RSS Feed

Constructive Rainy Day Practices

Posted on

The rainy season is hard on teams. Practices get canceled, tournaments get rescheduled, and daylight is limited. This is the perfect time in your season to work on team chemistry. Here are a few exercises that are great to do indoors or on a black top! Some of these may sound silly, but never underestimate how much difference having a little fun as a team can do for the team cohesion progression!

What makes a good teammate?  Equipment: Paper and Pencil.  Purpose: To create a supportive, safe, team environment. Have the team gather in a circle, assign two players to make a list of characteristics each player wants in a teammate. Each player should answer and share two questions. 1) Why do you play softball? 2) What do you need in a teammate? After everyone has shared, read the list back to the group and consolidate the characteristics that make up a good teammate. Now have the players discuss examples of each characteristic (how they can show their teammates that they possess the characteristics, for ex. High fives, picking players up, no shit talking, and respectful tones).

Human Knot/Circle sit: Equipment: none. Purpose: Teamwork, communication, and leadership. Have the team stand in a small circle. Have each player reach out their RIGHT hand and grab a teammate’s hand. Make sure everyone is holding a person’s hand. Now have everyone reach out their LEFT hand and grab a DIFFERENT teammate’s hand. Make sure no one is holding two hands of the same person. You CAN NOT let go of the hands you are holding during this activity! The goal is to have them untangle themselves and end up in a large circle all holding hands. (Sometimes you’ll have two small circle intertwined, or a figure eight, that’s okay!) Have the team discuss what was helpful in reaching the goal and what wasn’t.

As a second fun activity, have athletes stand in a small circle again chest to back. The circle should be VERY tight. All at once have the athletes sit down. The goal is to sit on the persons lap behind and the circle should hold everyone up.

Team Mission Statement: Equipment: Paper and Pencil. Purpose: create a mission statement. Send the team out to a place where they feel they have privacy (center field maybe). One or two people should be designated note takers to write down thoughts as they arise in this discussion. Have each player share what their goals are for the team this season; they can talk about win/loss records, team cohesion ideals, performance improvements, anything that relates to a successful season. The team’s challenge is to combine everyone’s thoughts and goals to create a solid mission statement that can be said as a team throughout the season. Most teams use it during their pre-game cheers. Here’s an example of a team’s motto from a few years ago: “To inspire, to excel, and to take pride in one another, together we are one” – PHS 2014

2 Truths and a Lie: Equipment: Pencil and paper. Purpose: Learn more about one another. Have each person write two truths and one lie about themselves. Go around the room and have the team figure out what are the truths and the lies. With smaller teams, a point system can be used. If the team does not correctly guess which statement was a lie, the person gets a point.

 Link Tag: Equipment: none. Purpose: fun, conditioning, social cohesion. All players find a partner and link elbows with them. These pairs spread out around the playing area.
The facilitator selects one pair and within that pair selects one person to be “it” and the other person to be the “chaser”. The “it” person runs around throughout the pairs. The “it” person can, at any time, link up with any pair. If the link person joins a pair, the person on the pair who the “it” member did not link with must separate from the chain and now be “it”. The other person is then free to join a pair, causing another player to split off and be the new “it”. Game lasts until facilitator says it’s over. It can be helpful for the facilitator to watch carefully and manage potentially confusing situations, specifically when the “it” person thinks they have linked up and the “chaser” thinks they have tagged them just before linking (creating two people who think they are “it”).

Balloon Relay Race: Equipment: Balloons. Purpose: teamwork, fun, social/task cohesion. Team splits into pairs of the same gender. Team must go down, around a cone, and back, twelve times, with a different pair going each time. The two members must side-hug and hold a balloon wedged between them. They may only touch it with their hands if it drops. If it drops, the team must stay where they are until it is wedged back together.

Dizzy Bat: Equipment: bat. Purpose: fun, social cohesion. Split the group into two teams. Set a distance for the race. Give the first runner a bat. Each player must spin around ten times with their head on the top of the bat, while the top of the bat stays on the ground. Once they have completed their ten spins they must race to the designated point and back. Once they are back they must tag the hand of the next player in line. That player must do the same thing until everyone has gone!

 

Association of Applied Sport Psychology 2015

This is definitely a belated post; I forgot to share my awesome experience from the AASP 2015 conference in Indianapolis! In October (2015) I had the honor of presenting at this past years conference along side a few classmates of mine from San Jose State. It was an incredible experience to say the least! I presented my master’s project which consisted of writing a children’s picture book that teaches children how to use deep breathing in sport and life to conquer stress. I got an overwhelming positive response and was so inspired by the feedback I received! I can’t wait to see what AASP 2016 in Phoenix has in store for us!

The first Step to Improving Your Mental Game: Awareness

The first task on your athlete’s journey to strengthen their mental game is to increase the awareness of their thoughts. Instruct them to notice if their self-talk is hindering them or helping them achieve success. It’s crucial that your athletes notice when their minds are working for them and when it is working against them. Their focus is to recognize patterns of when it’s easy for them to stay motivated and focused, and when they struggle to do so.

5308196-success-failure-green-road-sign-illustration-on-a-radiant-blue-backgroundTheir goal should be to listen to their “strong” voice and ignore or smother their “weak” voice. Their strong voice is the voice that fills them with confidence, allows them to take on challenges, and helps them to stay positive when the going gets tough. This voice is the voice that talks them into sprinting their hardest even though they’ve already run 10 suicides; this is also the voice that encourages them to throw another rise ball even though the last one was just hit over the fence. Athletes need to recognize their strong voice and buy into it while simultaneously pushing out their weak voice.

How to work awareness into your coaching:

  1. When practice starts: Remind athletes to work on mentally preparing themselves for the upcoming practice. Which voice are you listening to today? Are you talking yourself into working hard at practice, or are you simply going through the motions dragging yourself along praying that practice will end soon?
  2. Watch their body language: If you see an athlete looking or performing like they are defeated, remind them to find their strong voice and smother their weak voice.
  3. During instruction: If you are working on critiquing an athletes form, make sure to include what they should be reciting to themselves in their head.
  4. When an athlete is struggling: Bring to their attention how their mind could be playing a role in their frustration. Is their weak voice taking control and beating themselves up inside or is their strong voice talking themselves into making the next play.

Role Clarification is Crucial

Role clarification is one of the best tools a coach can use to help athletes build confidence in themselves and in their teammates. A coach can improve a teams’ effectiveness by making sure each athlete understands their role and accepts it. People are willing to put forth more effort if they feel that they are an important contributor to the teams’ success. The most important part of accepting a role is to first understand it. Athletes need to know what is expected of them in their roles; behaviors, responsibilities, performances; they also need to know the consequences of their specific role.

A great way to ensure athletes know what their role is by doing this role clarification exercise.

  1. Have each athlete write down what they think their specific role is
  2. Have each athlete then name the roles they think everyone else has
  3. Have the coaching staff write down every players role

It’s important for these three things to match up. If they don’t, coaches need to sit down with their athletes and reiterate what is expected of them. Understanding and accepting a role as an athlete is crucial to confidence, success, and team cohesion. There is a sense of pride that comes with having a role on the team and knowing you are contributing. Players need to know their participation is important, and crucial to the teams’ success. Every player on a team is important. As a coach its imperative that your behaviors and words make it known that you believe every player can contribute. Empowering non-starters through role definition can enhance their satisfaction on the team and possibly improve their contribution to the team and their athletic performance.

Coach Sue Enquist from UCLA always preached the importance of focusing on non-starters. Starters put in the work and get the reward of seeing their name on the starting line up sheet; non-starters put in the same work and rarely get the reward of seeing their name on the starting line up sheet. Therefore it’s important to make it known that your non-starters still contribute in crucial ways to the team.

Role clarification is a key tactic to avoid conflict and create a positive team culture where team cohesion and confidence can thrive.

Quote of the day: 

“Your Value doesn’t decrease based on someone’s inability to see your worth”

Passing the Torch – Servant Leadership

A former player of mine recently contacted me and shared an amazing piece of her coaching philosophy with me. Since my time as her coach, she has taken my place as the assistant coach at our local JC. I couldn’t be more proud of the thought and passion she puts into her coaching. Below is something she wrote for her players and I am absolutely in awe of her passion and talents. Great, great, job Taylor, you are going to make such an impact on the athletes you come into contact with.

coach_taylor“Did you push yourself to be great today? If you didn’t do it, we lost a day. And we don’t have many days to lose. It’s so easy to be average. It takes a little something to be special. Why be around average? I believe there are certain ideas that can push teams to greatness. Servant leadership. Having an attitude of gratitude. Selflessness. Humility. Let’s find a way to incorporate these acts into our lives, every single day. As John Wooden said, “It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”

Ask yourself this: are you more concerned with the team’s outcome or your own personal outcome? Would you rather see the team win at the expense of you getting no hits with 2 errors? Selflessness wins games. Servant leadership wins games. And having an attitude of gratitude wins games. Do you understand what servant leadership is? Do you really understand what it means to put others first, and in doing so, genuinely want them to succeed? A servant leader focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of people and the communities to which they belong. If every person on this team promises to practice servant leadership, how could we fail? We will succeed because we will become better human beings in this process. For a team to be great, selflessness and humility are 2 necessary traits for a team to posses. People with humility don’t think less of themselves. They just think of themselves less. Often times in sports the bigger picture can be lost.

As a coach, my short-term goal is for this team to win games. I am competitive and passionate, and I want us to be the best. But my long-term goal is for this team to grow into amazing human beings and to be the best people we can be on and off the field. Our time is so short and it’s crucial that we incorporate these ideas in our everyday lives to be successful. We need to work harder at having an attitude of gratitude. We are so lucky that we were given this opportunity. At the beginning of every year, I make a promise to myself to cherish and enjoy every moment. I tell myself not to get caught up in the wins and losses, but to enjoy the moments with all of you special people. Time speeds by at an alarming pace. Sometimes we can forget to take a breather and enumerate what we have been given that we’ve forgotten or taken for granted.

Because of this, let’s all try to focus on the positive rather than the negative. Let’s start, end, and live each moment of the day in gratitude. Because after all, our time together is so short and you will never forget your teammates. You will forget the wins and losses. You will probably even forget the countless conversations you had with each other. But you will never forget the way your teammates made you feel. And for that, we should all be thankful. In the big picture, we are all moving towards the same goal. We are all holding onto the same rope, pulling that rope together in the same direction. So hold that rope tight, and be thankful you’ve been given the opportunity to be one of the special few to experience this special environment. Being a part of something bigger than yourself is such a special thing. And if you forget everything else, remember this: a player who makes a team great is more valuable than a great player. Losing yourself in the group, for the good of the group, that’s teamwork.

Thank you again Taylor for sharing, seriously, I couldn’t be more proud of you. You are going to go so far, and impact so many people. Keep up the incredible work, and thank you so much for keeping in touch and sharing your successes with me.

Quote of the day:

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” – Winston Churchill 

Goal Setting Helps Athletes to Stay in the Moment

Goal setting is the most proven technique in sport psychology. It helps to motivate athletes and improve performance by enhancing confidence. Without goals, how can athletes know what to focus on? It’s like a road trip; if you don’t know where you are going how are you going to get there? Goals are the stepping-stones to dreams; they are the action plans; they are what you can do right now. Goals bring the future into the present.

In sport psychology there are three types of goals: process goals, performance goals and outcome goals. Process goals are those that focus on “how”; the process of how to execute a skill. For instance, keeping your head down on a ground ball or having a good follow through on a free throw.

Performance goals are those that focus on an individual’s performance. For instance, hitting the ball solidly on a line at every at bat, or hitting 90% of your spots as a pitcher.

Outcome goals, are the goals that all of us commonly set; I want to come in first place at the tournament. I want to get 4 hits today. They rely on other factors in order to achieve them.

Every type of goal is important. They motivate and focus us in various ways.

It’s important for athletes to set process goals; these are goals that keep athletes focused in the moment. In order to set motivating process goals, have your athletes focus on making their goals action based rather than outcome based. Their process goals should be things that they are 100% in control of, that way, when they do succeed they can take 100% of the credit. Athletes can strive for having four quality at bats rather than getting four hits. Meaning, athletes should focus on swinging at the correct pitches and putting good swings on those pitches. Focusing on the process will allow the outcome to take care of itself. Setting smaller goals, like this one, gives the athlete more feedback so they can see their results and let their confidence grow.

Outcome goals are what we all play for. They keep you motivated during the mundane practices. Those memorable championship moments keep people motivated in sport, so these goals are important too, as long as you have the steps to get there. For instant a good outcome goal could be to win the championship, but in order to get there athletes need to set and achieve process goals, like putting in 100% effort at every practice.

Goal setting reminds me of a quote by John Lennon; “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans”. If athletes focus too much on outcome goals, and how successful they are in reaching those, they miss the process of getting there. In my experiences, most of my peers in college were so ready to graduate college and couldn’t wait to enter the real world. They forgot to realize how amazing the experience was along the way.

By focusing on process goals you can celebrate the little victories all game or all season long. After all life IS the little moments. It’s about compiling millions of happy moments to create a happy life. It’s not about the 3 or 4 major successes you have in your life; it’s about the life that happened on the pursuit to those major successes.

In life and in sport, enjoy the process of attaining the big goals, by setting some process and performance goals along the way. Sport psychology states that goals work by increasing, attention, persistence, effort and strategy. I’m pretty sure it has the same effect in everyday life.

Quote of the day: “Success is how you collect your minutes. You spend millions of minutes to reach one triumph, one moment, then you spend maybe a thousand minutes enjoying it. If you were unhappy through those millions of minutes, what good is the thousand minutes of triumph? It doesn’t equate… Life is made of small pleasures. Good eye contact over the breakfast table with your wife. A moment of touching a friend. Happiness is made of those tiny successes. The big ones come too infrequently. If you don’t have all those zillions of tiny successes, the big ones don’t mean anything.” — Norman Lear

My Coaching Philosophy

Posted on

As a coach, I want you to succeed. I want you to push yourselves and improve. I want you to love this game, and come back to it time and time again. But first. I want you to be happy.

This is not just softball to me, this is life. When I ask you to tell me what makes a great player, I’m sure I would hear savvy base runner, strong throw, quick feet, hand eye coordination. But the characteristics I think that truly matter go much deeper than mere physical qualities and abilities. I think great athletes come from qualities like courage, persistence, selflessness and patience.

My entire career I’ve always heard, softball is an escape. But I never understood the true essence of that statement until a few years ago when I was working as an instructional aid in elementary schools. I had just moved to a new city where I didn’t know many people, my romantic life was a bit rough, my graduate program was working me to the bone, and I was trying my best to adapt to living in a large city. Emotionally I was struggling to get by on  a day to day basis. Going to work at first was tough, I truly enjoyed my job but I could feel myself going through the motions. I was physically there but my mind was always wandering off somewhere else.

Watching my students fully immerse themselves into the daily joys of being a third grader made me realize I should be doing just that with them. For Pete sakes, my job consisted of hanging out with eight year old kids coloring and playing games. It was an amazing job to have. It was hard at first to really let go of life outside of work, but with practice I was able to fully enjoy myself everyday.

We miss so many of life’s wonderful moments by worrying about the past or future instead of living in the present. When I found myself doing this at work, I would make myself recite three to five things that were in my immediate present. Things like, “It’s a beautiful day outside, we are playing balloon volleyball, and I’m coloring in third grade again “. It shifted my focus back to what I was doing, it got me out of my head and let me simply live in the moment.

I didn’t recognize it’s importance at the time, but softball is what got me through every speed bump I hit from 8 to 22. The game was always something that was there for me.

It was a place where I could forget the world and dive into the reality of improving as a player and becoming successful in a game I loved. The satisfaction of working hard, improving, developing relationships, and being a part of something that was bigger than myself allowed me to establish a healthy sense of self-worth. It was my out and saving grace when the world got tough. It reinforced the notion that even when life gets tough, there’s always a piece of it that’s worth fighting for, there’s always something to enjoy.

With that said, here on this field I want you to develop into the people you want to be. I want you to take this time to be selfish. Shut out the rest of the world and better yourself here. 

Quote of the day

“The wins and losses will fade away but the friendships and memories will last a lifetime” 

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

Raymonds Sports Performance Training

The greatest WordPress.com site in all the land!

%d bloggers like this: