They lied to you: Perfect programming is not enough.
You’ll never get the results you want if your athletes don’t fully buy into you or your vision.
If you’re a coach, you’ve probably dealt with athletes who don’t listen, show respect or follow your training programs properly. And if you’re anything like me, it can make you lose your cool, lose your train of thought, or want to scrap everything and go back to the drawing board.
Why Training Programs Fall Flat
Everywhere I go, I meet incredibly talented and hardworking coaches who continually feel like they’re on the back foot with their athletes. They may have read all the latest papers on agility or periodization or nutrition, but the same challenges keep cropping up.
Tell me, do some of these challenges sound familiar to you?
- You have athletes who can’t seem to stick to your training program even though you spent every waking minute working out the details of it, and you explained every aspect of it, step-by-step.
- You struggle with athletes who openly disregard rules or fall short of baseline standards. Maybe they show up late for training, miss sessions or talk back to you. Then their attitude spreads through the team culture like an infection.
- You have athletes just going through the motions. They plod through training on autopilot, doing the bare minimum. Why don’t they have the same drive as you?
- You wonder why some athletes smile and nod, then after you walk away whine about what a waste of time it is to do whatever you just asked them to do.
- You get frustrated at the untapped potential in athletes who are naturally gifted but succumb to apathy. No matter how hard you try, you can’t seem to convince them to care.
- You sometimes get blamed for the underperformance of a star athlete who goes through their drills perfectly in training but falls apart in the face of a real-life opponent and the roar of the crowd.
- You feel your blood boiling every time an athlete with a sense of entitlement defies you because they believe they’re above what you’re asking them to perform – and in fact that they’re superior to you, period.
- You wake up in the middle of the night angsting about conflicts with coaching staff where you work. Perhaps you stare at the ceiling mentally replaying conversations with your head coach, and thinking, “If only I’d said (insert your brilliant response here).”
Let me tell you about a training session I was leading for 30 NFL athletes.
I’d just got the weight room set up when one player comes up to tell me E:60 is coming in to shoot a documentary on him. Now.
Boom! The crew bursts into the room – six cameramen plus sound and lighting technicians.
"Can we turn the music down?” the producer says.
What in the hell?
I address the players as the crew sets up around us. "Uh, guys, obviously a bit of a distraction. We got a new program today. Just pay attention, we're going to go through technique first."
I show them a different phase of the clean progression, but do you think any of them pays attention?
One player starts lifting with terrible technique.
“Hey, man, rack the bar! Take some weight off!” I say, then show him the right way.
"Man, shut up!" he erupts.
He shoots me a look of frustration. And goes straight back to lifting the wrong way again.
My frustration is building too, and I can see the rest of the players are totally distracted by the cameras. My head’s pounding and I have a growing sense that things could get out of control.
Very quietly I say, "Look, I know the camera's right behind me. Let me help you do this. You've got to do it with good technique."
He doesn't care. Boom! he does it again. And boom! again.
Now I'm pissed. I stop the music. "Guys, you make millions of dollars. It is my job to keep you healthy. Can you please not get distracted by the cameras?"
As I turn around to put the music back on, the player yells, "You got something to say to me, you say it."
I have a split-second decision to make. If I try to be Tommy Tough Guy, the player's going to be even more pissed. Yet I can’t be seen as a doormat. Especially now that 30 other players are watching to see what happens next. I have to come up with a way to defuse this situation. And I’m sweating bullets.
Let me be clear, every single coach runs into problems like this. However, the way we respond to these situations, or stop them from happening in the first place, is what separates good coaches from great. Yet many of us never receive any formal education in these matters.
Too often our way of coping with challenging situations has been to fight fire with fire. Or we have relied solely on our knowledge of the science of speed, agility, periodization, plyometrics, strength training, nutrition and recovery.
We tell ourselves that if we just acquire more technical knowledge we will gain more credibility, and if we develop better training programs we will become better coaches. Then, and only then, our athletes will follow our instructions and we will prevent all of these challenging situations from happening in the first place.
In reality, most coaches I meet already have the technical knowledge and training programs they need. Yes, of course you need to stay up to date on industry best practice . . . but that alone is not going to resolve the difficult situations you face as a coach or stop them from happening.
Deep down, you probably know the truth:
Any training program is only as good as the athlete’s willingness to buy-in.
The deciding factor in how good we are as coaches is not just our technical knowledge but also our ability to build trust and resolve conflict once it arises. That day with the NFL player, I think we can all agree I was facing a spectacular lack of buy-in from my athlete. A superior knowledge of periodization or understanding of randomized control trials wasn’t going to help me in that moment, nor would it have prevented the situation from arising. Only proficiency in the Art of Coaching, including the ability to build trust and navigate conflict, could help me now.
That’s when it clicked…
I noticed that the athlete’s eyes kept flicking to glance at the cameras. And I realized my comments about his technique had made him feel threatened. He was trying to save himself from embarrassment if ESPN aired the footage.
"Listen, I'm going to find an alternative exercise for you,” I said. “I know you don't like the Olympic lifts anyway."
I took him off to do a trap bar jump squat.
Immediately you could feel the tension in the air diffuse. Everyone was able to focus on their training again. When I spoke with the athlete afterward I communicated to him why it was so important for me to correct his lifting technique. Fist bump. “We cool, man,” he said. And we went on to have a highly successful coaching relationship from that day forward.
You Can Flip the Script
For too long we’ve been told it’s enough to master only the technical side of coaching: making athletes bigger, faster and stronger; movement assessments and injury prevention; and optimizing nutrition and recovery. As if athletes are robots with predictable inputs and outputs. Meanwhile the Art of Coaching – which deals with the complexity of human behavior, communication and influence – has been sidelined.
Even worse, the Art of Coaching has frequently been oversimplified, as though it’s just all about cheesy motivational sound bites or “Let’s all hug it out.” The Art of Coaching is not motivational fluff. It’s backed up by decades of research and hundreds of published papers in the behavioral and social sciences.
One of the reasons we’ve tended to be exclusively focused on studying physical sciences is that there’s an expectation we should already know how to deal with people effectively – that it should come naturally. There may even be an element of shame when we’re not sure what to do or say to get through to our athletes or other coaching staff.
Let me tell you, the ability to build buy-in is not something you’re born with. This is not just about having “people skills” or being a natural-born leader. It’s about effective communication skills and influence tactics that you can learn. And they will benefit you not just now but for the rest of your career.
Why Won’t They Just Work Hard?
At this point in my career, I know it takes sophisticated influence strategies to be a truly effective coach. But I had to learn it the slow, hard way.
I had always viewed training as a way to push my body beyond my perceived limit. So when I started coaching, I got frustrated when athletes didn’t attack their own training with the same fervor. All they had to do was approach training with a focused intensity and be consistent. Why couldn’t they see that?
As a teen, I’d spent more than a year living in hospital overcoming life-threatening weight loss associated with depression. Because I had an appreciation for just how short life is, I was filled with an intense sense of urgency. And I was determined to set a spark in these athletes using the electricity inside of me.
Some athletes bought in. Others were captivated by my high-energy style and sense of urgency (for a while anyway). But then, over time, they went back to their old habits. To re-engage them, I worked harder: I intensely focused on every action they performed, from the way they foam rolled to how they went through each dynamic stretch in their warm-up and every rep during their training session.
That approach worked – at times. Whenever someone was unresponsive, I’d go sit in my office after a session and feel dejected, like I was a failure.
But I was never going to give up that easily. If what I’d learned in college couldn’t help me get through to these athletes, I would have to look elsewhere. I did the hard work of acquiring deeper self-knowledge, uncovering my own emotions, desires and beliefs. And I came to understand why some athletes didn’t buy-in to my coaching.
I couldn’t find the answer in sports science journals,
so I looked somewhere else.
Young and eager to make a difference, I had been trying too hard too early in the process, overly anxious to get buy-in from my athletes instead of being patient and truly building it. My intense sense of urgency had blinded me to the fact that I needed to view every athlete as a person first – a person who didn’t necessarily respond to the world the way I did.
I sought out research in disciplines that could shed light on how to influence human behavior. My studies took me across the worlds of psychology, sociology, neuroscience and communication theory, and even into the boardrooms of Fortune 500 companies. And I gained valuable insight from great mentors – and critics too. Gradually I began to see that the true Art of Coaching takes into account a host of factors, such as individuals’ drives, their cultural and family backgrounds, and how they relate to one another and their environment.
The pieces began to fall into place. I applied my findings and developed systems to incorporate what I learned into my daily practice as a coach. And as I gained experience and refined my skills and tactics, I noticed something extraordinary: better relationships, a profound increase in buy-in from athletes, and massive improvements in their performance.
What happens when you can more
effectively create buy-in
When you are able to consistently build buy-in, you will unlock the full power of your training programs and deliver the ultimate outcomes you’re striving to attain with your athletes. Improvements of this scale lead to something that can change your future as a coach:
You will set yourself apart for the right reasons.
Whether your dream is to one day own your own facility, coach at a Division 1 school, or work with an NFL or NBA team, learning the skills and tactics that help you build buy-in is the single most important thing you can do. It can help you to:
- Significantly increase the number of athletes who comply with your training programs
- Optimize the performance of your athletes
- Reduce the incidence of athletes missing training, turning up late, or talking back to you
- Understand what drives your athletes, so you don’t have to spend all your energy pushing them to be motivated
- Communicate with athletes in a way that gets through to them
- Know what athletes are really thinking and feeling
- Unlock the latent passion in athletes that you thought were just disengaged
- Find the best way to get through to struggling or troubled athletes
- Connect with entitled athletes so they do what you need them to, while maintaining your relationship
- Manage conflict with other coaching staff and administrators
- Set the foundation for better relationships to prevent conflicts in the future
The 3 Core Skills That Separate
Good From Great
In order to build buy-in and navigate conflict with athletes, administrators and other coaches, you need to become proficient in 3 core skills:
Understanding other people and yourself
Reading the environment and social factors
Deploying the right communication and influence tactics
Great coaches achieve buy-in because they make it their job to understand the drives, desires and beliefs of others. And they work to understand their own selves so they can genuinely connect with other people. They take a “seek first to understand” approach.
Of course, human behavior does not exist in a vacuum. Environmental and social factors play their part as well – everything from the first bars of the first song you play in the weight room, to how much sleep your athletes get, to what people on social media are saying about them.
Finally, building buy-in requires you to consider everything you know about your athletes and their surroundings, and then select the best way to communicate with them and influence their behavior. Everyone you interact with is subtly influenced by your every look, gesture and word.
If this is all sounding complex, that’s because coaching is complex (but you know that already). Once you understand the science behind buy-in, you will be able to adapt to any situation you may face as a coach. Learn how to send the right signals and use the right persuasion tactics, and you will become a trusted and respected leader.
The Missing Piece of the Puzzle
There are so many resources out there for improving your knowledge of exercise science that you could spend your entire life poring over them and still not get through them all. Yet even though “buy-in” is a term you increasingly hear in the coaching world, there has been a total lack of research-backed resources to help coaches learn the 3 core skills essential for building trust and managing conflict.
So I spent years researching the social and behavioral sciences underpinning these 3 core skills. I went on to test, apply and adapt them in my work as a coach. Then I created resources to help all coaches develop these crucial abilities. My book Conscious Coaching first touched on the art and science of building buy-in, and when it was released in 2017 it became a best-seller and is now used as a text at two U.S. universities.
Now I’ve decided it’s time to dive deeper into these topics and provide practical, action-oriented resources to help you apply the teachings, start building greater buy-in, and radically optimize your outcomes.
It’s time you started seeing the results you deserve.
It took me the first 6 years of my career to understand that any training program I created was only as good as my athletes’ willingness to buy into it – but I don’t want you to have to wait years to start acquiring the tools and tactics to build buy-in that lasts.
At some level you’re probably already aware that improving your communication and influence tactics would lead to greater buy-in and better outcomes, but you may not be sure how to put them into operation. This course is designed to help you develop an immediate action plan to start developing greater buy-in, while understanding the psychological principles that underpin human behavior.
Here’s what you’ll learn inside Bought In.
In this course, Bought In guides you step-by-step on your journey toward becoming a trusted coach that gets the best results.
Your course of study is divided into two sections with four modules, each packed with research-backed, actionable material:
PART I: SCIENCE
First I will guide you through the unifying theory I have developed for driving improved behavioral outcomes with athletes, clients and coaching staff.
Module 1: Understand the Playing Field
Learn about the interdependent factors that shape athlete behavior, and how we can impact them through strategic deployment of communication and influence tactics. You will learn:
- Why athletes need a strategic framework to avoid the anxiety, envy, insecurity and dependency that can arise from social media, peers and parents
- The neuroscience behind why most people’s decisions are driven by emotion, and why emotion will trump logic every time
- How to identify a person’s primary drive (the drive to learn, bond, acquire or defend) and the advantages of leveraging it
- How the training environment impacts your athletes’ performance (and what happened when the Iowa University football team painted its visitors’ locker room “drunk-tank pink”)
- The ways your gestures and expressions can have just as powerful an influence as your words
Module 2: Know Thyself
Find out the number 1 obstacle that gets in the way of us becoming better coaches – ourselves. You will learn:
- A mental exercise that can help you identify your blind spots (and keep you from thinking you’re more competent than you really are)
- The strength you can gain by delving into the real reason why you coach (Hint: it’s always more than “I want to make a difference”)
- 3 Stages of Internal Identification (reflection, inspection and progression) that bring clarity to your deeper purpose
- How some socially undesirable behaviors can be the most successful behaviors to deploy as a coach (if you use them right)
- How empathy can actually damage a coach-athlete relationship, and why compassion is a far more powerful coaching tool
Module 3: Know Your Athletes
Learn about frameworks and behavioral models that can help you gain a better understanding of your athletes and other coaching staff, and how to engage with them. You will learn:
- 16 Archetypes that describe personality traits we frequently tend to encounter among athletes
- How these Archetypes can help you solve problems in your coaching environment or improve athletes’ outcomes
- Why the golden rule to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is wrong for coaches, and what works instead
- The “fundamental attribution error” and how to prevent it from making you seriously mis-judge an athlete
- How effective coaches tell the difference between a people problem and a situation problem
Module 4: Influence Tactics
Acquire influence tactics that can help you change people’s attitudes, beliefs, values and behaviors. You will learn:
- The 9 influence tactics that can be used to in essence “periodize” your interactions with athletes and coaching staff
- Why great coaches don’t rely solely on familiar pressure tactics like demands, threats and persistent reminders (and use a whole range of situation-dependent tactics instead)
- Practical ways to get athletes to do things they don’t want to do – without damaging your relationship
- Why the “sandwich” technique – a compliment followed by a criticism followed by another compliment – is a powerful tool so long as you know when to use it. (And can be a dangerous tool if you use it the wrong way.)
- The safe and effective way to leverage influencers like peers, teammates, role models or family members to persuade an athlete to do what you want
PART 2: APPLICATION
For 5 weeks, we’ll explore the practicalities of applying the science behind buy-in to your everyday life as a coach. I’ll share my advice, tips and stories, and I’ll challenge you with practical exercises and homework that will push you out of your comfort zone and bring lasting improvements to your work as a coach.
- The mistakes I made early on in my career that we can learn from
- Real-world alternatives to glorifying “the grind”
- How using a personality assessment to understand what drives your behavior can exponentially strengthen your coaching and self-awareness
- Enhancing your awareness of gender differences in coaching
- Using the Reporter Exercise to nail down your personal coaching style
- How the Hidden Camera Activity will make you cringe but you need to do it anyway because it will tell you things about your coaching that your friends and colleagues won’t
- The step-by-step process you can use to work out why you’re having trouble with a “difficult” athlete . . . and then find a solution
- How to use humor in training sessions to get better results (You don’t have to be a comedian or a clown. Even if you’re not a jokester, you’ll like these strategies.)
- Prepping to build buy-in with a new athlete or team
- Why you should seek critical feedback, and how to do it
- How to get to know what drives your athletes, including their likes and dislikes . . . all to help you engage them better
- Techniques you can use to keep track of what your athletes tell you about their life off the field (without them feeling like you have a dossier on them)
- Getting your communication right from onset to encore in a training session
- My answer to one of the questions I am asked the most: Who is the most difficult athlete I ever coached, and what approach did I take?
- How to calm down at the end of the day for your own sanity and the health of your relationships outside of work
- Practical ways to repay your mentors, and why you should
Conscious Coaching Field Guide 2
Since creating the practical hands-on activities in Conscious Coaching Field Guide 1 (which you’ll also get in this course), I’ve had huge numbers of coaches asking for more. So I’ve created a bunch of new activities and you will get exclusive access to them when you join the course.
The guide takes you through each activity with step-by-step instructions, helpful tips and insights. The activities help you develop the skills to build trust and commitment in athletes. And they challenge you to improve your communication and conflict management skills and ultimately become a better leader.
Influence Tactics Handbook
Behavioral science researchers have identified 9 key influence tactics, and during Bought In you will learn how to use them to produce optimal outcomes. This handbook is your easy reference guide to the influence tactics, covering:
- The advantages and disadvantages of each tactic
- When (and when not) to use a tactic to achieve your goal
- How to use each tactic effectively
The 16 Archetypes first introduced in my book Conscious Coaching describe personality traits recognized commonly in athletes. For the first time, this guide puts essential information about the archetypes at your fingertips:
- Each archetype’s personality and behaviors
- Strengths and weaknesses you need to be aware of in each archetype
- How to leverage an archetype’s personality traits to get results
- The best ways to communicate with each archetype
- How to build the trust of each archetype
Course Update: CEUs
The National Strength and Conditioning Association have approved 1.5 CEUs in category D for individuals who successfully complete this course.
Completion of the course and receiving the CEUs is dependent on studying all course modules and field guides, and passing the Bought In Exam which tests course members on the subjects studied in the course and supplementary bonus materials.
What Athletes and Coaches Say
"Brett has given me the best years of my football career. Athletes want a coach that not only makes them better physically, but also one that understands our world and communicates in a real way – Brett does that. For me it's about the combination of smart training and good communication, and what I love most of all is he is not just my coach, he is my friend. I'll be working with him until my career is over." - Patrick Chung / Two-time Super Bowl Champion / Safety - New England Patriots
"Brett Bartholomew is one of the leaders of our profession today. He understands that the strength & conditioning industry is part ‘art’ and part ‘science’. We live in a world today where we have many internet ‘gurus’ that get the science, understand the physiology and biomechanics. However, the defining element of ‘coaching’ lies in a coach's ability to interact with an athlete or group of athletes – understand where they are at, and how to motivate and move a group of athletes forward. Young coaches starting their journey into this profession (or anyone who's been in for years) would do well to soak up the experiences and learn the applied side of coaching." - Dave Tenney / High Performance Director / Seattle Sounders FC
"In this highly diluted industry, rife with negativity, internet experts and gimmicky frauds, Brett is a beacon of positivity, professionalism and authenticity. Coach John Wooden stated, ‘A coach has not taught until the athlete has learned.’ ‘Coach as a teacher’ is a role that Brett expertly fulfills." - Stu McMillan / Performance Director and Lead Sprint Coach ALTIS
Super Bowl Champion (XLVII) / Pro Bowl (2015) / ACC Player of the Year (2010) / 3x ACC Champion / Quarterback - Cleveland Browns
What Bought In Members Say
Anthony Renna / Host of the Strength Coach Podcast, / New York, New York
Zac Woodfin / Director of Strength & Conditioning / University of Kansas
Neal Peduzzi / Director of Strength & Conditioning, The Lovett School / Atlanta, GA
Victor Kizer / HProgram Director/Assistant Professor of Exercise Science / Maryville University
"If you’re a coach who wants to wants to really understand your athletes and forge trust and commitment, I can’t recommend Brett’s course enough. All lessons are research and evidenced based, not just simply anecdotal evidence from a coach that has had success...Bought In was truly a worthwhile investment that will reach far beyond the duration of the course!" - Matt Marcinek / Grappling & MMA Coach / Scranton, PA
"I’m 24 and have been training full time for under a year. Brett, your course gave me much more confidence in my abilities as a coach. It has been hard at times to trust myself as I am still learning the best ways to program and mix and match exercises to be the most effective. But Bought In helped me learn to trust the process and programming and stop stressing over it." - Sam Cunningham / Personal Trainer / Prairie Village, KS
"At the end of the day, being able to connect and communicate with your athletes is what will make your program successful. Bought In provides strategies to do so with a variety of personality types, preparing you for any individual who might walk through your door." - Andrea Hudy / Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Performance / University of Kansas
Derek Hansen / SprintCoach.com / Vancouver, Canada
Drew Heithoff / MiLB Assistant Coordinator Strength & Conditioning / San Diego Padres
Join the Course
What you'll get
- Full 5-Week Program
- Weekly lessons with practical activities and exercises
- Written course materials that save you taking notes
- Learn where and when it’s convenient for you
- Access to the private Art of Coaching Facebook community
- Lifetime access to all Bought In materials
- Bonus #1 Conscious Coaching Field Guide 2 with extra practical activities
- Bonus #2 Influence Tactics Handbook
- Bonus #3 Archetypes Handbook
- 1.5 National Strength and Conditioning Association CEUs and certificate
- 14-day unconditional return policy
Frequently Asked Questions
How does the course work?
Bought In is an online video course. I'll email you every week with new lessons and links to videos in the private Bought In members area. You’ll be able to learn where and when it’s convenient for you. The practical exercises can be done on your own or with a group of other coaching staff.
How is this course different from other resources on the market?
This is the first course specifically for coaches that goes beyond sports science to give you the skills to build buy-in. It’s founded in the behavioral and social sciences, and backed by decades of research. It brings together the science and application of building buy-in by drawing on my experience as a coach and challenging you with proven practical activities.
Is the course only for strength and conditioning/team sports coaches? What about coaches who work with the general population?
Bought In is for all coaches! Using the behavioral and social sciences as its foundation, the course delves into influencing the behavior of those you’re coaching, whether they are NBA players, athletes, or clients from the general population. The skills and techniques I teach can be applied across all coaching fields to increase trust and buy-in.
Do I need to read Conscious Coaching before taking the course?
Not at all! There's absolutely no required preliminary reading for the course. It's great if you have read the book, and I'd be interested to know what you think of the course!
How long can I access the course?
The lessons will be released week by week. At the end of 5 weeks, you have lifetime access to the entire course.
What if I fall behind?
Bought In comes with lifetime access so you can take a break from the material if you’re too busy. The unexpected happens, but Bought In will always be here for you when you're ready.
Will I be able to connect with my peers doing the course?
Yes, there will be a private Facebook group where you can share your experiences of the course.
How much time will this take?
The course is designed to take 5 weeks. It will take around 2 hours per week to watch the videos and do the exercises.
Do you offer a payment plan?
You have the option to break up your investment into 6 payments of $97.
What if it doesn’t work?
Bought In offers evidence-backed skills and strategies. I have not met a coach who Bought In won’t help. So I’d like you to try it Risk Free with a 14 day money-back guarantee.
I’m not a coach at all, but I work with people. Would I benefit from this course?
Absolutely. In fact, professionals from fields such as accounting and health care have already joined and benefitted from the skills and techniques in the course. If you need to improve your communication for better buy-in from those you work with or work to serve, the content in this course (though given in the context of coaching) can help you become more effective.
Here’s what happens when you sign up...
Within minutes you'll get an email with instructions on how to access the private members area of the course and the Facebook community.
You will be able to access all of the first module right away. Each Monday you'll then get access to the next lessons, materials and activities.
If you have any problems accessing the course, you can email my team to get help.