RSS Feed

Tag Archives: coaching

How far is too far?

How far are you willing to go to be the best? What will you sacrifice to get ahead of the competition? Is there a limit to how much an athlete should endure to achieve success?

In my classes we’ve been looking at exercise disorders, addiction, and depression. It’s scientifically proven that exercise can resolve, and improve the effects of depression. Health professionals are starting to prescribe daily physical activity to patients who are suffering from depression. Having said that, they’ve also seen these same patients become addicted to exercise. How do we know where to draw the line of how much is too much? If you hear a marathon runner say they ran 15 miles over the weekend, most of us wouldn’t think twice about what we’ve heard. But, what if an everyday person said they ran 15 miles over the weekend? Researchers are starting to discover that exercise addiction is common within athletes, however, their addiction simply looks like training, not an unhealthy disorder. They are able to hide out in the sports world, and mask their addiction.In the arena of wrestling, dance, and gymnastics, it’s common for athletes to endure eating disorders in order to meet the requirements of competition. We’ve also seen countless professional athletes abuse steroids to be the best.

I was watching ESPN the other night, and it was highlighting stories of college athletes who had overcome incredible hardships in their journey to the top of the athletic pyramid. One of the stories focused on an extremely talented UCLA football player. This boy walked through high school at the top of his game, and was going to UCLA on an athletic scholarship. Throughout his career he had suffered many concussions. In the second year of his career at UCLA , he suffered yet again, another concussion. However; this time, the injury started to affect his every day life. He was experiencing extreme sensitivity to light, and sound, horrible headaches, and dizzy spells. Although he was an NFL hopeful, he decided to walk away from his dream, and quit playing football. He was quoted saying, “I love football and it was my only dream to be an NFL football player, but football wasn’t helping me, it was hindering my ability to live my life. It came to a point where football was hurting me, not enhancing my life.”

I can’t even imagine  how much strength it took that player to walk away from a sports dream that was clearly attainable. Our society puts so much emphasis on winning, it must have been so hard to look the other way, and put his health first. This young man is a great example to all athletes out there. There is a point where enough is enough.

What we do as athletes shouldn’t endanger our health. Make sure, as a coach, what you’re preaching to your athletes benefits the players athletic ability and overall health. As a player, make sure you aren’t sacrificing you’re health to excel in sports. It’s a fine line we walk as competitive athletes, keep your perspective straight, this is the only body we get.

Quote of the day:

“What’s above the shoulders is more important than whats below” – Ty Cobb 

Read the full story of UCLA’s linebacker here:

http://www.ocregister.com/articles/larimore-368473-camp-ucla.html

Bad Timing or Great Timing?

Posted on

When I was an assistant coach for SRJC I was often at high school games looking at players to recruit for our future seasons. On one occasion I was sent out specifically to scout a pitcher who was throwing an important game against a very good team. Unfortunately, her team lost the game, but it wasn’t a blow out, and it didn’t make her look bad in any light. It was a great game, close in score, and came down to the very last inning. After the game I walked out onto the field to ask her coach if I could speak with her. When I asked, her coach replied with, “Well it’s bad timing, but you can talk to her if you want”. 

I was a little taken back by his response to me. I empathize with the fact that this pitcher just lost a rough game, but the opportunity to play at the next level is a positive thing no matter what time it comes along, right? I know I wasn’t presenting her with a full ride opportunity to some D1 school, but it was an opportunity to play at the next level regardless.Despite the coaches warning, the pitcher was courteous and excited at the chance to play college ball.

Looking back, this to me as a coach, seemed like perfect timing. Most players are respectful and full of the right answers when approached by a college coach after a successful outing. This was the perfect opportunity to see how she responds to failure, which is an inevitable aspect of sport, especially softball. I was able to perceive that she handled herself well when things got tough. She was a player that kept her head up, and her teammates up when the going got rough. Seeing this in a player while recruiting, is just as important as seeing their physical skills.

Keeping your head up as a player will not only enhance your performance, and mindset, but it can also convince a college coach that you’re the right player for their team. Keep that in mind, and stay positive!

Quote of the day:

“Life is 10% what happens to you, and 90% how you respond to it” -Charles R. Swindoll

 

Team Bonding; an aspect commonly overlooked by coaches

Posted on

It’s amazing to me how many coaches overlook the importance of team bonding. Im not necessarily talking about team sleepovers, or team dinners. I mean coach facilitated team bonding. Activities and discussions to unite players on a deeper level than a common interest in a certain sport. On both of my collegiate teams, I was merely thrown into the mix of players and left to fend for myself in getting to know my teammates. Yet, in my collegiate classes there was always a teacher facilitated “get to know each other” activity done in the first week of school. This perplexed me. In the classroom I rarely rely on my fellow classmates to assist me in receiving a good grade. However, on the softball field, achieving success without relying on my teammates is impossible. So why were my teachers putting more emphasis on cohesion than my coaches were?

In my undergraduate studies, most of my teachers possessed a doctorate that fell into the field of kinesiology. Since my teachers were highly trained in the kinesiology field, they knew that cohesion within a group breeds success for the group. They knew that if we were comfortable with our classmates we would be more likely to speak up in class, ask for help, collaborate, and discuss, which in turn benefits the learning process by getting us involved. If team bonding activities were so beneficial in improving communication in the classroom, think of how successful it could make a sports team.

Which lead me to my future philosophy as  coach. I will always start off a season with team bonding activities. Not only will I begin the season with team bonding activities, but I will implement them through out the year as well. No one knows better than a former athlete that team dynamics ebb and flow throughout the season. Situations happen, teammates get in fights, suzy steals sallys boyfriend and so on. So extending team bonding activities throughout the season is a very important aspect to me.

I’ve actually found and witnessed a few programs that start their seasons this way. (Sierra City College) In fact, when I coached for Santa Rosa Junior college in their 2012 season, we started our spring season this way. We took our girls up to Tahoe for a retreat. On the retreat we played games, and facilitated discussions so our players could truly get to know each other, we as coaches could get to know them, and they us. I’ve never been so moved. I went from barely knowing my players to really understanding who they were as players and where they come from. Their personalities and behaviors were finally linked to reason, rather than mere physical observations. One of the more popular activities we did, was a scavenger hunt. When I was a freshman at SRJC in 2008 our coaches put together a scavenger hunt for us as an end of the year “party”. We were sent out in groups of 3-4 all over Santa Rosa with a list of tasks to complete and a video camera. We had two hours to record as many tasks as we could. At the end of two hours we reconvened at our coaches house and viewed all the tapes to determine a winner. The footage was priceless. We were all hysterically laughing at eachothers’ success and failures. Some of the tasks included: leap frogging across a cross walk, belly flopping into a pool, eating an entire lemon, rubbing a bald persons head, eating a raw egg and so on. Inspired by my freshman experience I recreated it for my players. Again it was a complete success, they loved it, and really got to know each other as they worked through the tasks.

It is so important for players to connect with one another. It facilitates communication and trust on the field and off. Not only is it beneficial, it’s fun! Can’t wait to implement my own team bonding plan someday!

Quote of the day:

“The main ingredient to a players stardom is the rest of the team” – John Wooden 

Self Confidence

Just a little information I learned in class that I passed onto my players over the summer.

Self confidence is the belief that you can successfully perform a desired behavior. When you don’t have confidence, you are creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. A self fulfilling prophecy is the phenomenon that happens when you expect something to happen, and it actually helps cause it to happen. If you have negative self-fulfilling prophecies, like expecting to swing and miss, you are creating psychological barriers that lead to a vicious cycle: the expectation of failure leads to actual failure, which lowers self-image and increases expectations of future failure.

Benefits of self confidence

Arouses positive emotions– when you are confident you are more likely to stay calm and relaxed under pressure, it allows you to be aggressive and assertive.

Facilitates concentrations– when confident your mind is free to focus on the task at hand, not distracted by self doubt, and worry that you aren’t playing your best.

Affects goals– confident people set challenging goals and pursue them actively.

Increases effort– when ability is equal, the winners of competitions are usually the athletes who believe in themselves and their abilities.

Games strategies– athletes who “play to win”, compared to athletes who play “not to lose”, take control of the competition to their advantage.

Psychological momentum– confident people view situations where momentum is against them as challenging and it motives them to work harder.

Affects performance– the confidence you have about your talents, affect how you showcase your talent on the field.

Although self confidence is important, there is a happy medium between over confident and under confident. We all know that players who are too confident tend to fail, and players who are under confident tend to doubt themselves, and also fail. The hard part is finding that perfect middle ground, “optimal confidence”. Optimal confidence means being so convinced that you can achieve goals that you will strive hard to accomplish them. It does not mean that you will always perform well, but it is essential to reaching your potential. A strong belief in yourself will help you deal with errors and mistakes effectively, and keep you striving toward success. Everyone’s optimal confidence levels are different.

Your expectations of others affect not only your own behaviors, but also the feelings and behaviors of others around you.  Look at it this way, for example; Kira is on a volleyball team, she spikes the ball despite a bad setup, the ball goes straight into the net. Her coach says, “Good try Kira, just try to get more elevation on your jump so you can contact the ball about the level of the net”. Janet on the other hand, spikes the ball on a bad setup and the ball goes straight into the net. The coach this time responds with, “don’t try and spike the spike the ball when you’re not in a good position. Janet you’ll never make a point like that.” See how this could affect a player? This goes the same for your team mates; you guys know that you can feel when someone doesn’t like you, or who thinks you aren’t very talented. Weather you think so or not, this affects how you play. So take notice and watch how you react to your teammates, and how you act towards them in general.

Never fear! Self-confidence can be built!

You can build confidence by:

Accomplishing a good performance- successful behavior increases confidence and leads to further successful behavior. (Beating an opponent or fully extending a knee in recovery) So, what if you haven’t been performing well? That’s why practice is so important, you can work on your skills and build confidence!  Create situations for yourself where you know you can succeed to build confidence.

Acting confidently– fake your confidence! Even if you aren’t feeling confident, pretend you are! Be an actress! Keep your head up after an error even if you want to throw your fist through a wall, just smile. It can actually affect the way you feel and play!!! It can also affect how your opponents play against you; it is harder to beat a confident team.

Thinking confidently- thoughts and self-talk should be instructional and motivational, not judgmental. While pitching, instead of saying don’t miss your spots, say keep this pitch off the plate. Instead of saying don’t swing and miss, say hit the middle of the ball. There should  be no “don’t” in your self-talk.

Using imagery– imagine yourself playing well! Use imagery create successful scenarios in your mind. Imagine yourself fielding a ground ball cleanly or hitting a line drive that falls into the gap.

Using goal mapping- a goal map is a personalized plan for an athlete that contains various types of goals and goal strategies as well as a systematic evaluation procedure to assess progress toward goals. Keep your goals performance and task oriented rather than outcome oriented; focus on hitting the middle of the ball rather than getting a hit every time you’re up to the plate.

Optimizing physical conditioning and training– staying in shape can help you feel more confident. That doesn’t mean killing yourself with tough workouts when you’re not playing, it means going for a little jog one once in a while, or lifting a few weights just so you can feel good about yourself.

Preparing– have a plan for the game. If you have a plan and are prepared you’re more likely to have success. Make sure, along with a plan, you have a backup plan if something doesn’t go as planned.

Fostering social climate– Be supportive of your team mates! Help to build their self-confidence too!

Quote of the day 

“Self-confidence is like a placebo, you can give people a sugar pill for extreme pain, tell them it’s morphine and it can produce as much relief as an actual pain killer. Give someone confidence in their skills, and they will perform better” -Foundations of Sport and Exercise Psychology

Breathe, Look, Talk. B.L.T.

This past summer, I realized a lot of my players were performing in a very tense state on the field. Most of them looked like they were over exerting themselves, extremely anxious, and nervous. This is a strategy I created and presented to my players to aid them in remaining relaxed while competing.

There are three simple things an athlete can do to improve their focus and performance almost instantly. B.L.T. – Breathe, Look, Talk. In order to perform at our highest potential, we must be able to break the game down into simple moments that occur one after the other, rather than trying to take on the entire game at once. Doing these three things every pitch of every game will help to narrow your focus and keep your mind concentrated on positive key points.  This will assist you in performing without distractions, and achieve a successful performance.

Breathe.

In order for our muscles to work efficiently, one muscle must relax (lengthen) while its counterpart tightens (flexes). For instance: raise your hand to shoulder, while keeping your elbow close to your side.  Feel how your bicep flexes and your triceps lengthens. In competition, athletes tend to get anxious or over excited; in response all their muscles tighten up. This makes it hard for the lengthening muscle to do its job. Their bodies start to react like a rubber band that has been stretched too tightly; they snap. You may have felt this effect during a crucial at bat with two strikes. When that next pitch comes in, sometimes we panic, or “snap”, and just swing, even it it’s a bad pitch…strike three. In order to keep yourself in control, and your muscles working correctly, we must keep our bodies relaxed. We do this simply by deep breathing. Breathe in for 5 seconds, hold it in for two seconds, and then exhale slowly for 6 seconds. As you repeat this you should be able to feel your heart rate slow, and your muscles physically relax.

Look.

The mind is more powerful than you could ever imagine; it has been argued that it has more of an affect on your performance as an athlete than your physical ability.  Our brain is the control center to our body; it controls what our bodies do. Our body follows what our mind thinks. If we keep worrying about making errors, or striking out, chances are, our bodies are going to make the images we have in our mind a reality. This however, can work in our favor. If we look (think) in the direction we want to go, rather than in the direction we want to avoid, our bodies will positively respond. Picture the outcome you want. In your mind create an image of yourself having success; see yourself hitting a line drive into the gap, catching a fly ball, or throwing a breaking ball that causes the batter to swing and miss. By rehearsing the outcomes we want in our minds, we create a track for our muscles to follow. It’s like practicing, only it takes place in our minds. Don’t look where you don’t want to go.

Talk.

After taking a few deep breathes, and looking into the direction we want to go, we must pick a simple focus to say to ourselves. It should be something simple, direct, and positive. Make sure there is no emotion attached to the way you talk to yourself. For instance at the plate, one could repeat, “up the middle, on the ground”, or in a bunt situation one could repeat, “top half, ball down”. One or two things that create the outcome you want. A pitcher could say “lock, and lift” before throwing a change up. A fielder could say, “Charge and follow through”. Make sure in this statement you don’t include the word “don’t”. Our brains only see the big the picture, and tend to not pick up on the word don’t. For example if you say, “don’t drop your hands”, your brain only hears, “drop your hands”. Instead try flipping to, “keep your hands high”. This also follows the rule of don’t look where you don’t want to go, we don’t want to drop our hands, so we don’t want to think about it either. We want to think about what we want to do, keeping our hands high. It’s a simple point for your brain to focus on, keeping you in the game, and undistracted by pressure.

Before every pitch, breathe. Look. Talk. B.L.T.

Quote of the day

“Quality thoughts lead to quality actions”

Shake it off and Stay Positive


Playing tournament softball for 12 years of my life taught me one of my most important life lessons; to shake it off and stay positive. Playing tournament ball throughout my youth allowed me to spend my weekends playing 4-8 softball games. Over the course of a weekend tournament we would win some games and lose some games; I would play well in some games, and not so great in others. But no matter what the outcome of a game or appearance at the plate was, I was forced to shake it off and be prepared for the next game, or outing on the mound. It’s frustrating to go out and swing and miss at the last 9 pitches you’ve been thrown, or hit 4 of the last 5 batters you’ve faced, but getting angry, throwing your helmet, or crying won’t make your day any better for yourself or your team. As hard as that is to hear, it’s true. Do you think your team gets pumped up when you slam your helmet to the ground before running out to play defense? No. You just bring the rest of the team down with you and put the focus on yourself instead of the game. It may take some frustration out for you, but don’t be selfish, this is a team sport, it’s all about your team, not you. You have to learn how to constructively handle your failures. Softball is a game of failure; if you go up to the plate 10 times, get 4 hits and strike out 6 times, you are a damn good hitter. You would be batting 400. Failing is a part of this game, so learn from your failures and make an adjustment. Don’t dwell on the past, you can’t change it anyway. Instead of throwing a fit, try sprinting back to the dugout and screaming your head off for your pitcher or next batter up to the plate. This takes the focus off yourself and puts it back on to your team.  Don’t be selfish, give it all up for your team, always.

Quote of the day:

“Success is the ability to endure one failure after another with out the loss of enthusiasm” – Winston Churchill

Do Sports Build Character?

Do Sports Build Character? According to a Research Digest article entitled, “Sports and Character Development”, simply put, no. However, CAN sports build character? Yes. And I completely agree. In the article they identified three prominent aspects of character as; Perspective-taking and empathy, moral reasoning, and motivational orientation. So, someone with good character knows how to see the world through anothers’ eyes, and can empathize with their situation. They know right from wrong, and act accordingly. Lastly, they are motivated intrinsically; they strive to truly master a skill, rather than just to simply beat an opponent.

We can’t just throw youth into sports programs and expect them to emerge with a good stable character that will enable them to “live in fidelity with their moral values”.  To me, this point is obvious. For instance, look at our professional athletes, how many times have we seen our sports idols golic2caught up in a steroid scandal? If their history with sports had created a sound character for them, they would believe cheating was wrong, and wouldn’t be tempted to win by an unfair advantage. On the contrary, sports seem to be a big contributor to the good character displayed by players like Buster Posey and Greg Maddox. So what’s the secret?

According to the article, coaches of sports programs have to consciously implement character building into their coaching philosophies and styles. They have to talk about, and discuss, the aspects of good character and how it relates to sports with their players. My favorite example of this strategy demonstrated how to bring awareness to the character trait of empathy. youth-sport-baseball-playersIt’s so common in sports to hear a coach say, “keep your head in the game” when an opponent gets injured. Empathy is almost shunned in the moment. But, after the game, coaches can ask their players to put themselves in the injured players shoes. Asking them, “How do you think suzy felt when she hurt her ankle sliding into home plate?”.  Coaches can open up the conversation, allowing them to realize that getting injured or losing, isn’t the easiest situation to be in.

As a coach, you have a huge impact over the “motivational climate” of your program. In the Sports Psychology world, it is common softball_pics_161knowledge that intrinsic motivation is more beneficial than extrinsic motivation in the long run. You want your players to strive to be the best they can be, not just better than their opponent. You want them to play the sport because it feels good on the inside, gives them a sense of compentency (internal rewards), not because they get to show off, or be considered a winner  (external rewards). Coaches can alter the “motivational climate” to breed intrinsic motivation. Make practices focus on giving your best effort, being better than you were the day before, and highlight the positive things.

Being a coach gives us such a unique avenue into shaping someones life, personality, and experiences. In learning and implementing strategies, like these named above, only increases my confidence of becoming the inspirational coach I want to be someday. One of the reasons I love Sports Psychology so much is that it seamlessly applies to my everyday life. I get to use these tools in my day to day life, nobody’s perfect, and I certainly am not. These are things I can talk about with my friends, or acquaintances, or even my kids one day. You don’t have to be a coach, or be in the sports atmosphere to apply these strategies. These are strategies I can use with my kids in the car some day. Just facilitate a conversation about one of their friends that got hurt, BAM, character building lesson right there in the car.

Just another tool to throw into my coaching, and everyday life, tool kit. Thanks for reading. 🙂

Quote of the day:

Be more concerned with your character than your reputation. Your character is what you really are and your reputation is merely what others think of you”- John Wooden.  

Read the full article, “Sports and Character Development” at

https://www.presidentschallenge.org/informed/digest/index.shtml

About

In the world of sports there are a million “right” ways to do something. There are countless coaching philosophies, game strategies, skill techniques, and sports psychology principles floating around out there. But these, on this blog, are mine. These are my interpretations, my experiences, my trials, my successes, my failures, my philosophies, and my learned knowledge as it applies to my life as a softball coach, athlete, and sport psychology grad student.

At the young age of eight, I received the opportunity to experience positive coaching at its finest. 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.

While living out my dream of playing collegiate softball, I came upon the realization that I wanted to influence someones life, as my coach, had influenced mine. This epiphany lead me to attain a BA in Kinesiology with a focus in coaching, and a minor in Exercise Science. Throughout my undergrad curriculum, I was required to take a Sports Psychology intro course; it was love at first lesson. I could suddenly apply what I was learning in the classroom immediately to my real life, practice. A few classes wasn’t enough. After taking a semester off to coach a varsity JC softball program, I realized I wanted more. I wanted an MA in Sports Psychology, and possibly a Doctorate someday.

So here I am, a student in grad school, chasing her dreams of becoming the kind of coach who discovered her own life’s passion.

Quote of the day:

“A good coach can make players see what they can be, not what they are” 

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: