Coaching Runners with Different Personalities

This article was provided by Coaches Network

There is no question that coaches have to deal with a multitude of different athletes throughout their career. And they have also probably noticed that not all of these athletes respond to the same type of feedback or practice style. It’s important to get to know each athlete, so that coaches can meet the needs of each personality in a motivational way.

In a blog for Training Peaks, certified triathlon coach Bethany Rutledge describes four different athlete personalities and processes to help coaches meet individual needs.

The Number Cruncher

When working with these athletes, don’t automatically assume that everything you say is understood. Chances are if you are vague in instruction, they will come back to ask for clarification. You should try to be as specific as possible, even when describing how athletes should treat a workout.

“For example, perhaps you want them to run by feel and take it easy if they’re feeling a bit worn out or run up to a moderate effort if they’re feeling good. You can turn that into numbers by saying, “If you’re feeling 80 percent recovered, run up to Heart Rate Zone 3, if you’re feeling less than 80 percent recovered, keep the effort Zone 1 and 2 only” says Rutledge.

Quantitative instructions and feedback are also more useful to these athletes. Be more specific than simply saying “Good Job” or “Nice effort.” Instead, tell them exactly what it is that they did right and how they have improved.

A number cruncher may be more likely than other athletes to be distracted and preoccupied by small details. This can cause an issue when you do not want them to be as worried about numbers, like on an easy day. Giving them a specific range can help to keep their effort at an appropriate level.

The Type A Max

This type of personality is common among high achieving athletes. While they may be successful, determined, and committed, these athletes do need to learn that they cannot set a new record every single day. Similar to the number cruncher, this athlete can get distracted by numbers and details, and miss the qualitative signs of success. You will need to reassure him or her that doing any kind of work towards improving is a victory.

“In order to move past their hyper-competitive mentality, you may want to advise them to do some solo training or stay off of athletic social media. If they train in groups, you may want to suggest they [work] with the C group instead of the A group,” says Rutledge.

The Perfect Student

These athletes will do their best to follow every step of your instructions. They want to do everything perfectly, and respond well to positive feedback. In general, this type of athlete does not need to be reminded or pushed. Instead, they may need you to warn them when they need to relax.

According to Rutledge, “They need to be encouraged to let you know if they are tired, something is hurting, or if they are feeling impending illness and not wait until the issue becomes full blown.” The best way to help these athletes is to make sure that you are always involved in conversations surrounding their life and health. In reality, doing this with all of your athletes is an important way of keeping up with their daily lives.

The Type B

You may find that this type of athlete is lacking in engagement. They are not entirely concerned about training and they tend to not care much for feedback. For most athletes, this attitude is not based on maliciousness. Instead, they probably have good intentions, but are busy with other aspects of their life. As a coach, you need to have an open and honest conversation with this athlete to find out what is keeping their engagement at bay and what you can do to help.

The Ideal Coached Athlete

Any of these types can fall into the ideal athlete category. However, some other traits that the ideal athlete may have are intrinsic motivation, patience, and a desire to improve. These athletes know that they cannot always be the best. Instead, they are happy with progress while understanding that there is always room for improvement.

While it may seem impossible at times, it is important as a coach to try to engage each of these personality types. By getting to know each athlete both inside and outside of the sport, a coach can make sure that they are doing all they can to reach every individual on the team.

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