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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

Sports Psychology Skeptics

Have you ever been talking to someone and you start to get the feeling they are just humoring you? Listening and agreeing with you to merely be polite, rather than actually buying into what you’re saying? Well, I get this all the time when it comes to Sports Psychology. I constantly receive that polite smile and nod we’ve all been taught since we were children.

In a country where our media is continuously glorifying old school coaches who yell, scream and punish their players to victory; a lot of people find the field of Sport Psychology a waste. Even the entire field of psychology tends to get a bad rep.  You can really get a sense of MV5BMTczNTA2MDc0OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwMTg4MDY2._V1_SY317_CR1,0,214,317_this negative perspective when talking about psychological disorders, like depression. The general consensus of American society is that people need to just pick themselves up and get over it. They don’t see these disorders as real illnesses, like the flu or cancer. But they are! The mind and body are completely intertwined; the way you physically feel affects the way you think, and the way you think affects the way you physically feel. For instance, have you ever had a bad dream and woke up sweating with a racing heart? Your physical body was simply lying there sleeping, however your mind encountered something so real in its subconscious it caused your body to have a physical reaction. Stomach Ulcers. A physical ailment created by an overly stressed and worried mind. In our society today we are battling an obesity epidemic. Why? Everyone knows that eating nutritiously and exercising are the keys to a healthy weight, so why do we have such a problem with obesity? It’s the mental part of it, the motivation, and the self-control we struggle with.

This is the epitome of sports psychology. Enabling your mind and body to work together to be the best possible version of yourself you can be. Sports psychology teaches your mind to work for you, not against you. It’s easy, while exercising, for you to think I’m tired, I’ve done enough, lets’ quit for the day. Sports psychology trains your mind to push your body to the next level; it trains it to say, just a little bit farther, you got this.

Most people assume Sports psychology is an asset that athletes can only use when they are in a slump or a rut. However, it’s something sport_psychologyathletes can use all the time. In a competitive league where all the athletes have elite skills, the one thing you can have over your opponent is a mental edge. Athletes can have a great game one-day, and a terrible game the next. Why? It’s not their physical skills that drastically decreased in 24 hours, it’s their mental approach that changed!

The best of the best use sports psychology to harness their greatness, maybe it’s just the edge you need to step up your game. Train your mind to work for you!

Quote of the day: 

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

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:

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