Sport Psychology

Kids are not mini-adults by James Leath

Every season, no matter the level of the sport, a different team shows up. Though the athlete could be coming from the same school as the year before, every season has its own culture and feeling. 6th graders are now 7th graders, juniors are now seniors, so on and so forth. A lot changes in a young athlete’s life between seasons, and as coaches we should not assume fundamentals are as sharp as they were the year before, or that the athletes are coming with prior knowledge.

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Mental Toughness: Defined. by James Leath

Every coach wants their athletes to be mentally tough. However, when I ask a coach to define what being mentally tough is, I find most coaches do not have a definition, or their definition has something to do with playing through pain. Although an athlete who can stay focused on their role when uncomfortable because of injury is considered a mentally tough action, is does not define what it means.

My definition of a mentally tough athlete is one who is:

Able to access their talent at the highest level they are capable on a consistent basis regardless of the situation.

Here is how I break that down: 

“Able to access their talent...” You can have all the talent and strength you need to be competitive, but you must be able to unleash all the hours of training you put in to make it to game day. An example of being able to access your talent, despite a tragic situation in one’s personal life is Brett Favre, who played a football game the day after his father passed away. That day he passed for 399 yards and four touchdowns…he was able to access his talent. He was mentally tough.

“...at the highest level...” Whitey Bimstein, a long time boxer and trainer once said, “Show me an undefeated fighter and I'll show a guy who's never fought anybody.” His point was to show that an athlete should seek out the best competition even if that means losing once in a while. As a society, we place too much emphasis on having no losses on our record. Defeat can be the seed of discontent you need to motivate you to improve your game.

“...they are capable…” Your level effort has nothing to do with the competition. There is an old adage: “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” You can only control three things as an athlete - your effort, your attitude and your preparation. Get in the habit of always playing at the height of your ability and you will see that ability continue to grow.

“...on a consistent basis…” Anyone can be great in a random chance moment. History is rife with championships being won on the last ditch effort of some one-hit wonder that only has that one situation to their name, then fades shortly after. Today’s headlines are tomorrow’s fish wrappings, so to be great you need to be consistent.

“...regardless of the situation.” A mentally tough athlete treats practice and pre-season competitions with the same intensity as a league or post-season game. In most sports, the next play or the next move is the same no matter if it’s at practice or in the last few minutes of the championship game. The only difference is the audience.

Mental toughness is developed through hard work and dedication. Help your athletes to take ownership of their athletic endeavors by letting them learn from their failures. If you put a pillow under their knee every time they fall, they will never learn the important lesson of learning from mistakes.

How to Create a Mistake Recovery Routine by James Leath

Here are two examples on the importance of getting your head in the game from Sunday's game. The first is the Cal Poly pitcher who started the game for the Mustangs fresh off rehabbing from surgery. As I watched him pitch I knew right away he was not ready to be on the mound. It had nothing to do with his form; in fact, he looked very strong as he sauntered up to the mound. He had heat on the ball, so it wasn't his pitching speed.

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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.

 

The Importance of Self Talk by James Leath

Would you let someone say to your face the same things you say to your mirror?Unknown
Why is it that the world can look at a woman and see how beautiful she is but that same woman constantly reminds herself of how ugly and fat she is?
Many people forget how important self talk is. You can try to ignore your thoughts and the scripts that play over and over but you won’t last long. What we think about and how we think about it dictates the way we perceive the world, and therefore how we feel about things. It is all connected.
Let’s take obesity, for example. Are you overweight? Really? I am not talking about the I-wish-I-could-drop-5-pounds-before-bikini-season overweight. I am talking about the I-am-going-to-literally-die-if-I-don’t-drop-80-pounds overweight.
If the latter is you, then do something about it! You look at yourself in the mirror, you see all the fat, and then what do you say? If you are like most people, you are disgusted. You feel like a failure to let yourself get this big. Well, honestly, that is a start. At least you are seeing yourself as what you are.
Now try this. Look at yourself in the mirror and see what you can be. It will be hard at first. You have been talking trash to your body for years so your thoughts are conditioned to go negative. Did you go to the gym yesterday? Great, that is the right direction. Did you go to bed without eating that piece of pie you normally do? There is another win.
Take a moment to look into the mirror, commit to another day of healthy nutrition and a workout, then take a step. You have to commit everyday.When you catch yourself punching you in the face with self degrading words, stop. Realize it is a big part of how you got there in the first place, then replace it with something positive. I am not advocating old school positive thought theology, but the studies are clear that positive people are just more pleasant to be around! And, you’ll find it is a lot easier to like yourself if you are not always beating yourself up!
Here’s what you can do to start: Look for foods that are not processed. Look at your schedule and put you on it. Label it like my best man used to label his workout sessions: “Obesity Reduction Session.” it’s funny, but 3 months and 50 pounds later, it was no longer a joke.
Quotes:
  • "The way we communicate with others and ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives." -Tony Robbins
  • "As he thinks, so he is; as he continues to think, so he remains." -James Allen
  • We must "be" before we can "do" and we can "do" only to the extent that we "are," and what we "are" depends upon what we “think” - Charles Haanel, The Master Key System
Resources:

What do you say to yourself that beats you up?