What is the Skill Set of an Effective Athlete Development Professional?

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Every week I career coach people who aspire to athlete development positions at the college or professional level. These individuals range from graduate students in sports administration programs to professionals already in the position to former college and professional athletes who are passionate about helping others be successful during their sports career and beyond.

I’m often asked what are the skills, attributes and qualities necessary to be effective player development directors. While there are several, I believe these five are the most important:

  1. Education. A degree or courses in education, counseling, psychology, sociology help you understand the developmental stages, learning styles, motivation and cultural experiences of athletes. This knowledge increases your ability to develop trusting relationships with athletes, those in their ecosystem, and provide appropriate programming and resources.
  2. Understanding Sports Culture. The job of athlete development professionals is to help their athletes achieve their goals and be prepared for successful lives after sports. This is difficult to accomplish if you do not understand the expectations and demands on athletes and appreciate the culture in which they are a part.
  3. Communication. Being an active listener may be the most important skill for athlete development professionals to possess. Quickly providing solutions, without hearing and fully understanding an issue from the athletes’ perspective, reduces your ability to assist them and further develop their communication, problem-solving and conflict management skills.
  4. Relatability. You don’t need to have been an athlete to be an effective athlete development professional; however, it certainly helps. Someone who’s walked in their shoes, shared similar feelings, experiences and challenges is more quickly perceived as relatable, credible and trustworthy.
  5. Resourcefulness. The ability to identify athletes’ needs is the first step towards helping them achieve their goals. The most effective athlete development professionals are also knowledgeable of and utilize industry experts and best-in-class resources and seek ongoing professional development to support their work.

Our career coaching services can help you develop or sharpen the above skills, attributes and qualities necessary to be an effective athlete development professional at all levels. I invite you to Contact Hilliard Solutions today for assistance.

NEXT BLOG: Essential Components of Athlete Development Programs


2 Responses

  1. Awesome post! Thank you for the insight. I totally agree with those 5 attributes. Understanding the sports culture is my favorite as well as Relatability. Well actually all of them are my favorite. ?

    As you said there are several skills attributes and qualities of an effective Athlete Development Professional, so I would like to add to the conversation to include Innovation. While there are proven methods and tactics on being an effective Athlete Development Professional there is definitely a need to be innovative. Offering innovative solutions to help athletes achieve thier goals is a power strategic move; especially if you are working with the newer generation who grew up with smartphones and tablets in their hands. Therefore I encourage athlete development professionals to add innovation to their career toolbox.

    Thank you Dr. Hillard for sharing.

  2. Thanks Sanethia, innovation today is key. What a great addition to the skill set! How information is delivered is just as important as what’s delivered. Please feel free to share educational technology solutions you’ve found especially helpful when working with athletes or that you think would be helpful. Thanks!

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