Common Sense is the Foundation of High Performance

Champions usually believe the essentials of life were learned in kindergarten. Their world view is that success is simple and constructed fundamentally from common sense. While average people search for complex answers to their problems, the world class looks for the simple solution first—and usually finds it. They solve more complex challenges by looking at the situation as an outsider viewing it for the first time. Larry Wilson, the famous speaker and author, says the great ones get out of their own way by viewing the problem from ten thousand feet in order to gain a new perspective. They separate themselves from the everyday details and gain a three-dimensional view of the problem. While average people strain to create a solution, champions think for a while then create a mental distance to take their direct focus off the problem. Many times the answers come to them in the shower, in the middle of the night, or at the health club while they’re working out. The law of indirect effort is one of the most powerful problem-solving processes known to man. Champions realize the secret to tapping their true genius is sometimes hidden in the act of not trying so hard.

Action Step for Today: Write down your five most pressing problems and ask: “Is there a kindergarten answers to this seemingly complex problem?” Let your mind revert to childlike thinking and write down the first answers that come to mind.

“Common sense is the knack of seeing things as they are, and doing things as they ought to be done.”
—Harriet Beecher Stowe, 1811–1896, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from Steve Siebold’s book, 77 Mental Toughness Secrets of the World Class: The Thought Processes, Habits and Philosophies of the Great Ones.

8 Ways to Excel as a “Non-Star” Player

non_star_player_postWhile there are many players on a hockey team, sometimes it might feel as though there are only a few shining stars. This can leave “non-star” players feeling unimportant and second-rate. The following article, from former hockey player and coach Jeff Serowik gives excellent advice for the “non-star” player.

A small percentage of every team from youth hockey all the way to the NHL is made up of “star” players. Typically eighty percent of a team is composed of the “non-star players.” However, even if your child is not on the first line scoring the goals, or racking up the assists or on the first defensive line, power play or penalty kill, they are an integral part of the hockey team. There are many cogs in the wheel that are necessary to make it spin.

Tips for the “Non-Star” Player

  1. Be vocal on the bench and the ice - Cheer your teammates on when they finish their shift. Start a bench pat and send it down the line periodically through the game. It is also important to not be afraid to talk on the ice. Let a teammate know you are behind him or her, or congratulate a nice play or pass. This also can psyche the opposing team out. It is hard to beat a team that is unified and gels.

  2. Be a leader - The goal scorers or stars are not always the team leaders. They may be gifted with natural ability, but not necessarily have the charisma of others on the team. “Non-star” players are often the leaders of a team. There is nothing better than a team full of leaders with charisma and respect for all players. That is the team that will go all the way.

  3. Be the first on the ice and the last off - Work ethic is important for both the “star”  and “non-star” players. When doing a drill, don’t look to see if the coach or parents are watching. Be focused on the drill and your efforts will be noticed. Be the best practice player and you will be a “star” player.

  4. Push your teammates to do better - Push each other including the last person in a drill. Say, “Nice effort, keep it up!”

  5. Take pride in your role - Notice the little things that happen in a game that contribute to a win or a great effort. The assist to the assists or goals should count for points even though they do not count on the stat sheet, as well as the shot blocked, taking the hit to save the play, winning the battle for the puck, winning the face off, winning the race to the puck, battling for and coming up with the puck and battling so hard that a teammate can grab the puck.

  6. Make all teammates feel good about their game – Remember, every single player is responsible for the win.

  7. Rally around your goalie – Especially when he or she is in a losing streak.

  8. Make the most of a long season - Make a joke in the locker room or have a team joke that is an inside joke only to your teammates. Make each other laugh and become friends. You need different personalities for a winning team.

A Note to the “Star” Player
Be thankful that you are the “star” player, but realize that every player on the team is just as important and helps assist you to get those goals. Be humble and cheer on the “non-star” players. Become a tight-knit group that cares for each other - that is how to win.

“Non-Star” Players Can Become the “Star” Players and Vice-Versa
Don’t think that you are pigeon-holed the “non-star” player or “star” player. Things change quickly in hockey. You can become the “star” player of a particular game or season. The key is to keep working hard and don’t feel bad about an off game or a bad shift. Pick yourself up and go for it the next  time you play. Remember that hockey is a game of mistakes. Recover and learn from the mistakes and move on. The star players of the NHL make mistakes too. Don’t forget to take pride in yourself whatever role you have on the team. Remember, you made that team and everybody is an important member and integral in helping the team to victory.

Editor’s Note: Thank you to Jeff Serowik from Pro Ambitions Hockey camps for this article.

3 Options When Facing Adversity – Choose One

dont_give_up_postWhen your player faces uncertainty or a difficult season, it can be easy for them to just throw in the towel and quit playing. The following article provides some encouraging advice about persevering in the midst of trials.

Almost everyone knows the story of Michael Jordan, the all-star basketball player who led the Chicago Bulls to six NBA championships. But, his path to the championships wasn’t so certain during his sophomore year in high school. That was the year Michael Jordan failed to make his high school team.

When something doesn’t work out as planned, there are always three courses of action any player can take. The first course is to do nothing and just hope that things will be different the next time. The second course is to quit and find other things to spend time on. The third course, and the one that Michael Jordan took, is to use the situation as a challenge and work harder.

Each challenge a player faces can only be answered from within. Coaches and parents can give advice, but only the player can determine the course taken. Not everyone who is challenged grows up to be Michael Jordan. And, not all challenges a player faces are in sports. However, every time a player quits when faced with a challenge, there is little hope of future success.

Editor’s Note: Thank you to Sports Esteem for this article.

The Fear of Failure is Often Worse than Failure Itself

fear_of_failure_postWhether or not parents put pressure on their kids, kids will put pressure on themselves. This pressure can result in fears that, if not handled properly, will lead to poor performances and potentially a greater fear of failure. Helping young players understand and deal with fear and anxiety assists kids in not only sports, but in all areas of life.

Failure and fear do not have to go together. Failure is result of trying something and not succeeding. Fear comes from dreading the consequences of failure. Helping kids separate these two concepts allows them to  keep fear in perspective. Some ways that parents can help kids deal with fear include:

  • Guarantee Love - Make sure that your player knows that parental pride comes from the attempt and not from the outcome. If they know they will have parental support regardless of the outcome, a child is more likely to take chances and risk failure.

  • Explain that Failure is a Result of Trying - When kids do not try, they do not fail. If parents are going to encourage their children to try new things, they are also must encourage them to accept failure. Not all new things will result in first time success.

  • Remind that Failure and Success are not Permanent - Failing or being successful today does not guarantee like outcomes in the future. In fact, many future successes start with today’s failures.

Kids are often fearful because they lack experience and dread the unknown of failure. When parents help their kids think through these unknowns, they are equipping them with the understanding to overcome this lack of experience.

Editor’s Note:
Thank you to Sports Esteem for this article.

Six Proven Steps To Help Players Overcome Fear

8_tips_to_deal_with_fear_postFear is a natural instinct that once helped protect humans from being eaten. Though being eaten is no longer a daily problem, fear is still a large part of life.

Fear is a combination of thoughts, emotions and physical responses that work together to help alert someone to danger and prepare the body to react. When a person feels fear, additional adrenaline and other chemicals are produced which increase strength and decrease reaction times. At normal levels, fear can be helpful. At excessive levels, the chemicals and emotions triggered by fear can easily cloud judgments, create a feeling of nausea and sickness and actually decrease performance.

In athletics, fear is common when players are trying something new, playing in a big game or attending team tryouts. To cope with fear, players can try these techniques:

  • Admit That You Are Afraid - Recognizing that fear is a factor is the first step in correcting it.

  • Learn and Prepare - Nothing minimizes fear more than being over prepared. The higher the confidence level players have in their ability, the less likely they are to become afraid of the outcome.

  • Focus on Positive Images - There are many images that players can visualize when motivating themselves. If the images are positive then the outcomes are more likely to be positive. Michael Jordan often visualized making free throws in his back yard when making high-pressure free throws in games.

  • Listen to Experience - When going into a new situation, seek advice from people who have been there before. Older siblings or players can help less-experienced players better understand the situation.

  • Stay Busy - Withdrawing into oneself provides even more time for negative thoughts. Staying busy with friends and family is an easy way to relax and minimize the opportunity for fear.

  • Talk it Over With Parents - Fear is normal and players’ parents have had many opportunities to experience fear in their own lives. Parents have the unique advantage of helping players see a broader perspective.

Fear can help players. The fear of being scored against can make the defense try harder to block a shot. The fear of losing can make the offense work harder to score. However, when players keep dwelling on these fears before or after the immediate event, they need to quickly work to regain control of their emotions and stay focused on playing well rather than playing afraid.

Editor’s Note:
Thank you to Sports Esteem for this article.

How to Encourage Good Sports Conduct

encouraging_good_sportsmanship_postParents often enroll their child in a hockey program to build character. Sport participation by itself, however, does not develop character in athletes. Just like any physical skill, athletes need to be taught positive behaviors. Coaches and parents both play a vital role in developing positive attitudes and behaviors in their athletes. Two major ways to develop good sport conduct is via positive role modeling and actively teaching good sport conduct.

What is Good Sport Conduct? Good sport conduct or sportsmanship are the behaviors appropriate of a sport participant. Sportsmanship occurs when athletes show respect and concern to opponents, teammates, coaches, and officials. In other words, coaches should teach their athletes to “treat others, as you would like to be treated.” Sportsmanship is an important issue facing all people involved in athletics.

Examples of good sport conduct include:

  • Shaking hands with opponents after a game

  • Helping an opponent up after a play

  • Showing concern for injured opponents

  • Accepting all decisions of the referees

  • Encouraging less skilled teammates

  • Congratulating an excellent effort by opponents

Examples of poor sport conduct include:

  • Trash talking

  • Causing injury to an opponent on purpose

  • Cheating

  • Making fun of teammates

  • Blaming losses on others

  • Running up the score against your opponents

How to Model Good Sport Conduct
- There are many ways that you can teach sportsmanship to your players, but the most important way is for you to model good sport conduct. Knute Rockne, former football coach of Notre Dame, said “One man practicing good sportsmanship is far better than 50 others preaching it.”

Young players look to adults as role models and are likely to observe their behaviors. It is unlikely that athletes will be able to control their behaviors, if their parents or coaches are unable to control their own. Adults who show respect to officials and opponents before, during, and after games can truly expect their players to do the same.

Examples of showing respect to officials:

  • Avoid calling the officials names

  • Civilly question calls

  • Be open to idea that the official is correct

  • Put yourself in the official’s shoes

Examples of showing respect to opponents:

  • Give your best effort

  • Celebrate victory respectfully

  • Engage in the pre- and post-game handshake

  • Give credit to opponents

During practices and games, it is imperative that coaches remain under control when interacting with players, assistant coaches, officials, and opposing coaches. Parents observing the good sportsmanship attitude of their children’s coach will soon understand the responsibility they have to engage in good sport conduct as spectators.

Actively Teach Sportsmanship

  • Set up rules of sportsmanship or a code of conduct at the beginning of the season. Make sure to include consequences for breaking the code. These rules and consequences must apply to all athletes in all situations.

  • Expect sportsmanship during practice and competitions

  • Bring examples of the good or poor behavior of professional or college athletes to practice. Discuss the behavior of these athletes with your team.

  • Reward athletes on your team who behave as good sports. Discipline athletes who behave as poor sports. By allowing poor sport conduct to happen on your team, you are teaching athletes that poor sport conduct is acceptable.

  • Teach athletes to be considerate of their teammates and their opponents when they win and lose.

  • Emphasize respecting opponents and officials whether they win or lose.

  • Stress the importance of sportsmanship at parent meetings.

  • Make sure your athletes know and follow the rules of the sport.

Editor’s Note: Thank you to Elevating Athletes for this article.

How to Prevent Your Child From Choking Under Pressure

keep_kids_cool_under_pressureThere are times when competition gets the best of even the most seasoned athlete. If a pro, who is at the top of his game developmentally feels the heat, how much more intense is it for our children? In the following interview, Executive Editor, TK Stohlman and Clinical Child Psychologist and Certified Sports Psychologist, Dr. Darrell Burnett, discuss how to prevent your child from choking under pressure.

Stohlman: What are some of the keys for parents to keep kids from freezing up in pressure situations?

Dr. Burnett: I think what we have to do is take a step back and view how you’re looking at youth sports in general. Consider a little league baseball game. A kid gets up to bat and his parents are sitting behind home plate within yelling distance. The parent instructs the child to get his shoulder up or watch his stance and it gets the player all psyched up and tense. The key to performing well is to relax. So if the atmosphere is tense then the child is going to pick that up.

I think the key is the word competition. If you want to try to take the pressure off, then get the your child to understand the meaning of the word competition. Sparky Anderson, a coach from a long time ago, once said time ”Competition is wonderful. The problem is what we as adults do with it when we deal with kids.” We make the competition the be-all end-all rather than competition for competition sake. The word competition comes from two Latin words meaning to seek a prize with someone. In essence, my opponent is seeking the same prize as I am. I am out there trying to do my best and the opponent is trying to do his best in search of the prize. And, if I win it is because my best was best on that day.

Sammy Lee was the first Asian-American diver to win an Olympic medal. I had a chance to talk to him about a couple of divers with whom I’ve been working. Sammy was saying when he works with divers he gets them to grasp the concept of competition that I just mentioned. He said if you come in second, all that means is that on that day you were able to bring out the best in one other person by your effort. His best on that day happened to be better than yours - just for that day. Who knows what will happen tomorrow. If you look at it that way, then you’re not putting so much pressure on yourself.

I have a picture in my office of three girls from the USA soccer team. They won the silver medal in the Olympics. The headline for the picture in the newspaper was “Settling for Silver.”  The mentality is there is no place for second place. If that idea is conveyed to a kid, then the pressure is going to be on. What we want is a kid who’s excited about competition. It’s thrilling and he really enjoys it because it brings out the best in him, but he’s not going to fall apart. If he makes a mistake, then he makes a mistake.

Stohlman: When you talk about freezing up, parents look at it as it is the kid who’s freezing up or choking, versus it is the on the parent to create the atmosphere to let them know that failing is okay.

Dr. Burnett: Exactly. All the research shows that the performers who are in the zone and do well as peak performers are relaxed. Because when you relax, your skills come through. If the kid is going up there tight as a drum and everybody is on him, that is pressure and that is not good for kids.

Editor’s Note: Thank you to Darrell Burnett for this excellent advice.

Three Ways to Improve Confidence After a Playing Slump

improve_confidence_after_slump_post1Has your confidence been dipping lately? Have you been in a funk in which you can’t find your way out? Are you beginning to expect the bounces and calls to always go against you? Do you look at an opponent and wonder “how am I going to keep up today?” The following article provides some excellent advice to get out of this rut and move towards positive thinking.

Are you seeing the glass as half empty? If so, you may be suffering from what we call a self-fulfilling prophecy. You are getting what you expect to happen—bad things. Maybe you have had a bad run lately and you are not as confident as usual. But why limit your chances of performing well and winning?

Daniel Alfredsson is an all-star and captain of the Ottawa Senators. After going to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2007 Alfredsson’s team won 13 of its first 14 games in 2008. Since, then, however, they have slumped severely and have been playing under .500 hockey. Alfredsson admitted that the team expected things to go wrong, even when they were ahead! This is definitely “glass half-empty” thinking or a pessimistic attitude.

When it comes to international soccer, Spain was similar to Ottawa with a lot of great athletes, but an underachiever in the biggest matches. Heading into the 2008 European Cup competition most analysts regarded Spain as dangerous but expected them to falter. Their history has been “large on talent, small on results.” If any team had a reason to think glass half-empty it was Spain. Why would their string of disappointments end now? However, watching Spain compete in the Euro Cup was like watching the ending of a long curse. They played with the belief and dominance that is rarely seen at an international competition, winning all five matches. The player’s body language was confident.

Had Spain succumb to the negatives of the past (“we always fall apart in big games”, “we never win the big tournaments”), they would not have won. However, the team had a transformation and played up to their ability. What can you learn from Spain’s 2008 European Cup Team and the NHL’s Ottawa Senators?

1. Start with the Glass Half-Full
How do you begin to feel more confident in your performances? Start thinking positive and be optimistic that you will come out and play well in the next game. Tell yourself, “Every day is a different day and every game is a totally new game! The glass is half full, not half empty!” Then fill that glass to the top throughout the day with confidence-building statements such as “I’m ready” and “Go for it!”

2. Focus on Yourself

Prior to the competition avoid the tendency to compare your team or yourself to your opponent and determine you will not win or play well. Instead, focus on feeling strong, fast, powerful, quick, ready, pumped and so forth. Use visualization that incorporates “feeling” words to set yourself up for success.

3. Bounce Back
After a mistake or a bad play, become resilient by refocusing on the task at hand and do not allow the recent past to affect the present. Stay focused on the puck and on the action. Little mental reminders such as ‘play the puck,’ ‘quick feet,’ and ‘be aggressive’ can help you get your mind back on the positive and productive, which will help you get out of your funk.

Editor’s Note: Thank you to Elevating Athletes for this encouraging article.

What Are The Lessons Learned in Youth Sports?

lessons_learned_in_youth_sports_postHelping a child develop in youth sports is as much physical as it is emotional. There are so many things a player can learn by being involved in competitive situations such as sports. The following article is from an interview Executive Editor TK Stohlman conducted with Jim Johnson, founder and director of flexxCoach, on the subject of the lessons children learn through youth sports.

Stohlman: Jim, you’ve coached at all levels, recreational programs, youth competitive programs and pro sports. Can you discuss your philosophy on youth sports when it comes to the important lessons they teach young athletes?

Johnson: Absolutely! I think coaching youth sports is a tremendous responsibility. Kids look up to coaches as teachers and role models and they can be the biggest influence in a child’s entire life. They have an enormous job to teach young athletes about sportsmanship which includes a respect for the opponent.

In addition, it is important to teach respect for the team, coaches and officials. Officials are just like players at the youth level because they are trying to hone their skills and get better too. Practicing sportsmanship, to me, means practicing an attitude of respect. I think that is one of the best things we can give kids as they are learning. Good sportsmanship means that we teach kids character, integrity, class, dignity, respect, honor and humility. Those are good character traits to emulate.

Another component to this is the fundamental skills that are taught in youth sports. In addition to character development, the second goal of a youth coach should be to teach and develop broad base, fundamental skills. This means not even looking at winning versus skill development at the youth level. Just look at developing the broad base fundamentals skills. This is a key to helping young athletes feel good about themselves, which will build their self-worth and self-esteem. Sports provides an arena for self development to improve strengths and weaknesses in each and every player.

Editor’s Note: Special thanks to Jim Johnson for this advice.

Why is Sportsmanship So Important?

importance-of-good-sportsmanship-postHelping your child understand the importance of sportsmanship will not only allow them to develop into a mature athlete, it will enable them to deal with difficult situations away from sports in a positive manner.

In a 2005 study by three midwestern universities, coaches of 9- to 15-year old athletes indicated a very high level of agreement with the statement, “Teaching sportsmanship is a major part of a coach’s job.” They also agreed strongly with the statement, “Coaches have a responsibility to help members of their team become better people, not just better athletes.”  The data suggests that there is a “strong desire by the parents and coaches to teach positive sports behaviors.”

The problem is that too many coaches are doing a miserable job of actually teaching sportsmanship and moral reasoning.  As Michael Josephson, head of the Josephson Institute of Ethics, notes, “Too many youngsters are confused about the meaning of fair play and sportsmanship and … have no concept of honorable competition. As a result they engage in illegal conduct and employ doubtful gamesmanship techniques to gain a competitive advantage.”

The winning-is-everything philosophy of youth sports is a major reason why children are thought to have such low moral reasoning abilities.  In an environment in which winning is paramount, children internalize the value that it is acceptable to do anything to win, even if it means cheating, bullying teammates, breaking the rules, intentionally injuring an opponent, or faking an injury to get a time out.

Part of the problem may be our culture.  Today’s society often excuses professional athletes who exhibit poor sportsmanship and practice “situational ethics” or “moral relativism,” in which there are no longer any absolute or moral truths and what is ethical behavior depends on the context .  In addition, coaches, parents, officials and youth sports organizations are not doing a good enough job teaching moral behavior to athletes.

As a society we would not find it acceptable if teachers encouraged their students to cheat on tests. Youth sports should be no different. Existing programs to teach athletes moral ethics and to help coaches to teach moral ethics should be expanded and instituted in every community. These programs help to teach decision-making, sportsmanship, competitive integrity, and competitive responsibility. These programs should include such topics as leadership, fair play, teamwork, respecting opposing players, cheating, consequences, and off-the-field behavior.

Editor’s Note: Thank you to Elevating Athletes for this article.

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