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Sh*t talking is effortless

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Excuse my french, but, It doesn’t take effort to “shit talk” about people like your teammates, it’s effortless.Image

When on a sports team you spend countless hours practicing with your teammates every day and can easily pick apart their personalities and tendencies finding things that are imperfect or outright annoying. Blabbing these bothersome habits to other teammates hoping to persuade them to notice the negative side of a player only fuels the irritation and does nothing constructive for yourself or the team. What does take strength is to ignore the imperfect habits of your teammates and find the piece of a person that does benefit your team; the part that makes them standout positively. Challenge yourself to embrace their strength and realize that they are a necessity to your team. Persuade your teammates to notice the positive qualities each player contributes to the team. Refusing to participate in conversations that are negative about specific players or situations makes you a better teammate and a better person. We’ve all had our moments of frustration or anger when we talk negatively about another player, but it’s never too late to make a change; don’t follow the pack, be a leader, benefit your team, don’t take the easy way out. Strive to be the best person for your team, rather than the best person on your team. Take the challenge, refuse to shit talk.

I wrote this while playing collegiate softball. I walked onto a new team with a bad habit of talking behind others backs. It was frustrating, and very unwelcoming. So I took my own challenge, to never talk badly about a teammate. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It kept me out of the drama, and focused on the field. I even had a teammate of mine tell me how inspired she was by my decision. She decided to take the challenge in her own life. I never thought I would have had such an impact on others. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it.

Quote of the day:

“Ask not what your teammates can do for you, ask what you can do for your teammates.” – Magic Johnson

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

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