Mental Coaching: Sport (& School)

From all the tweets, I see there are a number of fellow coaches and athletes, and educators.  Thought I would share some things that my students and athletes felt really helped them and their performance, in sport and in the classroom.  Much of it comes from experience and reading a number of related pieces.  I hope you can see the parallels that I am referring to as I use mostly sports references.  It all goes for myself too as a learner and a wanna-be athlete!

1. I always tell my students that “I don’t care much about winning or losing the game. If you feel, and know, you left your best effort on the court/floor/ice/evaluation, I will be the proudest coach.”  There is always a winner and loser in every game.   However, this is only in score.  I always remind my student athletes of the growth that they have achieved both personally and collectively as a team, and their experiences they gain through sport always make them a winner because they gained something valuable.  The beauty about this discussion is it can take place after a practice, a game, or a season.

2. “Be in the moment and let (physical) automation do it’s thing.  Automation comes from practice/studying.  No matter what, the outcome will be so always focus on process.”  As a decent tennis player, I know that “closing out” an opponent is often the hardest task.  As a sports fan, I have seen many colossal collapses by those who were in the lead, and ended up losing a match or game.   Since I have experienced this myself, I put in a lot of effort keeping my focus on the shot I am hitting, nothing beyond.  The second you are start thinking “only have to win one more game” is when mental focus is lost and breakdown is a possibility.

3. “A little good arrogance never hurt anyone. If you don’t believe that you can win, then you won’t, despite any odds.” This is true on the court, even a job interview.  If you actually put in the time and effort to apply for a job, of course you should feel that you are suitable for the job and that you have a shot at landing it!  I always ask my students how much they want to succeed.

4. My favourite thing to do with student athletes is to have them pick a “symbol” to automatically think of when the going is getting tough.  Some kids will pick an animal or a person that symbolizes strength or stability, or a variety of other things that helps to settle the nerves that come with competition.  The beautiful thing with a team is what our Sr. Girls basketball team did with these symbols.  On a brick wall in their locker room, they all wrote their symbol on one brick each and all the bricks together made a solid wall – the team.

From these strategies, my students and I have had a number of small successes that are great building blocks for any young student or athlete.


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