Bo Hanson, 4x Olympian and Coaching Consultant. 

Coaching to Change Athlete Technique Transcript

Welcome to this week’s video series. One of the most critical roles that any coach has is creating change in their athletes. That is, understanding how change is created and understanding how your athletes actually manage that change. There is a model that I always come back to and it’s quite a simple model. The purpose of this video today is to actually explain and articulate what the steps in the process are in this model. So we call this model the ‘D x V x P’ Model. Ultimately, what we’re describing here is three mechanisms – three key points we have to hit on to create change in our athletes whether that change relates to the athletes’ technique or any other behavioral change that you might have in mind for that player.

So if I explain these three elements, essentially the D stands for Dissatisfaction. What’s well accepted across any type of counselling or psychology is the fact that for people to change they must firstly be dissatisfied with the current status quo. What that means for us as student-athletes is that our current level of performance, if we think about our performance and we say, “Well we’re really happy with where we’re at right now.” The chances of change are pretty minimal because when people are satisfied they try not to change things to improve. The other key issue here is when someone is satisfied it can often have something to do with the fact that everyone has what we call a personal performance thermostat. Now that thermostat is the same as the thermostat that keeps your air conditioning at a certain temperature. When an athlete sets their thermostat at whatever level it may be, the level of satisfaction is purely reliant on where that thermostat setting is. You’ll find that there are some athletes that set their thermostat level at the highest point and others set it at a much lower level. Those that set it at the highest level are often dissatisfied with anything less than their absolute best performance. If it’s off by half of a percent, they’re dissatisfied and they want to do something about it.

So a critical role for us as coaches is to firstly establish well what is your athlete’s thermostat setting? Whether that’s behaviourally or performance-wise it’s the same concept. For those, our challenge is always to slightly increase their personal thermostat setting so that they can aspire to a higher standard of performance or behavior. What we’re referring to here is that to create change someone must be dissatisfied. Sometimes our role as a coach is to magnify that level of dissatisfaction. We can actually rate this out of ten. Often it’s useful to say to one of your athlete’s, “Given your performance at this point, what would you rate it (your dissatisfaction) out of ten?” Is a seven out of ten going to be enough level of dissatisfaction for them to do something different? Because we all know that doing something different is uncomfortable. Often people move away from doing things that are uncomfortable or things that are perceived to be painful or frustrating. So a seven out of ten may not do it. So our role is to magnify that level of discomfort to an eight or a nine.

Once we’ve established a level of discomfort or dissatisfaction, the next purpose is to increase their level of vision. What we’re saying here is that for someone to change they must be dissatisfied, but that’s not enough. There are a lot of people that are dissatisfied with how their life is but they don’t change because they don’t have a vision for how their life could be. It’s the same as a student-athlete; they may not have a vision for themselves as to how great their performance could be. So when we’re talking about vision, we’re talking about clearly articulating exactly how that athlete could be in the future. It could be a week away, it could be two weeks away or it could be by the end of the season. Our role as a coach is to paint a really clear picture and to paint that picture to the point where the athletes can absolutely see themselves performing at a high level.

I relate back to my own experiences as a young athlete when I was in high school – I lost basically every race that I went in. A coach came up to me after my last race at school and he said that he had a vision for me. He said, “Bo, I can see you potentially being anything you want to be in the sport of rowing. I can see you participating and being part of the Australian Olympic team. You could be one of the best rowers that Australia has ever seen.” I didn’t believe it myself at that time but he painted the initial brushstrokes of a vision for myself. Because I trusted him and he was a credible person I started to see more clearly that vision and I started taking steps towards it. I was already dissatisfied having lost every race and so you want to experience a bit of success.

The next step after we’ve articulated and painted a clearer vision is that we have to have a process for getting there. There are people that are dissatisfied, they can even see how good it could be but they often say, “I got no idea how to get there.” So our role as a coach is to articulate a clear process and the process starts with the first steps. Unless it’s something you can say to your athlete, “Right, the first thing you need to do is this…” If it’s two weeks away or a month away that they have to take action, the more immediate the action is the more clear those first steps can be articulated and put into action, literally as soon as you have the conversation.

The key thing with this model is that each of these elements that we’ve described so far – the dissatisfaction, the vision and the process – they are all multiplied by each other and I’ll come back to as to why that’s the case. But these three elements have to multiply together to be greater than what we call the ‘Rc’ or the Resistance to Change. For whatever reason, a lot of people have a resistance to change. Some people have such a high level of resisting change it’s like moving an immovable object. It requires an enormous amount of force. It requires an enormous amount of spelling out that dissatisfaction, painting a clear vision for the future, giving them a quality process in order to get them to shift and once that momentum has started, once that initial inertia has been overcome, they start shifting in the direction they want them to go. But that initial push can often be a lot. For others, it’s not much at all. A lot of it does depend on where that thermostat setting is.

So we come back to why they’re multiplied and not just plus. It goes back to some of the things I was talking about before. People can be dissatisfied; you can even be ten out of ten dissatisfied with you current level of performance, yet if you don’t have a clear vision for the future (it’s a zero out of ten) – anything multiplied by zero is going to be zero. You can even have a process but if you don’t believe in that process then no change is going to occur. You may have a very clear vision, you may even be dissatisfied, but once again if the steps involved in creating that change are not clear, if they don’t seem like they’re possible to do or you don’t have the resources or the time or the energy or the commitment to it, then no change will take place.

So when we look at this equation, you need to think about what’s the level of dissatisfaction out of ten? We multiply that by the clarity of our vision and then we multiply that by the clarity of our plan and our process. If there is at least seven or eight out of ten in each of those elements, we stand a really good chance of being able to overcome whatever inertia it is in order to push that athlete in whatever direction they want to go.

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