4x Olympian says Leadership Support Lacking for our Sports Coaches and Athletes

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Bo Hanson, 4x Olympian and Coaching Consultant, says there has been a loud call for leadership accountability with the most recent resignation of the president of the Russian Olympic Committee. This lack of leadership support is not just a Russian problem. In recent surveys conducted by Athlete Assessments, a staggering 47% of American coaches and 52% of Australian coaches surveyed reported they didn’t have a mentor or anyone they could look to for coaching support.

Bo Hanson, 4x Olympian & Coaching Consultant with Athlete Assessments - speaking at a NCAA Coaches Conference

In the 2009 study by the Canadian Olympic Committee they found the most significant contributor to a medal winning performance or a personal best performance at the Beijing Olympics, was a strong coach-athlete relationship.

As reported by Interfax, Despite the Russian government allocating significant funding to revive the country’s athletic programs during his 8 year tenure, Leonid Tyagachev resigned following their very poor medal count at the 2010 Olympics.

“At the Olympics our athletes were helpless in the sense that they had no support from the leadership in their preparation,” said Vyacheslav Fetisov, a former hockey star, now politician.

Four-time Olympian and Coaching Consultant with Athlete Assessments, Bo Hanson wants to see coaches and athletes given more support and opportunities for leadership development.

“In business, leadership training and formal mentoring programs are almost a given for any executive or manager who is responsible for a team of employees. However, in sport and with our coaches, this is a significantly neglected area, particularly when considering the important role coaches play in our budding talent and young people’s lives.” Hanson says.

“The coach’s role is critical. Few other professions have such an impact on the development of our future generations. Both young and older athletes look directly to their coach to role model the types of behaviours which create a successful contribution to our society. The fact is, a coach is an extremely important leader in any community.”

This lack of leadership support is not just a Russian problem. In a January 2010 survey, a staggering 47% of American coaches surveyed reported they didn’t have a mentor or anyone they could look to for coaching support. This was echoed in another survey of Australian coaches taken at the end of 2009 that showed a worse result, with 52% of the coaches without a mentor or coaching support.

Mr Hanson says the aim of Athlete Assessments is to work with coaches to develop strategies for improving their coaching skills and developing strong coach-athlete relationships. In effect, they provide coaches with expertise in this area and mentoring.

“More and more research is highlighting the critical nature of the coach-athlete relationship. For example in the 2009 study by the Canadian Olympic Committee they found the most significant contributor to a medal winning performance or a personal best performance at the Beijing Olympics, was a strong coach-athlete relationship. This is no surprise to us, although we welcome the findings, as this is what we at Athlete Assessments specialise in.”

Bo Hanson, whose company Athlete Assessments, undertook the surveys says “It seems that there are never ending examples of underperformance of talented athletes or athletes misbehaving on and off the field and this gets significant publicity. But what about the lack of support and mentoring that coaches receive to best handle this, and more importantly, could many of these incidents be prevented if coaches were provided more support and development? Maybe this will start to be addressed with the accountability being shown with this recent resignation.”

Athletes have their coaches to support, develop and mentor them to help them be their best and to strive to be successful. Who is providing this same support, development and mentoring to our coaches?

Hanson highlights another study into the impact of training and development on talent retention. In a Louis Harris and Associates poll, it was reported that among employees with "poor" training opportunities, 41% planned to leave within a year, whereas those who considered their training opportunities to be "excellent", only 12% planned to leave within the same period. Hanson asks the questions “If we apply this to sport, is this also contributing to the talent drain of our best coaches?”

“The bottom line is that coaches are leaders and role models. We expect our athletes to continuously learn and develop and therefore we must also look for opportunities for coaches to do the same. Coaches need the opportunity to develop their leadership skills and get valuable mentoring.”

Athlete Assessments is the leading sports consultancy supporting coaches, athletes and teams who want to improve their performance by gaining knowledge of their sporting personality, the behaviours creating their athletic results and developing the coach-athlete relationship.

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Liz Hanson
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