What are critical considerations when working with elite athletes? How might a coach alter their coaching style to the needs of an athlete? What challenges exist to build a winning culture? Danny Mackey, Head Coach of the Brooks Beasts Track Club in Seattle shares his thoughts on coaching styles.

Danny Mackey on Team Structure

The Beasts have about 10 athletes, but this small group is making waves on the international scene. Several have qualified for international championship meets. Part of that success has been valuing each person’s positive qualities and thoroughly developing each individual, instead of recruiting many athletes with just a handful running well. Each person brings something unique to this newly-formed club. “I’m very humanistic with how I approach the athletes,” Mackey said. “I talk with each person differently, depending on what their needs are. Our approach is very team-focused; it’s very synergistic”

Dedication and Team Matter

For Mackey, getting the right athlete isn’t simply a function of picking the flat-out fastest collegians. The recruiting process is getting accomplished athletes with specific criteria.

“I first like to know how dedicated to this sport the athletes are,” Mackey said. “I want to know that they are ready to work hard and maximize their potential. Adaptability is really important to me too. There are so many variables outside of your control in the sport, so how have they dealt with those variables in the past.”

Mackey is also curious with how the athletes have excelled in a team environment. “I look at the athletes’ relationship with teammates and coaches. They need to be able to speak positively about people they work with on a daily basis. Even if there were issues, how did they manage those issues and get them resolved?”

How do you deal with conflict on your team?

“I have an open door policy,” Mackey said. “I do give a lot of credit to the older athletes on the team. They help manage some of the day-to-day issues that may come up.”

Keeping the little things in check is important to Mackey. The team has had a lot of success with cohesion, but Mackey thinks that it’s vital to always be aware of small conflicts. “You need to resolve issues quickly before they turn into major problems.”