my senior athlete wants to quit by James Leath

You pour into an athlete for years, and then in their last year, they want to quit…

If you coach long enough, this will happen to you. What do you do? I made a short video about it here. It was inspired by a conversation I had this morning with a collegiate college coach about a player on her team that is struggling to be "all in" for her senior year. Click here to check it out. In a nutshell, I told her to give the athlete two options: No, or hell yes. Let me explain…

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Meditation for Athletes by James Leath

I meditate daily. It's the first thing I do after making coffee.

When I was younger, I didn't understand what meditation was. I always associate it with some guru on a mountain away from civilization. Honestly, I thought it was pretty stupid and for weirdos.

I pulled my hamstring my junior year during a football game. The trainer said I would miss the next game, and that was just unacceptable. It drove me crazy. The following Monday I was in the library, and I ran across an old video of the late great Chicago Bears running back, Walter Payton. The only game he missed in his 13-year career was in his rookie season of 1975. That is incredible for any football player, especially a running back. 

I watched the video right there in the library during my lunch break. The lessons I took from that one interview stay with me to this day. In the days after a game, feeling beat up with aches and pains all over his body, he would sit in silence and imagine blood cells carrying healing properties to his injuries. With each deep breath, he would imagine all that good oxygen go right into that hurt area, and with the exhale, all the injured cells would be repaired. He said he would do this for an hour at a time. 

So, I tried it. I had nothing to lose. I made it maybe five minutes before I had to get up and do something. My hamstring still hurt really bad, but I felt a sense of calm that, as a high school student and all the craziness that goes into that, I hadn't felt before. 

In the training room during practice, while my leg as being iced, I closed my eyes and tried it again. After a few minutes, I had the sensation that I was warming up my hamstring despite being covered with ice. When done with my ice session, I felt great--physically and mentally. 

I kept doing it all week long. Ten minutes when waking up, 20 minutes in the training room while being iced, then however long it took me to fall asleep that night. 

On Thursday, I was cleared by the trainer to play in the game the next night. Even though I wrapped my leg for support, I don't think I needed it. That was one of my best games of the season. 

Two lessons I learned. One, the mind can be focused to do way more than we allow it to do because of all the things in life that distract it. Music blasting, social media updates, Netflix, etc. And two, sitting in silence for a few minutes each day strengthens the mind and allows for a more focused, calm effort amid the chaos around me. 

You see, meditation isn't about getting rid of your thoughts. It's about learning to be at ease with them. Doing this every day gives you the mental strength to have a calm head when everyone else around you is losing theirs!

I use Headspace ( There are other great apps, I'm sure, but Headspace is the one I use. Ten minutes in the morning, and sometimes if I am having trouble getting to sleep at night. You don't need an app, though. Set a timer on your phone for 5 minutes, find a comfortable, safe place to sit, and count your breaths. Inhale 1, exhale 2, inhale 3, exhale 4. Anytime you find your mind is wandering, gentle push those thoughts away and get back to focusing on your breathing. 

That's it. I recommend adding it to your pre-practice and pre-game routine. Give it a few days in a row, and I know you will find it will add tremendous value to your life like it has mine.

Activity: Legacy Letters by James Leath

Completing a season in a sport is something most people will remember for the rest of their lives. Like I mentioned before, a great culture is created by coaches, athletes, administrators, and parents who are intentional about the sport experience. Writing a Legacy Letter is an excellent way for an athlete to pass on the lessons and traditions learned while competing in something they love. We all want our seniors to graduate, but the culture and traditions they helped create should not graduate with them. 

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Activity: Skittles and Sprints by James Leath

Forget all that noise. You can yell all you want, but true motivation comes from adding in competition. And if you are a parent, let's be real: you know the reality of the importance of bribing your child! Here is one way to get your athletes to increase their cardiovascular fitness at the end of practice and have fun while doing it!

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Control Your Emotions, Coach by James Leath

Young athletes are not adults and do not have the life experience to be held to the expectation of being able to control their emotions. Sports gives a student a controlled environment to learn how to manage feelings and emotions, and the coach is the teacher. That teaching is one of the biggest lessons a coach can teach an athlete under their supervision.

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Success is in the Details by James Leath

Coach, challenge your athletes to set the standard for the team. They will not adhere to seemingly arbitrary rules handed down on a piece of paper or written on a wall. You didn't when you were an athlete and neither will they. However, if you can get them to feel how the expectation will help them, you will see improved compliance.

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Meeting Your New Team by James Leath

Too many coaches think the most important thing in a meeting is to tell the players what they need to know. Yes, there is a time for that, but not enough coaches give space for their players to share. There is wisdom to be learned from a coach, and just as much from an athlete. Remember, as coaches we’re in the business of training the adults of tomorrow, adults who will be reminiscent of the things they learned from their coach (good and bad) above the stats and win/loss column.

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