The key to rapport between coaches and athletes

Brad Hall explains why accurate measurement is required in developing rapport – not just measuring and benchmarking fitness – within the athlete-coach relationship.

Brad Hall is Managing Director of both the Veris Racing team and the Exercise Institute, based in Perth, Australia. He took some time out to explain why accurate measurement is required in developing rapport – not just measuring and benchmarking fitness – within the athlete-coach relationship.

For me, there are two key components of coaching. Firstly, there’s the practical application – the science and physical actions of the sport. Secondly, it’s all about rapport. The ability to engage, understand and motivate individuals is essential.

We know that rapport can improve and predict behaviour changes in individuals as an outcome. Research shows this can contribute to a 40-60% improvement – but I’ve heard anecdotal evidence of improvements as high as 90% based on rapport alone.

Rapport can be defined as the shared understanding and trust between two parties who share a similar process and potentially outcome. It’s vital to any process of behaviour change.

Coaching is a form of behaviour change – you have a willing participant (athlete) and facilitator (coach/trainer) with whom rapport is built.

So what can you do to build and improve those relationships? For me, it comes down to several factors. There needs to be trust between both parties, a quality in any shared information, a consistency in communication and there needs to be a basis of empathy and safety of the information shared.

Coaches aren’t able to be with athletes all the time, so we often use biometric measures to track athletic variables, alongside athlete feedback to track both objective (power, heart rate, speed, drag etc.) and subjective (perceived exertion, mood state, sensations etc.) variables.

In cycling, power is a huge variable of importance. It tracks not only predictive measures of success (how hard for how long) and can be benchmarked over time – but it can also be used to prescribe training based on internal metabolic measures such as training to an intensity corresponding with the first or second thresholds.

Part of the role of the coach is to interpret and provide insights into the athletic experience, often remotely. Therefore, it is of supreme importance to not only provide feedback that is honest, based on accuracy of assessment and open minded to the athlete experience, but to ensure the devices you are collating data with are of a similar accuracy as the feedback.

If rapport can predict between 40-90% of the variance associated with athlete satisfaction and behaviour change as an outcome, then the need for accurate measurement tools is central to the process.

As we have outlined previously, power meters can drift in accuracy within a given session by between 5-10%, and even more across multiple sessions.

With the InfoCrank, similar variations in outputs have not been evidenced based on our benchmarking of power meters. Put simply, you can rely on InfoCrank. The quality of measurement it provides will assist in delivering a quality of feedback for athlete development – a necessary tool in developing rapport and seeing results.

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