Monday, 22 Jul 2024

Six Strategies for Leaders to Support Change

In the world of coaching, change is a constant. Coaches often find themselves facing various changes throughout a season or school year. To lead through these changes effectively, it is essential to be mission-focused, empathetic, and establish clear boundaries. Dr. Deborah Gilboa, a board-certified family physician and TrueSport Expert, shares six strategies to help coaches empower their athletes to become true leaders and navigate both big and small changes.

Understand Your Role

According to Gilboa, leadership is rarely needed in the absence of change. When you delegate tasks to your athletes, you are not asking them to lead but rather to serve as your proxy. True leadership involves making fundamental changes to the status quo, whether on a micro or macro level. As a coach, understanding your role and recognizing the opportunities for your athletes to lead is crucial.

Bring Students to the Table

To cultivate true leaders and garner support for change, involve your athletes in discussions and decision-making processes. Let them have a voice in conversations surrounding school or club policies and bring athlete representatives to important leadership meetings. By doing so, you empower them and show that their opinions and perspectives matter.

Set Boundaries and Expectations

While it is important to give your athletes a voice, it doesn’t mean they should have full autonomy. Clearly communicate expectations and boundaries. Let them know when they have a vote and when they only have a voice. This way, they understand the decision-making process and their role within it.

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Define Your Team’s Mission

To effect change, leaders must have a clear understanding of their team’s mission. Knowing where you stand on various issues helps guide decisions related to policy changes. Consider your team’s values, such as the development of the whole child or mental wellness, when evaluating potential changes. Having a strong mission in place makes decision-making more straightforward.

Show the Action Plan

Implementing change is often challenging, especially when it involves significant systemic shifts. Keep your team informed about the action plan for success. Share the next steps with them and explain the potential costs of change. By providing a clear roadmap and addressing any concerns, you can alleviate uncertainty and foster a sense of unity.

Encourage Empathetic Communication

It is vital for leaders to cultivate empathetic communication throughout the change process. Understand that disagreement and dissenting opinions are not signs of disrespect. The current generation of athletes sees disagreement as engagement and an opportunity for growth. By actively listening to their frustrations and concerns, leaders can create an environment of open dialogue and collaboration.

These strategies serve as a foundation for leaders to support change and empower their athletes. By understanding their role, involving students in decision-making, setting boundaries, defining the team’s mission, sharing the action plan, and fostering empathetic communication, coaches can effectively navigate change and develop resilient and confident leaders.


Q: How can coaches support their athletes through change?

A: Coaches can support their athletes through change by understanding their roles, involving them in decision-making, setting boundaries, defining the team’s mission, sharing the action plan, and fostering empathetic communication.

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Q: What is the importance of involving athletes in decision-making processes?

A: Involving athletes in decision-making processes empowers them, validates their opinions, and cultivates true leadership skills. It also helps coaches gain insights and perspectives from the athletes’ point of view.

Q: How can coaches establish boundaries and expectations during times of change?

A: Coaches can establish boundaries and expectations by clearly communicating the decision-making process and letting athletes know when they have a vote or just a voice. Setting these expectations helps maintain order and ensures everyone understands their roles.

Q: Why is defining the team’s mission important when implementing change?

A: Defining the team’s mission provides clarity and guides decision-making when considering potential changes. It helps coaches and athletes align their actions with the team’s values and goals.

Q: How does fostering empathetic communication benefit leaders and athletes during change?

A: Fostering empathetic communication allows leaders to understand and address athletes’ frustrations and concerns effectively. It encourages open dialogue, promotes engagement, and helps build a supportive and collaborative team environment.


Supporting change requires coaches to be mission-focused, empathetic, and clear in their expectations. By understanding their role, involving athletes in decision-making, setting boundaries, defining the team’s mission, sharing the action plan, and encouraging empathetic communication, coaches can empower their athletes to become true leaders. These strategies serve as a roadmap for navigating change successfully and fostering a dynamic and resilient team. Embrace change as an opportunity for growth and development, and remember that effective leadership is a vital component of a successful coaching journey. For more information and resources, visit

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