Industry Insights


NextUp 2022

How to Motivate Athletes to Perform at Their Best On and Off the Field

By Melissa Wickes
August 2, 2023
2 min

High performance can be defined in many different ways, especially as it relates to sport. If you ask Google, you’d find “faster, better, and more efficient than others.” However, Francis Anzalone—Chief Operating Officer of Total Package Hockey—recognizes that it can be tricky when we have kids comparing themselves to others. For that reason, he defines high performance as maximizing potential day in and day out. 

At NextUp 2022, Francis gave a presentation to teach youth sports leaders how to yield high performance outcomes both on and off the field. Here are the three main takeaways from his presentation so you can learn how to motivate athletes.

You can also watch a recording of the session below.

How to Motivate Athletes

Trust is Key

The first step in creating a high performance environment, according to Francis—who has ten years of hockey coaching, scouting, and player development experience—is getting athletes to trust us. After all, they don’t care how much we know until they know how much we care.

Here’s how you can establish trust between you and your players:

  • Communicate your view point
  • Communicate in a radically candid way
  • Recognize that it’s not what we say that matters, it’s how our athletes absorb it
  • Challenge them directly—provide hard, straight-forward feedback when needed

To have the opportunity to do these four things, you need to be connecting with your athletes everyday. This can be a 30-second, quick conversation with each athlete or a 30-minute one-on-one. If every athlete leaves the field, rink, or gym and can say “the coach spent time with me to speak about me,” they’ll feel great. 

Foster a Safe Environment 

Athletes won’t perform at a high standard if they don’t feel safe—and for Francis that is an absolute non-negotiable, along with acceptance. He teaches athletes to appreciate similarities and respect differences. 

What are your non-negotiables? Are they bullying and disrespect? Do you subscribe to the golden rule? Whatever they are, make sure you communicate them on day one and remain consistent. 

Provide Enthusiastic Direction

As a coach and leader in your sport, are you a “Duracell drainer or the Energizer bunny?” Enthusiastic, player-centered direction encourages focus and energy from players. It gets their attention. 

Here’s how you can be an enthusiastic coach:

  • Greet them at the door
  • Be the first person at practice everyday
  • Win or lose, pat them on the back when you leave
  • Communicate that there is always hope for tomorrow

Would you want to play for you? If you want to be a successful coach, you need to think act a coach but think like a player. This means listening more than you’re speaking and giving them opportunities to self evaluate and provide feedback—both of themselves and of you.

Learn More About High Performance Leadership in Youth Sports

By bringing together today’s most impressive minds in youth sports, NextUp is the only conference that provides an opportunity for organizers and coaches to learn about and discuss the most important topics in youth sports today—like high performance leadership.

The 2023 conference is returning to NYC October 25-26 and you can register now to receive an Early Bird Discount! Click here for more information and Early Bird Registration, now through August 15.