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Category Archives: Self Confidence

Say “Do” instead of “Don’t”

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Our minds are busy places. They are constantly on overload with all the sights and sounds that are consistently in our presence. In order for our minds to process the overwhelming number of stimulants that are present at any given moment, they must employ a simple trick. Our brains make sense of this chaotic world by picking out the most prominent things.download For instance, in the sentence, “Don’t think about a pink elephant”, Our brains immediately pick out the image of a pink elephant and begin to picture it. Even though the statement was asking us NOT to think of the pink elephant, our brains picked out the biggest subject and ran with it. The word “don’t” didn’t make it into our conscious thoughts.

This is a perplexing concept to ponder when observing a youth sport competition. It seems the coaches and parents are frequently instructing the athletes by informing them of what NOT to do. “Don’t pull your head”, “Don’t drop your hands”, or “Don’t give up”. All these statements have the athletes focusing on the undesired action; pulling their head, dropping their hands, and giving up. download (1)These kids now have a prominent picture of what the coach doesn’t want them to do playing through their head.

It’s more beneficial to athletes if you explicitly tell them what you want to see. “Don’t pull your head” is better said as, “Keep your eye on the ball”. This reconstructed statement forces the athletes mind to focus on seeing the ball rather than pulling their head.
It’s a little tricky at first to reconstruct all statements from a negative focus to a positive focus, but with a little practice it can be done!

It’s common for sport coaches to ask players to eliminate “can’t” from their vocabulary and self-talk. These coaches are trying to keep athletes from engaging in negative self-talk, and hindering their performances with a negative attitude. I’m suggesting that parents, coaches, and athletes alike eliminate “don’t” from their vocabulary. Keep the instructions athletes are receiving focused on the desired action. Make sure that team goals are written out in a positive form and lack the word “Don’t”. Encourage athletes to engage in positive self-talk by keeping their minds focused on where they want to go.

Imagery is one of the most researched strategies in sport psychology. Research suggests that envisioning success leads to success. Eliminating the word “don’t” from parents’, coaches’, and athletes’ vocabularies will assist athletes in envisioning success, and will lead to more successful performances. Say “Do” instead of “Don’t”.

 

The Effects of Fearing Failure

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There’s a common theme spreading through sport these days; “motivated and passionate athletes are rare; players just aren’t like they used to be”. I’ve noticed and even agreed with this statement at times, but the more I ponder it, I think it may be a bit of a cop out. The game hasn’t changed, maybe the athletes have evolved, but I don’t think it’s as significant as some claim it to be.

Athletes who seem to be unmotivated and continually make excuses for their lack of ability may be experiencing a significant fear of 5308196-success-failure-green-road-sign-illustration-on-a-radiant-blue-backgroundfailure. These athletes are so afraid to fail that they start to avoid hard work all together. In doing this, they create a perfect excuse for not performing well. For example; an athlete like this will put little effort in at practice, stay up late that night, and then perform under par at the game the next day. This athlete now has the perfect excuse for not playing well – a lack of sleep. When these athletes do succeed and perform well, it makes their abilities look above average because they are succeeding while putting very little effort forth. These athletes are creating a self-serving bias. In good outcomes they attribute their succeses to their abilities and efforts, and in negative outcomes they attribute their failures to something external that is beyond their control.

This is a defense mechanism. It protects the athlete from honestly putting themself out there and experiencing cold, hard, failure. This nonchalant attitude they carry prevents them from having to attribute failure to personal shortcomings. It protects their ego and self perception.

These are athletes who play tentatively and conservatively. They are timid and aren’t as aggressive as they should be. They hope for the opponent to make a mistake that tilts the game in their own favor.

Coaches, take a look at who you are as a coach. Is it possible that you could be the culprit to this persona? How do you react to a failure or mistake?

Athletes, does this sound familiar? As you reflect, are you noticing that you stray from giving practice all you got? Are you images (5)experiencing an overwhelming fear of failure?

Parents, have you noticed what seems to be a lack of motivation in your child? Have you been putting excess pressure on them to succeed?

These athletes need to realize that failure is a means to learn, grow, and develop their abilities. Without failure we would never get better or make adjustments to improve our game. Failure is a natural and beneficial peice of sport. Especially in sports like baseball and softball failure is a significant part of the game. A GREAT batting average is .400; that’s “failing” 6 times out of ten at the plate. Encourage and empower athlete’s abilities and teach them to change their perspective on failure. It’s not a failure, it’s a learning opportunity.

Quote of the day:
I’m postive that a doer makes mistakes. I want a team full of doers” – John Wooden

Unlock Their Potential by Making Athletes Feel Good

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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

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What do Athletes Want to Hear?

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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 

This is Your Moment

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I want to see you be brave. This is your chance, show them what you got!

Where is Your Confidence Coming From?

As an athlete a great idea to ponder is; where does confidence come from? What is confidence generated by? How is my confidence level? How do I improve it or keep it consistent?

Through out my studies and experiences I have learned that confidence is something that comes from a person’s perspective.  6a00d83451d48a69e200e54f2cb01f8833-800wiIt’s about the way you see yourself and the way you view the situation. It comes from the way you interpret the events in your life. One way to change your level of self-confidence is to change the way you view the situation or yourself. This may not always be an easy task, but it can be done!

The other day I was giving a pitching lesson and the mom was frustrated because her daughter wasn’t getting to pitch much. When she did get time on the mound it was always against the toughest teams, so her daughter wasn’t getting very many W’s. The mom was expressing to me that she wanted her daughter to get the chance to rack up some W’s in hopes to build her confidence on the mound.

So now let me ask you, are you in control of if you win a game or not? Sure you play a part. Just like the pitcher, the catcher, the outfield, the #2 batter, and the bench players play a part. But are YOU in control of winning the game? No. Not only is it impossible to win a team sport competition by yourself, but you also can’t control the other factors that affect the outcome of the game. For instance, you can’t control the umpires and what calls they make. You can’t control the talent of the opposing team, or how many errors they have.

If you rely on winning to build your self-confidence you are putting your confidence in the hands of something that is out of your control. You may get some confidence or you may not, you are relying on chance. You are relying on a dozen tiny things to line up in the exact right way in order to boost your confidence.images (1) Those odds don’t sound very good to me. It sounds like the slot machines in the casino; throwing money in and relying on pure chance for a reward. Wouldn’t you rather throw your money into something with a guaranteed reward? On the softball field you are putting all this effort into delivering your best performance, however if you focus on winning, you are relying on chance to get the reward of confidence from the effort you are putting in.

So how do you reap the rewards every time you step onto the field? By focusing on the things YOU CAN control. Like? Did I keep my head down on the ground ball that got hit to me? Did I swing at the best pitches in my at bat. As a pitcher was I hitting my spots? As a batter was I courageous?- Was I scared to go up to the plate in a crucial situation but I stood in the box and gave it my best attempt anyway? Was my first step back on every fly ball? Did I pick up every sign my coach delivered to me? Did I cheer for my teammates and stay positive throughout the game?

These are the things that should fill your emotional tank. These are the things that should boost your confidence. These are things that no one can take away from you. These are things that aren’t reliant on chance, you can reap the benefits from these things every game, and every practice. Let these things build your confidence.

Our best power pose from the Performance Psychology Conference weekend in San Diego

Our best power pose from the Performance Psychology Conference weekend in San Diego

Here is a great activity athletes can do to become aware of which things they can and cannot control.  They will also realize that trying to control the uncontrollable leads to increased stress and frustration, as well as decreased levels of performance.

Draw or layout two large  circles on the floor, one slightly over lapping the other. Ropes, tape, extension cords, or a simple line drawn in the dirt with your finger can be used to make the circles.  A coach will then read out factors that come into play during athletic competitions. The players have 5 seconds to choose and stand in one of the circles.  If they think the factor could be in both circles, they can stand in the area where the circles overlap.  After final positions are locked in place, a player from each circle should be asked to justify their choice.  This often generates discussion among the players. You can make this activity a fun competition by giving athletes points for giving the most persuasive explanation for their choice of circle.

Possible factors to use:  Intensity during practice, parent’s actions, umpires strike zone, weather, broken equipment, game line up, errors during a game, attitude, or score of the game.

circles

Quote of the day:

“Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable” – John Wooden 

Baring it all

My world from my perspective.

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

Live Love Sport

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Secret Life of a Startup

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Belief in Human Potential

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