The F Word!
This may be the first Mental Tip you actually read, simply based on the title. Coaches spend a lot of time telling athletes to "Focus". The problem is that coaches are telling and not teaching focus and most athletes don't know actually what focusing means. Focusing refers to "attending to the task at hand". Instead of talking about focus, coaches and athletes should spend more time discussing the elimination of distractions. I repeatedly warn students to not study in their dorm rooms. There are too many distractions. Besides the normal college fun that can get in the way, even tasks like laundry are more attractive and tempting when confronted with the chore of studying or writing a paper. I encourage students to go to the library ... alone ... and find a quiet floor/room/corner where no one else will see them and then only bring with them the one or two books that they need to read or the notes they need to study. Eliminating distractions is the first step to focusing. The same advice can be used for many areas in our life, including training. Only bring to practice those things that will allow you to be successful at practice (positive attitude, excitement to improve, coachability, the desire to be uncomfortable, work ethic, mental toughness, etc) and leave all of the other things (school, worries, social life, lack of confidence, distress, laziness, comfort, financial issues, etc) behind in your dorm/apartment/house. There is enough work to be done at practice that we don't need to bring extra distractions. And you can spend the other 22 hours of your day on those other things that you left in your living space if you want. They will be there later if you still want them.
"There's No Crying In Baseball"!
I was raised in a household that was structured around rational thought, critical thinking, problem solving and cost/benefit analysis. My Dad was a Chemist and my mom was a Businesswoman. I have three older brothers (and no sisters). "Emotions" were not something that were welcomed in our home. If I cried, I was told, "Don't cry or I will give you something to cry about". I used to think that humans were created as rational beings that occasionally experienced emotions and those emotions distracted us from reaching our full potential. Emotions were bad. I have now come to the realization that we were created the exact opposite. We have all been created to be completely emotional beings, that occasionally think rationally. Emotions are not all bad. However, emotions can get in the way and cloud our judgement. Having control over our emotions and not merely allowing our emotions to run rough shot and control over our thoughts and feelings will allow us to make more thoughtful decisions. Controlling emotions takes patience (trust), self-observation and awareness, which then allows us to use intentional actions and effort to behave and think appropriately.
Warning: Adult Content ... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6M8szlSa-8o
On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being PERFECT, how are you in the following seven extremely important mental areas …
Relaxing under Pressure
Now, what do these actually mean …
Goal Setting – do you set goals, set reasonable goals, set goals that motivate you, set goals that keep you on the path toward success?
Motivation – are you internally motivated to move yourself from where you are now to where you want to be? Do you value your goals enough to sacrifice and to get uncomfortable?
Mental Toughness – the ability to respond to an adverse situation in an expedient manner. Can you bounce back when things don’t go your way or as expected?
Relaxing under Pressure – realizing that pressure is self-induced and you must cope with those negative thoughts that YOU create. The first step is identifying the source of the pressure, which is YOU and no one else so you therefore have control over that pressure.
Confidence – belief in yourself and your ability to achieve specific tasks
Present Moment – live in the now. Focus on the present. Don’t worry about the past as it is history. Don’t worry about the future as you aren’t there yet.
Aggressiveness – Intensity. Assertiveness. The correct amount of assertion or intensity or arousal in your events. Don’t be angry. Don’t be out of control. Find intensity. Put in more effort.
How Much ...
A natural question for someone to ask prior to undertaking a specific task would be, "How much time will this take?". For those who manage their time and also value their time, this type of information is extremely beneficial and helpful. Unfortunately, this question tends to leak into other aspects of our life and may take on various forms, but become less beneficial. "How long will this last?". "How much should I give?". "How much effort should I expend?". These are similar questions that often leak into various areas of our life, including practice and workouts. "How long will the hard workout last". "How many hills are we going to run". "How much effort can I exert or how much pain can I avoid". If our goal in life is to truly reach our full potential, then both the answer to questions such as this and the motivation behind the question itself, become a limiting factor and/or a demotivating factor. For example, what happens when we reach the deadline and we aren't "there yet" or we haven't reached our capacity? What happens if the effort required to complete the task is less than our full effort and we therefore under-perform? What happens when we are able to give more and thus accomplish more but we stop too soon? Therefore, what is the correct answer to the "How much" question? If the goal is to truly reach our full potential, then the answer should not be "just enough" but the answer to "How Much" should be "ALL ... until the goal has been completed".
Value Your Hopes and Dreams!
"I can't" really means "I choose not to". When we say something similar to "I can't get up at 3 am and take you to the airport", we really are saying "I choose not to take you to the airport because I value my sleep more than I value helping you". Humans truly know when we value something when we choose to actually do that thing and not simply talk about it. We value such things as sleeping or eating or hanging out with friends or making/having money. We know we value these things because most people aren't forced to do these things. We will easily give up our time doing homework and working out or helping others in order to do the things we like such as sleep or eat or hang out with friends because we place different/more value on certain things. If someone pays you money to do homework, most people would do more homework. The same would be true for working out or helping others more. The addition of money puts more value on something that has less value to us. Humans struggle with motivation. Our problem with motivation is that we don't place enough value on the things that truly should have value. We tend to value easy and fun and recent. We fail to place value on hard or difficult or meaningful or long term beneficial things. Entitled people are not lazy. Entitled people simply do not see the value in long term, difficult or meaningful endeavors. In order to reach our goals and to reach our full potential, we need to add value to those things in our life that should have more value in our lives. Putting money in an investment doesn't sound fun because it is more fun to spend money today. But when that investment doubles or triples or quadruples over time without you doing anything except making that initial investment and then sitting around and waiting, then investing money is both valuable and fun. When we sacrifice time and FOMO and peer pressure and selfish desires and comfort in order to reach our goals and full potential that may not come for weeks or months or years in the future, that investment also pays off. What will you add value to today so that you will be motivated more to do what you should be doing?
Power can be a loaded term. It can be seen as being negative if you are the person on the receiving end of abusive power. Power is positive when that power is in our own hands and that power is used for noble purposes. Power is can be awarded (legitimate power), but power can also be something that we can earn or acquire. Everyone has access to obtaining power. EVERYONE! Referent Power (respect/amiability) and Expert Power (knowledge/talent) are not easily acquired sources of power, but they are two forms of power that are obtainable with a degree of effort. Someone may appoint you to a position of leadership and thus grant you power by position (legitimate power), but that person can't give you the effort that is required to earn respect or knowledge that will allow you to lead effectively in that position. Effort is not a birthright or a genetic trait. Effort is a choice. Effort allows us to move closer to our full potential, including our potential to acquire power and thus, effect change in our own lives and the lives of others. Effort also allows us to reach our full potential in regards to our athletic goals. Your parents helped to determine you athletic ability. YOU determine whether that athletic ability is realized to its full potential by choosing to put in the maximum effort possible. We can achieve power. We can achieve our goals. We can move closer to our athletic potential. All require effort. Effort is our choice.
Make Yourself Worth Something!
Self-Worth is different than Self-Confidence and Self-Esteem. The three perceptions of our self are connected but not synonymous. Self-Worth refers to "ones sense or opinion of their value or worth". Those with high self-worth feel that they have value and worth to the world. Those with low self-worth do not feel that they have much value or worth. Unfortunately, low self-worth impacts our self-esteem and self-confidence, which can then impact our daily lives. Therefore, self-worth is important. Furthermore, unfortunately, many people rely on others to determine their self-worth. Too many people are waiting for someone to validate them and determine their worth. My suggestion is simple ... Don't rely on others to tell you what you are worth ... go and earn your worth. Do something for someone else. Make your life about others and you will soon find that you are invaluable because others are counting on you. When we wait around for others to "like" us, or validate us in order to build our value, we may be waiting for a long time. Make someone smile, encourage them, help them with something small, or even take a burden from them and you will be making yourself worth something to others. And always remember, you are created by God for a purpose so you are already worth an immeasurable amount.
Gold Medals and Dead Horses!
Gold medals are awarded to the athlete, only. In fact, all three of the medals (gold, silver and bronze) are only awarded to the athletes. Coaches do not receive medals at the Olympics or most Elite level competitions (World Championships, X Games, etc). Athletic trainers, doctors, parents, training partners, spouses, next door neighbors ... none of these people receive medals if an athlete places in the top three. All of these individuals contribute to and support the athlete but they don't receive a medal. The reason for this is that the athlete is the one who ultimately executes the performance and earns the medal. The athlete is the one who trains all of those hours and pushes themselves beyond limits and makes sacrifices and get uncomfortable to execute their plan. Coaches are crucial in the success of an athlete. Most athletes would not reach their potential without a coach, or athletic trainers or supportive parents or teammates. However, the coach and others are an aid or assistance to the athlete. It is the athlete who is responsible for executing the plan. Often times, athletes expect the coach to "make them" into an athlete. However, the athlete must realize that they are the ones who are responsible for their ultimate success and they are responsible to utilize their resources. A coach can't run the race or take the jump or throw the implement. Coaches don't make shots or score touchdowns. You can lead a horse to water, and you can even take the horses head and shove it into the water and hold it there. However, this extreme action will not insure that the horse will drink the water, and you will either end up with a dead horse from downing or a hoof print in your face from a ticked off equine. As an athlete, when we are lead or taught or instructed, it is up to us to follow or learn or obey and then execute.
Don't Drive Angry!
Groundhog Day occurred two weeks ago (or did it?)! Actually, it did and a new Jeep commercial commemorating the occasion during the SuperBowl (which coincidentally landed on Groundhog Day this year ... or did it?).. Ok, it did ...
One of my favorite scenes from any movie comes from the original 1993 movie ...
Anger is an emotion. Anger is not a sin. Anger is not something we can eliminate from our lives. Anger, like any emotion that we may experience, should be properly controlled and managed so that those emotions and feelings do not result in improper behavior and actions. Being angry for a long period of time will not only eat at our own character and attitude, but it pours out into our behavior. Unfortunately, justifying our anger is a natural human response. It is very easy to find a reason that our anger is "right". Sure, there are times when we are angry and soon after we quickly identify that we were impatient or even "hangry" and then feel bad about that anger. Unfortunately, more time's than not, we find a reason that our anger is the right way to react to something or someone. And then, that anger leads to incorrect behavior and actions. Or, our anger causes more destruction to us, in the form of bitterness and resentment, instead of on the focus of our anger. Identifying our anger and then taking time and putting in the effort to understand why we are angry will help us to properly address the anger and not allow anger to lead to improper actions.
Humans give up too soon, and we get frustrated much quicker than what is reasonable, rational or mathematically realistic. Malcolm Gladwell, in his book "Outliers", introduces the concept of "10,000 hours". The premise ... to become an expert or to achieve mastery of a skill, it will take a typical human about 10,000 hours devoted to that activity or skill. 10,000 hours! That is a lot of hours. 2 hours of practice a day, 6 days a week. 12 hours. 16 weeks in a typical season. 192 hours. That equates to 52 seasons to get to 10,000 hours. That won't work unless you plan on getting a third major and the NCAA changes the four year eligibility rule. How about this for math ... 2 hours of practice a day, 6 days a week for 50 weeks a year. 600 hours a year. 17 years. That is a lot better ... assuming we work hard during the summer, during the off season and if we only take a day off each week. 17 years is a lot more than one week or one season or one career for most people and unfortunately, most people get frustrated due to their lack of progress or their failure to reach their perceived goals in too short of a period of time. There are humans who become so frustrated after one practice that they decide to quit (maybe not quitting the sport altogether, but they quit trying to improve on a particular skill). But that 17 years can become a lot shorter when we put in more time each day through workouts, visualization, eating right, getting sleep, watching videos about our events, mental rehearsal and mental preparation. That 17 years is a lot shorter when we focus on progression and improvement and not merely the end goal and results. That 17 years gets A LOT shorter when we choose to live our our goals as a lifestyle instead of simply making our goals a small portion of our day. ”The thing that distinguishes one performer from another is how hard he or she works. That’s it. And what’s more, the people at the very top don’t work just harder or even much harder than everyone else. They work much, much harder.” Malcolm Gladwell. And today, that "harder" equates to "longer".
COACH. FATHER. HUSBAND. SON OF THE KING. WHITWORTH UNIVERSITY.