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I was rereading some parts of the book Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath last night and it made me think about applying those concepts to training athletes. So often in evaluating our athletes and subsequently designing the training programs we focus on the weakness, what they can’t do and ignore the strengths, what they can do. We work so hard on the weaknesses that the strengths erode, in essence creating a leveling effect, a regression toward the mean.  Instead maybe we should find what the athlete’s strengths are and build on those areas. Find a way to take advantage of the strengths and minimize the weaknesses, this may be a consummate example of the art of coaching. I don’t have an answer although I do know it is a delicate balance, in many ways constant compromise. I also know that it changes as the athlete progresses in their career and advances in training age. I would be interested in your comments and how you approach it.

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Comment by John Weatherly on January 30, 2012 at 8:07am

Astute observations.  I actually worked with Gallup (who Rath works for) in the late 90's to 2001.  I was a subject in reliability research for the StrengthsFinder profile.  This test is different than most personality profiles as it identifies major "themes" of talent or thinking.  This is how people naturally think or react to their world.  I believe looking at an individual's top 5 themes from StrengthsFinder and understanding those themes will allow a coach to obtain pertinent insights on how to best relate to/coach an individual athlete.  For example, my 5 top signature themes from StrengthsFinder are maximizer, input, competition, significance, and achiever.  A very short explanation of these themes is I strive to excel and don't like to be around slackers.  I do like to be around talented, credible people and will "polish the pearl" (if the pearl has talent) being a good mentor to these types.  I am very competitive and like numbers/scores to see how I stack up.  I want to standout and be known/recognized (significance theme)and like public praise.  Finally, I like to know the "why" and love information (input) - will remember all kinds of facts, figures, data, etc.  If I were an athlete now, I would like a coach to ask my input on training program design etc. and not just tell me what to do. I feel this is the greatest value of StrengthsFinder but it also, as far as exercise selection/training program design, has applications similar to what you have mentioned in other blog posts about focusing on the most important aspects (i.e., Pareto Principle).  In a nutshell, StrengthsFinder can help coaches understand how to approach/coach individual athletes - that's the "biggest" value to me although there are others and it's true that we as a society focus on weakness instead of strength.  Play to your strengths is the mantra Gallup preaches and this is different for individuals.  Perhaps just as important especially as a coach is to create an environment that allows individuals to play to their unique strengths.

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