time, I just wanna put a side, side note here and be really, really clear. I'm not judging them. As we didn't know what we didn't know, and I'm sure they were doing absolutely everything they thought was right for that time in a period of time of, of coaching.
And I'm not a big believer in retrospectively going back and hanging people for something that we just did not know. I'm sure in 20 years time, we'll look back at this time and go, what were they thinking? What were they doing? The reality is it's always progressing and moving and changing. Sometimes it progresses in the right way and sometimes it, you know what it doesn't and for whatever reason, it is just a period of time and the vast majority of coaches, I believe, in my experience, are out there trying to do the right thing they're trying to do with the information that they've got, and that's why we're having this conversation today.
Is because coaches often are just doing the best with the information that they've got. They focus heavily on teaching what they're taught to teach. And if they're not taught to teach you, it doesn't get taught. Now, I'm glad I've said that cause I don't wanna go back and have to say that again. That was quite challenging.
But what I do want us to be aware of is that, Although during the seventies and eighties, it was a very wild west kind of coaching ethos. It was only because that was all that was taught at that time. Like I said before, Mitch was a coach that I think, and actually I know, struggled with my constant asking of, why?
Why does this happen? Why does that need to do that? Why do we need to do that? What's the outcome gonna be? Now, I know as a mental performance specialist right now that what I was doing was looking for my, how. How do I use this skill? How do I own it? What Mitch would've seen was probably this very challenging, quite disruptive athlete who was just constantly just give me more information'.
I think, and I said this before, I think he handled that incredibly well. Other coaches that I was exposed to during that period of time didn't, because they didn't know me. You know, I'd rock up at a training camp or I'd rock up, we'd be on an international tour with coaches that had maybe had one or two days exposure to me.
And it wasn't just me. I don't wanna paint the picture that I was this big pain in the backside the whole time. Every athlete, if I look back now, that I traveled with, had their own idiosyncrasies and own needs as athletes that the coaching staff just were not across. So I wanna keep that in context. As I say, I wanna keep saying this and I'm gonna say it time, time again.
Today's coaching, however, a completely different beast from coaching of yesteryear, and that's because we are way, way, way, way more science driven today. There's a lot more cause and effect. There's a lot more focus on, what's the consequences of our actions. Back in those days, we weren't so aware of the consequences of our actions.
We were way more focused on how do we win. It's gotta be about the winning, gotta be about the result. And if you look at that period of time, in every aspect, it was, as I say, really wild West compared to this really science process, athlete driven environment we have today. So that's why we are gonna have this conversation.
Why I think coaches of today need better education. They need more specific education. So let's unpack this. So as I say today's coaching is way more science-based. It's more about wholistic, collaborative coaching rather than this machine or mill coaching philosophy of yesteryear. We understand today that in order to optimise an athlete's outcomes, we have layers and layers of the athlete we have to work through.
And in the seventies and eighties we just didn't have that data. We didn't have that process and you know, we weren't inside the heads of those athletes back in those days. The coaching fraternity of today have a way bigger task. They have a way bigger beast to deal with, particularly if we're looking at high performance, high expectations, and high financial consequence of getting it right.
As someone who's spent my whole life involved in sport, both initially as an athlete, then as a coach, then as an official, working as a judge and organiser, as a support specialist today in the mental performance of athletes, but also as a parent of three kids who have all been through different degrees of high performance sport.
I can see every single component, or at least I can see the consequences of each individual component from all different sides. And I wanna give you some context on today's different philosophies compared to where we are coming from. And I'll explain in a moment why I keep referencing back to the seventies and eighties.
My father-in-law used to love to work on his car. There wasn't anything he couldn't do to that old vehicle. From changing tyres, to changing oil, to changing the engine, he would often sit in his garage over the whole weekend tinkering and working on the car in order to try and get it ready for work on a Monday morning.
He used to tell me stories about all different things he had to like machine himself or create or adjust just to get that vehicle back on the road. But when vehicles started to get digitised and computers were doing the analysis and computers were involved in the idling of the engine or in the air conditioning, or in the way that the fuel gets dispersed, that's when he could no longer tinker with the car and he had to start taking that out to other people. Cars are different today. They're not as simplistic. They're not just an engine with four wheels in a steering wheel (and I know there's a lot more to it) of the old yesteryear. Cars today are high performing, high fidelity instruments.
Now, I've got a vehicle that we've had a couple of issues with it recently where the computer wasn't communicating with the engine and all of a sudden it would go into what's called limp mode. And you know, you've got this lovely big car that you're driving along, all of a sudden becomes a tortoise and it's crawling along the side of the road. And they say, Oh yeah, we've just gotta recalibrate the computer. Let's just do that. Thirty seconds later, you're back on the road and driving like normal. If I think about my father-in-law and the way that he approached his cars, he would've just pulled that car over, fixed something, changed a belt, used panty hose to do something, or you know, used something to fix a hole and that car would've been back on the road, and he would've been happy to have done that.
If we think about coaching, today's modern coaching, coaches of yesteryear were like my father-in-law. They patched athletes up to get 'em, to get the result, to get 'em to the next competition as he, my father-in-law got the car to the next day of work. It was that ethos of, yep, it's just a count back.
Keep moving forward, keep moving forward, keep moving forward, and the philosophies around that weren't necessarily wholistic or sustainable. It was just all about the next competition. Once you've done that competition, whatever bits were broken, we put back together and we put you back on the treadmill for the next competition.
Coaches of today are like the diagnostic engineers that work on today's modern vehicles. It's not just about does the car run, it's how efficient does the car run? At what isle speed is that? What fuel efficiency is it? Can it start in the cold? Does it still get the same outcome? Does it ...? All of these different, unique today, challenges come from a better, more science driven vehicle.
Coaching is exactly the same. If you look at today's modern athlete, there are so many parts to that puzzle. There are so many different components that coaches of yesteryear would never have understood, would've never been able to understand that at all. Now, my father-in-law would often joke with me because if our car broke down, I'd look at it and I'd go, got no idea.
I have zero knowledge around mechanical engines of today. My son's a mechanic, and he gets it. So, my father-in-law, his granddad, and him, would have these conversations about what they do with vehicles and how they patch things and take things from different cars and put in other cars.
But both of them would acknowledge, cars of today are a different beast. The same way that athletes of today are a completely different beast. To use a different analogy, think of those of you who grew up in the seventies and eighties like I did the game Pong. You know, the two little lines that went up and down the screen and there was a little dot beep, beep beep back and forth on the, on the TV screen, and that was revolutionary, let alone Pacman and all those other things that started to come out.
Compare that of yesteryear to the virtual reality, fully immersive gaming world of today and they're chalk and cheese. And that's like comparing athletes of yesteryear to athletes of today, chalk and cheese. Yes, they've got predominantly the same components that go on, you know, hopefully they've all got a head and all the limbs and all of the parts.
But the reality is the operating system is incredibly different, and I think that's just part of evolution. So the question that we need to establish here is, are coaching staff fit for purpose today? How does the coach better understand that athlete? I gave a lecture recently and I asked the coaching fraternity that was sitting in front of me, were you an athlete before you became a coach?
And, were you a child before you became an adult? Now there's always one or two who put their hand back down when I asked if they were a child before an adult, I don't know why, but there was a couple of people who made that mistake. Maybe I didn't articulate, or maybe they just didn't listen.
But everyone agreed that the vast majority of today's coaches were athletes previously. And the vast majority of adults were children at some point. And when we look at that, we gotta say, okay, where did we learn to become an adult? And where did we learn to become a coach? And we know through studies that the vast majority of people, whether they like it or not, parent the way that they were parented. Or they become real mavericks and completely parent the opposite way. So if you grew up in a very strict environment, you become very loosey-goosey as a kind of parent. Or if you grew up in a non-structured environment, then you become a little bit more structured. Because what you're doing, it's called the pendulum effect.
You try and react to your exposure and alter it by swinging to the other side of the scale. We do that, as parents, we do that in a way that we think we are correcting the mistakes of the past. So we do that as coaches too. So we either coach the way we were coached for the vast majority, or we swing the pendulum completely in the other direction.
Now, if you look at coaching and where we are and the success we had as athletes, something obviously worked right. For whatever the strategies were for whatever the wild West mindset was of that time. There was clearly certain things that worked because we became successful athletes who then became coaching staff, and we don't want, to use the old English expression here, throw the baby out the bathroom water and say, right, everything was wrong, so I'm gonna have to do it a hundred percent different.
We just don't do that. But is it fit for purpose? Are there things that we need to be able to do differently today for the different athletes? Of course. And if we coach predominantly the way we were coached for a completely different era, even if it was 10 years ago, let alone the 30 plus years ago that it was for me, if not more, 40 years ago, it was, was for me, how old am I?
Then you start to understand that the speed that, when we look at the gaming analogy going from Pong through to Pacman and Asteroids, and that happened in that time, it felt so quick. But it took years. If you look at the development of gaming today, literally every week there's this new innovation, the whole AI world, and all of those kind of things are moving so, so quickly, and athletes are exactly the same.
If you look at the way that you are coaching today, even if you gave away at your competition yourself five or 10 years ago. The athlete of today has innovated and changed compared to when you were competing. So your ability to communicate, your ability to coach... now I'm not talking about technical, I'm not talking about the skills.
I'm not talking about the the way that the sport or the game is executed. I'm talking about what you are working with, the person, the human. They are different. They may physiologically look the same, but psychologically they are incredibly different. So for us, mental performance coaching, they're operating system inside the new version of athlete.
Understanding that component in today's modern athlete is critical. And if we want to maximise and optimise the potential of that individual and that team, then we best know how to utilise that. So if you're an old mechanic and you get dropped into a modern workshop, you will struggle. Vehicles still have four wheels, still have a steering wheel.
But what makes them work? What keeps them on the road? What optimises their outcome? You won't have a clue. So you've gotta keep up with that. You've gotta understand the new world. You've gotta understand the new components that you are working with.
And because of this, they need to understand how to optimise, not the physicality, not the technical, but the psychological. So there's a number of athletes the are utilising the psychology, mental performance of them for themselves because they know they need to know how to create motivation, how to optimise, how to problem solve, how to communicate, how to prepare, perform, assess, rinse, and repeat.
How to recover. Not talking physically, but I'm talking mentally and emotionally, how to perform under pressure, how to deal with mistakes and successes. How to build confidence and consistency and how to build a performance DNA. So if athletes recognise this whole new chapter in how they perform as a critical part of their preparation and their performance as a coach, how aware are you of all of those things, and how do you optimise that?
How do you, is there a generic one size fits all? Do you cookie cutter your environment to create that in your athletes, or do you need to understand each individual athlete? Is each individual athlete's motivation the same or different? Is the way that you optimise how they turn up and perform exactly the same or are they different?
Do they problem solve and solution orientate in the same way? Do they communicate and respond in the same way? Do they prepare, perform, and assess in the same way? Of course, none of these are one size fits all. It's not like back in the old mechanics days where you could go down the local high west or pick a park, a fuel pump, or whatever it is and fit it, and it's gonna fit almost all cars today.
I ride a Ducati motorbike, and there was a a part on my Ducati that sheered off. So I went to a general place to try and get this part that sheered off and it had a such a unique head on this that they only came from Italy. So I had to wait for weeks because it was a specialised component part.
Could they have done it another way? Probably. Did they? No, because in their mind, in order for that bike to perform at that level, it needed this unique component built in this unique way. And that's exactly what we're looking at with today's unique environment for athletes. And as much as a coach, you want to believe that the psychology of your athletes is nowhere near as important as the skills and the physicality and your coaching is not, it is incredibly important. The physicality and the techniques. The techniques have changed, the physicality requirements have changed, and all of those that hold those in one place is the psychology. It's a glue that holds that whole working mechanism together. So as a coach, you have to either believe that the psychology isn't important, and if that's the case, please say hello to the 1980s for me.
Or you need to either engage an expert who does get it. Who, like the athletes that are hiring people like me at a rate of knots. There's a young Australian F1 driver who just reached out to a football player's mentor performance coach, saying that, there's nothing in our world that is gonna get me to where I need to get to.
I know this is important. So if you're looking at this next generation of racing car driver coming through now I've worked in Motorsport for several years and when I first stepped into that world, people looked at me like I was a voodoo doll. I was coming along trying to go, well, I'm gonna get inside your head.
Don't come near me. But now it's accepted. Almost every driver is looking for someone to help to maximise how they do what they do, along with all the other sports. So if the athletes are seeing this, if the athletes are engaging this, where does that leave you as a coach? Does that leave you with a whole table free of space so you can kind of go right.
I can focus on the skills and the physical development and a team dynamic. Or does it leave you in a position where you're looking at and going, I have no idea what they're talking about. I am now no longer aware of how to optimise the athlete because what they're doing is taking themselves to a whole new stratosphere that I've just not circled in.
Like we used in the analogy, taken a mechanic of 50 years ago and dropping them in today's workshop, and I see way, way too many coaches who have the greatest of intentions, who have the greatest of knowledge in their specific sports, losing athletes, purely and simply because they don't get them and they don't prioritise or create an environment that respects that athletes need.
To switch on the psychology, to switch on the operating system, to optimise the outcome, to look for how do I do what I do? What's my performance DNA? How do I communicate, how do I optimise, how do I recover? How do I go from one competition to the next competition when I need 12 hours or 14 hours in between. You know what we call that?
Bounce in, bounce out. How do I create an environment where if I've not performed well, I turn that around? How do I create an environment if I'm not performing well, I can turn that around in the game. If you as a coach don't know how to answer those questions, then this is why the modern day coach needs a modern day coach.
You do need to understand what you are working with is a different beast to when you were competing. It's a different beast to five years ago, and it will be a different beast in five years time. So if you are looking for longevity in your sport to make a name for yourself to be around for generations of athletes, then you really do need to be better educated on how we do what we do today compared to how we did it yesterday, and that's something that both athletes and coaches really do need to better understand. Some, as I say, some athletes are embracing it, and my phone's never rung as hot as it rings now, and that's predominantly either a parent or an athlete reaching out and saying, I've hit this wall, I don't know how to get past this. I need help. Often the biggest resistance is coaches, and that's not because they want see their athletes struggle, because they don't. They want to see their athletes thrive, but there's this potential resistance to, but I should know that when I was competing, it was different to that.
Absolutely, if I was coaching today the way that I was coached, and as I said, all of those coaches I talked about before from Fenner through to Acko through John Perry, Jeff Davis, Trevor Lowe, Mike Winestock, all of those coaches were phenomenal coaches, but if they stayed in that time warp of that yesteryear, they would never, ever have the influence today that they had back then.
Those of them that are still coaching, and unfortunately Mitch has passed away. You know, those of them who are still around have probably recognised how they did what they did back then, was for then. If they were coaching today, the strategy, the psychology, the application is very, very different. So this is why modern coaches need modern coaching. And if you want to learn more about this, then it's not a one size fits all.
It's a strategy that you need to understand the athlete before you can understand how efficient and effective you can be. And we, we've got some training programs that we use. The Main Arena Coach is a membership where coaches from all different walks of life and sports come together and we walk through these strategies of how do you communicate if you've got this issue.
If you've got an athlete who's not responding to you, then how do you get inside their head? Or how do you get them to integrate back into your organisation, your team, your coaching philosophies. If you've got an athlete who capitulates under pressure, who chokes. Then how do you deal with the athlete in gymnastics or in acro based sports, in particular where there's a higher propensity of athletes who get mental blocks. And you know, we can go into the whole unpacking of why that is, but that's for another podcast. But then teaching coaches how to help the athlete correct that, is a critical strategy because that mental block, because it's a fear-based mechanism, becomes insidious and it starts to leach into the rest of the group and before along you've not got one athlete who's got a mental block, you've got several of that team who have mental blocks.
So that can be incredibly frustrating as a coach and absolutely correctable from day one. If you are aware of how, if you see the early signs and what you can do to, to stop that. So better understanding your athlete is critical to optimise and recognise that today's modern athletes need a modern approach.
So check out smartmind.com/coach and get yourself on The Main Arena Coach program. We meet once a week for an hour and a half, and it's a environment specifically designed to optimise coaches. It's an environment where we look at modern day coaching and I'm going to be honest with you, I don't care if you're a football coach, a rugby coach, a golf coach, or a cricket coach, or a ice skating coach, or a gym coach.
How you do what you do is a strategy, is a process. It's an education. What you choose to do and what sport you choose to do is entire up to you. But you do need to learn how to do what you do way more efficiently, effectively. Otherwise, the consequence of that is you are stunting your athlete's progression and one of two things is going to happen.
You're going to end up in an underperforming environment or an empty environment. It's just a reality of today's modern coaching world.
So I hope today's podcast has been some fodder for you to, to really analyse the efficiency and effectiveness of what you do and to recognise that as a coaching fraternity, and I put myself in that same category, we cannot just sit there and expect it to maintain the same. It's all about the skills or the physicality. The psychology of today's modern athlete is just as if not more important than their physicality or their skillset. If you've got the driver, the mindset right, we can teach them the physicality, we can teach them the skillset.
If we don't have that psychology right, that operating system, the driver of the vehicle, doesn't matter what skills they've got or how physically capable they are, they will make more and more mistakes. And that's our job as coaches, right? That's our job to correct that and keep that and grow that. So, I hope you've got a lot from this.
I've gone over the last couple of podcasts. I've wanted to go really, really deep on what coaches can do to better improve their environment. And we're getting a lot of really, really positive feedback. I'm being contacted more frequently by coaches and saying, look, you're making me challenge how I do what I do, and it's uncomfortable, but I see it.
So I challenge you. Now, if you are listening to this and you're a coach, ask yourself the question, how well do I understand what I'm working with? And if it's not as equal to the skills that you have in your industry, your knowledge of your sport, then you're leaving yourself exposed.
Until the next episode of Brain in the Game. Train Smart and enjoy the ride. My name's Dave Diggle. And I look forward to seeing you on the next episode.