Book Nook: Conscious Coaching, by Brett Bartholomew

When my wife was in the athletic training program at Southern Illinois University, her time there overlapped with an energetic GA/strength coach by the name of Brett Bartholomew. So when Brett released Conscious Coaching, she was quick to buy a copy. That was 2017. I finally got around to reading it, after years of listening to Brett’s podcast, The Art of Coaching. That is took me this long to get to the book is more of a testament to the length of my reading list backlog than anything related to the source material or Brett. I can buy books a lot faster than I can read them.

Conscious Coaching is written from a strength coach background, but is easily applicable to any coach. I would say it is even an easy argument to make to claim it goes beyond coaching. It is more than “how to coach”. Conscious Coaching is a breakdown in how to interact with others and work toward common goals. Brett’s podcast has “pivoted” toward the art of communication, but I would say it was not a pivot, but ultimately what Brett’s drive has always been about. Maybe coming at the book after so many episodes of the podcast makes that more obvious than it was back when the book came out. I would say this book can be applied to any coach, teacher, boss or mentor.

The book starts with the need for a roadmap, and then the need to learn first about yourself. Brett uses personality tests and the such for a starting point. The book lists several different assessment tools I actually plan on trying to implement now (future blog post, perhaps?).

Then the bulk of the book explores archetypes of athletes, or people in general. The leader, the novice, the skeptic, the specialist, the sabotager, etc. Each archetype is broken down into strengths, weaknesses, how to connect and then a coaching clinic example of past interactions with this type and how they connected with them. The coaching clinic features many guest coaches offering their examples. These archetypes are the bulk of the book.

The book does not dive deep in how to identify and distinguish types too much, or the fact that few athletes will fit into one nice and neat. Many will be a blend. But the ultimate attack is the same–find a way to connect, encourage (or discourage the negative), and be consistent with the approach. It’s not rocket surgery, but it often doesn’t get applied correctly.

I’ve covered youth sports for 25 years now, mostly in a small town where you have a connection to every athlete. Conscious Coaching has made me rethink some of my past interactions and given me something to work on going forward. I’ve often said “coach up the kids who need it, and coach down the kids who need it.” Conscious Coaching provides some nuance to that.

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