Athlete Development

Family, First by James Leath

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.

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Question: How can I get my 14-year-old to not be so critical? by James Leath

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?

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Take Control of Your Destiny by James Leath

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.”

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How to Create Confidence on Game Day by James Leath

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.

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3 Tips For Creating Sports Confidence by James Leath

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?

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Sportsmanship is not dead by James Leath

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.

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When should a youth athlete specialize? by James Leath

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.

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Mental Toughness Book List by James Leath

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.

 

A story of Anger and Forgiveness by James Leath

Nails in the Fence 

There once was a little boy who had a bad temper. His father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, he must hammer a nail into the back of the fence.

The first day the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence. Over the next few weeks, as he learned to control his anger, the number of nails hammered daily gradually dwindled down. He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence.

The-Nail-In-The-Fence-Story-When-You-Do-Not-Control-Your-Anger-You-Only-Do-Damage

Finally the day came when the boy didn’t lose his temper at all. He told his father about it and the father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper. The days passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone.

The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence. He said, “You have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one. You can put a knife in a man and draw it out. It won’t matter how many times you say I’m sorry, the wound is still there.”

The little boy then understood how powerful his words were. He looked up at his father and said, “I hope you can forgive me father for the holes I put in you.”

“Of course I can,” said the father.

 I don't remember where I got this story, but it rang true with me as I look back on my younger days. 

I think the lesson the young man in this story learns is such an important one and also is a lesson that unfortunately many of us learn much later in life.  When we are young, saying or doing mean or hurtful things out of anger or frustration to the ones we love (or even strangers for that matter) seems pretty easily remedied.  As children we are confident that the adults and people in our lives are more then capable to forgive and forget our offenses no matter what we would say or do.  It’s not until we reach adulthood that we realize the long term damage our words and actions can have on one another.  Suddenly as adults we look back on our own lives at the times when someone hurt us with their cruel words or actions and although we were able to forgive them, there are some things we discover were never able to truly forget.

The fact is there are some things that we may say or do that ultimately can never be taken back no matter how many times we apologize to the one’s we hurt.  Unfortunately we tend to realize the level of irreversible damage we caused only in hindsight and even more, the ones we tend to hurt the worst are the people we usually love the most.  As the saying goes, “To err is human, to forgive divine,” which is true, we are human, we make mistakes, and sometimes we say or do things we don’t mean out of anger in times of great frustration or sadness.  Yet, every time we are in a dispute with a friend, disagreement with a loved one, or even just having a bad day,  it’s so important to remember to pause and take a moment to think about the possible permanent repercussions our actions and words could have on others.  It’s only natural that we will have times in the future where we will lose our tempers or be pushed to personal our limits.  However, when we find ourselves in those times of great frustration or anger, we must be sure that whatever we say or do in those moments won’t,  like the nails hammered in the fence, end up leaving permanent holes in the one’s we love and in relationships important to us that we will never be able never undo.

Athletes are the last stronghold of discipline we have on our campuses today by James Leath

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.