How To Encourage a Reluctant Athlete to Train

I had a conversation with a parent over the weekend that was illuminating for me as a coach. The parent asked me what our method was when dealing with an athlete that doesn't necessarily want to strength train. 

An accurate description of certain athletes when faced with strength training.

An accurate description of certain athletes when faced with strength training.

We, as adults, know that strength training can prevent injuries in young athletes along with improving performance. Strength training is imperative for these youngsters- especially as the culture shifts that athletes must play one sport all-year round (my thoughts on that HERE). If your child is heavily involved in athletics, improving strength will only boost their performance in decrease his/her risk of injury. 

Right, so we get that, but do they? The question got me thinking of how do we encourage our, shall we say, less-than-enthused athletes to train; how do we get them to "buy" into our methods? While the following thoughts apply specifically to SAPT, I would wager that they can apply to any system- from sport practice to systems at the workplace- that you want someone to "buy" into. 

The first thing I told him was,

"I make them smile and laugh as much as possible during their training sessions." 

Yup, that's one of my top priorities for my athletes (secondary only to safety, obviously). I want my kids to have a great, no, make that a stupendous time during the hour that they're with us. Snow White says, "Whistle while you work," to dull the unpleasantness of household chores, so too does laughter make training less tedious. I like to get to know my athletes and engage with them while they train. I try find out what they enjoy and ask them questions about it. If they're able to talk to me about topics they enjoy, they'll have a much better time.

My aim is two fold: to help to help them relax and, hopefully, make some friends as the conversation is open to the rest of the trainees.

I also throw in some poop jokes. That never fails to crack a smile. 

The second thing we try to do is explain the "why" behind the exercise selection. Sure, squats are hard and not terribly pleasant for most people, but if I tell my volleyball players it will help them jump higher or my baseball players that it will help them swing higher, they're more likely to view squats in a positive light (and maybe not dread them as much). Oftentimes, when I explain the "why" behind an exercise and put it context of their sport, it helps them see the bigger picture. It broadens their view of their training to beyond the court or field and that training actually encompasses more than just practice. 

I tried to think of more- is there a magic formula for getting athletes to train- but, really, this is what we do. We focus on each athlete individually from both a programming and personal standpoint. We make it all about them

Our athletes return session after session, primarily, because they have fun.

Secondly, we help them understand the method to our madness (though I prefer to think of it as ingenious programming) and after a few short weeks of training, they see their performance improve. And like that: they're sold on our training system.

If you can make someone laugh and explain the "why" behind your methods, it's a safe bet that they'll trust your system.