Sergio Lara-Bercial speaking at the NYSI Youth Coaching Conference. (Photo 1 courtesy of NYSI)

Park Avenue Convention Centre, Friday, February 2, 2018 — Are you a super-coach?

That was the implicit challenge from Mr Sergio Lara-Bercial at the Youth Coaching Conference organised by the National Youth Sports Institute (NYSI).

“Above all the technical and tactical knowledge of the sport and the access to resources and technology, it turns out that their ruthless yet not heartless leadership style accounted for a lot of their success. We have called it Driven Benevolence,” said Lara-Bercial.

Lara-Bercial, a former professional basketball player and international coach for Great Britain, interviewed 17 “super-coaches” who have won 150 gold medals between them and their athletes to answer a simple question: How do they repeatedly produce podium finishers?

Lara-Bercial, who was sharing his research findings at the NYSI Conference, is currently a Senior Research Fellow at Leeds Beckett University. He also has a concurrent appointment as a Manager for Strategy and Development on the International Council for Coaching Excellence.

He explained the concept of Driven Benevolence as “the relentless pursuit of excellence balanced with the genuine desire to compassionately support athletes and oneself”.

Showcasing successful coaches who practice Driven Benevolence – Hockey Coach Markus Weise, Ice Hockey Coach Mike Babcock, and Basketball Coach Zeljko Obradovic – Lara-Bercial shared traits that they had in common.
“Super-coaches see the entirety of an athlete. These coaches are really driven to succeed while still being very compassionate and humane,” he said.

While the coaches’ behaviour is observable, that is just the tip of the iceberg, said Lara-Bercial. What are their values and beliefs that are below the surface which drive their behaviour? These coaches see their athletes as a compass, take a high moral stance, and practice work-life balance, said Lara-Bercial. They use their athletes as a means to set a course of action, have clear boundaries, and ensure that their athletes take time for themselves to recuperate.

“Great coaches know that if they strayed too far away from the athletes being their ‘compass’, that it wasn’t right,” remarked Lara-Bercial. “Youth athletes also know that their coach would challenge them while maintaining certain boundaries.”

“Athletes think they need to work 24 hours, 8 days a week. In actuality, they need to be a little more selfish with their time. Athletes need to take time for themselves to rest and recuperate,” added Lara-Bercial.

“There is no magic recipe. Every coach needs to make the conscious effort to strike a balance between being driven and being caring. People aren’t perfect and sometimes coaches make mistakes too. We just need clear identifiers to ensure that we’re going in the right direction,” said Lara-Bercial.

Are you a super-coach? Do you have these traits and lead by Driven Benevolence? (Photo 2 courtesy of NYSI)

Driven traits
1. You have unwavering high standards
a. You live the culture
b. You lead by example
c. You raise the bar continually
d. You have a tendency for perfectionism
e. You control the controllables
f. You accept mistakes but not repeated blunders

2. You have a high sense of purpose and duty
a. You have a higher purpose (God, country, Queen)
b. You have a sense of responsibility to athletes
c. You have a helping gene

3. You have a pathological desire to win
a. “I need to win, don’t know why”
b. You are making up for past shortcomings
c. You need to prove myself
d. You have serial insecurity

4. You have all-in commitment
a. You have no half measures
b. You are proactive and decisive
c. You make decisions
d. You take calculated risk

5. You have 20/20 vision
a. You see into the future
b. You simplify complexity
c. You plan to win
d. You share the vision

Benevolence traits
1. You put people first
a. You see the person before the athlete
b. You balance challenge and support
c. You are dependable and stable
d. You are emotionally and socially intelligent

2. You seek to understand
a. You know your athlete
b. You practise shared leadership with your athlete
c. You use persuasion versus imposition

3. You are an optimist
a. You get over setbacks quickly
b. You have a thick skin
c. You accept reality