This is an article written for performance practitioners, by a performance practitioner. As a Strength & Conditioning coach, I am writing to S&C coaches, personal trainers, sports scientists, physiotherapists, physical therapists, athletic trainers, nutritionists, dieticians, sports psychologists and anyone in-between.
As an opening power statement, I want to put out there…..
‘You are more than just a performance practitioner’.
As performance practitioners we are people facing, we work in an environment where we are face to face with our athletes/clients or perhaps face to screen communicating with individuals or groups in a bid to create a performance environment that leads to development and ultimately success for them. We spend much of our time working towards other people’s goals and dreams, which we buy into, and start to invest in both professionally and emotionally. Their goals sort of become our goals as well………. Sort of.
Pinning your own professional goals to an athletes wins, medals, championships or outcomes is a dangerous game. We can only influence performance outcomes to a limited extent, the rest is up to the individual. Having said that, we jump on the roller coaster with them. That’s what we do as performance practitioners. We focus on other people’s development often at the cost of our own, and it doesn’t always work out for everyone. The investment of time, energy, and optimism come at a cost to support practitioners. In reality, our own personal goals, dreams and vision can take a backseat to the athletes which can have a detrimental impact on our happiness health and wealth.
When you read the title, did you begin to think about things related to:
- The specifics of your delivery strategies
- Your preferred way of delivering
- Your preferred way of communicating your message
- How you structure minute details of one element of your fields core competencies such as weight making, ACL rehab, speed and agility development, matchday performance analytics
The above points arguably might be more related to your professional philosophy and NOT your personal vision. Your personal vision will loosely be defined in this article by a series of questions that will help you to think objectively about your professional development.
The purpose of this article, therefore, is to challenge you to put the needs of the athletes aside for a short while (don’t worry, they’ll be just fine) and ask yourself some key questions about where you feel your current practice is and where you want to be professional.
Yes, that’s right. You are being asked to spend some time very specifically thinking about your own professional development without attaching an athletes/client’s medals, successes, and failures. This might be a difficult or uncomfortable exercise where you might not be absolutely clear on your goals outside of what your athletes want to achieve, but if you can put yourself first and just think about your own wants and needs for a while, you will have some fantastic outcomes.
Let’s get into it then.
The statements below are powerful starters that encourage you to reflect on what you want as a practitioner and then how you are going to achieve it. Let’s break each one down and give a few examples so the task is really straightforward for you.
I have laid out the statements, then we will take a deep dive into each one and give some examples which will represent the type of statements that can promote the personal introspection required to grow as a person inside and out of the profession.
- As a performance practitioner, I want to achieve………
- I want to be the type of practitioner that………
- I want to be recognised and respected for………
- I can achieve this with these actions ………
As a performance practitioner, I want to achieve…………
This is the time to pause, take a breath, put your pen or laptop down and have a really good hard think about what you want to achieve in your career. This is not about what you want someone else to achieve in their career, but what you want from your own.
As a performance practitioner, I want to achieve…..
- Laughing every day at work
- Enjoying going to work every day
- Writing a book
- Managing a team within my field
- Managing a multi-disciplinary team
- Working in team and individual sport
- Working in pro sport and Olympic sport
- Earning my age for my entire career e.g., £36,000 @ 36 years old
- Moving away from face-to-face working pattern in ‘X’ years
- Be a keynote speaker at an industry conference
- Guest lecturing for a university
These are essentially goals that may be short, medium, or long term which can big and seemingly unachievable or easy to accomplish tomorrow. Significant to you but worthless to someone else. This exercise is about you and your wildest professional dreams, so go big.
I want to be the type of practitioner that…
Mostly this section is looked upon as how you want to be perceived as a practitioner by others, and that’s ok, but I want to encourage you to also think about what sort of values and characteristics are important to you and not others’ perceptions of you.
If you can invest in understanding what is important to you as a performance practitioner and then begin to put some conscious thought towards your delivery in line with this, then not only will your standard of practice improve but you will be more fulfilled and naturally start to move towards your professional goals.
I want to be the type of practitioner that……
- Is respected by my athletes and peers for the quality of the work I do
- Is respected by my athletes for the type of person I am in the workplace
- Is known, liked, and trusted
- Is approachable
- Holds high personal standards in the workplace
- Gets the job done. Always finds a way
- Gives energy, doesn’t take it
Figuring out what is important to you as a practitioner is NOT an easy task. I think this is actually the hardest of the 4 statements to work through. A bit like establishing your coaching philosophy it might not happen overnight and might take some constant reflection to really drill down to what is fundamentally important to you as a practitioner. An effective way to begin understanding what sort of practitioner you want to be is to ask a couple of key questions:
- Why am I doing this/want to do this?
- Is/was this in line with what I think is important to me as a person?
These powerful questions are useful in outcome-based or reflective thinking to create actions that will help to shape your direction.
I want to be recognized and respected for……
Being respected in the workplace is a basic professional need. But there are 2 important things to consider when it comes to respecting in the workplace:
- Respect is a broad term. What specifically does it mean to you and how is it determined?
- Respect is not simply given because of a role, title, or position. It is earned.
This is why it becomes important to establish exactly what you want to be respected for. This will ensure that your conduct in the workplace is aligned to these areas. Essentially professional respect is measured not only by your outcomes but also by how those outcomes were achieved.
This means that how you conduct yourself in the workplace will have a direct impact on your athletes/colleagues/peers’ respect for you. Additionally, having a very specific number of focus areas increases your application to tasks, communication, and conduct ensuring you gain that coveted professional respect.
I want to be recognized and respected for……
- How I achieve results for my athletes
- How I communicate with my athletes and colleagues
- How I communicate with the opposition staff and players
- Giving energy in the work environment, always
- Embodying the organization’s culture
- My professionalism
- My technical knowledge/proficiency
- How I treat others
- How I organize and manage
- How I approach and adapt to unforeseen circumstances/issues
- How do I keep a cool head when emotions are high
- How I read situations and get positive outcomes in difficult situations
Perhaps some of these examples seem obvious, that is because they are. But, it is also easy to forget sometimes what is important to you when the environment is challenging or the situation is less than ideal, you can let yourself down.
When you can connect the dots between how you interact and behave, and people’s respect for you, then you will be rapidly moving towards creating a sustainable practitioner vision.
I can achieve this with these actions…
It is really important to attach specific actions to what you want to achieve. Without a clear and decisive action plan, it can be really difficult to achieve your goals and make your vision a reality, especially in the long term.
So, these action points are how you will hold yourself accountable to your long-term vision, they essentially encompass the 3 previous statements but provide clear, measurable action points.
Measurable can be something objective such as a yes or no for a completed action like, ‘make a journal entry every day or something similar. Subjective actions might be slightly tougher to quantify or establish definitively if it has been completed/successful, for example, ‘embody the organisation’s culture’ or ‘be approachable at all times’ or ‘hold high professional standards in the workplace’. This raises an important point relating to how you write your actions.
To achieve your actions and stay on track, you need to have a short enough list that you can remember and engrain into your memory. Some are easy and relate to who you are as a person such as ‘treat staff and players with respect’, these types of actions don’t often need listing. But, the list that you do compile needs to mean something to you, and represent a way of conducting yourself in the workplace.
Let’s, use one of the bullet points below and create a working example for you where one sentence/phrase can represent an entire process.
‘I can achieve these actions with structured self-reflection
Example-Post coaching session reflection
- Arrange 10 mins post-session for self-reflection
- Grab a pen and paper/phone or tablet and list everything that went well and everything you feel can be improved
- Narrow these down to only 3 positives and 3 work on
- Take some time at the end of the day, perhaps when commuting to ask what ‘were my small wins today and my big wins’
- Round off the reflection with 1-2 actions for the next day/future then put the day to bed
- Finish up with a mini-plan of action for the next day’s coaching
I can achieve this with these actions…..
- By establishing some guiding principles which I closely live by and practice
- By completing structured self-reflection daily
- By sharing my practitioner vision with everyone
- By engaging with a mentor who will guide me and hold me accountable
- By investing my time and money into my professional development
As with all of these example lists, the options are endless. The purpose of the examples is to give you a broad range of options that are related to the statement, some will resonate, and others won’t so write your lists in line with what is important to you.
The toughest question of all is am I living by these principles?
Meeting your long-term goals and dreams requires dedication, a plan, and a whole lot of action. Think of saving for a £20,000 mortgage deposit when earning £1,600 per month, it takes time, patience, and a relentless approach to achieve your goal, but you can do this by making good choices along the way.
The first step of creating a practitioner vision is to ask yourself questions related to each of the statements laid out above and engage with the process. The only way long-term success is achieved in anything which is in the distance, seemingly unachievable is to map out a blueprint for the journey with checkpoints along the way.
You are in control of your pathway and building a happy, healthy, and wealthy future for yourself, you just need to invest some focused time into the plan.
To support you with part of this process I have created The Reflective Practitioners Journal. The Journal will give you the tools and framework to take control of your well-being whilst reflecting positively as a practitioner and person.
Build the best version of yourself, start by creating your practitioner vision and start reaping the rewards.