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This month’s newsletter focuses on the limitless possibilities of the human spirit and the power of belief. In fact, limits are really something that exist only in your mind. Super Bowl and regular season MVP Kurt Warner is living proof that all the “experts” are frequently wrong and that you can do almost any thing that you set your mind to as long as you believe in yourself and refuse to quit.

ATHLETE’S LOCKER – “The sky’s the limit – believe in yourself”
PARENTS’ CORNER – “Encourage your kids to dream”
COACH’S OFFICE – “Growing a winning belief in your athletes”
DR. G’S TEACHING TALES – “The 5 – minute miler”


“The sky’s the limit – believe in yourself”

The really wonderful thing about sports is that it continually provides an arena for seemingly ordinary athletes to do the “impossible” on a regular basis. Roger Bannister breaks the 4:00 minute barrier in 1954 shattering a medically supported belief that the human body couldn’t withstand running that fast. Dick Fosbury, ridiculed by the experts, high jumps his way into Olympic history in 1968 with his unorthodox world record setting and gold medal winning “Fosbury Flop.” Rocky Bleier, picked by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 68 NFL draft, takes a detour through Vietnam and returns 40% disabled after a grenade blew off the bottom of his right foot. Not only does he make the team, but he becomes a key player in the Steeler’s rise to dominance in the 70’s. Wilma Rudolph overcomes childhood polio and paralysis to become one of the greatest female athletes of her time. Track star Gail Devers miraculously comes back from a debilitating disease that not only nearly ends her career, but also her life to win Olympic gold. With the NFL season and Super Bowl recently ended we have yet another example of an athlete doing the impossible. Kurt Warner, MVP for the league as well as the Super Bowl came from complete oblivion to lead the St. Louis Rams to a miracle season and a storybook finish over the Tennessee Titans. Warner, who had been stocking shelves at a local super market for $5.50 and hour sat on the bench for nearly 4 years in college until he finally got his chance to start. Despite a successful senior season, no one in the NFL was interested. He played pro ball in Europe and Arena football until the Rams picked him up as a back-up. When starting quarterback Trent Green was lost to a preseason knee injury, Warner finally got the chance to do what he always knew he could, play at the highest level. What do all these athletes have in common that allows them to overcome tremendous obstacles, defy the experts and do the impossible? What can they teach you about freeing up that super-performer inside of you? Each of these individuals has an uncompromising belief in themselves and their ability to reach their dream. Even though they are surrounded by “knowledgeable experts” and “naysayers”, they refuse to take in this negativity and be knocked off track. Through all the rejections, failures and setbacks, these individuals never stop believing in themselves. Perhaps these athletes somehow understood this fact:


When the University of Connecticut men’s basketball team “shocked the world” last March to win the NCAA national Championship, as a group, the entire team believed that they could win. Most everyone else in the basketball world knew Duke would come out on top. However, it doesn’t really matter what others believe about you. It only matters what you believe about you. It doesn’t matter what limits others place on you. It only matters what limits you place on yourself. Remember, you are always limited by what you believe is possible. How else can we explain Major League hurler Jim Abott’s success despite being born without a right hand. Very simply, Abott did not believe he was handicapped. Abbott did not act as if he was handicapped. This is the key about your beliefs: What you believe will always dictate your actions. That’s why they say, life is a self-fulfilling prophesy – you always get what you expect. If you believe that you can’t do something, then your efforts will be half-hearted. Your inner doubts will prevent you from going all out. They will undercut your ability to persist when you fail. They will erode your determination. Negative beliefs will ultimately lead you to failure. However, positive beliefs will do the opposite. They will encourage you to go all out. They will feed your persistence and determination. They will inspire you to get back up each and every time that you get knocked down. They will ultimately lead you to success. If you tend to be a negative believer is it really possible to turn those nasty beliefs around? Absolutely…as long as you’re willing to be patient and persistent in your attempts. Negative beliefs do not simply change over night. You have to work at them. How? Start by gradually getting rid of all the negativity that you tend to feed yourself. For example, eliminate the “can’ts”, “nevers” and “impossibles” from your head. Rip them out of the dictionary in your mind. These limiting words do not exist in successful athletes. Furthermore, surround yourself with coaches, friends and teammates who support you and your beliefs. Don’t hang out with people who poke fun at or ridicule your beliefs and dreams. Spend quiet time every day focusing on your goal or dream. Imagine it in vivid detail. “Experience” yourself reaching this goal. This kind of goal imagery feeds your positive beliefs. Finally, do the “impossible” every day. Move towards and challenge your limiting beliefs. Get in the habit of ignoring that little voice in your head that says “you can’t.” In small ways push yourself every day to do just a little more than you think you can. Remember: If you think you can or think you can’t, you’re absolutely right! “You hold both the lock and key to your success. It’s the belief you have in yourself”


“Encourage your child to dream”

One of the more common questions I’m asked by parents is “What should I say to my child so that he understands that the goal he set for himself is just not realistic?…I don’t want him to be disappointed going after something that far-fetched.” There’s no question that this parent’s heart is in the right place. No one wants to see his/her child hurt. However, the reflex to “protect” your child from his /her unrealistic dreams should be kept to yourself and NOT acted upon.

Dreams in children are the stuff of creativity. Dreams are the fuel that motivates them to do the impossible. Dreams are our life-blood. They give meaning and direction to our lives. Unfortunately, as we grow up, many of us have our dreams and self-beliefs constantly beaten down by well-meaning and not-so-well meaning others. As a result, by the time we reach adulthood many of us have given up on our dreams. We have put them aside as if they are childhood toys that have no place in our adult lives.

The fact of the matter is, that when your 8 or 9 year-old says she wants to go to the Olympics or fly a rocket to Mars, you are NOT in any position to really judge the reality of her future. Very simply, you don’t really have any idea what your child can become. However, even if you think you do have insight into your child’s future, you still do not want to discourage her from dreaming. Dreams are what kids do best. If nurtured and encouraged their dreams can positively shape their entire life. The movie, October Skies is a wonderful, real-life story of what happens when kids refuse to give up on their dreams regardless of how outrageous or unrealistic these dreams may seem to more intelligent adults. It’s the story of four boys growing up in the late 50’s in a West Virginia coal mining town who get the crazy notion in their heads that they want to build and fly a workable rocket. The main protagonist is actively discouraged and even forbidden to pursue this folly by a father who believes the boy’s future would be better spent like his own, working underground in the mines. Despite repeated failures and multiple obstacles thrown in their way by “concerned” adults, the four boys do the impossible and successfully develop and launch a functional rocket, winning a prestigious science fair and full college scholarships in the process. The protagonist later goes on to work for NASA and is a major player in the first successful manned space flight to the moon. Make the assumption with your children that the “sky” is indeed the only limit, that they have the potential to do anything that they set their mind to. Encourage them to dream. Inspire them. Tell them stories of all the “impossible” things that have been accomplished by people following their dreams. Don’t be a “dream stealer.” Don’t be the cold hard voice of reality. You will not help your children by encouraging them to be practical or realistic. By definition dreams are NOT supposed to be practical and realistic.

They are supposed to stretch the limits of credibility. Encourage your children to “think outside the box.”I continually encourage young athletes to “build your castles in the sky,” to dream big, but just be sure that you “put the foundation on the earth.” In other words, it is perfectly fine to have big dreams as long as you begin to work on these on a day-to-day realistic way. If your goal is to play professional baseball, then that’s great! What will you work on and improve this year that will help you get closer to that goal? What will you work on this month? What about this week? What will you do in practice today to begin to concretely move in this direction? Big dreams motivate kids to take action, to go for it, to take risks. It’s this process of pursuing dreams that I think is so important to a child’s overall development and sense of self. As a parent, your job is to help them nurture their belief in themselves. Actively look for opportunities to build their self- esteem and fuel their self-beliefs. Don’t try to protect them from failing or falling short of their goals. When you dream big, set high goals and fail, you will accomplish far more than if you were more conservative and tentative about your goals. Also, keep one other thing in mind. It is important to understand that your children will interpret your “voice of practicality and reason” as a huge vote of “no confidence, ” as evidence that you just don’t really believe in them. One thing children always want and need from their parents is never-ending support and the parent’s belief in the child’s ability & potential. Be a catalyst for your child’s imagination. Support their dreams. Encourage them to keep on when they stumble and fall. Teach them to think expansively when it comes to self-potential. Help them understand that life is a “do it yourself” game. That if you can conceive it and believe it, you can achieve it!



“Growing a winning belief in your athletes”

It never ceases to amaze me when I talk to athletes and they complain about how negative their coach is and how that individual always leaves them feeling badly about themselves. A recent conversation with a D-I softball pitcher from out West underscores one of the more costlier mistakes, performance-wise, that coaches make. It seems that this coach is predominantly negative in all her interactions with her players. She is overly critical and never fails to take advantage of an opportunity to catch her athletes doing things wrong. By itself, this isn’t bad. You can’t coach without providing accurate and timely critical feedback. However, if all that comes out of your mouth is negative, sooner or later you’ll begin to tear your athletes down rather than build them up and make them stronger. In fact, this pitcher complained that her coach has left a number of her more talented teammates questioning their belief in themselves. One of the marks of a really good coach is that he/she has the ability to inspire his/her athletes to go beyond their preconceived limitations. Good coaches fuel their athletes’ self-beliefs. They put their players into challenging situations and interact with them in a manner that communicates two very important and powerful messages:

#1 “You can do it!” and #2 “I believe in you!” While this may sound quite obvious and a bit elementary, far too many coaches miss the boat here. One way that you build beliefs is by demanding that your athletes step outside their comfort zone and “do the impossible” or at least what they think is impossible. By expecting an athlete to train harder, commit more and pursue excellence a coach is saying, “I know that you are capable of doing this and I expect you to rise to this level.” Pushing your athletes and refusing to settle for mediocrity is fine as long as you intersperse this with building your athletes up.

If it’s true that athletes and teams are always limited most by what they believe is possible, then it would stand to reason that one of your major jobs as a coach is to continuously build your athletes’ belief in themselves
on a daily and weekly basis. How do you do this?

  1. Do not collude with, nor accept mediocrity – By having high expectations and being intolerant of less than optimal efforts & performance you communicate that “more is possible.”

  2. Challenge your athletes in every way – Coaches who don’t adequately challenge their athletes lose that individual’s respect. Without challenge, there is no motivation or satisfaction from accomplishment. Challenge your athletes physically, competition-wise, skill wise. Train them to continuously “Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable.” They may kick and scream through the process, but in the end they’ll thank you for pushing them.

  3. Stay Positive – Critical feedback is fine and necessary to give. However, you must figure out a way to balance this negative with the positive. Don’t just tell them what they are doing wrong. Underline and reinforce when they are doing it right. This is true even if you’re working with college athletes. Catching people doing things right builds their self-esteem, reinforces their self-belief and motivates them to want to do more. You will get far more out of your athletes with positive than you will with the negative. Negative coaching produces negative athletes. If you continuously get down on your athletes you’ll teach them to get down on themselves. Then, the next thing you know, you’ll find them putting each other down.

  4. Frame Your Critical Feedback Constructively – When you give critical feedback make it clear, specific and “positive.” For example, “you let them score because you don’t move your feet” is a negative frame. “When you move your feet on defense like this, (demonstrating), no-one can get by you” is a positive frame. In essence you’re saying, “if you do this more you’ll be successful.” This focuses the athlete on the solution rather than just on the problem and will motivate them to take action to make the changes. This kind of critical feedback builds up, rather than tears down self-confidence.

  5. Sandwich Critical Feedback Between Positive Feedback – When you do give negative feedback, try to sandwich it in between several things that the athlete is already doing well. A good rule of thumb is to balance the negative message with at least two or more positive ones. With younger athletes (12 and under) the ratio of positive to negative should be 4-5 to 1. As your athletes get older, the ratio can go down to, but not below 1:1.

  6. Praise the Individual, Criticize the Group – UCLA legendary John Wooden’s rule of thumb. When an athlete does something well he would single that athlete out in front of the entire group. “Look at what Bill did in this situation. This is what we all want to do, just like him.” However, when an athlete would mess up, he’d stop practice and say, “In these situations we don’t want to do x.” Using embarrassment and humiliation as a coaching tool will not build self-belief. All you’ll build in your athletes is a healthy fear of you along with a significant loss of respect for you as a coach and person.

Remember, one of the most powerful messages that you can give an athlete is that you believe in them. One of the most powerful messages that you can give your team right before a big game is that you believe in them. Your belief fuels theirs and how they perform is always heavily influenced by what they believe.


“The 5 minute miler”

John was a talented runner with one glaring problem. He just didn’t believe. As a high school miler, he had been struggling with an “impossible” barrier for almost two years now. Try as hard as he might, he just couldn’t break 5 minutes.

As a senior he ran his first five races in the mile between 5:01 and 5:05. No matter what he did he always seemed to come up short at the end. As a junior he struggled in the very same way running close to, but never breaking five minutes. After two years it came down to John’s beliefs. He just didn’t believe he had it in him to go that fast. He didn’t realize that you are always limited most by what you believe is possible.

His coach, knowing the great potential of his runner tried everything in his power to get the boy to believe in himself. He told John, “You have no idea how fast you can go. You have no idea what barriers you can break. You have a super athlete inside of you. You have the ability to do things that will surprise you. The sky’s the limit son, as long as you believe in yourself. However, everything the coach said seemed to fall on deaf ears. John just didn’t believe in himself and had too many “can’ts” and nevers” floating around in his head. The coach felt desperate to try to make his runner believe in himself so he decided to do something radical and slightly unethical….

In John’s 6th race of his senior year he ran another 5:02 finishing in first place and beating the second place runner by a good 25 yards. At this particular meet there wasn’t an electronic scoreboard with the official times posted so John had to go to the scorer’s table to get his time. He never made it there…..

The instant he crossed the finish line his coach dashed out onto the track, waving his hands excitedly and screaming at the top of his lungs, “John baby! John My man!!! 4:59! Four, Five, Nine, Buddy. You finally did it! You finally broke that barrier!…..” Now we know that John had not run a 4:59 and we know that his coach had no problems telling time. Actually, what the coach had done was scripted.

He had planned to do this if John had won by a lot. He had talked to the opposing team’s coach before the race and they had agreed if John won by a fair amount, and 25 yards was a fair amount, they would fake his time.

John left that meet finally believing he had broken the barrier. Was this a good thing for the coach to do? Well, it was unethical and I certainly DON’T recommend it. However, in this isolated situation it worked wonders. You see, if you change your beliefs about something your behaviors will immediately change….and the very next day….John showed up for his 3:30 practice at 2:45. When practice ended at 5:30 and everyone went home, John stayed by himself and worked until 6:30. He repeated this the next day, and the next. Four days after the meet he ran the mile in competition and was officially clocked at 4:58…..A week later in an invitational meet he ran a 4:59. For the rest of his senior year he consistently broke the 5-minute barrier. Why? Well, John didn’t necessarily get smarter, stronger or even physically faster in that two-week period. What changed for him was his beliefs. He now believed in himself. He now believed that he could break the barrier. And break it he did, over and over again. You are always limited by what you believe is possible. Start acting today like nothing is impossible. Remember, success comes in cans, not can’ts.

The John Rocker Blockhead of the Month Award R.I.P. Because of an overwhelming response from readers about not “honoring” John’s incredible stupidity, Racism. Sexism, homophobia, etc. I have decided to retire the award. As my great, great, great, great grandfather always said, “Let sleeping idiots lie.”

If you have a performance difficulty or you’re consistently underachieving, call me today. I can help!

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