Transitions are hard. Moving from the known to the unknown is scary. Yet the stats show that only 6% of high school athletes will play in college. Fewer than 0.5% of high school athletes will become professional athletes. Even if they do go pro, every athlete has to transition to life after sports one day. In working with Wounded Warriors over the years, I’ve learned that athletes can learn a lot from these resilient individuals.
In sports, everyone wants to win. Demands are high. Pressure is real. Egos abound. When athletes believe a teammate’s mistakes or poor play are damaging the team, they can get heated. Even the pros get caught on camera lashing out on the sidelines. Being overly critical can have damaging effects on your team. As the coach, it’s your responsibility to help your athletes be encouragers instead of criticizers.
In The Power of Positive Leadership Jon Gordon wrote, “Optimism, positivity, and belief are the fuel that positive leaders need to keep moving forward and drive results.” Whether you agree or not, it is hard to deny that athletes play better when they’re having fun, enjoying the moment, and are surrounded by people they genuinely love.
Simone Biles, Olympic Gold Medal winning gymnast, said, “Practice creates confidence. Confidence empowers you.” She’s right. The problem is when an athlete can’t translate his or her performance in practice to the competition surface. This can frustrate coaches and baffle players. What is going on here?
Coaching is like parenting in that it’s largely based on past experiences. You may choose to copy the best coaches you’ve seen and do the opposite of the worst. Perhaps you’ve had some good mentors along the way. Regardless, many coaches tend to be either more supportive or more demanding. Which category do you align with? More importantly, which gets the best results?
Optimal performance is all about consistency. Coaches and athletes know that repetitions build strength. That’s why you train. However, the same principles apply to getting an athlete’s mind and body ready to perform on demand. It is no accident that elite athletes rely on battle-tested pre-performance routines to prime their performance.
Evaluating talent is getting more scientific. Every team scrambles for an edge. Billy Beane revolutionized MLB with performance analytics. NFL prospects undergo physical agility and psychological tests at the Combine. Leading teams employ a mental conditioning coach, like myself. The latest development in building elite teams looks at how well players will fit a team’s chemistry. Essentially, this is social cohesion and it might just be the next frontier, the cutting edge.