Coaching Congruency

I've never seen a great Coach who is rated low on Congruency.

On the flip side, it is possible to have high levels of Congruency and still not be a great Coach.

Before I expand on the definition of Congruency, below are a few examples of (superficial) Non-Congruency:

  • The overweight dietitian
  • The unfit Personal Trainer
  • The Financial Advisor who still lives in his parent's basement
  • The Developmental Coach who is well-known for her partying habits

If, while reading the list above, you felt a disconnect between the professional and the terms describing the professional, you already have an understanding of Congruency (or, in this case, Non-Congruency).

Congruency is a term I use to assess the alignment of a Coach's dialogue, actions and methods: are they all pointing in the same direction?

In my experience, Coaches rated highly on this scale typically have high levels of 'buy-in' from their Athletes, are usually well respected and their Athletes enjoy their training.

It is important to note that a high rating of Congruency doesn’t automatically guarantee Coaching success or longevity. Being able to connect with, motivate or discipline our Athletes; understanding the sport, training & preparation may all have a greater role to play.

On the other hand, Coaches who rate poorly (or are Non-Congruent) often have Athletes that are frustrated with low levels of engagement.

Sure, these Coaches might have high levels of technical, tactical or physical knowledge, but it doesn’t seem to matter too much as they often lose their Athletes fairly early on.

Below are some suggestions and tips on how to improve your Congruency.

Look the Part

While studying, one of my best mates and I worked the floor in a commercial gym.

It'd be fair to say he resembled Adonis a lot more than I did (and do). And it was noticeable how many guys would walk straight past me to ask him his advice on lifting (I got asked the 'endurance' questions).

This is the most superficial level of Congruency.

It's what Boards & CEO’s fall for when they hire the Superstar former Player as a Coach. It plays a large part in 'Broscience' world - he's big, so he must know what he's talking about. It's why these Instagram models are raking in the cash, selling shitty programs to gullible followers.

But 'Looking the Part' is a valuable asset, especially to young Coaches who cannot rely solely on past results or a reputation.

It gives initial buy-in to the Athletes... And that is definitely a better place to be when starting with a new team or Athlete.

Of course, as our experience grows, this aspect of Congruency becomes less important; partly because we're older and not expected to be as fit/strong/in shape and partly because we should have sufficient results on the board that speak for themselves.

Act the Part (aka Walk the Walk)

If we're asking our Athletes to cut back on carbs but constantly have a can of coke in our hands; or tell them to respect the officials while we perform like a pork chop on the sidelines; or expect them to be disciplined on the field but we can't even start training on time we're not demonstrating high levels of Congruency.

If, however, we too cut back on carbs, respect the officials or are disciplined in our approach we, firstly, give them an example to follow: This is how you do it. The subtext to our actions is 'we're doing it so you have no excuse'.

Secondly, we can increase our empathy. Understanding what it is like during those first few days of low-carb (mine was a full two weeks) headaches and grumpiness; understanding the restraint required to not blow up at an official or understanding what time management skills are necessary to be prepared on time allow us to help them through the journey.

In other words: Want disciplined Athletes? Demonstrate discipline! Want prepared Athletes? Demonstrate preparedness! Want…. You get the point.

Can the Coach in the video below ask his players to be disciplined on the court? (Thanks to Jorge Carvajal for posting this).

Do what we Say we'll Do

Promise we'll call them? Send them that article? Organise that sponsorship? Play them in that position?

Well, we'd better do it.

Promising and not delivering is a sure way to decrease our Congruency; as well as eroding trust between our Athletes and us.

An alternative approach to 'do what we say we'll do' is to 'Under Promise and Over Deliver', an attitude many of the Great Coaches seem to embrace.

Finish what we Start

Sounds to simple, doesn't it?

It doesn't take long for our Athletes to start rolling their eyes when we introduce another ‘innovation’ - them knowing full well that after a few weeks it'll disappear.

Whether it's monthly leadership meetings or Athlete-driven training sessions or written report cards...

If it was important enough to include it, it should be important enough to continue it.


Congruency is the alignment of a Coach's dialogue, actions & methods.

It doesn't guarantee success, and isn't the be-all-and-end-all of coaching but it is something many of my mentors and other great Coaches tend to exhibit.

To improve your levels of Congruency, think about:

  1. Looking the Part
  2. Acting the Part
  3. Doing what you say you'll do
  4. Finishing what you start

If you have any thoughts, comments or questions please contact me here or leave a note in the section below.

Grant Jenkins is a Performance Coach is still working to improve his Congruency. You can read more about him here or follow him on Twitter @Grant_Jenkins

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