Coaches, make suggestions rather than to pre-program

As we have seen in the past three webinars with Philipp, dialogue is a matter of the heart for the coach. Philipp gives a lot of room for personal exchange with his athletes. This quality is the core of his training philosophy and accompanied him even before his career as a coach.

As you know, Philipp started out as a high school teacher for German and sports, where he helped kids get on the right track. During this journey he came in touch with the concept of dialogue-based learning, among other things. The experiences he made with the concept and in dealing with people with different abilities still shape him today.

Open your thought horizon & create understanding

Every athlete has a goal in mind. Let your counterpart tell you about it. Even if it is an ambitious wish, stay open to it and don’t judge too quickly – after all, you have experience in taking single steps with the athletes. Their goals are what drive them and give them the potential to follow the necessary path. That is why the journey should be shaped together. As a coach, think about how your athlete will be able to unleash his or her potential. This can be an indication of his habits, for example. To do so, you need understanding for him/her. Especially when you combine convergent and divergent thinking, you create a dialogue. Thanks to divergent thinking you are more empathetic and can grasp what is happening around your athletes (including environmental influences). Insights into, for example, stress levels or subjective exhaustion will give you many clues as to what the athletes can cope with. You can then link this information to your sports-specific framework.

The goal is the starting point for development

In the search for the optimal conditions for sporting success, a competition for knowledge unfolds among coaches; a knowledge of interrelationships that are closely linked to performance optimization. It is often a matter of correcting movement patterns or achieving greater performance with the training programme. Dialogue-based learning takes you to a completely different level in the cooperation with your athletes. In addition to the conversation itself, it is also about how skilled you are in conveying knowledge. Philipp talks about making suggestions to the athletes in your training plan. They can then individually apply them. The important thing here is that you visualise the development potential of the athletes so that they can use it and above all so that they can see the progress they are making. This way you do not just pre-program the training, but you actively engage with the athletes together with them. At this point I will take up an input from the first webinar: the more you know about your athletes, the better you can respond to them and motivate them with your suggestions.

Ask how athletes feel

What do the athletes perceive? How do they understand your programme? Do they know why they should do the exercises? Clarify these questions together. If you get a feeling of how the athletes process your instructions and what else is going on with them, you can better respond to their needs and make more targeted suggestions to trigger a developmental step. You will also be better able to decide if you need to take a step backwards to initiate success. A dialogue is actually clearly structured. In a feedback discussion, for example, it is important to start with the positive aspects before addressing the less good ones. Strengthen the things that succeed. But also feed back those things that are not quite successful yet. In this way you initiate a process of higher development. There should always be room for questions and for explaining one’ s own point of view so that your counterpart has the chance to reflect on information and to be able to better grasp it. This strengthens the interpersonal relationship. You will become an increasingly strong duo – even if you are coaching many athletes – which will work together also in more critical times.


Besides Laura, Philipp himself is probably his greatest critic. He emphasises that education is important in order to have a solid basis for developing suitable training programmes. Thanks to the dialogue you are in a reciprocal relationship with your athletes. But reflecting about yourself should not be neglected. Use both feedbacks, you will see that it is worth it! A mirror is held in front of you, which gives you an additional push to improve the performance (of your athletes and your own).

Would you like to hear the tips in Philipp’s words (in German)? Then take a look here:

Still curious? Browse through Philipp’s book tips

  • Personalist movement concept, among others by Gordijn/Tamboer
  • Philosophy of dialogue by Martin Buber
  • Dialogic approach in education by Ruf and Gallin
  • Transactional analysis by Eric Berne
  • Awareness through movement by Moshé Feldenkrais