4 Ways To Manage Your Time Better

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Since I’ve started this blog, I get this question over and over again from fellow coaches: where do you find the time?  I typically smile and say it’s hard work (which it is), but I really enjoy doing it (which I do), so I find the time.  But is there really such a thing as “finding the time”?  We’ve all got the same seven days in a week and twenty-four hours in each day, correct?  So it’d be more precise for me to say that I’m managing my time better by attacking every day with a plan.  While I’ve never been one who’d be accused of being disorganized, now I’ve taken time management to near maniacal levels.  Here are four things that you can learn from the special kind of crazy that I’ve become.

4 Things You Know You Should Be Doing (But Aren’t) To Manage Your Time Better

1.       To-do lists. Start each day by thinking through all of the things that you need to get accomplished.  Write it all out, even if you know that there’s no way you can get all of it done.  Eons ago, I took a Franklin Covey class and they encouraged us to write out everything you need to do…phone calls, emails, meetings, etc.  That way you’ll know what happened to your time and you won’t be trying to figure out how it got to be practice time and you still haven’t gotten anything done yet.  Whatever you can’t do today gets carried over to tomorrow’s to-do list.  If it’s not on the list, it doesn’t get done or it gets added.

2.       Do the crappy stuff first. Once you’ve written that list, figure out the stuff that you really don’t want to do and knock it out first.  Otherwise it’s going to get to be about midday and you’ll have to deal with meetings, player drop-ins, lunches, and whatnot that will keep pushing that to-do item to tomorrow’s list.

3.       Give yourself time limits. If you’re like me, once you start working on something, you want to hammer away at it until you’re finished.  Sometimes that’s just not an option.  Look at your list and figure out how much time you can devote to that item and stick to it.  Tell yourself: I’m only writing emails for an hour because I’ve got to make calls for two hours…and then I’ve got to get home so that my family doesn’t hate me.  Then stick to it.

4.       Focus! Does this happen to you?  You’re working away on something and then your phone dings.  You stop what you’re doing to check the email you just received.  And since you’ve already stopped, you might as well hop online and check things out there…oh, and texts, gotta send out a couple of those!  Smart phones will be the death of productivity, I’m sure of it.  We can check all ten of our email accounts, Facebook, Twitter, and send out a few texts all from one place.  I personally love having access to all of these things, because it means I can get work done from wherever I am.  But it also means that, much like Pavlov’s dogs, I’m trained to pick it up each time it chimes.  Sometimes at work, silence (of all that dinging!) is golden.

Now that we’ve gotten rid of the “I’m so busy and I don’t have time for anything” excuse, we can all go out and be more excellent than we already are!

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What Do You Believe? (Or Developing Your Coaching Philosophy)

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I love John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success…it was what Coach Wooden thought had made his teams successful.  I love the idea and spirit behind his pyramid and it’s served me well wherever I’ve coached.   Every time I start coaching a new team, this is the first thing we do as a team.

Week by week, we go through the blocks.  The team (who’ve previously chosen different blocks on the pyramid) will talk about what the blocks mean to them.  I have each of the blocks laminated on 8.5″ x 11″ paper and we literally build the pyramid on one of the gym walls.  This way, the team and I are on the same page in terms of what we think will make our team successful.  The first time I did the pyramid, I led it…not even close to as good as when the players lead.  I actually had a young lady write a spoken word poem about “poise” that shocked us all at its depth and creativity…we still talk about it even though she graduated a couple of years ago.

The pyramid is one of the things I believe in…part of my coaching philosophy.  Another part I learned my first year of coaching, which is a weird time.  I started coaching the year after I played, so I was still a player in my head, a coach in name only.  I enjoyed playing with the team and showing them how good I was…disguised as helping them learn.  I went to my first American Volleyball Coaches Association convention that year and learned from a prominent coach that I’d never be a great coach as long as I was trying to be a great player.  Now, my teams don’t see me play.  They see me coach and I think it’s better that way.

The last two things that round out my philosophy are preparation and availability.  My teams know that they can expect a well planned practice everyday…and they also know that they can come into my office anytime and chat about whatever.  Whether it’s something with the team or boyfriend troubles or they’ve just got a couple extra minutes and they don’t feel like going back to their dorm room.

Have you thought about your coaching philosophy?  Does your coaching staff know it?  Does your team know it?  I’d love to hear yours…please share in the comments!

Rediscovering The Value Of Sleep

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The coaching world is notorious for bad habits.  In season, we don’t eat healthy enough, exercise properly enough, or get nearly enough sleep.  Unfortunately, some coaches wear all of these things as a badge of honor, being sure to let everyone know that they were in the office until midnight and back in at six in the morning.  In a short TEDtalk (a little over four minutes) called How To Succeed? Get More Sleep, Arianna Huffington talked about three reasons why sleep is important for us.

3 reasons why getting enough sleep will make us better professionals

  1. Helps us see the big picture.  Whether you’ve got a couple of players battling it out for a position, or an opponent who presents a significant challenge, or just an athlete with poor technique…sometimes sleeping on it really does work.  As much as we hate to admit it, sometimes we’re too close to the problem and need to take a step back.  I like to chat with my assistant coaches and then all of us come up with an idea that we think will work to solve the problem.  We all bring it back to the group and come up with the best option.
  2. Releases the great ideas within us.  I’m a dreamer.  Not in the I-never-actually-get-anything-done way, but the I-wanna-change-the-world way.  All of our teams and seasons start with a dream.  We call them goals so that they sound a little more tangible than dreams.  I’ve woken up with great ideas about offensive and defensive systems, how to handle team “problems”, and even off the wall motivation techniques.
  3. Shows us that what’s good for us can be good for our greater community.  This is my plea:  coaches really do need to sleep.  We’ve got to be at our best so that we can be the best for our athletes, for our families, for our departments, and of course, for ourselves.  We’re not being selfish, we’re not being bad coaches, and we can still be successful if we get good sleep.

Changing the culture of athletics will require a paradigm shift, for sure.  But sleep deprivation isn’t the way to show we’re dedicated, creative, living healthily.  Neither should it be some sort of badge of honor we wear to show what hard workers we are.  Our team’s success and satisfaction with our program should be how we show our level of hard work…not when we clock in and out.

Want to hear more about sleep deprivation?  Check out my post, What’s The 1 Thing You Need To Be Exceptional?

The Coach As GPS: Step by Step Directions to Goal Setting

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There is always a huge gap between the birth of a dream and the achievement of that dream.
–Put Your Dream To The Test

Every team starts out the year with high goals…things they’d like to have accomplished by season’s end.  What every team does not have is the desire, tenacity, and motivation to keep pursuing the goal when (cliché alert!) the going gets tough.  Let’s discuss how to keep our teams and our athletes on track in this third of a three-part series (click here to read parts one and two) while examining the last five questions from the book, Put Your Dream To The Test by John Maxwell.  I believe that guiding them through this goal setting process can help them to accomplish individual and team goals put them on the path to having a successful season.

The People Question:  Have I Included the People I Need to Realize My Dream?
“Convincing others of the significance of your dream can happen only if you are convinced of the significance of your dream.”  This question is for people who need to build a team around them in order to be successful, but our athletes come with a ready-made team!  Now all you’ve got to do is remind them that the goal can only be accomplished through daily work.  Everyone’s fired up at the beginning of the season, but what about when you’ve suffered a heartbreaking loss, or midterms are kicking their butts, or it’s just harder than they thought?  That’s when we can remind them that they’re not alone and that they’re in it together.

The Cost Question:  Am I Willing to Pay the Price for My Dream?
“All dreams are outside our comfort zone.  Leaving that zone is a price we must pay to achieve them.”  What’s the price, you ask?  Criticism: what if one of your players thinks that she can be in the WNBA and has decided to make that one of her goals?  When she tells people, they may try to dissuade her from pursuing that goal…not to be mean or negative, but in protecting her feelings.  Fear: using our same example, that’s a big out-of-her-comfort-zone goal…and it’s scary.  If she’s not willing to work through being afraid that she’s bitten off more than she can chew, then she should get a smaller goal.  Hard work: athletics is hard work on its own.  Adding a big, huge goal heaps a whole lot more work to their plate…are they willing to pay that price?

The Tenacity Question:  Am I Moving Closer to My Dream?
“The only guarantee for failure is to stop trying.”  Your athletes have to be finishers, not just starters.  It’s really that simple.  As Dory from Finding Nemo says, “just keep swimming.”  Don’t quit, don’t give up.  As long as they keep putting in work everyday, their goals are getting closer and more real.

The Fulfillment Question:  Does Working Toward My Dream Bring Satisfaction?
“If you want the pursuit of your dream to be sustainable, it needs to bring you satisfaction.”  Maxwell says that there’s a gap between stating the goal and achieving the goal…and it only gets bigger with a larger goal.  If your athletes appreciate the process of working toward a goal, they will discover how tough they are.  And that toughness will serve them well and keep them from wavering.

The Significance Question:  Does My Dream Benefit Others?
“Start doing what is necessary; then do what is possible; and suddenly, you are doing the impossible.” I think the answer to this question is two-fold.  For the individual, the team will benefit from their goals.  For the team, future teams will benefit from the current team’s goals.  And I just love this quotation!  If our athletes and teams just do what is necessary…at least they’re working toward the goal.  What is necessary?  Coming to practice and working hard, supporting their teammates, and giving their all in each and every drill at each and every practice.  And if they do what is possible, then they’ll challenge themselves…because how do they know what they’re capable of or what is possible for them if they don’t try new things?  If they do what is possible everyday, all of a sudden those things that they thought were impossible are possible.  And they just keep pushing the envelope and keep getting better and those goals are getting closer and closer.

That’s the end of our goal setting series and I hope you found at least one thing that you can put into action with your team right away.  Every team and every person will have different goals, but we coaches can have one plan to guide them along that goal setting process.

4 Secrets Of Productive Coaches

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I read a lot of business blogs and magazines, because I believe there’s a strong connection between coaching and the business world.  Teamwork, leadership, excelling within a group construct…I think we coaches can learn a lot from the CEO’s and presidents of the world.  This article on Inc.com, Secrets of the Most Productive People I Know, is one of those that I think is valuable to coaches.  Here’s my take on that post:

4 keys to being the best coach you can be

They have a life.  I know we coaches take pride in “getting after it” and working ‘til all hours of the night, so much so, it almost seems like we wear not taking days off as a badge of honor.  But what if doing something of value outside of our jobs made us better at our jobs?  Maybe you teach a Sunday School class at church, or take guitar lessons, or landscape your yard nicely.  Whatever it is, having an outlet to take our minds off of the grind keeps us refreshed and excited for work when we get back to it.

They take breaks.  Like assembling a thousand piece puzzle of the sky, our teams can present us with challenges.  When we’re working on that puzzle and staring and ten pieces that look like they should fit, but don’t, sometimes we get up from the table, push our chair in, and come back to the puzzle later.  In the same manner, when our team is experiencing a problem, sometimes we need to step away from racking our brains trying to find the elusive solution.

They’ve often worked in different industries.  Whether it’s coaching at multiple levels or even different sports, it’s helpful to have a different perspective of what “normal” is.  It seems that a lot of coaches come from the playing ranks (like me) and don’t necessarily have experience with different ways to skin a cat.  Early on in my career, I would watch other sport coaches with their teams.  I’d take notes about how the coach set up their practice, how they interacted with their team, how their drills flowed into the next, how they opened practice, how they closed practice, everything.  Even for established coaches, challenging our norms is a good thing.

They have great outside collaborators.  I’ve got a coaching friend that I can text with my random questions about our sport.  I’ll ask her if it’s crazy to do whatever it is I’m thinking about and she asks the appropriate questions and we can work it out.   I’ve got coworkers whose offices I can pop in when I’ve got a coaching dilemma and they help me work through whatever it is I’m contemplating.  Our team won our conference tournament a few years ago, but I remember slumping into a chair in another coach’s office after the very first game of that season and telling him that I knew we had a problem.  And we did.  He and I talked and he gave me great ideas about the situation.  With his help, I was able to solve the problem early on which made the championship possible.

While each of these points is different, the common thread is connectedness.  Whether it’s being connected to something significant outside of work or having great coaching friends that we can count on…we can all be more productive if we use these tips.

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3 Lessons Your Team Can Learn From The Movie Hoosiers

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In Effective Use of Films For Goal Setting, I talked about the movie Hoosiers and how it can be used to challenge your team to blow past preconceived notions of how good they can be.  I haven’t used the movie as a rah-rah “let’s beat the dominant team” motivator, because I don’t want them to be that fired up about one team.  I talked about it in the post linked above…you should check it out.  It’s such a good movie that I’ve come up with more topics that you can use with your team during the season. Here are three ways that you can discuss Hoosiers if you decide to watch it with your team.

3 amazing lessons from Hoosiers

It takes teamwork to make the dream work
Ideally, your team is highly motivated and focused on what they want to accomplish personally as well as corporately.  It’s our jobs as their coach to push them along the way…reminding them that accomplishing goals and dreams shouldn’t be easy.  It will require hard work and perseverance.  Most times, the dreams that keep your team up at night will be bigger than their britches…accomplished only through the power of the group.  After all, is it really a dream if you can do it all by yourself?

You gotta play the game
To me, this is the major lesson of this movie.  You’ve got to lace up the shoes and give yourself a shot.  If you learn anything from Hoosiers, it’s got to be: the court is the same size, the hoop is the same height, and the rules are the same for both teams.  Sure, one team is favored over the other…but nothing matters until you play the game.  If your team can get to a place where they believe they have a chance to win (even when no one else shares that belief), then guess what?  They’ve got a chance to win!

Sometimes things work out just how you want them to
Every now and then, you’ll have a magical season.  Your seniors will step up, your freshmen will play over their heads…all culminating with winning the big game.  Sometimes it’s nice to let your team open up their brains to feeling good about the team and the season…to the possibility of everything working out.  It may not, but I think it’s more likely to happen if they’ve got a vision of what it’d look and feel like in their heads and hearts.

This is a great movie to get your team fired up about working hard.  Hoosiers is exciting, dramatic, and emotional…sounds a lot like the sports season, right?

4 essential items every coach needs to get better

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Folks who are fixer uppers or tinkerers know that the key to handling any situation is having a nice toolbox.  Whether its needle nosed pliers or a power saw or cordless drill…these things will prove to be essential for any job that needs to be completed.  And it’s the same with coaching!  We need to have a toolbox that is stocked so that we’re able to deal with the disgruntled player, the starter whose spot is about to be taken, as well as the athletic director that wants you to fundraise a ridiculous amount of money each year.

Here’s four things that every coach should have in their toolbox:

Mentors When I took my first head coaching job at age 24, my toolbox only had a hammer and a couple of nails clanking around in it…not nearly enough for the repair project I’d taken on!  I was certainly enthusiastic, but that needed to be combined with knowledge…and I was a bit short on that.  Enter our men’s basketball coach who was a legend in his field and had a head full of coaching genius that he was willing to share.  So I’d haul my butt up to his office about once a week and we’d chat.  Sometimes about my team, sometimes about his, but each and every time I learned something from this man.

Peers Here’s one thing I know: coaches love talking about coaching.  Once you find folks with a similar philosophy, make it a point to talk to them and pick their brains.  I truly believe that coaching is coaching so it doesn’t matter if you talk to the football coach or the soccer coach…if you share the same philosophical foundation, you’ve set yourself up for fun and challenging conversations about coaching.

Seminars/Conventions Be a coaching nerd!  Go to your sport’s convention…and attend the sessions (not just the social stuff) and hang out after it’s over and chat with the presenter.  Go to local clinics even if you don’t think you’ll learn something new…you certainly won’t if you don’t go!  Plus other coaches will be there and maybe you’ll be able to chat them up and get a different viewpoint on an old problem.  This will help keep you current in your field.

Books I read a lot of books.  I read books for myself in order to grow in my leadership and influence.  I also read books that I think will be good for my team to read during the season.  Sometimes they’re sports books, sometimes they’re business oriented, and other times they’re faith-based…but what they all share in common is that I think that they’ll make me a better coach.

What do you think?  What would you add to the list?

How Knowing Your Personality Type Will Help You Manage Your Team

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I think personality assessment should be a must for every team.  Why?  Because I think the cause of most conflict is expecting others to act like you do.  I’d written before about the DiSC assessment I use, focusing on your team’s interactions with one another.  Now I want to talk about coach-player interaction.  Even though most people are a mixture of more than one letter type, see if you can find your top one or two personality types here.  I believe it will help you as you work with your student-athletes.

The 4 DiSC personality types and how they impact your coaching style

D’s are dominant and like to be in charge.  I’d hazard a guess that a lot of coaches are D’s.  On the positive side, D’s enjoy solving problems and trust their ability to produce results.  At their best, D’s can mobilize teams to solve a problem or achieve a goal.  That sounds awesome right?  As Newton said though, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.  D’s can be blunt to the point of being rude and may make rash and reckless decisions.  At their worst, D’s can be bullies, loud mouths, and tyrants.

What to do: Understand that not everyone thinks as quickly as you do…give them time to mull things over.  D’s could do well to build bridges and relationships rather than expecting people to comply just because they say so.  I mean, your team will comply because you’re the boss.  But if you want your team to play for you and not in spite of you, D’s should see the value of cooperation.

I’s are influential and the life of the party.  These are your extroverted folks who love to be around people.  I’s are charming, optimistic, and outgoing…those we’d call a “people person”. At their best, I’s can be inspirational and communicate a vision or goal in a manner that motivates others to work toward it.  I’s see the best in others and help them to believe in their abilities.  Sounds like an awesome coach, huh?  On the other side of the coin, I’s dislike details and can seem scattered.  I’s can sometimes lack follow-through, rarely finishing what they begin…they overpromise and underdeliver.

What to do: Understand that you can get folks super fired up with your words…so that means that you’ve got to deliver on those promises.  You don’t want to have a group of ten freshmen who you told would be starters…and your sport only starts five!  I’s should try to listen more and talk less.

S’s are the steady Eddy’s out there.  S’s are loyal, friendly, and supportive…they are team players.  At their best, S’s can calm tensions and stabilize unsettled situations.  S’s work hard to create stable and harmonious environments.  Does this sound like you, Coach?  Well, on the flip side, S’s are too hard on themselves and take criticism other their work very personally.  Creatures of habit, S’s enjoy their daily routines and are resistant to change.

What to do: Understand that flexibility is the name of the game.  It’s great that S’s will have a routine and a to-do list prepared for each day…you’ve just got to be prepared for things to go sideways every now and then.  One of your players might get sick (on the day where she’s a big part of your practice plan!) or it may rain when you were planning on taking your team outside.  S’s can have their beloved plans…just be willing to adjust it.

C’s are conscientious and careful.  If you’re a C, you like to be right and are a stickler for details.  You have very high standards for yourself…and those around you.  Where I’s are outgoing and boisterous, C’s are quiet, reserved, and business-like.  C’s are fair and objective and will always maintain high standards, even when asked to compromise.  That’s pretty good, right?  At their worst, C’s can get bogged down in details…some would call them a nit picker.  C’s prefer to work alone and need to analyze all available options before making a decision.

What to do: C’s should understand that some decisions have a timeline and need quick action.  Your assistants understand that you’ve charted stats for all practices during the season and the numbers say that you’ve got the right lineup out there.  But right now it’s not working and you’ve got to make a change.  C’s are cautious by nature, so you should surround yourself with folks who are more adventurous.

Each season, we try to create team chemistry among our athletes and help them to get to know one another, but it’s just as important that the coach knows their personality type…and how it’ll interact with each player.

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Why Women’s Athletics? Selling Its Benefits In Tough Economic Times

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I wrote this article for the Fall 2010 NCAA Champion magazine.  I found that the more I talked to female athletes at all levels, many of them really didn’t understand Title IX or the value of women’s athletics.  My goal in this article wasn’t to prove that the volleyball team brings in as much money as the men’s ice hockey team, but that the benefit of sport (and women’s sports in particular) is more than the bottom line of a budget sheet.

Do you know what your team’s view of Title IX is?  More than likely, they view their athletic selves as the balance for men’s athletics…and I’d say that that should not be the case.  Women’s athletics stands alone as important and beneficial without the need to “balance out” athletic departments.  Viewing volleyball and softball and field hockey as existing solely to enable men to play their sports and be in compliance with the law is a pretty powerless and pathetic existence.

I read a great article on the Financial Times website titled, “A Good Economist Knows the True Value of the Arts”, which talked about how the arts, hospitals, and sports try to demonstrate their relevance by selling their economic value.  I’m sure you’ve heard the schpiel:  women’s volleyball is helping the university by bringing families onto campus and they’re buying concessions, the concessions stand is employing workers, and the facility is able to employ more folks for maintenance and crowd control.  But the author asserts that those are costs, not benefits, and that the savvy athletic director should (if it all comes down to finances) cut volleyball because the financial benefit does not come close to the financial cost taken on by the college.  Here’s a great quotation from that article:

The value of an activity is not what it costs, but the amount by which its benefit exceeds its costs. The economic contribution of sport is in the pleasure participants and spectators derive, and the resulting gains in health and longevity. That value is diminished, not increased, by the resources that need to be diverted from other purposes.

So if finances aren’t the way to sell women’s athletics to our colleagues (who may silently believe that we are there for balance only) or the higher ups who are taking hard looks at the budget…what are our selling points?  Where are the places that, like the quotation above says, the benefits of women’s athletics exceed its costs?  There are many advantages to sports participation that will stay with its participants for life, here are a few.

Health Young ladies who participate in sports reduce their chance of getting breast cancer by 60% according to Journal of the National Cancer Institute (1994)…at a time where one in eight women have gotten or will be diagnosed with breast cancer, that’s huge!  On top of that, it’s been proven that performing weight bearing exercises while young will help fight off osteoporosis later in life.

Mentors Little girls need to see that sports are for them too.  They need to see that women can be aggressive and competitive and achievers…that’s where our teams come in!  I don’t know about you, but I was never the stereotypical “girly girl”, wearing pink and playing with dolls, so sports participation was always a part of my life.  But what if, through watching our athletes play, that stereotype shifted to include having a lacrosse stick or golf club in her hand?

Learning to excel in a team environment Go to any business magazine or read any book designed for managers and you’ll see the word “team” over and over again.  The ability to strive within a team construct should be the hallmark of women’s athletics.  Our athletes learn leadership, how to win and lose with grace, how to recognize strengths and weakness in themselves and others…and use those to their advantage, and how to perform under pressure.  All characteristics that will serve them well after their time on our fields and courts is over.

Let’s all agree to talk to our teams about what they do and why it’s important.  To explain that both men’s and women’s athletics can stand on their own respective two feet…both strong and autonomous.  By doing this, we will equip them to answer the question: why women’s athletics?

What has your department done in terms of educating your student athlete population?  How about education for the coaching staff?  Any other ideas?

Challenging An Athlete’s Beliefs About Their Limits

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We can never know that we can’t do something;
we can only know that we haven’t yet done so.
—Ellen Langer

I watched an athlete perform during the Olympics and after winning a gold medal, she revealed that she listened to the song, I Know I Can, before every competition.  Here’s the chorus, which is sung by kids:

I know I can
Be what I wanna be
If I work hard at it
I’ll be where I wanna be

It’s a great song, positive and empowering.  As is the quotation at the top, from 5 Mindfulness Steps That Guarantee Increased Success And Vitality.  Often, our athletes are too quick to say what they can’t do and what Dr. Langer found out is it’s an impossibility to know you can’t do something.  How about that?  It’s a powerful message.

Of course, poor mindset—like thinking and verbalizing you can’t do something—can create an environment where success will be difficult.  So that’s where we coaches come in to save the day.  For an athlete to say they can’t perform a skill or a team to say they can’t find the success that’s eluded them is a falsehood.  So how can we intervene to stop the negative self-talk and help our teams test their limits.

2 ways mindfulness will help our athletes challenge their limits

  1. Encourage dreaming.  What if our athletes went beyond setting goals?  Goals are great and motivating, but can be limiting.  Perhaps they can be separate categories.  Your team can set goals but also have “why not us?” sessions.  Dream big.  Why not?
  2. Redefine failure.  I had a team that had a goal of winning the conference championship.  We didn’t win, we lost in the finals and we were all devastated.  We set a goal and we failed.  I can tell you something, I’ve never had a more motivated team in the off-season.  We won the championship the following year, in no small part, because of our failure the previous year.

Mindfulness means being present.  Mindfulness means being aware of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment.

Saying, “I can’t”, isn’t mindful because it lives in the future.  We should encourage our athletes to stay present.  Worrying about the mistake they’ve just made isn’t being mindful because it lives in the past.  We’ve got to help our athletes fight and battle to stay in the moment…it’s the only thing they can control.

If we consistently challenge their mindset and mindfulness, our athletes will blow through any limits they think they may have.