Category Archives: Blog

Using Supplements To Get Lean

It’s something I see very often or get asked about quite regularly… What are the best supplements to help me lose weight and gain muscle?

And I really wish that there was a simple answer for this like “protein powder” or “creatine”. But unfortunately, there isn’t.

It seems everyone wants to look good nowadays with a chiseled physique or slim waist. But is it really worth it? I mean sure, there are good reasons to lose weight and stay healthy. There are supplements to gain weight as well as supplements to get lean.

The world seems to have gone crazy with supplements while ignoring the basics of health.

But when it comes to the popping veins and ripped six-pack abs that many people desire, they are just aesthetic and are not a sign of good health. I even had somebody ask me about the best supplements for popping veins recently. I mean, really??

And then there are all of the other questions regarding supplements… I think the majority of those that are new to health and fitness have been brainwashed by the marketing that supplement companies put out. The clue is in their name “supplements”. They are supposed to supplement a good diet and a healthy lifestyle.

An example of a question that I’ve received recently is do fat burners work with creatine? The answer to that is yes they do. But the term “work” is used loosely here and many fat burners actually do very little.

How To Motivate Female Athletes

Here’s an excerpt from an article I recently had published in Athletic Management magazine:

Until recently, it was not politically correct to think of women as different.  If you said women were equal, then they couldn’t be different.  The wonderful news is we can now say women are equal and different.  And that’s a huge and dramatic breakthrough.

–Gender and Competition:  How Men and Women Approach Work and Play Differently

Girls just aren’t competitive.  We’ve all heard it before and I’m here to tell you that it’s simply not true (I wrote about it over here).  Perhaps you have a coach who has struggled to find her voice and get buy-in from her team.  Or maybe you have a staff of new coaches who can’t figure out why the same tactics that they’ve used with male athletes won’t work with their female teams.  The answer may not be that today’s athletes are less focused or motivated, but rather the coach needs to understand that motivating female athletes is vastly different than motivating males.  I’ve had many successful seasons and would like to share with you some of the things that have brought me success in coaching female athletes at all levels and discuss how we can prepare our athletes for success in the years after their sports careers have ended.

3 Techniques of Good Coaches

We all want to be good at what we do…that’s the base level, right?  Good, then great, then excellent.  I talked about excellent here, but wanted to step back and write about the basics of being a good coach.   Besides knowing your stuff and being a good teacher of skills, there are some less concrete places where good coaches excel.  In this article from the current issue of Psychology Today called “Dear Leaders:  Mastering the art of being in charge”, they talk about those less tangible aspects of leadership.  While its focus was bosses in a corporate environment, I was able to pull out some “good boss” tips that can most certainly be “good coach” tips as well.

Good Boss Tip #1: They know themselves and their situation.  “Being in power is a deterrent to self-awareness”, making it more difficult to “ascertain the impact their behaviors and policies have on their employees.”
Good Coaching translation: Whether the adjective before your name is “assistant”, or “head”, or “volunteer”…you’re still a coach.  I’ve met too many coaches who think that they are friends with their teams…you can’t be their friend when you determine their scholarship money or their playing time.  Please listen:  your team members are not your friends and they don’t all love you.  As coaches, we need a friendly relationship with our teams (or maybe just our captains) in order to get the real scoop as to what is going on with the team.  If your captains say that the 6 am practices are killing them because they are all taking 8 pm classes that don’t get out until 10 o’clock at night, that’s something to take under consideration.  You may not change your policy, but they’ve got to believe that you heard them and that you have a good reason for those early morning practices.  When one person (the coach) holds all of the power, it’s pretty hard to be friends, but a friendly relationship with your team is essential to being the best leader for your group.

Good Boss Tip #2: They consciously break out of the power bubble by asking for direct input and feedback.  Good bosses “are more sensitive to the thoughts and feelings of their charges.”
Good Coaching translation: As tough as it is to admit for us controlling coaches, we don’t know everything and aren’t always aware of how we impact the team.  Instead of railing about how awful practice was, how about asking the team?  They no doubt realize how bad the practice was and will probably be just as eloquent in getting that point across and it’ll mean more to their teammates coming from their peers.  Or maybe you can meet with your captains and find out how the team dynamics are shaping up…are people getting along on and off the court?  Who do they feel the most comfortable with on and off the field?  This knowledge (that most of us aren’t privy to) will go a long way in putting the right grouping of people together to ensure successful competitions.  The toughest, and most essential, is asking them what they need from you as a coach.  Sometimes you will find out that they want more/less discipline or feedback…or maybe you’ll find out that they love what you’re doing with the team.  Regardless, it’s pretty important to find out.

Good Boss Tip #3: They are decisive rulers.  Employees don’t want “touchy-feely group therapy leaders.”
Good Coaching translation: For as much time as you take your team’s thoughts into account, they want to believe that you know what you’re doing and that you believe in what you’re doing.  As coaches, it’s our job to explain the benefits of a decision and go with it.  If we believe that a certain defense or offense or lineup is in the best interest of the team, it’s our job to “sell” it to the team in a manner that they understand and can get behind.  We’ve got to alert them to the strengths and weaknesses of our plan, but also be enthusiastic and authoritative with our decision.

What do you think about these tips?  I thought they were a nice starting point and could help us become a coach who “continually and constructively pushes [players] to do their best.”

4 essential items every coach needs to get better

Folks who are fixer uppers or tinklers 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.

8 Ways To Critique Without Crushing Your Team’s Spirit

It happens to all of us.  We say one thing and our team hears another thing altogether.  Here’s an example:

Me: Susie, if you take one more step and face your target, your pass will be right on the money.
Susie hears: You’re a horrible volleyball player.

Me: Betsy, you’re on the right track, just be sure to communicate with your teammates so that they know what you’re going to do.
Betsy hears: Not only do I think you’re a horrible volleyball player, your teammates hate you too.

If either of those scenarios sound a little too familiar, take heart.  According to an article in Psychology Today titled, A Chic Critique (April 2011), “people react strongly to criticism no matter how it’s delivered.”  That being said, I’m sure none of us is out to squish our team’s spirit like a proverbial bug.  Let’s look at how we can critique without being critical.

8 Rules To Effectively Deliver Negative Feedback

  1. Always lead with questions. I may not lead with a question, but somewhere in my feedback, I usually ask if they understand what I’m asking of them.  The article says that the hard part about criticism is that it threatens that person’s membership in the group.  So asking questions shows them that they are part of a group effort.  Something as simple as, “Do this.  Does that make sense?”, is a typical exchange in our gym.
  2. Never give criticism unless it’s been invited. In my mind, by virtue of being on a team, they’re inviting criticism.  Turns out that I’m onto something!  “When a teacher grades a student, a coach gives a pep talk, or a parent guides a young child’s efforts, there’s a tacit agreement that praise and correction will be part of the exchange.”
  3. Make sure you are seen as having the authority to give corrective feedback. Have you ever had a freshman give a senior some advice on how to perform a skill better?  Even if their advice is great, the senior probably won’t receive it because the freshman has no authority yet.  If you’ve got one of those “helpful” freshmen, you should probably pull them aside and have a little chat with them.
  4. Distinguish whether a demand reflects your needs or is a valid critique of what they’re doing wrong. I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes I want my team to do something because it’s my preferred method of operation.  My general statement is, “there are a million ways to skin a cat…either way you end up with a cat without skin, so let’s try it my way.”  Sure, that sounds gross, but it gets the point across.  I’m not saying that the student-athlete is doing something wrong per se, just not the way I’d like them to do it.
  5. Never give feedback when you’re angry. Easier said than done, right?  If there’s someone on your team that drives you crazy, let them become your assistant’s pet project.  I’ve even been known to tell my assistant to listen to my corrective statements during practice.  Like, “Katie is working my last nerve today, please make sure that I’m not picking on her at practice.”  Hopefully this keeps Katie from being a puddle of tears in the locker room.
  6. Know who you’re talking to. As the article says, “Narcissists take any criticism as a personal attack; the insecure lose all self-esteem.”  I’m constantly beating the personality test drum, and that’s because I think it’s a great way to find out how your team is motivated.
  7. Know yourself. Personally, I’m less outwardly sensitive to criticism.  Of course it still stings and of course I’d rather receive a steady stream of praise, but I like to receive my criticism without all of the frills.  But everyone isn’t like me and some people really need to hear the frills before they can process the criticism.  Knowing that others aren’t like me will keep me from completely crushing the more sensitive folks on my team.
  8. Expect defensiveness. The article says that we tend to “simplify the world by making it bipolar”.  So when you don’t tell Susie she’s the most amazing player in the whole, wide world…well, of course you are saying that she’s terrible.  The good news is that this is just the initial reaction and you can expect a change in behavior to follow.  You can also train your team about the proper response to your feedback.  Do you want them to look you in the eye while you’re talking?  Do you want them to respond with a “yes, Coach.”  Be sure to let them know!

I enjoy Psychology Today, they’ve got great articles.  A lot of our jobs as coaches is to figure out how to motivate our teams and I always find a gem in each magazine.  I hope this one reminded us all about anticipating how our criticism will be received by our teams.

Is Your Best Athlete Your Best Leader?

When your best players are your hardest workers, you have the chance to be very good.
—Tara VanDerveer

When your best players aren’t vocal leaders.  This is a common problem.  I don’t know how many times I’ve commiserated with another coach about a player who has out-of-this-world talent, but won’t speak up in practice or games.  I’ve tried telling the player that the team needs them to speak up, I’ve tried explaining that the burden of being the best is that their teammates look up to them, I’ve tried it all.  Usually it doesn’t work.  If that person gets picked as a captain (which they usually do), I try to pair them up with someone who will actually talk.

When your best players undermine you.  This one is rare…but it happens.  Your best player smiles in your face, “yes, Coach” and all that, but is tearing you down behind your back.  I’m not talking about the regular, “It sucks that Coach made us run today, that’s crap!”, all players say things like that.  I’m talking about the player who questions your coaching technique, coaching moves, or coaching decisions.  As annoying as it is for players to come to us with questions about those things, it’s catastrophic when they do all of those things in secret.  Even worse, we usually don’t find out about it until it’s too late.

When your best players are lazy.  This is the rarest of them all.  Can they really be your best player if they’re lazy?  Semantics.  Your best player (stats leader in important categories) doesn’t go hard in practice or games, but still manages to be better than her teammates.  You can try to guilt them into working harder by telling them their teammates look up to them.  You can try to force her into exertion through physical punishment, but if they’ve gotten this far by being lazy…they can trick you into thinking they’re working hard.  No matter what your captain policy is (you pick, the team picks, combo), this person most definitely can’t have a leadership position on your team.

When your best players are your hardest workers.  Heaven has opened up and shined on you and your team.  Effort is catchy.  Hard work is catchy.  Desire is catchy.  Belief is catchy.  These players, these high energy/hard working types, infect the rest of the team with their energy.  Their teammates may walk into the gym after a tough day of class wanting to slack off, but this player just won’t allow it.  The team may be losing late in the game, but this player won’t let their teammates stop believing.  These players earn their teammates’ respect by the way they carry themselves each and every day.

Your best players are leaders, no matter what.  They may lead negatively or they may lead positively…but they are ALWAYS leading.  Be sure to have high-quality players in leadership positions on your team.

Diamonds In The Rough

Regardless of where you are in your career, at one point, you didn’t know what you were doing.  Maybe you were really good at hiding it, but deep inside…you knew the truth.  So, you struggled.  Perhaps your team didn’t get as many wins as it should have based on its talent.  Or possibly your team muddled through major team chemistry issues due to your lack of management experience.

Someone believed in you.  Whether it was your athletic director or your recruits who still committed to the program.  You weren’t your current awesome self, but they could see it in your future and decided to get on board.

My guess is you’ve got players like that on your team.  Maybe they drive you crazy because they’re super talented but haven’t put it all together yet.  Or, even worse, they’re great in the gym or on the field with you, but are completely tanking in the classroom.  Don’t give up on them…believe in them, just like folks believed in you before you were quite ready.

I can’t guarantee that they’ll appreciate your efforts, but I can guarantee you’ll become a better coach through the process.

Coaches Corner: Managing Various Personality Types

“So much of who a player is based on their personality.”
Joel Walton, Head Volleyball Coach, Ball State University

There are so many different ways to assess personality. I met a young lady a couple of days ago who said she was a North, based on her assessment. I’ve gone to seminars where I’ve been labeled a Green, a Type A, and a D. Maybe you’ve been told you’re a Lion or a Golden Retriever or even an ENTJ.

So many assessments, so little time. If you’re interested in some of the nuts and bolts of personality tests and how to use them with your team, check out some of the articles I’ve written on the topic: Why Personality Assessments Could Be The Key To Your Team’s Success, 7 Personality Traits Of Top Coaches, How Knowing Your Personality Type Will Help You Manage Your Team, and Using personality tests to increase your team chemistry.

When I talked to Joel Walton about managing personalities on his team, he had his players broken down into two different groups.

Quiet athletes. I loved what he had to say about these guys. He says coaches give quiet players confidence and comfort within a team construct. Then he said something that I know I’ve been guilty of: it would be wrong to have an expectation of a quiet player that makes them uncomfortable or puts them in an unsuccessful position. Good stuff, huh?

Vocal athletes. Walton says the best players he’s had over the years have been hard to manage. All of us coaches say we want vocal leaders, but what if they’re vocal about things we don’t agree with or appreciate? The very reason this type of athlete is successful is the very reason they’ll give you gray hairs. Everything is a contest and a chance to measure themselves against others.

Walton has been coaching long enough that I’m sure he knows all of the particulars of personality types and assessments, but I enjoyed his unique breakdown of how personalities emerge within teams and how we can manage them.

More from the Joel Walton series:
Coaches Corner: Joel Walton
Coaches Corner: On Handling Pressure
Coaches Corner: Creating Enduring Confidence Within Your Athletes
Coaches Corner: The DNA Of Good Coaches

Join me in a series of interviews with successful coaches.  I believe what we learn from our coaching peers can be applied to our teams, our recruiting efforts, and how we behave as professionals. These interviews will be less Q & A and much more philosophical in nature, keep coming back to see who I’m talking to and what they’ve got to say!