As adults, we have a responsibility to allow our children to be children. Why do so many parents feel the need to fill every weekend with tournaments and training at the cost of letting a child be a child? What about family time? What about letting kids hang out with their friends? These are a problem that is only being exacerbated by many people in youth sports, specifically the club coaches who promise that taking a weekend off, much less a few weeks, would be severely detrimental to the development of that player. That is just wrong thinking.
“Sometimes when you win, you actually lose, and sometimes when you lose, you really win, and sometimes when you win or lose, you actually tie, and sometimes when you tie, you actually win or lose. Winning or losing is all one organic mechanism, from which one extracts what one needs.” -Gloria Clemente, White Men Can’t Jump
Coach, when my 14-year-old son comes home from practice and the only one criticizing him is himself, it is frustrating. As a goalie, he is pretty vocal on the field, except for when he makes mistakes. The angrier he gets at himself, the worse he plays. Is there a technique to somehow curb that anger and frustration so it doesn't mess him up, or does that start to become a maturity thing?
Remember, we are in the business of creating adults. In the past week, I have not seen a cone, replaced a cleat, or heard a whistle, but I have had hard conversations with other adults. I can do that in part because the youth coaches I had were my models for communication and I was lucky to have some really great examples.
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.
This is a speech I gave to a championship football team three months before they were champions. It was a room full of young men, but the speech could easily be for either gender.
Your future is being created right now, in this instant. Take ownership of what you can control and be the reason for your success, leaning not on the talent of others, but by the character of your best self.”
Faith and fear have one thing in common: they both believe in a future that has not yet happened.
With faith, we have confidence in our ability and/or our preparation. Having faith in our future gives us energy and creates excitement for what is coming.
With fear, there is an absence of confidence, which is the result of a lack of preparation, or a belief that our preparation was not enough.
Confidence is not arrogance. Arrogance is an exaggerated belief in one’s ability to perform. Don’t be arrogant. In the movies, the arrogant guy always has a short career because his mouth and lack of preparation writes a check his body can’t cash. Like the fourth firecracker in a 4th of July finale, he was loud and bright for a moment but… what was his name again?
A few years ago, a senior softball player from Western Oregon named Sara Tucholsy hit her first ever homerun of her career. It was in a playoff game of her final season as a collegiate athlete. In her excitement she missed tagging first base. As she turned around to return to the bag she tore her ACL and fell to the ground. If you have or know a softball player, watch this then send her this clip.
When an athlete goes from being the best on the team in one sport to a role player in another sport, they get to learn how to deal with adversity. Adversity and learning new skills develops mental toughness. When they go back to their primary sport where they are the best, they are a better leader because they had to become a follower. This skill translates very well in the adult world.
A short list of books on mental toughness. Sport Psychology is the study of concentration, imagery, goal setting, relaxation, and rituals. These five topics are what separate good athletes from great athletes and the successful from the unsuccessful. Here is list of my top 10 non-fiction Mental Strength books.
I am addicted to ideas on mental toughness. My addiction is so strong that I am currently finishing up my masters in Sport Psychology. In 15+ years of coaching youth sports I have found that a confident, prepared player can beat a more athletically gifted player 1/2 of the time just by being in the right spot at the right time. I also can tell when that "gifted" player is having a fit because they have never had to deal with that kind of adversity. As a coach, I capitalize on that moment, not out of ego to beat a team with superior players, but because I know the lesson that athlete is learning will be valuable later in their athletic career, that is if they don't quit, because according to The National Alliance for Sports, 70% of youth athletes quit sports before they turn 13.
Mental training is important for athletes to master. Knowing how to deal with things like pre-competition stress, injuries, a superior opponent, and a host of other things is many times pushed to the side in exchange for lifting more weights or playing another scrimmage.
Be the athlete that soars above the competition because you can handle the high-pressure situations. Be the coach that teaches the mental game, not just the physical, tactical, and technical game.
- As a Man Thinketh, James Allen (1903)
- The Inner Game of Tennis, W. Timothy Gallwey (1974)
- The Triathlete’s Guide to Mental Training, Jim Taylor PH.D and Terri Schneider (2005)
- The Way of the Champion: Lessons from Sun Tzu’s The art of War and other Tao Wisdom for Sports & life, Dr. Jerry Lynch (2006)
- Mindset: The New Rules of Success, Carol Dweck (2006)
D. W. Rutledge, Executive Director of the Texas Coaches Association, talks with college seniors who have chosen to enter into the coaching profession. One of the questions he asks is "Why do you want to coach?" Seems simple enough, yet it is amazing how many of these students did not have a clear answer! Other questions he poses are, What is your purpose of coaching? What is going to motivate you to get up everyday and go to work?" He believes you must have a purpose and a passion for what you do in any profession.He goes on to say,
"If a coach is getting up to go to work just to win football games, then I think he job is with a shallow purpose. If we are getting up and going to work because we feel we can change the lives of young people we work with, I can see a purpose of the work. If I am going to work in the morning to try to turn the lives of young people in the right direction, then it is something I can feel proud about. It is something I can have passion for.
Students need positive leadership! Be the man/woman your students want to be. At the end of your life, you will have left a legacy with countless students.