IN THIS ISSUE:
ATHLETE’S LOCKER – “Mastering last minute negative self-talk & doubts”
PARENTS’ CORNER – “Helping your child keep things in balance”
COACH’S OFFICE – “Taking care of your equipment”
DR. G’S TEACHING TALES – “It’s courage that counts”
THE ROCKER BLOCKHEAD OF THE MONTH AWARD – John Rocker
“Mastering last minute negative self-talk & self-doubts”
Billy walks to the foul line with 1 second remaining on the clock and his team down by 2. Two shots to be a hero. Two shots to tie the game and then send it into overtime. The tightly packed home gym went crazy when he stole the ball, dribbled to the top of the key and then shot as time wound down. Lucky for him and the team that he was fouled in the act of shooting. And now everything gets eerily quiet in the gym as he walks to the line. He can hear his heart pounding in his chest and the dryness in his throat is making it awfully hard to swallow. Despite the fact that Billy is a pretty positive and confident athlete, the pressure of the moment starts to get to him. As he begins to go through his pre-shot routine a stream of negative, inner chatter fills his head…. “What if you miss? What if you throw up two bricks? You can’t shoot free throws to save your life. You’ll never live it down if you blow this. It’ll be your fault if you lose….” Billy gets swept away by this flood of negativity and starts to panic. As he tries to focus on the rim, an inner battle is waging inside. He tries to block out the doubts and “what if’s” but it’s too late. He’s toast! He’s too nervous and too tight to
shoot. His first shot hits nothing but air as the crowd groans.
Too many athletes mistakenly believe that they can’t perform well if they’re entertaining self-doubts and negative self-talk right before an important performance. Like Billy in the above example, they think that something must be wrong if they start hearing that negative, inner chatter. As a result, they panic and get distracted from the immediate task at hand. Because they’ve lost their focus andself-confidence, they then under achieve. Let’s see if we can stop this madness now!
A FACT that you may not know: As an athlete you can still perform to your potential even if you have negative thinking or self-doubts going on right before the game or race! That’s right, this negative garbage does not automatically mean that you’re going to blow it. What you have to do is learn to be able to more effectively deal with the negativity so that it doesn’t knock you off balance.
Over the years I’ve talked with countless professional and Olympic athletes who have taught me one thing:
EVERYONE HAS TO DEAL WITH NEGATIVE THINKING AND SELF-DOUBTS.
That is, what these elite athletes are telling you is that it’s absolutely normal, as in NORMAL, to have some doubts or negative self-talk right before a performance. It doesn’t mean you won’t do well. It doesn’t mean that you’re not prepared. It doesn’t mean there’s a need to panic! AND, these thoughts don’t have to break down your confidence as long as you know how to handle them in the right way. In fact, I know a lot of athletes, myself included, that regularly entertain self- doubts right before their very best performances! These athletes have learned to recognize the self-doubts as part of their pre-performance experience and so they use the doubts as a signal that they are ready to do their very best. So how about you? What do you have to do so that you don’t get derailed by last second negativity? Three things to be exact!
#1 Remind yourself that negative thinking and self-doubts are normal. Reassure yourself that everyone has some doubts now and again. It’s no biggie!
#2 Relax. The last thing you want to start doing before you perform is freaking out. When you hear that negative chatter going on let yourself relax inside. Perhaps you can remind yourself to take a slow, deep breath and switch your entire focus to this breath. You can even imagine that with your exhale, you can let go of the negative thought or self- doubt. It is crucial to stay loose in the face of negativity.
#3 Don’t “jump in”. Negative thinking is nothing more than neuron activity in
your brain. It’s no different than positive thinking in this regard. If you “jump into” positive thoughts, (that is, you allow yourself to get into the CONTENT of the thought or the meaning) then you’ll end up feeling good. Similarly, if you “jump into” the content of a negative thought or self doubt, you’ll end up feeling bad about yourself. When you hear negative thinking going on inside, try to stay away from the content or the meaning of the words. Think about it this way. What if your negative thoughts played in your head in a language that you did not understand. I know that sounds stupid but humor me. Suddenly you hear your negative self-talk in a foreign language. What would you actually hear? Well if you didn’t understand the language, you couldn’t understand the content and therefore all you would hear would be gibberish. You stay away from the content by doing #4….
#4 Use the negative thought as nothing more than a signal to refocus on what
you should be concentrating on. Keep in mind that concentration is the ability to focus on what’s important and block out everything else. When doubts creep in, relax and use the negative words as a “bell” signaling you to refocus on whatever is important at that moment. So every time you hear a negative thought in your head, quickly refocus your concentration. Do not engage the negative side of yourself in an argument right before or during performance. It’s one thing to battle with negativity a day or two before a performance. However, trying to be positive just as you’re about to perform will only distract you from focusing on what you should be doing.
“Helping your child keep his/her life and sports in balance”
When I was a kid my father always complained about me being too one- dimensional. A favorite lament of his was “all you do is play tennis! Why don’t you read more or join a club at school? You need to be more well rounded!” I didn’t know about the “well rounded” thing but he was right about the tennis. It was the most important thing in my life. It was my great love and my passion, shaping my life in very constructive and powerful ways. As far as I was concerned, I could never spend too much time on the tennis court.Today’s kids, however, will rarely have that kind of conversation with their parents. Instead, the conversations might go more like the one my wife and I had with my younger daughter a year or so ago. At the time my daughter Julee was taking piano lessons, playing travel soccer, participating in Odyssey Of
The Mind program, taking dance classes, going to a once weekly, after-school religious program and, oh yeah, in all her spare time, doing homework. She came to us one day and wanted to take up a second instrument so she could play in the school band like all her friends. She reassured us that it would only mean practicing two to three times a week.
Fearing both for her and our sanity we quickly informed her, NO WAY! There weren’t enough days in the week to do what she wanted to without all of us losing our minds. It seems that kids today are scheduled so tightly they barely have time to breathe. This is compounded by the tremendous time commitment required for a lot of youth sports programs. Practices are frequently held 2-3 times a week and weekends are almost entirely consumed by games or tournaments. With one or more sports eating up so much of the athlete and family’s time, it’s easy to see how everyone in the family can readily lose perspective and struggle with how to achieve a healthy balance. Because of the tremendous commitment of their time, energy and money, parents sometimes get distracted into wanting a “return” on their investment into their child’s sport. As a result, they may become over-involved and inadvertently push the child too hard to achieve certain results. The child-athlete in this position begins to feel her own sense of obligation and guilt because of everything that’s being done for her. Consequently she will be likely to put even more pressure on herself to perform well. I was talking to a figure skater the other day who spoke of the tremendous guilt she felt because her parents were devoting so much time to her. She felt especially bad that her younger brother often had to miss his basketball games because the family was traveling to one of her competitions. As a result she felt extra pressure to perform her very best whenever she stepped onto the ice in
I’m sure you realize by now that this kind of pressure to perform will kill a child’s love for the sport, zap the fun right out of it and create significant performance problems. These are the last things that a loving parent wants to happen. Therefore one of your jobs is to help structure an environment for your child so that they can have fun & enjoy the sport, (or sports), develop a satisfactory level of mastery and maintain a balance of that sport with the rest of their busy life. How do you go about doing this? First of all you need to be sure that you can keep the sport in perspective. This means that you need to understand the sport belongs to your child, not to you. There should never be any “performance strings” attached! You offer your support and love regardless of how well or poorly they perform. In addition it’s critical that you don’t emotionally blackmail your child by reminding them of how much you and the family are giving up for them. Making them feel guilty will only make them feel badly about themselves now and then you, later. Give your child ownership of the sport and let him know what you mainly want for him: To have fun and feel good about himself! If their sports experience is not meeting these needs you may want to seriously consider removing them immediately and finding another program or activity. Remember, you can’t get to peak performance unless you go directly through fun and high self-esteem.
Another way that you help your child maintain a healthy balance is to let them, if so desired, participate in a second sport. Too many youth sport coaches feel that your 7 year-old should play soccer all year round in order for him to make the high school team. Like new car salesmen trying to get you to quickly act on a rapidly approaching end to their fantastic sale, they give the impression that if little Joanie or Johnny decides to give up Spring soccer to play softball or baseball, they’ll be forfeiting their chances for a college scholarship. In other words, act now or it’ll be too late tomorrow! Now what sane parent would pass up an opportunity like that? Don’t kid yourself! We don’t know what kind of potential your kid has as a 7, 8, 10, or even a 12 year-old. Many children really come into their own after puberty. Having them just do one sport exclusively will tend to burn them out, kill their enjoyment and lead to premature dropout. So be on the look out for coaches who feed you this line and who are too intense about the sport. I can’t tell you how many Olympians I’ve talked with over the years who really didn’t get serious about their sport until they were 15 or 16! If your child has so much passion for what they’re doing that this is all they want to do, that’s different. Along these same lines monitor your child’s coaching carefully. By this I mean, be sure that the coach has the sport in perspective. That he understands that the priorities should be skill mastery, participation and fun. Youth sports should not just be about playing the better athletes. Be sure also that your coach builds, rather than tears down self- esteem. Your child should consistently come away from his experience feeling better, not worse about himself. Some coaches will claim that you can’t produce champions without a harsh approach. A) Don’t believe it! B) Such a response is irrelevant. Youth sports have nothing to do with producing champions. That’s not the purpose. Please don’t hesitate to remove your child from a program if you think they are at risk. That is, they have a coach who doesn’t understand that his/her job is to build self-esteem, teach a healthy attitude towards risk-taking and failing, encourage team camaraderie, constructively challenge that child to do their best and create an environment that’s both fun to be in and safe. Keeping a healthy balance also entails that you as a parent closely monitor your child’s sleep patterns (assuring that they get enough), diet and schoolwork. It’s also obvious that academics should never come in second to sports, unless, of course, you have some written-in-stone guarantee that your child will be going on to a lucrative pro career which will allow you to take an early retirement.
Keep in mind that your child’s participation in a good youth sports program can help shape their life in wonderfully positive ways teaching them lessons that they will carry throughout their life. Be sure to help them and the adults that they are involved with keep the experience in the proper perspective.
“Taking care of your equipment/tools”
When I was a kid I inherited my first bicycle, a somewhat beaten-up version of the shiny new one my brother got for a long since past birthday. What I hadn’t realized at the time was that along with this bike came a “free” coaching course, courtesy of my father. Apparently my dad didn’t like my bikesmanship very well. So when I’d leave the old clunker out in the rain, I’d get the “it’ll rust and fall apart” lecture. (apparently my dad didn’t notice the fine layer of rust already rimming the wheels). When he saw me jump curbs I’d get the “you’re going to blow a tire doing that” sermon. When I’d leave the bike out in our front yard overnight I’d get the “If you don’t take better care of it someone will steal it.” (I could hope couldn’t I…who in their right mind would try to steal that rolling piece of junk). The day I tried to play chicken with a bus and lost I got the “if you don’t slow down and be more careful you’re going to kill yourself” speech. (I think he was
right about that one). After an unfortunate encounter of my head with the sidewalk, (I was trying to see how sharp I could corner the bike without braking,) I decided that perhaps I should listen to some of my father’s lectures about “taking care of the equipment.” The times that I borrowed his tools were also an opportunity for my dad to teach me how to take care of my things. He’d often accused me of “tool abuse” with the warning that should I continue I would do irreparable harm to them and then they wouldn’t work as well. What did I know? I was young and age- appropriately irresponsible and stupid. When I started playing sports I’d get similar sounding lectures about how I needed to eat right, get enough sleep and generally take care of my body and that if I didn’t, things would “break down.” Clouded by an adolescent illusion of invincibility I dismissed my dad’s warnings as silly. What did he know anyway?
When you’re an adolescent, your parents have a very low IQ. Interestingly enough, as you grow older, their limited intelligence mysteriously increases.
Later, when you begin to have your own children, you may think back to some
of those annoying things your parents bugged you about and realize they were actually right! I must confess that my dad was certainly right about taking care of the equipment. When you don’t, it stops working so well. It seems so obvious…yet it’s not. As a matter of fact, I’m constantly running into coaches who are guilty of some serious “tool abuse” themselves. Let me explain.
There are so many important characteristics that make a good coach. Knowledge, experience, risk-taking, creativity, communication, integrity, caring, discipline, hard work, motivation, passion, an intolerance for mediocrity, the ability to develop effective relationships with players and staff, honesty, flexibility, leadership, team building skills…and the list goes on and on. We might say that all these characteristics make up the “tools” in your “coaching toolbox.” The effectiveness of each tool, however, is always dependent upon how well you take care of your master tool, you. When you keep yourself in “good condition” all of the above characteristics have the potential to work well for you. When you abuse or neglect this master tool, yourself, you will eventually “break down” and everything else in your toolbox will malfunction or otherwise become ineffective.
So what does it mean to keep yourself in “good condition?” A few years ago I was speaking at a coaching conference at the Olympic Training Center and was approached by an individual desperately seeking some advice. He had been coaching over 15 years and was troubled that he no longer had any passion for his job. He felt that all he did was continuously work, yet he claimed to have neither energy nor motivation to do anything else. His chronic lack of energy and fatigue were compounded by his being overweight and out of shape. “How can I possibly find time to work out”, he complained, “I have absolutely no free time!” He told me his marriage was on the rocks because he was never around. He and his wife rarely talked anymore and he felt that he barely knew his adolescent daughter. It was obvious to me that this coach was very depressed and extremely guilt-ridden.
It made me imagine what it must be like to play for him and “fun” wasn’t a word that readily came to mind. Quite simply, this coach had let his “equipment” go into serious disrepair. As a matter of fact, his “tools” were “rusted” and almost broken.”
How can you be an effective coach without first being an effective person?
How can you possibly expect to motivate others if you’re totally burnt out and unmotivated yourself? Do you really think you can be supportive and caring as a coach if you’re “running on empty” as a person? Bottom line is that you can’t expect to maintain any passion for your work if work is the only thing in your life. You can’t separate your personal life and how you take care of yourself from your overall effectiveness as a professional. Peak athletic performance is a direct result of a fine balance of emotional and physical training, proper diet, and adequate rest. When athletes get out of balance their performances always suffer. This same principle holds true for coaches. Your effectiveness as a “coaching” performer is directly related to how much balance you maintain in your life. This means that you have to make time for and take care of your emotional and physical health and the important relationships in your life. These are the things that will “fill you up” and keep you “running smoothly and effectively.” So how well are you maintaining your “tools”? Are you keeping the really important things in perspective? For example, are you in good physical condition? Do you need to shed a few pounds? Being overweight and out of shape not only drains your energy, but also makes it more difficult for you to manage stress in your life. Improving your physical fitness will not only make you feel better, but will also increase your motivation and physical & emotional strength. Let’s also not forget the “minor” matter of what your appearance “says” or models to your athletes.
What kind of shape is your primary relationship in? Do you have one? If you don’t and want one, how much time and energy are you investing towards making this a reality? Are you devoting enough time to your partner in order to build a healthy relationship? It’s only in fairy tales that people live happily ever after. Making relationships work takes a considerable investment of time, energy and hard work. Neglect your partner and relationship and soon you’ll have neither. Do you have children in your life? Are you investing enough time and energy into their lives or are you simply waiting to have more time to do this.
Don’t kid yourself. Our children grow up so fast that it’s scary. Raising kids and participating in their lives is incredibly rewarding and life enriching. Don’t miss out on this opportunity. Make time for the important kids in your life now so that you don’t end up living with the regrets later. Do you know how to play? Do you make time every day/week that’s just for you? Can you regularly give your head a vacation from work? Whatever you do for R & R you want to try to build into your life on a regular basis. Consistently doing things that you really enjoy, whether it’s reading, playing a sport, fishing, yoga, playing music, etc. will replenish you emotionally and physically. Keep in mind that “all work and no play” not only makes Jack a dull boy, but also burns him out, makes him impotent, kills his energy, creates health problems, destroys the significant relationships in his life and makes him guilt ridden and ineffectual. My prescription: Get a life, Jack! DR. G’S TEACHING TALES
The following story is excerpted from Dr. Rob Gilbert’s motivational book,
GILBERT ON GREATNESS. You can get more information on Rob’s inspiring work by calling him at (800) 526-2554. In addition, you can call his “Success Hotline” at (973) 743-4690 for a new 3-minute motivational message that changes daily!
“It’s Courage That Counts”
It was his last chance. He was a senior and his goal was to make it to the state wrestling championships. He had to win this match to get a fifth place medal and reach his four-year dream – a trip to the States.
The match was over. He stood with his head down as the referee raised his
opponent’s arm in victory. It was not even close. He had lost badly, 14-0! His high school wrestling career was over. There would be no state tournament for him. Not now…not ever. This was his last big chance and he had blown it.
Walking off the mat he heard the applause and cheers for his opponent. But the applause kept growing louder and louder. Then he looked up. All eyes were on him. The 800 fans that had packed the small high school gym were standing and cheering him. They were giving him a standing ovation. He was overwhelmed. The emotions of the moment became too much for him to handle. He went down to one knee and cried.
You see wrestling is a difficult sport for anyone. But it is even more difficult when you are born without a left arm. And his right arm, if you could call it that, was really just half an arm. He had two fingers growing out of an elbow-length stump.
He remembered that when he first went out for the team in the ninth grade, the kids on his own team made fun of him. His sophomore year was not much better. More comments behind his back. More hurtful statements to his face. Nicknames from the stands that no one should ever have to hear.
By his junior year, he had developed his own one-armed style. And what a leg wrestler he was becoming. He had won almost as many matches as he lost.
And his senior year…the greatest moment of his life came when Coach told the team that he was elected as one of the co- captains.
He ended the season with 11 wins and eight losses. He might not be a great wrestler, but he surely was a great competitor. He earned the right to represent his school on the mat.
And now his wrestling career was over. His opponent was hugging him. His
coach and teammates were picking him up and putting him on their shoulders. He saw Mom in the stands crying. And Dad was filming the whole thing with his new video camera. The crowd was still on its feet cheering.
They were giving this “losing” wrestler a standing ovation because the
one-armed kid had taught everyone a lesson:
WINNING IS NOT THE ONLY THING……. COURAGE IS. The only limitations and handicaps that are truly debilitating are the ones that exist in your mind. You are always limited by what you think is
The John Rocker Blockhead of the Month award: Starting this month we will be adding the Rocker Blockhead “award” to that athlete, coach, parent or team who has exhibited the most idiotic, tacky, tasteless and/or outrageously bad behavior of the previous month. This month’s winner is of course Atlanta Braves brainless pitcher, John Rocker. John decided to “share” some of his racist, bigoted, sexist and homophobic feelings last month in a candid interview with Sports Illustrated. I will not dignify Mr. Rocker’s obviously limited intelligence and emotional immaturity by repeating those comments here. However, it is at least comforting to know that Major League Commissioner Bud Selig realized just how off the wall Mr. Rocker was. “Mr. Rocker’s recent remarks were reprehensible and completely inexcusable…I am profoundly concerned about the nature of these comments as well as by certain other aspects of his behavior.” Following those statements Selig ordered the Braves’ loose canon to undergo psychological testing. No doubt we haven’t heard the end of this one! Congratulations John, you’ve earned yourself an on-going tribute to utter stupidity.
If you are consistently underachieving or you’re struggling with a performance difficulty, call me today. I can help!