The Athlete’s Voice

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Sydney Williams February 21, 2021 Founders Corner

Appreciating The Athlete’s Voice

Picture yourself at the practice field, coaching. You’re leading an intensive cardio workout. Athletes sprint back and forth; quick bursts followed by longer ones. Faces show pain, determination, even fear. Others (most) are impassive. Some athletes shout, grunt, or urge each other on. After practice you catch a few people and ask how it went. You might single out someone who had a particularly difficult time. Many, though, rush to waiting cars or the showers. Several grab their phones, attach ear buds and sink into virtual worlds.

Whatever happens afterward takes place quickly. Your athletes have busy days. They’re moving on to their next task. No time for reflection.

So how’d it all go, you ask yourself. Did the workout accomplish what you had hoped? You think it may have—splits looked great, workout data were impressive—but you’re not sure.

You realize then how much you value those quick chats with athletes when you can have them, even if they’re a little too one-sided and topics sometimes take random turns.

Making Yourself Understood

An experienced coach might say he “understands” his team, as if it were a sixth sense. But if that were true, why would there ever be frustration or feelings of unfairness? Why would athletes perceive a different training experience among themselves away from the coach?

At the very beginning of Stride, we interviewed an Olympic skier. She kept a detailed journal that she shared with her coach. She tracked workouts and biometric data. That was easy. Harder was her recording of thoughts on how she handled a practice. On some occasions she wrote 500 words.

She explained that mental process—her frame of mind—affected how she advanced physically. Her coach monitored this process alongside her. She and her coach always had productive conversations.

Coach-athlete interaction is about each person making himself understood. The athlete, however, doesn’t have to discover a voice in lengthy journal entries.

We devised simple surveys that frame how athletes express themselves. Surveys take only a moment to complete. They center on goals that coaches and athletes set and review together.

Common Language

In Stride, athletes, coaches (and supervisors, too) connect on multiple levels. They speak a common language.

The coach marks progress and gains a better sense of motivation and effective training.

The athlete, in learning how to navigate the challenges of mental, physical, and emotional development, gains not just a voice, but a voice that’s informed.

Quick exchanges are gonna happen in a busy world. Stride allows them to happen regularly across an entire team. Stride adds context and introspection to increase their value.

Sydney is Stride’s Founder.