• Ed Gotta

Pushing Buttons...Coaching the Individual

Updated: Dec 5, 2017

Every athlete responds to different coaching methods and motivation types. Good coaches take the time to find out what works for each one. No cookie cutter training programs here!


When people ask me about my coaching philosophy or how I attain success with an athlete or team I tell them: Some people need a finger in the chest and some people need a hug…and everything in between.

Every athlete has different goals, motivations and behaviors. As such, every athlete responds to different coaching and motivation methods. I have kids who love me to be loud and jumping up and down and getting in their face. I have adults who need me to play psychologist and hold their hands. That’s why the underpinning of my run coaching is that it is tailored to the individual.

What buttons do we push and when do we push them?

The first thing I talk about with my runners are goals and purpose. Why are they here and what do they hope to achieve?

How hard are they willing to work to get where they want to go? What are they willing to give up to get there? It’s important to let the athlete speak and to NOT give them the answers. If the goal comes from outside the individual, it’s way less likely to become reality. Most times my Middle School athletes will tell me they don’t know, or aren’t sure. They may not even know what goals are available or attainable. I’ll give them help, but if they’re not buying in, it’s best to revisit the question another day. Each runner however, must have a concrete set of long and short term goals to strive for, otherwise training is useless.

Another great button to push is the Encouragement Button, aka, the Positive Reinforcement Button. Runners live by the clock. Time is everything to us. How fast can we get from here to there? Did I get there faster than other runners? Did I beat my time from yesterday? How fast can I go? I make sure all my runners know their times and whether they’ve improved. The kids go nuts when I tell them it’s time to gather around and hear their times and level of improvement. They cheer each other on and leave feeling self-satisfied. They can’t wait to get home and tell their parents.

While coaching youth basketball I developed a habit that I’ve now extended to my runners. Before each game, while the players were warming up in their layup lines, I’d call each of them over one at a time to talk for a minute or two. I’d tailor the talk to the individual player. I’d encourage them and give them their marching orders for the game. Remind them what their job was and let them know that I trusted them to do it. This works well with runners also. I like to pull each of them out of their warm up drills and remind them of the task at hand. To concentrate. To focus. To remember their goals and what’s possible. One last shot of self-confidence before the event never hurts. This past XC season I had two girls come out of nowhere to place in the top 25 at the last meet of the season. They never saw it coming, but I did.

Every athlete I’ve ever coached has heard me say, “The more you suffer during training, the easier it will be on race day”. When it’s raining, I go run. During a heatwave, I’m outside working out. Snow and ice on the roads? Count me in. And don’t even get me started on burpees. As Spartan Race founder Joe DeSena says, “Do what you hate…”. All those hills, intervals, fartleks and long runs pay off on Race Day. Training is where you make your money, I always say.

I market my run training programs as being, “Tailored to the Individual”. I talk to my athletes. I talk to their friends and people they’ve raced or trained with. In the case of kids, I talk to parents. Mostly I observe them during the early parts of our time together. It usually takes two or three weeks for me to figure a new athlete out. I search for their buttons…and I push.

As usual, I’d love to hear what you think. Comment or email

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