Great coaches understand the way the minds of high performers work. Each player has his own needs. You can see this most clearly after the players lose a game. Some want the coach to come up to them and talk to them about it. Others want to be left completely alone; they want to deal with the loss in their own heads first.
During my time with the Cleveland Browns, I saw players working with several different coaches. The successful coaches kept the individual needs and interests of each player in mind. The players willingly worked harder for them because they wanted so much to please them.
In my own work, my priority was also to try to get a sense of who each player was. I would begin with an interview, in which I focused on understanding a player's background -- when his talent was first recognized, how he had been steered into pro football. In a second session, I would conduct a more formal assessment to gain a deeper understanding of the player's core personality, motivations, values, needs, problem-solving skills, and interests. Finally, in a third session, we would go through all the results of the assessment tests. It was at that point we talked about who the player was, what really challenged him, what put fire in his belly.
Whatever form the coaching takes -athletic or psychological--a coach needs to focus on just one thing: his players' confidence. In a top pro-football team, all the players are talented and fit. What differentiates the winners is self-confidence. And that kind of confidence is a matter of choice. It isn't something your opponents can take away; it's something you give away when you stop believing that you can win. That's why a good coach never undercuts or demeans his players when a game is going badly. The players need to believe that their skills are better than their opponents'. That's not to say that coaches should ignore failure--far from it. They have to analyze and understand the failure in order to avoid repeating it. But they must not point fingers, because that only makes the players more likely to repeat the mistake.