The benefits of using technology to achieve enhanced athlete-coach communication and trust
By Annie Flamsteed, iNSPIRE Founder & CEO
Technology… the core of the worlds solutions, right? Being the founder of a sports technology startup I obviously believe so. However, I’ve noticed so many coaches, club owners and even athletes feeling hesitant to mingle with sports-tech even though it’s 2019. A few suggest it will have a counterproductive impact on the communication between athlete and coach, and decrease trust. I can’t blame them for thinking this, but I can’t agree with them at all, here’s why.
I’ve spent the past few months talking to athletes, parents of athletes and coaches to gain more of an understanding of their thoughts. So with this new-found knowledge, combined with my personal experience as an athlete, I’ve come up with 10 benefits to embracing sports technology in 2019.
Before I dive into the 10 steps, I thought I would tell you a bit about my experience as an athlete. Less than 5 years ago, I was a competitive gymnast. Training anywhere from 15-30 hours a week, having to fit in physio, sports psychology appointments, doctor appointments, school, home work, study, family commitments… and oh, that thing we call growing up as a millenial – ALL AT ONCE. Now if you know me personally, or are a customer of ours here at iNSPIRE you will know that the main reason we exist as a company is due to my own struggles as an athlete. But if you’re new here, I guess it’s worth mentioning, and I am not sure if it’s obvious or not, that trying to manage all of the above (as a perfectionist teenage athlete) caused me to develop anxiety and eventually lead to complete burn out.
I was constantly struggling with what I should or shouldn’t tell my coaches and teachers, what they would think if I told them I was struggling physically or mentally… would they think I was weak? Would they not pick me for the team? Would it make me seem like a failure? Am I overreacting? All of these thoughts wreaked havoc on my little 17-year-old brain and what did they cause? More anxiety, more sleepless nights, more distraction at training and LESS COMMUNICATION WITH MY COACHES! I had physios, sports psychs, great coaches, team mates I trusted and a super supportive family- so why did I feel like I couldn’t tell any of them what I was REALLY feeling? To be honest, sometimes I did open up to them, but 99% of the time – not a chance. I remember worrying about how I was feeling and not wanting to seem weak, but I also remember not really even knowing HOW to explain what I was feeling. So when I built the app, on top of wanting to offer young athletes access to high quality, evidence based wellbeing programs, I knew I had to incorporate wellness diaries or ‘tracking’ into my app. The purpose of this was to allow athletes a shame free & easy to manage way to communicate with their coaches how they’re ACTUALLY feeling physically and mentally. The whole point is to open up the conversation between coach and athlete and allow a more supportive environment to foster and to build that trust over time. In this case, I feel as though communicating via technology is a great starting point, and one that can really enhance the coach-athlete relationship without replacing the face-to-face contact all together.
So what are the 10 main benefits to using technology to open lines of communication between athletes and coaches? Keep in mind, these are a combination of feedback from coaches, parents and athletes.
1. It’s a fun way for athletes to become more self aware of how they are feeling so they can even consider talking to a coach about it.
2. It is a great way for the quiet athletes to have a means of communication on the days when talking is too much.
3. It gives coaches a chance to spend more time looking into how their athletes are feeling as opposed to hearing it from a secondary source and not being able to truly reflect on the best cause of action to assist their athlete.
4. It’s a great way to help the entire team as opposed to only helping the ones confident enough to speak up.
5. It is a great way for athletes to gain an understanding of how they are feeling so they are able to communicate it to their coaches and parents, as opposed to feeling confused about their thoughts and feelings.
6. It’s a great way to capture more consistent data on your athletes as opposed to only hearing from them when something is either really good, or really bad.
7. The technology asks questions coaches might not have time to ask athletes. For example, ‘how much sleep did you get?’, ‘How many glasses of water have you had?’ or ‘What pain level is your left knee at today?’
8. It allows athletes to answer tough questions in their own time. This eliminates the rushed ‘yeah good’ response when trying to really talk about athlete’s wellbeing.
9. Let’s face it, young people spend more time on their phones than they do talking to real humans. This is the wellbeing version of Instagram or SnapChat. They like using their phones, so the app allows them to do this in a way that benefits them, and gives you the answers you need.
10. IT SAVES YOU TIME – By having the athlete self reflect, put the answers in an app, and have you be able to see trends for individuals and your team, you are going to spend less time asking questions kids don’t want to answer face to face, and more time evaluating what you see in the reports and the coaches dashboard – allowing you more time to intervene and initiate positive change.