Feb 23, 2018
Push Forward, Part 3
Ron McKeefery

Part 1 of this article can be found here.

Part 2 of this article can be found here.

Through directing and motivating athletes, you can start to connect with them and make positive behavior changes. Then, you must shape the path to further reinforce these habits.

This starts by surrounding your athletes with the right people. I have had basic weightrooms that were 2,000 square feet and others that were 25,000 square feet with all the bells and whistles, but the success of my program always came down to the people involved. Everyone within the organization must be on the same page and maintain the same level of accountability to the mission.

You can first ensure this during the hiring process. I used to want to surround myself with coaches who were just like me because I thought I was a pretty good coach. But not all athletes responded to me, and I really needed the right balance of personalities on my staff. Assess your strengths and weaknesses, and hire for your weaknesses. I use the Gary Smalley personality test when hiring to ensure my staff includes different types of people, but you can use the Myers-Briggs test or any of the numerous other options available.

Competition is another great way to shape the path. I always run a contest for my football teams during the winter offseason. Players draft teams and compete daily and weekly. Points are awarded to each athlete based on his workouts, program goals, daily results, and weekly awards, and points are deducted for lack of effort, accountability issues, or an inability to follow program goals. The coaches hold the athletes accountable, but because players get so invested in the competition, they learn to hold their teammates accountable, too. This helps reinforce the positive behaviors we are trying to instill.

As for the awards, they don’t have to be anything extravagant. You’d be amazed at the power of a T-shirt. Other prizes can include seat placement on planes or buses or eating order at team meals.

By directing and motivating athletes and shaping their path, we can better connect with and engage them. Doing this provides safety rails for them to stay within, and by gradually widening the rails, we can reinforce positive habits. Conscious deliberation is necessary to capture the attention of today’s athletes. It may take days, months, or even years, but with consistency, you can get there.

Ron McKeefery, MA, CSCS*D, MSCC, is Vice President of Performance and Education for PLAE. Previously, he served as a strength and conditioning coach at the professional and collegiate levels, most recently as the Director of Strength and Conditioning at Eastern Michigan University. Named the 2008 Under Armour Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year and 2016 NSCA Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year, he is the founder of the popular Iron Game Chalk Talk podcast and the author of CEO Strength Coach.

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