It happens to all athletes, from the elite and professionals as well as amateur and recreational performers. His or her “normal,” consistently decent level of performance is suddenly hijacked by a slump, fear or block. For no apparent reason, your athlete can’t seem to buy a hit, make a shot, go backwards on beam or move the way that you know he or she is fully capable of.
As your team’s performance does a nose dive, so too does the level of self-confidence among your athletes. They’re flooded with self-doubts and find themselves over-thinking everything! While slumps, fears and blocks are a regular and common part of ALL sports, there are some things that you can do as coach to help lessen their negative effect! Today we will focus on how to handle these challenges with your athletes.
What can YOU do as a COACH?
If your team or athlete is slumping or struggling with any repetitive performance problem, your immediate response as a coach will determine if the problems get worse or better! Coaches who get visibly frustrated with and angry at their athletes for failing, who publicly call them out for their mistakes, losses and poor performances, who use humiliation and demeaning behavior, keep the performance problems going! This kind of coaching behavior creates an unsafe environment for the athlete. It gets players overly focused on and worried about making mistakes and failing, and your reaction. It causes athletes to over-think everything and play cautiously. This does not foster slump-busting or peak performance.
Instead you want want to stay calm and supportive in the face of your athletes’ struggles and losses. They need your support more than ever when they’re struggling. You need to make them feel emotionally safe by treating them with respect and building them up. You need to help them feel that you as the coach genuinely care about them as individuals! You need to help them keep their concentration in the moment, focused on this game and their role in the game, NOT on what’s happened so far in the season or what may happen if they fail again in this upcoming performance. Keeping athletes in the NOW helps them stay calm and in control!
As a coach it is critical that you remain positive through their performance problems. Help them understand that these problems are normal and can and will be worked through. Help them understand what they’re doing wrong and specifically what they need to do to correct their mistakes. Make it very safe for them to make mistakes and fail. This is how you produce winners. You build a safe training environment where athletes are not afraid to take risks and fail.
Finally, keep your ego out of the equation. Your team’s won/loss record does NOT define you as a coach or person. Winning doesn’t make you a great coach anymore than losing makes you a bad one! Keep the game in perspective. There’s a lot more at stake here than the won-loss outcome of one game or season. You have young, impressionable, developing future adults in your hands and your job is to sensitively teach them important life lessons and how to become good human beings!
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