No matter the sport the term uncoachable athlete will arise, meaning that no matter the coach, the approach or techniques used to help a player, they simply can not and will not change their ways. While some players are definitely easier to coach than others, there really is no such thing as an uncoachable athlete. It is the coaches job to be able to communicate effectively and get their players to buy into systems, and a great coach can adapt regardless of the team or player they are coaching.
One of the many ways a sport psychologist can help is through working with both the players and coaching staff to help with the communication and seeing each others point of view. One of the biggest reasons there is a break down in what the coaches are saying and what the players take in is that coaches and players have very different communication styles, and if a coach tries to communicate in the way it would work for them they will lose the athlete. Coaches are much more analytical in nature, where as players are more action oriented, and therefore it is necessary to line up the communication with what works for the person. However, you get to the player doesn’t matter, what matters is finding a way to reach them. In an article in the Globe and Mail Ken Hitchcock a long time coach in the NHL makes a great point about the myth of the uncoachable athlete.
“Whether it’s through an assistant coach, a leader, a captain, another player, or whether it’s conversations about everything but playing hockey, experience tells you that if you never stop using all your resources and if you never stop trying, you always end up striking gold. You always find somebody or some mechanism to help get that player to reach his potential. Just finding the proper dialogue that hits home – that’s your job. The guys that are good at it find a way and make it work.”
Hitchcock goes on to also point out, that one of the main problems with coaching athletes today is that a lot of the time the focus is on what they can’t do rather than focusing on their strengths. This is something I talk to my clients about frequently. Much of today’s focus regardless of if it is sports related or not, is on strengthening the weaknesses of a person, rather than focusing on their strengths and making them really really good at it, which will build confidence and can at the same time help with the weaknesses. Just take the game of football, it has become a specialists sport. You have guys who only do one thing and one thing only. They don’t try and take a player who is bad at one things and force them to get better at it, they have third down specialists for a reason, they know the strengths of the players, and if you have players with different strengths that work well together you get a good well rounded team.