By Sam Polak
Coaches wear no shortage of hats. Running training sessions, preparing game plans, managing individuals, managing a collective team, recruiting, talking to parents or fans, teaching, setting a good example as often as possible, scouting, and that’s just to name a few.
But while different coaches might prioritize tasks in different ways, there is one consistent aim that all coaches have near the top of their list: getting the most out of their players.
There are a number of tools that coaches use in this pursuit. And two of them were on display Friday at Convention. Psychology and Technology.
At 9:15 a.m., Christina Fink and Max Trenerry facilitated Competition and Player Well Being. The session, a part of the Director of Coaching track, focused primarily on creating the right mental space for players to function at their best.
How does a coach create this type of ideal environment? Granted I am not a pyschologist, but listening carefully, there were a couple takeaways I repackaged from Dr. Fink and Dr. Trenerry’s lecture that I believe we can likely all apply in our own coaching arenas.
- Be careful with labels
Labeling a player as ‘talented’ can put that individual in a position where they will make choices on the field based on wanting to retain that label. So it becomes harder and harder for that player to take a promising chance, because it means risking not looking talented any more.
One way around this is to focus on praising effort and choice. Dr. Trenerry shared suggested phrases like “all that time paid off” or “good decision to get ready tonight and get some sleep.”
- Be objective and teach objectivity.
Dr. Fink encourages players to assess any performance with three questions — What went well? What could have been better? What can you do to bring about those improvements?
Most importantly though, Dr. Fink has players ask themselves these questions independent of a win or loss. This way players get used to assessing a performance without subjective interference from the result.
At 1:30 pm, Creating a High-Performance Training Environment Supported by Technology, a part of the Technology track, featured a panel of speakers from several different technology solutions currently available in the market.
With the constantly evolving world we live in, it can understandably feel like there is more technology and more data than one coach can know what to do with let alone keep up with.
That’s why this session was so valuable though. It wasn’t only a collection of companies sharing their vision for the role of specific technologies in the game, it was also about how to evaluate whether a certain solution might be right for you or your club.
Some key questions, which stemmed from the session, to ask yourself accordingly are:
- Does the technology affect performance?
- From a goal-setting perspective?
- From a motivational perspective?
- From a feedback perspective?
- From a scheduling perspective?
- Does the technology add value?
- Is decision-making better or more informed?
- Are the team’s results better?
- Is the team performing better?
- Is the club attracting more attention, parents, players as a result?
The Intersection of both Psychology and Technology
At 11:15 a.m., I went to the Innovation Hub at the back of the Exhibit Hall where Yael Averbuch spoke about her company, Techne Futbol.
Techne Futbol is a fascinating idea for many reasons— one being that it sits right at the intersection of psychology and technology.
The app focuses on guiding individual development of on-ball skills, while also tracking that player’s progress.
The way Averbuch envisions the app beeing integrated into clubs’ cultures stems from a certain psychology. Rather then shaming players who don’t want to take the time to work on their individual skills outside of team training, Averbuch advocates for an approach focused on praising those who do. In this way, players will be encouraged to mimick their teammates’ behavior that warranted that praise.
Even more explicitly at this intersection, the technology also features a mental training aspect where the players can exercise their mind, improving their individual performance from that angle.
Psychology and technology might appear to be at odds— psychology, a “soft science”, and technology, a field grounded in hard math. But, as Friday showed us, they can easily work hand-in-hand as well as become more closely linked together when utilitzed by coaches.