Athlete Engagement is a critical concept for all sports coaches to understand. “Engagement” is a borrowed term from the business world. There, it is a measurement of the degree to which an employee’s heart and mind is committed to their role, leader and company. It is so important in business because engagement has a direct and significant link to profitability. Research shows engaged individuals deliver an additional 30% in discretionary effort compared to disengaged individuals. Given business and sport both strive for optimum performance and similar team structures exist in both fields, we believe the concept of engagement is just as important for the sporting world as it is to the business world. In sport, forget about 30% extra effort from your engaged athletes and consider what difference just 1% would make to your athlete’s or team’s performance. I know the value of 1%, I have lost Gold Medals by less than 0.5%.
Anecdotally, every coach knows that committed, self-motivated and enthusiastic athletes generally train smarter, harder and more consistently than those athletes who lack these qualities. The performances and results from those athletes who have these qualities are consistently better. Engaged athletes, the ones whose hearts and minds are committed to their sport, their coach and their team, give their best in training and competition and absolutely achieve better results. College athlete influencers
Did you know creating engaged athletes is a coach’s primary responsibility? Coaches achieve higher levels of engagement by creating an environment and culture where athletes are rewarded, recognized and valued for being self-motivated, committed and enthusiastic. The behaviors we want are athletes taking personal responsibility for their performances and seeking ways to improve on their own initiative. As coaches, we don’t want to be constantly pushing them, telling them the same instructions time and again, or having to manage their life outside of sport.
In the business world, research shows that 70% of engagement is linked to the atmosphere that the team leader creates. This atmosphere is created through their ability to be flexible with their leadership style. Having flexibility includes treating their people as individuals (valuing their differences) and engaging the type of leadership style that is required given the individuals involved, the varying circumstances and situation.
In sport, this is exactly the same. Coaches are to learn how to develop flexibility with their coaching style if they are to appeal to their athletes’ individual needs. We call this, Athlete Centered Coaching. When the coaching (or leadership) style is incorrect for the given individual and situation, then disengagement eventually occurs. Remember a time when a coach you had, did not treat you in a way that you required? For example, consider a highly experienced athlete with their own ideas and techniques being simply directed by their coach what, when and where to do things (instead of their coach working with them and their ideas). How do you imagine this would make the athlete feel? Have you ever seen an athlete leave a coach because they would not listen to their suggestions and ideas? Plenty of athletes have, and in my time as an elite athlete who has won three Olympic Medals, I have changed coaches and seen others do the same.