RSS Feed

Category Archives: Character Building

Unlock Their Potential by Making Athletes Feel Good

Posted on

When we meet people we “judge” them automatically. In seconds we get a gut feeling of who they are as a person and if we want that person around us. In these immediate seconds this person may not have said much or given us any formation as to who they are, but still we come up with a gut instinct.

168421_1719666786345_7767706_n (1)This instinct comes from the way that person made us FEEL. It’s in their tone of voice and their body language. Studies have shown that we don’t even need to understand the words someone is saying to make a correct judgement on someone. It’s been done in studies where participants only see a subject speaking for 3 seconds with no sound and people can accurately pick up characteristics of that person. It’s about how they made them feel! It’s called thin slicing; it’s something we do naturally as humans to make quick instinctive decisions.

As coaches, or even teammates, it’s imperative that we make the athletes around us feel good. You can unlock someone’s potential if you make them feel empowered. It’s kind of like a comedy movie. In comedy the main character sometimes has to be mean in order to be funny. They have to do things that people won’t like, but then they need the audience to come back to them after it’s done. The audience still has to like him, root for him, and side with him. This is what made Tom Hanks the perfect actor for Apollo 13; the director of the film was quoted saying “When Tom (Hanks) came in and read, I felt like I could live inside of him, I could just relate to him”. He knew the audience would feel the same way; they would always want him to come out on top. This would allow him to push the boundaries and do daring things and still have the heart of the audience at the end of the movie.

Coaches need this too, you have to be able to push your athletes and give them tough love at times, but you also need them to come back to you. You need them to stay, and in order to do this you have to make them feel good.

Coaches, make it known to your athletes that you value them as people, not just as athletes who contribute to a successful season. Show that you truly care for them by getting to know who they are as people, 189082_1883561375478_3289214_nnot just athletes. Athletes are constantly striving for a coaches’ approval, knowing that the coach likes them as a person relieves immense amounts of pressure which will help the athlete to perform better on the field. If they know they have your support in who they are as a person they will “run through walls for you”. You can push them to their limits and help them to reach their potential. They will realize that the challenges you present are in their best interest. Athletes need coaches who listen, are genuine, inviting, and supportive; off the field as well as on the field.

“People will forget what you say, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”. – Maya Angelou. This statement couldn’t be closer to the truth, it’s been almost 7 years since I stepped on the field with him as my coach and I can still remember exactly what it felt like to have someone who truly believed in me. Coaches need to believe in their players as people, get to know who they are, and support them despite their performance on the field.

– Inspired by the book “Blink” – Malcolm Gladwell

Pep-Talk

Posted on

What do Athletes Want to Hear?

Posted on

Parents play a large role in the life of youth athletes, a bigger role than most realize. Not only are they the chauffer that ensures their timely arrival to practices and competitions, but they are the chef that prepares and distributes pre-practice and post competition snacks. They are the laundry matt that removes grass stains, and presses uniforms so on game day the team looks distinct and unified. soccer_momThey are the ATM that spits out league fees, but most of all, they are the biggest fans who provide moral support that drives motivation and inspiration. They are the face that a young athlete instinctually searches for after making a big play.

The things parents say to their children before, during and after a competition effects  a child’s experience in sport. They are a direct influence into how a child perceives his experience, performance, and abilities.

Researchers have found that athletes of all ages want to hear six simple words after a game; “I love to watch you play”. That’s it. They don’t want excessive praise and they don’t need a parent to critic their performance; they have a coach to do that. Athletes, from bobby sox leagues to the Division 1 level, simply want to hear; “I love to watch you play.”

What if a parent didn’t get to watch the game? Instead of asking, “Did you win?”, parents can ask, “How did it to?”. Britney Spears is a Proud Soccer MomThis is a great suggestion from the book “Beyond Winning: Smart Parenting In a Toxic Sport Environment”.  Asking how it went, instead of “Did you win?”, allows the athlete to open up about the things that he or she enjoyed the most. They can talk about their performance, the bus ride, or their friendships. When a parent asks, “Did you win?”; they are conveying the message that winning is the only thing they are interested in. Naturally, after asking if the child’s team won, the next question to ask is, “Did you score?”, “How many points?”. This puts all the focus on their performance and can induce high amounts of pressure on a young athlete.

It is parents that need the structure of youth sport. If you give children sports equipment and some open space, they will play for hours. Kids don’t need to keep score, or wear matching jerseys, or have logical, set, rules. They will just play and enjoy every minute of it. It’s the parents who need to keep score and have leagues with playoffs that lead to championships. The kids just want to play and be around their friends. Keep this in mind when talking to young athletes about their sport experience. Be their biggest supporter and simply enjoy watching them play.

Quote of the day:

“Your internal feelings and approach shouldn’t change just because the circumstances do”- Karlene Sugargman 

Create an Optimal Experience

229001_1041540272659_4243_n

My Coach and I in Park City Utah when I was 15 for the Triple Crown World Series.

Through my experience as an athlete, student, and coach, I have learned and experienced how much of an impact a coach can have on a player; both positive and negative. How many times have you heard the story about the one coach who ruined a kid’s athletic career? Unfortunately it’s a common story too many children have lived through. Fortunately, we also hear the stories about the one coach who influenced an athlete to pursue sport for the rest of their careers. This was my experience in youth sport; I was coached by a coach who understood the value of self-confidence, and what it means to truly believe in a player, despite the odds. Without his guidance, and trust in my abilities, I wouldn’t be who I am, or have the dreams I have, today.

225701_1041459710645_3214_n

Giving my teammate Caly a piggy back ride after a team victory

Youth sport is such an influence place to teach life lessons to children. For instance if I ask you to recall a childhood memory from a 3rd-5th grade classroom, most of us draw banks or have very vague memories. When asked to recall a sporting memory from childhood most of us can quickly recall a vivid memory, some of which still elicit emotion. Unfortunately, the volunteers who so kindly step up to coach are usually not supported with mass amounts of training. They simply add coach to their laundry list of responsibilities and do the best they can. A simple way to improve your coaching is to strive to give kids an overall optimal experience in sport, not the experience of a winning season.

So what consists of an optimal experience in sport? When you send your child off to play youth sport are you hoping they will eventually walk away with the skills needed to play at the collegiate level? Some maybe, but mostly, you just want your kid to have a good experience and hopefully like the sport, right?

226717_1043195914049_841_a

This is me playing second base when I was 15 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Unfortunately, in a society where sport is an entertainment business, optimal experience can get mistaken for a winning season. A winning season doesn’t always equate to a great experience. In one of my many seasons of softball we had a very good team. Our record was good and we were one game out of the finals. We even got to travel to some amazing places to play ball. This same year 5 girls electively ended their softball careers.

It’s not just about the scoreboard; it’s about having fun, improving, learning, creating friendships, and developing self-confidence. These are the things parents will come up and thank coaches for after the season is through. Try to keep this in mind when you head out to the field to coach your youngsters. Create an optimal experience for all your athletes.

Quote of the day: 

“When all is said and done, it’s not the shots that won the championship that you remember, but the friendships you made along the way.” -Unknown

Autonomy Breeds Pride

It’s early. The morning dew is still beaded up upon each blade of grass that covers the outfield. If you look off into the distance, you can see the fog still hovering low over the surrounding fields.SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA A familiar buzz catches your attention and shifts your gaze to the right field line of the field directly in front of you. It’s the low chatter of a well oiled team preparing for their upcoming competition. They are like a machine, rotating in and out of drills in perfect synchronization. You can almost see the aura of energy radiating around them.

This is one of my favorite scenes from the travel ball world; seeing a team that takes pride in themselves and is anxious to take the field. A team that doesn’t need a coach to get them started in the morning. A team that is accountable and takes responsibility for the necessary actions needed to prepare for competition.

How do you get your team to create that desired morning buzz? Here’s my best suggestion; let them develop their own warm-up routine and pre-game cheer. If you let them be a part of the creative process, they will feel a sense of ownership towards their pre-competition routine. It won’t be something they were merely ordered to do. It will be something they created. Their own masterpiece. Letting athletes make their own decisions gives them the opportunity to be proud of the things they’ve chosen.

Giving them the reins on creating their warm-up will also allow a few other things to emerge. This is a great opportunity to observe who steps up as a leader. softball-warm-upIt’s hard to get 11-20 people to agree on one thing, this will show you which person is comfortable taking charge and facilitating the compromises that will need to occur. It will also allow you to see unique skills your athletes possess; who’s creative, who’s a good listener, who thinks outside the box, who communicates well, who follows, and who’s organized.

Another thing to keep in mind; their warm-up doesn’t have to be uber serious the whole time. When I was playing collegiate ball, Sonoma State University used to begin their warm-ups with a silly human obstacle course relay race. I remember how loud they would get as soon as warm-ups started. We were on the opposite sideline running through our mundane dynamic stretches and they were cheering eachother on, laughing, smiling, and really getting pumped, yet staying loose for game time. I was always secretly jealous that my team didn’t take part in anything like that.

Let your athletes take charge, of course with knowing that you get the final approval on any routine that is developed. Give them a sense of pride and ownership by increasing their autonomy. You never know, they might come up with something that surprises you!

Quote of the day:

“The difference between a good athlete and a top athlete is the top athlete will do the mundane things when nobody’s looking.” – Susan True

Thrive on Effort

One of the things I love most about my job as an instructional aid in elementary schools is the chance I get to observe kids at play. kidsrunhallowenOne October morning during the kids morning recess I was helping supervise the kindergarteners. The kids were all wound up and decided they wanted to race each other. Running on the playground usually is forbidden, but one of the teachers decided it would be okay if she took them to the grass and facilitated a silly game of racing. About 30 kids lined up parallel with the teacher on a long, wide strip of grass. The guidelines of the race were to run all the way down to the edge of the grass and the blacktop and back. Aside from just racing, the kids had to imitate whatever festive Halloween character the teacher called out, like a ghost for instance. The teacher would yell out, “ready set ghost” and all the kids would take off howling “Boo” all the way to the end of the grass and back.

After a few rounds of being owls, bats, and monsters, I began to notice distinct motivation orientations emerging within the children. 7E4EFCC6-B1F1-F81A-57020201164D86B4Some kids started to only run halfway down the stretch of grass, turn around and come running back, beating 75% of their classmates. This is the perfect example of an ego-orientation; these kids were only concerned with winning. It didn’t matter if they had completed the race in full, all they wanted was to cross the finish line before their peers. These kids who only ran half way were motivated by social comparison; they possessed an ego-oriented goal motivation. The fun of racing came from beating other children. They didn’t care if they cheated or weren’t participating correctly. They simply defined success as crossing the finish line before other kids.

On the opposite end of the spectrum there were the task-oriented kids; no matter how slow they were, they would run all the way to edge of the grass every time and then turn around and come running back. The kids who ran to the end of the grass every time simply enjoyed the task of running and defined success as completing the task correctly. It never mattered what place they were in when they finished, as long as they ran the whole way and correctly acted out whatever character was instructed. These kids associate effort with success, they have a task-orientation.

With athletes, it is beneficial to reinforce a task-orientation. Athletes who equate success with effort are more willing to take on challenging tasks.images-66 They feel as if they have succeeded even if the outcome is unsuccessful, because they tried their best. They tend to focus on progress rather than outcome. Athletes who thrive on social comparison tend to only take on challenges where they feel they can win. Think about it, if winning is the goal, it doesn’t matter how you attain that goal. The “win at all costs” mentality makes cheating acceptable because the only goal they have is to win. Task-oriented athletes simply wish to complete the task at best of their abilities. They won’t cut corners to make it to the finish line, they simply do their best.

Talent isn’t an innate trait, it is something that is earned through hard work. In the end, developing athletes with a task-orientation will produce highly skilled players.

Quote of the day:

“Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.” – Maya Angelou

Providing Productive Consequences

Posted on

Over the weekend I found myself at a 12U traveling softball team practice. I had offered to help coach throughout the season every once in a while, and this particular Sunday I was called upon.  Practice began as the girls went through their warm up routine. A little images-51laughter here, a few giggles there, and suddenly balls were being missed left and right. No one could make a proper throw and the drills were quickly becoming unproductive. The head coach had finally had enough, and instructed the girls to jog a lap around the perimeter of the field because they needed to refocus.

This method of refocusing is common, and I can’t claim that I haven’t used it myself. I’ve seen countless coaches use it in hopes their athletes will come back with a better mindset. My question is, what part of jogging a lap teaches the players to refocus their mind? I can agree that it gives them a physical break from the prior drill, and maybe gives them a moment to take their mind off the skill, but how does this method 420110405140055001_t607transfer over to a game situation? During games athletes can’t call timeout and jog a lap around the field in order to regain focus.

My point is, as coaches, we need to teach our athletes how to refocus. Instead of sending them on a jog when the wheels start to fall off at practice. Why not gather them together and take a few cleansing breathes. Then discuss the physical and mental cues that are needed to perform the drill correctly. This teaches your athletes the actual steps they need to take in order to regain focus. It is also a method they can take into a game situation. They can take a breathe between pitches and think about what they need to do in order to be successful on the next pitch.softball-focus

It’s natural in our society to give or receive a consequence when an undesired outcome is reached. However, as coaches, we need to look at ourselves as teachers. Most consequences don’t teach athletes how to avoid similar situations in the future. When things start to go awry, pinpoint what is causing it. Then take the time to teach your athletes how they can counter that cause. Alter your perspective and strive to teach your players solutions rather then resorting to handing out a simple punishment.

 

Quotes:

“Practice puts brains in your muscles.”

Baring it all

My world from my perspective.

One Game, One Love.

Coaching perspectives and life lessons of a Sports Psychology M.A.

Live Love Sport

Improving your mental game

Secret Life of a Startup

Some things you can't complain about at work

M I Initiatives

Belief in Human Potential

%d bloggers like this: