The following is excerpted from a presentation Diemer gave at a 2008 Michigan Track Coaches Association seminar.
On developing a positive mind set in the athletes he coaches:
“First of all, coaches need to realize that they need to believe in their athletes. Sometimes that’s tough. Sometimes it’s really tough. We’ve all had kids that (we thought), ‛Oh boy, this kid doesn’t believe in himself. You know what, if I’m honest with myself, I don’t even believe in him, or her.’ But it is imperative that the coach finds something to believe in, in their athlete. You have to start somewhere and you have to build. And that belief is vitally important. That takes lot of time.
“Ron Warhurst built that up in me. It didn’t just happen that one day ... it happened throughout the workouts, through just sitting down in his office, talking on the road trips. That belief came from lot of one-on-one time that gave him the credibility, so that’s when he said, ‛I think you can medal (in 1984),’ then I was prepared to believe it from him. That’s what we need to do.
“Sometimes it’s really hard to be positive. But you know what, I have found that athletes will do just about anything for you if you positively encourage them. Here on the track or out on the training ground, getting on their case all the time, they may give you something back, but I don’t believe that that’s lasting. I don’t think that’s building. But if you’re in there, starting with something small, and building, just building the positives – when you see something happen that’s positive you reinforce that. ‛Hey, nice job, nice job. You got beat, but that’s okay because this is what you did – you moved up. Instead of putting on the sad, puppy dog face, you moved up in the middle of the race where you’ve always been kind of weak. I’m proud of you. You made it through that stretch. Okay, now let’s build on that.’ Constructive direction.
“Everything can’t all be flowers and roses, either. And you can’t always be a friend. In order to get the mind set, there’s some things that you have to address. And some of it’s pretty tough stuff. Step back, take a look at what you need to address with that kid, and do it with love and encouragement. And then try to give them a picture of what it could look like if they indeed follow through on that. Give them a little glimpse, give them a little picture. Give them something to visualize.
“What happens is, this develops a lot of ownership. What you want to do as coaches is, you want the athlete to take ownership of their career. You want them to take ownership of what’s going in their minds. You can encourage, you can build up, but it’s all so that it becomes their idea. It becomes their goal, their dream. This is what they want to do.
“So that’s what you need to develop throughout the whole season, throughout the whole year. When a kid develops that ownership, what you’re going to see happening is, you’re going to see (athletes) getting the miles in, getting the training in, in the off-season. You’re going to see it right away. This person has a purpose, and they know every time they go out that door to train, they know what they’re doing it for. That’s how you can spot these kids. And that is just so important. Once you get to that point, you know you’ve got a fun year coming up. And I’m not saying that everything’s going to be a success, but it’s going to be a fun year because that kid is going to go out and be inspiring. That kid is going to inspire the rest of his teammates, he’s going to inspire you, the coach. You’re going to say, ‛Yeah, I had a good year of coaching because I had kids that responded and it wasn’t so frustrating.’”