This article appeared in the Athletics Weekly May 24, 2012 printed edition, reprinted with permission. For more coaching advice, visit http://www.athleticsweekly.com
By Barry Cook. Part 1 of a 6 part series.
Each person has a unique “Signature” that defines them, be it the coach or the athlete.
These differences come about through all the various influences in life that impact on us. It could be from parents, friends, teachers or the person we have a five minute conversation with at bus stop. In fact, these influences come from everyone that we have ever come into contact with and will affect how we think and behave to a smaller or greater degree.
No one person can have exactly same life influences and experiences as someone else and therefore we must all the different. Each person combines a vast array of styles, behaviours, feelings and values that is unique to them. Would it be beneficial as coaches to have a model that you can use to help you improve your understanding of yourself and also your athelte’s unique behaviour? Could this help enabling you to enhance the performance of your athletes?
We can interpret how we acquire process, learn and translate information which can greatly help the coach in deciding when and how we pass information to the athlete. Physiological type profiling has long been used by companies to help improve individual and team performance within their organisations. There is a place though for this type of profiling that could assist the coaching of athletic performance in sport improving the understanding and relationship that coaches have with an athlete.
It can in the first instance provide important information into your own behaviours as a coach and make you more self aware of the impact that these behaviours have on your athletes. It is important for coaches not to ignore their own development on the road to excellence. Coaches spend many hours helping athletes improve in the hope that they can maximize their performance, but it is important to spend the same time and effort in improving and understanding their own performance as they strive towards mastery.
If coaches can understand themselves better than their own effectiveness can be enhanced in how they communicate and conduct their interpersonal relationships. If the quality of the relationship between coach and athlete is improved as well as an understanding of each other’s behavioural actions, then both can develop and the coach is able to communicate much better with the athlete to maximize their performance.
The coach’s role is to improve performance. The expectation is that this may mean providing technical advice and training schedules to their athlete’s. But are coaches just providers of the technical elements of their sport or do they developed athletes as people?
Developing athletes involves much more than knowledge of an event and includes a better understanding about how and why different athletes have dissimilar approaches to things such as motivation to training and competition. So what knowledge can coaches gain that will help them to address this aspect of coaching? There are numerous models and it’s a matter of finding one that suits the coaches personality.
Type Dynamic Indicator (TDI)
The TDI model draws on one of the most popular types of psychological profiling models, the MBTI (Myers Briggs type indicator) which you may have previously experienced in your workplace but have never considered it values to you as a coach. It can help you understand yourself and others better, build better relationships and improve the capacity to communicate and learn more effectively. TDI uses MBTI terminology and is based on Carl Jung’s theory of psychological types using the concept of opposites.
Consider how you prefer to:
- Focus your energy: Do you gain understanding by internally focusing your thoughts and coming to your own conclusion or do you gain understanding from discussing and interacting with others? People who focus internally are said to have an ‘Introverted’ (I) preference. People who focus externally are said to have an ‘Extroverted’ (E) preference. We must not confuse this with the normal interpretation of people being introvert or extrovert. This is to configure how you gain understanding.
- Taken a process information: Do you see the world in detail or do you see broad patterns and pictures? For example, people who focus on detail would see a collection of individual trees and would be said to have a ‘Sensing’ (S) preference. People who see a forest would be said to have an ‘iNtuitive’ (N) preference.
- Use that performance to make decisions: Do you use logic to decide and justify your decisions or are your decisions based on your underlying values and beliefs? People who use logic would be said to have a ‘Thinking’ (T) preference. People who use emotion and values are said to have a ‘Feeling ‘(F) preference.
- Manage the world around you: Do you tend to plan and organise or do you take things as they come? Planners are said to have a ‘Judging’ (J) preference. Those that tend to take things as they come are said to have a ‘Perceiving’ (P) a preference.
These preferences are based on opposites:
- introvert – extrovert
- sensing – intuition
- thinking – feeling
- judging – perceiving
None of these are right or wrong ways of behaving and managing information. They are just different. The purpose of TDI is to help identify our preferences of type. How we behave with each preference will depend on the context, so it may be different whether it is at home, work or as a coach and Jung defined that we cannot express each opposite at the same time, although everyone has the ability to express both depending on the situation.
So we will not behave in an ‘introverted’ or an ‘extroverted’ way at the same time. It may also be that the coach or the athlete doesn’t have a strong preference in any of these areas as each pair is a continuum and there may only be a slight bias in any of them
In reality you may use each of the opposites at any time, but one of which will normally be stronger and more developed than the other and this may be because of learned behaviour from previous experiences in life. For examples, those who drive and are right handed will have no problem changing gear with their left hand.
Answering a questionnaire will give us one of 16 types by combining those areas of preference – we may be an ‘INTP’ or an ‘ESFJ’, which describes the aforementioned areas. This will also give us a set of typical behaviours of that type. Each pair of the preferences can be used to help decide how you best communicate and interrelate with an athlete by simply observing your own and your athletes behaviour. By observing and analysing your athlete behaves (coaches do this all the time), you can access what your preferences that athlete may have and how strong that reference is.
To consider your own behaviour:
- Do you interact better with groups (E) or are you better at dealing with individuals (I)?
- Are you a detailed coach (S) or are you a big picture coach (N)?
- Are you more of a technical coach (T) or are you more of a ‘ How does that feel’ coach(F)?
- Do you plan (J) or do you see what happens and adapt (P)?
These preferences will mean that you will differ in how you analyse and output the information you have gathered to the athlete. The danger is that we do this based on our preferences, but sometimes it is more beneficial to do it based on the athlete’s preferences
For example do they train better with groups and enjoy banter and discussion (E) or do they train better and prefer discussing things individually and then work on the solutions themselves (I)? Do they prefer detailed instructions and explanation (S) or how it all fits in with the big picture (N) as well as a preferences for receiving technical information on their performance (T) or do they base their information on ‘How does it feel (F)’? Do they prefer having a plan (J) or do they prefer to see what happens and adapt (P)?
The benefit of this knowledge as a coach is that you can adapt and flex according to what and when the athlete require it. This means that information you covey will have more impact on the athlete because you can tailor it to their preference, which will help to build a better caoach athlete relationship. It can be draining mentally and physically for an athlete with an introverted preference to take part in a very interactive group session with a lot of banter taking place.
Consider how much more impact the information that you impart, the decisions you make and how you communicate will have if we can interpret and feedback the information in the way that the athlete best receives it. Just as important is that these preferences can affect how we behave under stress, and at a competition the coach can, by understanding the preferences of their athlete(s) alleviate the stress that they are experiencing.
Research has shown that during times of stress, those behaviours could be the complete reverse of what you have observed as normal with an athlete. That knowledge can help you to understand how to deal with the issues in their life at competition times when they are under abnormal stress (exam time, growth spurts or during a period of personal emotional stress). The ability to flex our style to suit each athlete means that we can maximize each session by varying our delivery style and how we direct the athlete.
There is a place for profiling and as a coach it can help you immensely.