THE MENTAL GAME: How To Be A Great Polo Coach


Ever wonder how top coaches motivate their players and elicit the best performance from them? In the first of our three-part series on developing your coaching skills, learn how your level of social and emotional intelligence affects the performance of your players. 

By John Haime

[3-minute read]

Coaching is one of the most rewarding roles: being able to influence others with your expertise and experience and see them grow to new heights.

But it is also one of the most difficult and misunderstood roles: understanding how to connect with others and communicate a customized solution for improvement.

Working with world-class coaches, athletes and executives, I see every day how social and emotional intelligence, or being smart about emotions and people, is the X factor in being more successful as a coach or leader. Many coaches are smart (IQ), which takes them to one basic level. But they may have blind spots related to their emotions that constantly frustrate others and limit their long-term potential in the coaching framework. To truly maximize coaching potential, a coach must have social and emotional intelligence—a different type of being smart.

The key element of your success as a coach is the ability to develop quality relationships with your players/staff and impact them in a positive, proactive way. The truth is that most polo coaches do not ever receive any formal training in human behavior, communication and how best to develop quality, sustainable relationships with players. While polo coaches excel in their knowledge of the sport and teaching skills, there can be a gap in the equally important area of training the player and the player’s mindset.

So, allow me to offer suggestions on how you might both teach the game and become a coach who fluidly connects with players and helps them develop on and off the field.

First, Look Inward

Social and emotional intelligence is progressive, meaning that the skill building begins with the coach and depends on how smart he is about his own emotions. Is the coach aware of his emotions and how those emotions impact players and others in the team framework?

Ultimately, the progression leads to the complex ability to connect with the player and others around the team, and then progresses to the opportunity to build quality relationships with them. The basic social and emotional intelligence steps include:

Self-awareness—This is the foundation and the key, fundamental piece in social and emotional intelligence. As a coach, are you aware of your emotions minute-to-minute and how they impact you, players and others?

Regulation—Can you, as a coach, regulate your emotions, meaning when the fire gets hot, can you appropriately express your emotion and move forward quickly? Or do you allow your emotions to get in the way of being the best coach you can be?

Connecting with others—Can you consistently demonstrate empathy, being able to put yourself in the shoes of the player and others around the team, relate to the feelings of the player, and give the player what he needs? Empathy fuels connection between coach and player.

Quality relationships—Finally, can you develop quality, sustainable, trusting relationships with players and others in the barn? Being able to build and maintain effective relationships is critical in helping to create a level of trust and relatedness between coach, player, team manager and barn staff. Is the emotional climate in your barn positive, truthful, professional and healthy for your players and staff, promoting enjoyment and achievement?

Next: In part 2, learn how developing social and emotional intelligence can take your coaching to the next level.

The mental game is a series of articles by performance coach John Haime, dive into the world of self-improvement in an easy and digestible way with these articles: Take Control and Own The Moment in 2020, Reflect and Learn, The Mental Game and Gratitude, The Mental Game and Fear.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: John Haime is President of New Edge Performance. A world-class Human Performance Coach for athletes, executives and artists, former professional athlete and current bestselling Author of You are a Contender! Build Emotional Muscles to Perform Better and Achieve More, John understands how athletes think and feel. He’s been there—under the most intense pressures of amateur and professional sports. He is trusted by a wide range of clients including some of world’s leading professional and amateur athletes. John coaches professional equestrians and up-and-comers with a proven system generating measurable results for clients. He has certifications in psychology, neuroscience, emotional intelligence and coaching. www.johnhaime.com 

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