Mirror neurons and learning in sport— How to turn them on!

Sensei Bob teaching a classSeveral years ago in my role as a part-time karate instructor, I got run down from too many competing interests for my time. My business required a great deal of travel, my daughters had very active lives and my karate classes had expanded to nine hours and three nights from just one, two-hour evening. But I carried on as usual, somewhat aware of the toll it was taking on me.

However, as I was an experienced instructor, I was convinced I could leave it all behind and shift to the Zone at class time and pull off what I thought were some pretty amazing classes. So why worry? Continue reading

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In support of competition in sport: Thoughts from a karate dojo

Karate Tournament

“If wanting to win is a fault, as some of my critics seem to insist, then I plead guilty. I like to win. I know no other way. It’s in my blood.”

                                                    – Bear Bryant, Football Coach

Just like Bear Bryant, winning is in my blood and in the blood of my karate students. I love to win; they love to win. There is no feeling quite like it. However, there are lots of blog posts and articles these days on the perils of winning and the damage it can do to the tender minds of our children. I’d like to shed some light on my process for winning and the impact it has had on my own students.

If wanting to compete and win is a fault, as is suggested by some, how did my karate students come to love it? And if winning only supports the best and most proficient athletes and denigrates the weak, how did all my students (including my special needs athletes) come to enjoy it and even rise to the level of black belt? Continue reading

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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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