Soft Skills for CoachesCategoriesHigh Performance Podcast Strength & Conditioning Coaches Tips

#248 – How to Unlock Athletic Excellence to Maximize On Field Performance

“Soft Skills for Coaches” takes center stage in this episode of “Prepare like a Pro” as we have the privilege of hosting John Kiely, an outstanding performance and innovation expert in PE and Sports Sciences. Join us as we delve into the secrets of unlocking athletic excellence through the power of soft skills for coaches to maximize on-field performance. John shares his deep insights and expertise gained through years of research, teaching, and practical application. Whether you’re an athlete, coach, or sports enthusiast, this episode will provide you with valuable strategies and principles to elevate your performance and achieve your full potential.

Highlights from the episode:

  • The role of psychological factors that influence athletic performance
  • Are soft skills trainable?
  • How to design effective coaching sessions
  • Athlete recovery for in season
  • Building awareness and doing mental warmup before starting a training session

People mentioned:

  • Rooney Smith
  • Aston Moore
  • Mark Rowland
  • Brett Bartholomew
  • Allan Mcdonald

The Impact of Soft Skills in Coaching: Shaping Champions Beyond Technical Proficiency



In the world of sports coaching, technical proficiency and tactical acumen have long been the focal points of success. Coaches were primarily judged by their ability to fine-tune athletes’ skills and devise winning strategies. However, the paradigm is shifting, and a growing realization is emerging that softer skills play a critical role in creating truly exceptional athletes and successful teams. John Kiely, a renowned Senior Lecturer in Performance and Innovation in PE and Sports Science, has been a pioneer in championing the significance of these soft skills in coaching. In this blog post, we explore the importance of softer skills, the coach’s ability to shape a shared direction, and the strategies coaches can employ to enhance their effectiveness beyond technical expertise.

1. The Importance of Softer Skills in Coaching

As the applause roars through the stadium, coaches often bask in the limelight for their athletes’ victories. However, the true success of a coach is often rooted in their ability to connect with athletes on a deeper level and inspire them to achieve greatness. Soft skills encompass a range of qualities, including communication, empathy, emotional intelligence, and leadership. John Kiely emphasizes that technical prowess alone cannot foster a winning team; the foundation must be built on trust, respect, and genuine relationships between coaches and athletes.

The role of a coach extends beyond training sessions and game strategies. Coaches serve as mentors, confidants, and motivators. The ability to understand the unique needs and personalities of athletes can lead to profound transformations in their performance. When athletes feel supported and valued, they are more likely to push their boundaries and strive for excellence. Therefore, developing softer skills is essential for coaches who seek to unlock the full potential of their athletes.

2. Shaping a Shared Direction and Raising Athletes’ Expectations

John Kiely believes that great coaches share a common ability to shape a shared direction with their athletes. It goes beyond merely imposing their vision; instead, it involves fostering a collaborative environment where athletes have a say in their journey. When athletes feel actively involved in setting goals and defining their path, they become more invested in the process.

A shared direction aligns the coach’s objectives with the athletes’ aspirations, creating a strong sense of purpose and motivation. Moreover, successful coaches are skilled at raising athletes’ expectations of themselves. By instilling belief and confidence, coaches can inspire athletes to exceed their perceived limitations. This transformational approach can lead to remarkable achievements and a lasting impact on athletes’ lives beyond the playing field.

3. The Neglected Psychological and Emotional Aspects

Despite the undeniable significance of softer skills in coaching, traditional coaching training often neglects psychological and emotional aspects. Many coaching certification programs focus primarily on technical aspects of the game, leaving coaches ill-equipped to handle the complexities of human emotions and mental states. This void can lead to missed opportunities for coaches to connect with athletes on a deeper level and address their mental well-being.

Recognizing and addressing psychological and emotional needs can make a crucial difference in an athlete’s development. Anxiety, self-doubt, and burnout are just some of the challenges athletes face throughout their careers. Coaches who can provide support, guidance, and resources to navigate these challenges can profoundly impact an athlete’s resilience and performance.

4. Strategies for Coaches to Improve Soft Skills

The path to becoming an exceptional coach lies in a commitment to continuous self-improvement. Furthermore, here are some strategies coaches can employ to enhance their soft skills and overall effectiveness:

a. Self-Awareness: Self-reflection is the first step in cultivating softer skills. Coaches must critically examine their coaching methods, communication styles, and emotional reactions to various situations. Recognizing strengths and areas for growth enables coaches to adapt and evolve.

b. Active Listening and Communication: Effective communication is the cornerstone of building strong relationships with athletes. Coaches should practice active listening and empathy, allowing athletes to express their thoughts and concerns openly.

c. Emotional Intelligence: Understanding and managing one’s emotions and recognizing emotions in others is a key aspect of emotional intelligence. Coaches with high emotional intelligence can provide better support and encouragement to athletes.

d. Relationship Building: Building trust and rapport with athletes requires time and effort. Coaches should invest in getting to know their athletes on a personal level and create a positive and supportive environment.

e. Goal Setting: Collaboratively setting realistic and challenging goals with athletes can boost motivation and foster a shared sense of direction.

f. Mindfulness and Mental Skills Training: Introducing mindfulness and mental skills training into coaching programs can enhance athletes’ mental resilience and emotional well-being.


In conclusion, the role of soft skills in coaching cannot be underestimated. John Kiely’s insights have shed light on the significance of building strong relationships as well as shaping shared directions, and fostering a supportive environment for athletes. Moreover, by recognizing the value of psychological and emotional aspects, coaches can create a profound impact on their athletes’ performance and overall well-being.

To be an exceptional coach, technical proficiency must be complemented by emotional intelligence, effective communication, and a genuine commitment to the growth and development of athletes. As the coaching landscape evolves, coaches who embrace and enhance their softer skills will stand out as true champions in the eyes of their athletes and the sports community. Let us embrace the power of softer skills and shape a future where coaches inspire greatness in athletes beyond the game.

Listen: iTunes | Spotify

Diaphragm Breathing Athletic PerformanceCategoriesPodcast Sports Psychologists and Dietitians

Episode 154 – Samantha McLeod

In the world of sports, every edge counts. Athletes tirelessly train their bodies, seeking that extra ounce of performance that can make all the difference. One often overlooked aspect that can be a game-changer is mastering Diaphragm Breathing Athletic Performance techniques. Integrating diaphragm breathing into your training regimen can lead to remarkable improvements in focus, coordination, and overall performance on the field. Diaphragm Breathing Athletic Performance techniques have been shown to enhance endurance and power output, allowing athletes to push their limits further. This technique empowers athletes to tap into their full potential, giving them an invaluable advantage in competitive scenarios. Whether you’re a seasoned professional or just starting on your athletic journey, understanding and incorporating Diaphragm Breathing Athletic Performance into your routine can elevate your game to a whole new level.

Samantha is the Managing Director of The SAM Centre. She is a Clinical Health Psychologist and a Sport and Exercise Psychologist. Samantha has 30 years of experience in private practice in well-established multidisciplinary clinics and as a consultant to private businesses, peak and sporting bodies, tertiary lecturer, and clinical leader in corporate and public health organizations.

Highlights of the episode:

  • Importance of getting out of your comfort zone
  • Getting experience in elite sport as a sports psychologist
  • What it takes to develop a champion’s mindset
  • How to improve your recovery and performance with diaphragmatic breathing
  • Mental skills athletes can start practicing now to become elite

Why Diaphragm Breathing Matters

Diaphragm breathing, also known as belly breathing, is a fundamental technique that engages the diaphragm muscle to draw in deeper breaths. This technique is pivotal for athletes as it maximizes the intake of oxygen, the crucial fuel for muscles during strenuous activity. By incorporating diaphragm breathing into your routine, you can enhance your endurance levels, allowing you to push boundaries and excel in your sport.

The Physiology Behind Diaphragm Breathing

Understanding the science behind diaphragm breathing is key to unlocking its potential. The diaphragm is a dome-shaped muscle located at the base of the lungs. When it contracts, it creates a vacuum effect, drawing air into the lungs. This deep inhalation optimizes oxygen exchange, ensuring that muscles receive the necessary oxygen for optimal function.

Reducing Performance Anxiety with Diaphragm Breathing

In high-pressure moments, athletes often experience performance anxiety, leading to tension and decreased coordination. Diaphragm breathing acts as a powerful tool to counteract this response. By engaging the diaphragm, you activate the body’s parasympathetic nervous system, promoting relaxation and reducing the fight-or-flight response. This allows for smoother, more controlled movements, particularly critical during critical game moments.

Incorporating Diaphragm Breathing into Training

To reap the benefits of diaphragm breathing, it’s essential to integrate it seamlessly into your training routine. Start with focused breathing exercises during warm-ups, gradually incorporating them into skill drills and game simulations. Coaches can play a pivotal role in emphasizing the importance of diaphragm breathing, ensuring that athletes adopt this technique as a natural part of their performance enhancement toolkit.

Enhancing Mind-Body Connection

Diaphragm breathing extends beyond physical benefits; it fosters a deeper mind-body connection. Athletes who master this technique find themselves more attuned to their body’s signals, allowing for quicker adjustments and a heightened sense of control during play. This increased awareness can be the key differentiator in critical moments, enabling split-second decisions that lead to victory.

Conclusion: Elevate Your Game with Diaphragm Breathing

Incorporating diaphragm breathing techniques into your training arsenal is a transformative step toward unlocking your full athletic potential. By optimizing oxygen intake, reducing performance anxiety, and enhancing the mind-body connection, you can take your performance to new heights. Embrace diaphragm breathing as a core element of your training routine, and watch as it propels you toward success on the field. Elevate your game, starting today.

To join our Coaches waitlist, fill out the link below:

Listen: iTunes | Spotify

Optimize Athlete Recovery PerformanceCategoriesAFL Players Podcast

Episode 153 – Harry Sheezel

In the competitive world of Australian Rules Football, every player understands the crucial role recovery plays in maintaining top-notch performance. Optimize Athlete Recovery Performance Harry Sheezel, a Medium Defender at North Melbourne knows this better than most. With years of experience under his belt, he has honed a set of recovery methods that have proven instrumental in keeping him at the peak of his game. Optimize Athlete Recovery Performance.

Harry is one of the most recognized upcoming AFL players in the 2022 draft. Not only an elite football player, he loves hanging out with his family and friends and playing golf.

  • Local Club: Ajax FC
  • Nab League Club: Sandringham Dragons
  • Team He Barracks for Hawthorn

Highlights of the episode:

  • Harry’s fave recovery methods
  • The key areas Harry focuses on when playing as a speed forward
  • Why focusing on your strengths as a player is so critical
  • Why Harry values training smart and quality of training over volume
  • Tips for footballers to boost their confidence and the ability to reset during games

Infrared Sauna: A Game-Changer

One of Sheezel’s go-to recovery tools is the infrared sauna, a practice he swears by for its transformative effects on his body. Multiple times a week, he steps into his own at-home sauna, letting the deep-penetrating heat work its magic. This powerful therapy aids in flushing out toxins, promoting blood circulation, and alleviating muscle soreness – all key components in a successful recovery routine.

Post-Game Massages: The Ultimate Reset

After the final whistle blows, Sheezel doesn’t waste any time in prioritizing his body’s recuperation. Post-game massages have become a non-negotiable in his regimen. This targeted therapy targets specific muscle groups, ensuring they receive the attention and care they need to bounce back quickly. It’s this level of commitment to recovery that enables Sheezel to hit the training ground with renewed vigor, week after week.

Agility, Decision-Making, and Gym Work

When asked about his remarkable agility and decision-making skills on the field, Sheezel attributes them to years of dedication and practice. These are talents that he began honing in his Junior career, recognizing their immense value in his role as a Medium Defender. Additionally, he emphasizes the impact of gym work, with a special focus on agility and power training. This comprehensive approach has fortified his performance and made him a standout player in the league.

Playing to Strengths: A Lesson from the Dragons

Joining the Dragons taught Sheezel a crucial lesson: the power of playing to one’s strengths. Instead of trying to be a jack-of-all-trades, he discovered that exceptional strengths are what set players apart from the rest of the cohort. This revelation has informed his approach to training and has undoubtedly been a contributing factor to his success on the field.

The Smart Training Philosophy

Sheezel’s journey has not been without its challenges, one of the most significant being stress fractures. In overcoming this obstacle, he learned the importance of training with intelligence. Quality triumphs over quantity, and he advises against the temptation of multiple sessions a day. Instead, he advocates for meticulous planning, adequate recovery time, and supplementary activities like Pilates to maintain strength and consistency.

In conclusion, Harry Sheezel’s approach to athlete recovery is a masterclass in balance and strategy. His reliance on the infrared sauna, targeted massages, and intelligent training methods provides a blueprint for athletes looking to elevate their performance and extend their careers. By focusing on strengths and prioritizing quality over quantity, Sheezel’s methods have not only propelled him to success but also served as an inspiration for aspiring athletes everywhere.

People mentioned:

  • David Buttifant 
  • Jackson Kornberg
  • Lance Franklin
  • David Francis
  • Jack Scrimshaw

To join our Footballer waitlist, fill out the link below:


Listen: iTunes | Spotify