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The Top 5 Ways to Empower Your Athletes and Drive a High Performance Culture

Em•pow•er (verb) to give or grant authority to achieve

The buzz around international sport for more than a half decade has surrounded the concept of High Performance. While there are varied interpretations of this term, common underlying concepts focus on several key aspects within a team environment, including: staff workflow operation, athlete-centered approaches, as well as team or organization “culture”.The perceived goal of creating a High Performance culture focuses on objective outcomes of a team or organization, such as wins, championships, trophies, records, and markers of success and progress.

Regardless of how the term is orientated, the sub-components of the team or organization are fixated on the athletes themselves. As the athletes are the portion of the team executing the performance objectives during competition, giving focus to optimize their functioning both inside and out of the competitive environment takes priority in most High Performance environments.The question presented is simple: How can teams create an environment that empowers athletes to achieve success within a High Performance setting?

Define the Path: Clearly Define Success Outcomes with Performance Goal Setting

Anyone can assert that their athletes and teams are top performers but at some point, the proof is in the pudding. Ask yourself: what does it look like for a team to be successful? What does it mean for an athlete to be successful? To get everyone on the same page success must clearly be defined and specific goals must be set for both the team and athlete. The tried and true method of SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely) Goal setting creates an objective, feedback-driven pathway towards accomplishment.

In a High Performance setting, the outcomes of team and individual success are the result of an established process of working towards goals and aims rather than that of navigating in the dark hoping on continuous luck. Adhering to a process and roadmap where success is clearly defined empowers athletes to understand their progress and using targeted monitoring efforts assessing health and performance outcomes are great tools to chart progress towards SMART Goals.

Set the Bar: Facilitate Optimal Challenges to Drive Performance Gains

A relentless pursuit of success can leave even the most dedicated athletes and teams hungry for fulfillment if progress is forever just out of their reach. For individual athletes and teams alike, goals and challenges must be set in reference to their actual capabilities. The concept of designing optimal challenges is closely related to the “Realistic” aspect of SMART Goals. It isn’t realistic to ask a brand-new runner to go out and complete a marathon on the second day of their training. Likewise, it is not optimal to take an elite runner or sprinter and give them the same training day after day, year after year, without progressing the amount or intensity of their training.

Optimal challenges- whether they are presented within a strength and conditioning training session, a practice period, or a tactical task on the field or court, should be difficult and there should be a risk of “failure”. The main point is that the task at hand should be within, or close to, a realistic reach of the athlete or team. When individuals or groups are optimally challenged, their motivation is maintained and in many cases is boosted to continue adherence to the task or process itself. Finding multiple outlets to motivate athletes empowers them to continue progress toward High Performance goals.

Elevate Stories of Success with Peer Affirmation and Support

Many athletes and coaches have either been in a team setting or know of an instance where no outcome was ever good enough to please a particular team member or coach. The mindset of never settling or constantly raising the bar is a trait often associated with success or achievement. There is likely at least a grain of truth in this mindset, however, athletes and staff alike need to be able to embrace the joy and feeling of achievement. This does not merit relentless celebration or the so-called “participation trophy” practice, but rather recognizing successes helps maintain the mindset within the group that the team or an athlete is on track to achieving larger goals.

While coaches or leadership voicing recognition is important, perhaps the most powerful way to elevate success, increase motivation, and empower athletes to continue their pursuits is via peer-to-peer support and recognition. This can be realized through words of affirmation or gratitude and encouragement. High Performing teams and athletes on the path to achieving their overall goals support and elevate each other.

Develop Independent Athletes with Targeted Coaching and Opportunities for Autonomy

The popular saying that “players win games” is an embodiment of the mindset that coaches must prepare the athletes for competition as best as they can with the understanding that the very preparation they provide may be the limiting factor. Knowing this means that preparing athletes to problem solve and perform independently will be a critical trait for in-game success.Athletes must be given autonomy in various aspects of their duties both on and off the field to help fortify the experience of making decisions to achieve outcomes that align with individual, group, and team goals.

Granting athletes autonomy also helps drive motivation and adherence, meaning that the athletes feel their actions are of their own will and are seen as productive and valuable to the group and task. Giving athletes choices with daily tasks such as warm up activities, recovery drink or meals, or paths within a drill can go a long way to helping achieve this. Autonomous athletes gain a sense of empowerment and believe they can make an impact that can help the team be successful in their endeavors.

Ingrain Performance Insights into the Daily Routine

When it comes to monitoring the health and performance of athletes, coaches and medical staffs can often act as the gatekeeper to all insights from these efforts. What this creates is an environment where athletes feel they are being kept out of a critical part of the process. The countless metrics and measurements produced from monitoring workloads, recovery, and performance can be difficult for an athlete to make sense of without context or explanation. A High Performance setting demands that the status of the athlete be well understood by the coaches and staff, however, it becomes most valuable when the athlete themselves possess a good understanding of their health and performance status as well.

Transparency becomes key when monitoring the health and performance status of an athlete, and offering immediate, objective insight into these aspects helps empower athletes by driving awareness in key areas. What helps make this a reality is to build in some of these efforts to the daily routine of the athlete when the information presented doesn’t feel to them as if they are going out of their way to be measured or assessed. Additionally, offering athletes immediate feedback in this process grants them the opportunity to take action in a timely manner.The feedback creates awareness to drive behavior change, and athletes modifying their own behaviors are empowered to unlock further progress towards their own, as well as the team’s goals.

Intake Health's InFlow Solution: Prioritizing Hydration and Performance

Empowering athletes to take action on their hydration status drives athlete-ownership of a key monitoring process while also helping staff optimize their own tasks and workflows. Players have the autonomy to get instant feedback on their hydration status and, along with clearly defined recovery and hydration goals, receive key feedback on taking action to fuel their bodies. High Performance culture demands that staff and athletes alike evolve their approach to player monitoring to drive taking action on insights. This is the center of a team's culture: the summation of the day to day actions taken by each player and staff member towards the organization's goals.

Want to learn more about how to enable continuous hydration monitoring without adding headaches for your staff or your athletes? Connect with one of our practitioners and learn how to evolve your team's approach to optimizing hydration and performance.



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