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An Interview with Coach Bruce Brown on Inspiring Confident Competitors who Strive for Excellence

Updated: Apr 22, 2021

We recently had the honor of interviewing Coach Bruce Brown, Founder of Proactive Coaching. With over 30 years of coaching, teaching, and athletic directing in public, private, and college level organizations, he shared some great tips around motivating athletes, teaching character and integrity, and inspiring confident, tough minded competitors.

These tips translate to corporate teams as well, so whether you’re a leader of a group of athletes or a team of salespeople, you’ll likely find these insights valuable.

Motivating Teams

Because of the current pandemic, athletes are disconnected from their teams and coaches, which is typically a big source of motivation. So how can we motivate and inspire athletes throughout this “extended off-season” and going forward? Coach Brown says it all comes down to accountability, and that there are two levels of accountability that athletes must maintain:

  1. Accountable for yourself: An athlete is accountable for themselves and you can count on them to take care of what they’re responsible for.

  2. Accountable to others: An athlete feels accountable to their team or to other people. They have a collective responsibility to not let others down.

According to Coach Brown, the second level of accountability is the most important. When individuals feel that obligation to others, they make great teammates, and when whole teams share that collective responsibility, everything becomes magnified and reliable, and success is all but guaranteed.

Building Character & Integrity

In his coaching, Brown similarly gives weight to the building of character and integrity in athletes. But how do you teach a value or a virtue?

“All coaches know the rules of motor learning, or how to teach a physical skill: You start with defining the skill, modeling the skill, shaping the skill, and then reinforcing the skill. You can teach values like courage and integrity in the same way.”

Let’s take integrity, for example:

You’d start by defining integrity: Yes means yes, no means no, your handshake seals the deal, your word is good, your signature has value, you are who you say you are. From there you want to make sure to model the value yourself, because as they say, actions speak louder than words. Finally, the fun part – reinforcement. Keep an eye out for your students or athletes demonstrating the value and give them praise!

But perhaps most importantly, be intentional. The more clearly you can define the values you want to see out of your players, the better chance people have of understanding and buying into them. Starting with “why” and a clear characterization creates extraordinary team cultures.

Inspiring confident, tough minded competitors

When we asked Coach Brown about his tips for inspiring confident, tough minded competitors, he said that again it all comes back to accountability – but this time it’s your accountability as a coach, and the type of trust and confidence you instill within your athletes.

Building trust takes time in our lives, but most coaches don’t have the luxury of time to spend with their athletes – typically seasons are 3-4 months long, and depending on the level, you’ll get maybe 4 years with them. So how do you speed up trust and empower confidence and fearlessness in athletes? It’s all about how you deal with mistakes. If an athlete makes a mistake, but it was at full effort and full of intention, then dignify it! Recognize the mistake and help the player to improve, while preserving the original intention. This builds trust, confidence and the fearlessness to try new things.

Start with “Why”

To wrap things up, Coach Brown shared his heartfelt “why” with us.

“When our time on earth has ended, we will not be measured by our win/loss record. We will not be measured by our possessions or by what we think of ourselves. We will be measured by the impact we have on other people, and there’s no better opportunity for that than through coaching.”

Whether you’re an athletic coach, a teacher, parent, or company leader, Coach Brown’s expertise can provide powerful direction for us all.

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