How to talk to your Athletes using Iris

One of Iris’ primary functions is to educate athletes and coaches. Beyond education, Iris facilitates and informs coach-to-athlete and coach-to-coach conversations, provides genetic insight into why an athlete’s body responds to training in a unique way, and has become another important coaching assistant. It isn’t for talent identification nor is it a tool to determine which sport an athlete should play.

Each athlete has big, audacious goals for his or her life and athletic career. The fact remains that understanding of an athlete’s genes is just a small part of helping them reach their goals.  

An athlete has been shaped not only by their genes, but also their training, nutrition, lifestyle, coaches, therapists, family, teammates, motivation, and more. Luck even plays a part.

Athletes are complex and so is their training. How can Iris help you address those complexities, adjusting for each athletes unique needs?

Iris is an important tool in a coach’s toolbox that can reveal some factors that contribute to or take away from an athlete’s potential to achieve their goals. These factors can affect how their performance may have changed or may change in the future. 

Iris provides early warning signals when your athletes deviate from their self-reported norm. What happens next is up to the coach: Iris helps you start the conversation.

Overcoming barriers to Talking with your athletes

Using the Iris Coach watchlist, let’s say you notice a new athlete’s sleep score is low. You know that, based on their genetic predispositions that associate with recovery, poor sleep is a risk factor for injury. It’s clear you need to talk with them, but it may take a long time for your athlete to trust you enough to volunteer the reasons they aren’t getting a good sleep, not eating well, or any other reason. The athlete could be hesitant to talk to you, as to not come off as a complainer, deciding instead to just fight through. The Iris Athlete app provides an avenue for the athlete to provide feedback, allowing you to start the conversation based on the data you see and your intuition.

Instead of heading straight for “We’ve talked about this before – you need to get to bed by 10,” a few moments of focused, strategic listening are critical for your athlete’s confidence, motivation, and willingness to change. It will also help you to know what to look for the next time you are working with your athlete. The Athletigen Precision Coaching Cycle (below) gives coaches a way of organizing the conversations they must have with their athletes.

The Athletigen Precision Coaching Cycle   

Our Precision Coaching Cycle for Iris Coach can provide an athlete-centred way to start the conversation and strengthen the relationship with each athlete reliably and quickly.

Walkthrough of an Athlete with Sleep Issues

Let’s take our sleepless athlete and walk through the cycle. There are hundreds of possible conversations, but since this athlete is new to your team, you might start by asking, “Remind me, what is your goal?” Your athlete might answer that they saw themselves on the podium with the gold medal, featured in Sports illustrated, or drinking from the Stanley Cup. Your question isn’t just for you to get an answer; it’s for the athlete to remember why they’re here. Getting both of you grounded in the athlete’s goals again sets the big picture for the rest of the conversation.

When the athlete got their DNA results and started seeing their unique Iris insights, you talked about how those results fit into their sport. You also created a strategic plan for training based on their vision and goals, genetic foundation and daily environment. Asking your athlete what they remember from that conversation helps set expectations for the next step. You now have a chance to go over any concerns the athlete may have.

Now that you’ve grounded the conversation, you can bring up their internal environment. The athlete has been reporting poor sleep for a while, and you’re wondering about that. Ask open-ended questions and acknowledge their courage in telling you, a relative stranger, the answers. A coach should ask them to suggest some strategies to get back on track. You ask them to tell you what they know about sleep and injury. This is especially important considering the genetic profile they have. You then give the athlete some resources to follow up on. This helps the athlete own their next steps, learn resilience, and establish self-efficacy.

Finally, you and the athlete agree on today’s action. Together you adapt today’s training to where the athlete is physically and mentally and plan to check in again to see how their sleep strategies are working out.

Most importantly, you’ve shown the athlete that you’re committed to their goals. Cycle-based conversations can be short, long, or somewhere in-between. Each one is athlete-centered, accounts for their vision, sport, genes, strategy, and daily survey results.

Iris provides the data. The Precision Coaching Cycle provides a conversation structure. Your coaching skill brings it all together to help accelerate performance.


Want to learn more about coaching with Iris? For seminars, self-directed learning, and our monthly coaching sessions, please contact Heather Hamilton for more information.

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