Advice on Weight Discussions for Coaches

Tags: Supporter AdviceRead time: 3mins

The W-word: Advice on Weight Discussions for Coaches

As coaches, we hold a vital responsibility to guide our athletes towards success without compromise. While there’s no denying that body composition can play a role in athletic performance, this can be a loaded subject tied closely to body image, self-esteem, and overall well-being. And, as with any coaching conversation, it’s worth taking some time to consider how to navigate it with care. Here’s our advice.

Identify the purpose

As coaches, it's crucial to understand why we’re having weight-related discussions. Are they vital for the athlete's health and performance? How do they tie into the athlete's personal goals and training? By establishing a clear purpose, we can better convey the relevance of weight in a way that supports our athletes' overall well-being.

Step into their shoes

Imagine being your athlete. How would you feel about receiving feedback about your weight? It's essential to gauge their emotional response and ensure they are in a secure mental space before discussing sensitive topics. We want to avoid triggering negative feelings, a loss of confidence, or unhealthy behaviours.

Choose a safe setting

Creating a confidential space for these conversations is key. Find a time when both you and your athlete are free from distractions and avoid discussing weight-related matters in public to maintain their privacy and comfort.

Focus on performance, not appearance

Rather than numbers or appearance, focus on how optimal body composition with proper nutrition can impact performance and overall wellbeing. We’re here to support our athletes in reaching their athletic goals while prioritising their health, which extends far beyond a specific weight or aesthetic.

Use neutral language

Words hold immense power, so let's choose them wisely. When discussing weight, opt for neutral and non-judgmental language and stay away from derogatory terms, negative comments, or comparisons to other athletes. Frame the conversation around individual goals, performance metrics, and overall health instead of specific numbers on the scale.

An unhelpful statement might be, "I noticed you’ve gained weight since last year. I think you’d be faster if you dropped back to your old weight or looked more like your teammate." Versus, "It seems like you’ve plateaued this season. Do you want to talk about what has changed for you with school, work, life, stress, rest, or nutrition that might be impacting your training or performance?"

Be an active listener 

Give your athletes the chance to express their thoughts, concerns, and feelings. Active listening shows that you are fully engaged and attentive, allowing them to share their perspective without interruption or judgement.

Understand individual factors

Remember, weight is influenced by various factors, and every athlete is unique. Avoid comparing athletes' weights or setting unrealistic expectations. Instead, focus on optimising their body composition, strength, and performance through tailored training, nutrition, and recovery strategies.

Encourage healthy habits

Promote a holistic approach to health and performance. Encourage balanced nutrition, hydration, rest, and appropriate recovery strategies. Highlight the significance of fueling their bodies for optimal performance and overall well-being.

Bottom Line: Healthy athletes are able to stack together training cycles, maintain their passion for competition, and develop over time as they pursue their potential in sport. When restrictive fueling habits and negative self-image creep in, an athlete risks long-term consequences. Let your athletes know that you’re there for them and suggest seeking guidance from professionals specialising in sports nutrition, psychology, or sports medicine. Reinforce that their well-being and development as athletes are your primary concerns. Together, we can empower our athletes to flourish, maintain their passion for competition, and achieve their true potential.