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The Importance of Calming Our Athletes Minds and 5 Quick Tips to Make it Happen.

Athletes of all ages, from young to pro, come to the field/court/rink/gym/game/practice with a myriad of distractions and demands on their attention.

Photo by Roberto Salinas on Unsplash

As coaches, we spend most of our time on the development of their physical skills. What about all the potential variables that can take the athletes’ mind away from doing well in sports?

Some examples around stress or anxiety in the sporting world:

o created by something at home or school

o created by a relationship issue

o created by worrying about performance and concerns over doing well

o worried about outcome and disappointing others

What the athlete brings to the practice and playing field is often beyond the attention of the coaches, parents and teachers. Yet, this can have a massive impact on how they are able to develop.

It is only at the very highest levels that organizations invest in support around mental training for better performance, yet it affects all levels of performance. It affects participation rates and attrition. If our role as leaders is to support the development of the person, then we must address the mental aspect of being an athlete.

“Awareness is curative” — Tim Gallwey, author of the Inner Game

Below picture courtesy of (https://theinnergame.com/)

HOME – The Inner Game

Growing potential is what our goal is as leaders, yes? That is what drives us to spend time, commit to all that it takes to support others.

A big part of that is, as Tim Gallwey describes, decreasing interference. Removing distraction. Helping with focus.

Decreasing interference can be supporting by calming the mind.

As leaders of young people, it is critical that we invest some attention to helping our troops calm their mind.

The Physical Movement: Play. Lead. Be Strong.

Here are 5 ways to increase our awareness, and participate in preparing your athlete for improved mental performance and development.

1. Teaching athletes the importance of calming their minds, starts by calming our minds. Some simple meditation tips on focusing on breathing can be built into practices/cool down/warm ups and even off field sessions for athletes, coaches, assistant coaches and all involved.

2. Focus on process and not only on outcome. We have heard over and over again in The Physical Movement interviews. Developing an area of focus around the process of getting better will help connect the blueprint towards competitive outcomes. Not the other way around.

3. Help your athletes let go of trying to make everyone happy with their performance. In team sports, coaches often talk about playing for the crest on the front of the jersey and not name on the back, but to play to avoid disappointing others is not productive. There is a balance here.

4. During practices and games, athletes often mirror the personality of the coach. Hyped up coaching leads to hyped up performance. In sports like baseball and golf, hyping up the energy levels has not been proven to allow the central nervous system to focus on the task at hand. Some try hard sports may be helped with this approach, but more often that not, an understanding of where to focus energy is a more productive approach to better performance and development.

5. Integrate some fun into the process. After all athletes are playing a game. 100% serious 100% of the time, makes it hard for anyone to enjoy what they do. What would you rather have, athletes enjoying and engaged in what they do, or fearful that a poor performance will result in negative consequences? Everyone has different methods, but I would contend that young athletes, non-professional athletes need more fun in their activity.

In conclusion, an awareness that your athletes, students, children bring lots of distractions to the playing field on a regular basis. There are often many stresses in their lives that we don’t see, but they are there. An awareness that this is a topic worth addressing in their development and performance is step 1. Step 2 are some examples on how to address and practice.

By finding small, consistent ways to address the mental side of preparation and performance allows you to better support your athlete in their development and performance.

That is a process and outcome worthy of some effort!

Some references around calming the mind and athletics:

A useful resource:

Your Gift – A Conversation with Coach Pete Carroll – The Inner Game

Originally published at https://thephysicalmovement.substack.com.


The Importance of Calming Our Athletes Minds and 5 Quick Tips to Make it Happen. was originally published in ILLUMINATION on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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Leadership Surrounds Us, Especially in Our Youth Sports Organizations.

Leadership Surrounds Us, Especially in Our Youth Sports Organizations

Parents: Here are 8 Ways You Can Support Your Local Youth Sports Organization.

In youth sports, leadership is all around us. There are thousands of coaches/volunteers who make great ones who’s work often gets taken for granted. Here is how we, as parents, can be of support.

In 1994–95, I had just started to hit my stride professionally. I had a really good Physical Education teaching position with Dawson College in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. I taught to young adults from all over the world. We had students form multiple types of programs, from academic to technical, from nursing to welding to sciences. The courses we offered were very diverse from stress management to fitness & lifestyle to outdoor education and mountain biking to team sports and dance. We had over 30 teachers in the department and served over 6000 students. The student curriculum had them take 1 Phys.Ed. credit per semester. Most students were there 4 semesters. I was tapping into all my education to teach some of the courses. Some of which were in my comfort zone, like team sports, learning to skate and fitness/weight training. Some stretched my skills and gave me a challenge like mountain Biking (a weekend intensive that blended camping and mountain biking), and outdoor education for special populations. When I look back, it was one of the most rewarding gigs I have had in my career. We continuously got feedback as a department from students on how much they enjoyed and benefitted from the courses. The curriculum was designed to provide health and life skills for these students, many of whom would be taking on very demanding careers.

Then it stopped. Well, it stopped for me. It was cut back for students.

Physical Education requirements were cut back by 50%. Instead of 4 credits needed for most students, they now needed 2. Staff requirements went down by 50% as a result. My position was eliminated. There were protests and campaigns lobbying the government on the damage these cutbacks would do to the collective health of the new generation hitting the workforce. The lobbying did no good. The decisions were made.

I remember thinking back then, that the real crime was not the cutbacks, or losing my position. Those were bad, but rather that the awareness of the benefits of the Phys. Ed. Curriculum was so low. The decision makers knew little about what we were doing. They were cutting a gym program. At the end of the day, who’s fault was that?
As Phys. Ed. specialists we were focused on safe and progressive instruction to our students. We were not focused on marketing and growing awareness of what went on inside those classes. Perhaps if we had held more open houses, invited government officials to sit in and attend classes and share the testimonials before threat of cut backs we would have had a different fate. Awareness. Marketing. No one realized how important this was in our fate of offering the program.

In 2020, as we look around to the events of our world, one of the topics that comes up a lot is the lack of leadership on a global scale.

In Canada, I think we have been blessed with some strong leadership during this time of crisis. But this is not a political article. This article is about all the leadership that is around us.

It exists.

I regularly see leadership in the grocery stores for example over the last 16 weeks. Under very difficult conditions, we have seen some outstanding decisions and policy creation and enforcement that has made access to essentials very manageable.

In youth sports, there is also an abundance of leadership. We hear of the terrible stories of those in leadership positions making bad decisions, however there are thousands and thousands of volunteers who make great ones and never get acknowledged or recognized. Just like the Phys. Ed. program back at Dawson, the awareness of all the good things going on in youth sports is not where it should be.

That volunteer coach on the youth soccer or baseball team puts in tons of hours of preparation, training and planning. They do so while managing their full-time job and their families. This same coach has assistants. All of these coaches have an administrative board behind them that organize everything from field rental to uniforms to certifications to equipment to scheduling to marketing and overall administration of teams and leagues. Most of these folks are volunteers. They do so because they want to create an environment for youth that is positive. They also support coaches so they can have a positive experience.

Photo courtesy Photo by Caleb Mullins on Unsplash

However, many coaches have more than on the field planning to do, they often have the administration of the team, alerting to schedules and organizing practice times. Everything from record keeping of the games to team pictures falls under the responsibility of the coach.

The organizational skills and leadership required is significant.

The demands are equal to a 2nd full time job. Often their personal health and family time takes a back seat.

Share The Physical Movement: Play. Lead. Be Strong.

It is only the most polished that can add a staff that is competent and delegate accordingly. Burn out is not uncommon. Long season sports like basketball, soccer and ice hockey are especially grueling on coaches. Shorter season sports like football and baseball can give a couple of months of slower times. But even those are ramping up to becoming more full season sports.

The Physical Movement: Play. Lead. Be Strong.

The leadership is there. It is all around us.

There are hundreds in your community who are investing tons of hours for the sake of creating a positive experience for our children.

Here are 8 things we can do as parents to support out local youth sport leadership:

1. Be aware how much coaches do. Showing up for game time and watching your son and daughter is the culmination of tons of planning behind the scenes. Kind of like your kids in a school play, there is a ton going on behind the curtain for us to see the performance on stage.

2. Don’t be shy in offering support or encouragement. Coaches and organizations are always looking for volunteers on the administration side. Criticism is tempting, don’t fall into the trap. Support by offering your support.

3. Show some gratitude and respect through your actions as a parent. If your son/daughter has a concern about what is going on at practice or playing time, teach them to approach the coach to discuss the issue. This is not our realm as parents. From a very young age, children can learn to bring up concerns for discussion. This is one of the life skills of playing a sport and having a coach. Show respect for the coach. 2nd guessing coaching decisions is not helping anyone. Learning to deal with things when they don’t go our way is a productive outcome to challenging situations.

4. Ask for coach’s expectations and standards at the beginning of the year, or during tryouts. As a family you then know what is required in being on the team.

5. Find an appropriate time to ask questions. If questions or concerns persist, ask for appropriate time to do so. Coaches should structure this as part of expectations of being on the team, but if not, asking permission to ask questions is appropriate before launching them after a heated game.

6. Use game day as an opportunity to marvel at your son/daughter’s effort, physical coordination and commitment. Let them have fun. This is their day, not ours. Our athletic days ended years ago! Give the stage to the next ones!

7. Understand that most sporting events end without more than 1 winner. 48 team tournaments sometimes get 2 winners. (consolation and championship round). That means 46 end with a loss in their last game. That is part of what everyone has signed up for. Being surprised when that happens or upset is not serving anyone. Dealing with things that do not go the way we anticipated is another one of those life lessons. What are we teaching our kids on how to deal with that?

8. Keep the main thing the main thing. As parents, we want the best for our kids. We want them to develop themselves to their full potential. We want them to learn how to be good members of society when they are older. Sports can teach them a ton around these principles alone. When you add up the physical and mental benefits of being active and focused on an activity, as well as skill development, work ethic, working within a team, goal setting, dealing with wins and losses with dignity and other benefits, you have the making of a solid foundation for your next one.

Leadership is all around us. No where is it more under the radar than your local sports organization. The volunteers put in the time to make the experience positive for our kids, they do not do it for the press or the money. Any coach will tell you, that recognition and money are not what they take away from the experience!

In fact, as parents, recognizing and supporting the leadership in place in your local youth sports is its own form of leadership.

Originally published at https://thephysicalmovement.substack.com.


Leadership Surrounds Us, Especially in Our Youth Sports Organizations. was originally published in ILLUMINATION on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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