Brilliant Coaches: They know how to push your buttons

Hockey gameAs the National Hockey League prepares for the 2014-15 season, teams are filling gaps in positions and skill sets, so that in six months (and 82 games) of player trades, injuries, fatigue, drama of contracts, personality clashes, media and fan pressure, etc., they will have the complete team that will finish at the top of the standings. But, what if the Montreal Canadiens, for example, who are unable to decide on a leader for the role of captain and are going with four alternates, could avoid these kinds of manpower issues, no matter what the makeup of their roster, with a simple system for brilliant leadership?

We hear of struggling teams such as the Edmonton Oilers looking to land the next Sidney Crosby in the draft, but rarely do we hear them looking to acquire the next brilliant Scotty Bowman. That is because leadership is often perceived as an inexact and uncontrollable science, similar to predicting the weather. Except at trade deadline. Then teams like the Boston Bruins look to trade up for that one player such as Jerome Iginla who’ll take a significant leadership role in the playoffs. This goal to find leaders should be the norm, especially when searching for coaches.

The potential benefit of brilliant coaching is reinforced by three undeniable truths: Continue reading

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Team Family: It takes a family to raise and inspire an athlete

The family unit, whatever its make-up, can be a powerful contributing force to a young athlete’s preparation and success in sport. With the right approach, training to get all members of the family on the same page and supportive of each other, will make or break the experience.

active teenage girl and parentsIt is said that it takes a community to raise a child. It certainly is true that it takes a family to raise a child. And I’ll add a big addition to this. In youth sports, it takes a family to raise and inspire a young athlete. Trainers are working with many more family units these days, and a “family” can be any definition you want it to be from single mom or primary caregiver to influential grandparent.  Generally, with modern technology, trainers can step right into living rooms and work with families via Skype, FaceTime or ooVoo, in a manner that is as good as visiting face to face. As a matter of fact, it is face to face!

Family units need to be powerful

Working with a family unit is very powerful as you get a combined impact of the parent supporting his or her teen athlete and the teen athlete supportive of the parent in return. To give you an idea of the benefits of this arrangement in terms of sharing the training load, staying on the same high performance “page” and creating an unbeatable group dynamic or synergy, the following is an amalgam of several families I’ve recently worked with. I’ll call them the Smith family, and they have a 16-year-old son, John, who plays hockey. Continue reading

Posted in Athletes, Competition, Fun in Sport, High Performance, Hockey, Leadership, mental psyching, Mental Training, Mind Games, Parents, Sports, Sports Training, The Zone | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Stopped having fun in your sport? Here’s a high performance tip for getting your passion back

SparringThe key (and often unsaid) reason athletes seek out sport mental training from high performance trainers like me is fun — they’ve stopped having it.  Whether it is because of inconsistency, losing, injuries, reduced playing time or on-going intimidation, athletes get dejected and quit.  And by the time they do, parents, coaches and teammates are relieved, as they are not much fun to be around.  I know, as I’ve tossed a few water bottles and slammed a number of locker doors in my sporting career.

As if a career of sporting failures in hockey as a kid wasn’t enough, I joined a karate club in my early 30’s and discovered that karate was a competitive sport, not just a means of achieving self-defense, self-confidence and fitness.  And within a few months my instructor encouraged me to compete.  I was hesitant, but he sold me on the excitement and fun.  And, as luck would have it, I medaled in my first competition.

I was hooked, but about two years into my training, a thumb injury became painfully chronic.  The word ‘karate’ means empty hand, and at that time we were not even allowed to wear protective sparring gloves in practice, let alone in tournaments.  So my hands got pretty bashed, bruised and beaten up.  As soon as they would heal, the healing would be undone.  And even the slightest contact brought tears to my eyes.

With each new episode, the fun diminished.  Quitting was an option, but I committed myself to one last competition, partly because I’d already paid for the flight, but mostly because I was no quitter.  So I flew halfway across the continent to lose in a rather lackluster performance.  And as the medals were being placed around the necks of the winners — I debated whether to take up another sport. Continue reading

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The Importance of Being Unrealistic in Sport

If you have ever been told that you are too small, too old, too slow, too weak, too inconsistent or too meek, this video is for you.  And, if someone has told you that you just don’t have what it takes to make it in your sport and to be realistic, you especially need to watch it.

I believe that you limit yourself and get “realistic” results by setting “realistic” goals.  Instead, I encourage you to set unrealistic goals so that you have access to many more possibilities.  Here’s a simple process that will help you to do so. Continue reading

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Three Tips for Mental Rehearsal in Sport

 “I learned there are troubles Baseball_player
    of more than one kind.
Some come from ahead,
    others come from behind.
But I’ve bought a big bat.
I’m all ready, you see.
Now my troubles are going
    to have trouble with me.”
–        Dr. Seuss

Some of you are entering season-ending, nerve-wracking championships and others are in the midst of season-starting, nerve-wracking tryouts and games, and there seems to be a common thread.  ANXIETY TROUBLES!

Whether you are starting or finishing a season, there should never be anxiety about anything.  Never!  There is no room for accepting anxiety as inevitable or turning anxiety into passion or embracing anxiety.  You are either in the Zone or you are not.  If you want to embrace anxiety, you might want to practice that in practice.  But if you’d rather dispense with it entirely, do it and do it well.  Continue reading

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The Part-time Athlete: Balancing Sport and Family

Soccer_Players_MP900149025One of the nice things about working with young athletes is that for the most part they have uncomplicated lives. They eat, sleep, go to school, practice and compete. However, with older athletes life gets a whole lot more complicated. Careers take hold, families materialize and leadership demands are extracted – sometimes with a pound of flesh or two. In other words, our attention begins to get pulled in many ways and something has to give.

During my years of competitive karate training, I never had enough hours in a day to do everything. I would disappear to my basement workout room during every spare moment I could find. Child asleep – head for the basement. Wife reading – hit the streets jogging and doing wind sprints. Feeding my young daughter – dive into visualizations. Karate class at the dojo finished – head to the 24-hour grocery store. If I wanted to compete and be competitive and still be a husband and dad, I had to be efficient and squeeze every last drop of time out of a week. Continue reading

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How to Become an Emotional Coach in Your Child’s Sport

VolleyballIn a previous blog I wrote on the topic of coaches being the emotional ballast for their athletes and I’m now tackling another a key players in the process—parents.

I’m very supportive of parents of young athletes because I am both a parent and a coach.  I know what they go through.  They spend more time with their athlete than the coach does, and yet they often feel undervalued by both the coach and the athlete.  They also get blamed for the many behavioral sins of their child.

Parents have very dramatic ways of getting around this—they stay home or watch  covertly from behind pillars.  Neither is necessary or appropriate, so this blog post is aimed at parents who wish to overcome any parental stigma, but more importantly,  be of huge benefit to their child’s game.

Not just a Spectator

SpectatorsOne of my athletes has traveled widely in the U.S. to competitions.  For one competition he traveled with his dad, another with an aunt or an uncle.  On two specific occasions he traveled with his coach.  Over the course of several tournaments a pattern developed.  Whenever he traveled with his family he struggled and performed poorly.  When he traveled with his coach, he won–big.

Think about the differences.  The family trip to the competition was mostly about sightseeing and expectations, along with the usual family squabbles and grandma’s troubles and the cost of the sport and the price of gas and the business call on the cell phone.  On the other hand, the “team” trip with the coach was mostly about competition goals, past successes, passion for the sport, the anticipation of winning and a bright future.

When you compare the two experiences, it is easy to see that the trip with the coach better prepares the athlete mentally for the competition.  It wires his mental circuitry for success. How could any parent compete with that?  The answer is: don’t even try.  You most likely do not have the technical skills or experiences that relate to becoming a skills coach, but you do have the maturity and life experiences that relate to becoming an Emotional Coach.

Become your Child’s Emotional Coach

Cheering ParentsThe way to become an Emotional Coach is learn to stay (as one of my coaches says) in your “happy place”.  Athletes refer to this place as the Zone.  It involves a simple rule that says, “If I stay in the Zone my child will.”  And the easiest way to get there is to think about your best sporting experience and notice how good it feels.  That is your Zone and you need to stay there, no matter what.

How many times have you seen your child in a meltdown?  And how many times have you felt bad for them?  Ask yourself the question, “Who is leading whom?”  If you want to be an Emotional Coach, you simply can no longer empathize with your child on the field, court or rink.  Close your eyes and think “happy place”–the impact will be huge.


After stating this rule in a workshop, two moms approached me and one asked,   “You mean we can’t just be a spectator?”

I told them that they could be spectators but they also had a choice.  They could be part of the problem (a meltdown) or could remain emotionally in the Zone for both the good and the bad parts of competition (it is simply leadership).  It is very empowering to be helping your child perform well.   Being an Emotional Coach is a huge challenge, but the parents who have tried it rave about the positive effect it has had on their children.

I’m going to challenge you as parents to draw a line in the sand and make YOUR meltdown and YOUR anxiety a thing of the past.  At your child’s next competition:

  • See how much laughter you can create in the car on the way to the event.
  • See how tall you can get your son or daughter to walk by walking tall yourself.
  • Maintain your happy place at all times even as other parents fall apart around you.

If I stay in the Zone my child/athlete will

Staying in the ZoneYou have a powerful tool to help your child–yourself in the Zone.  Use it to help them prepare for practices.  Use it to help them in competitions.  When you do, you hand your young athlete over to their coach in a powerful state of mind and the coach will love you for it.  Hey, here’s a thought, why not use it all the time to help your children in all of their activities?  It sure beats hiding behind a pillar.

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