“Seek opportunities to show you care. The smallest gestures often make the biggest difference.”
John Wooden

Friday, December 23, 2016

Our 2016 Books of the Year

December 3, 2016
“You cannot open a book without learning something.” – Confucius
Yes, it is that time of year again, the time where our staff shares some of our favorite reads in the world of coaching, parenting, and athlete development. We are all avid readers and lifelong learners, and every year we pour through numerous books, articles, podcasts and more looking for inspiration and great information to pass on to all of you. Below you will find our favorite books of 2016, the ones we picked up and learned the most from. You can click on any title to cover image to grab it on Amazon. At the end of the article is a link to our favorite books from years past, in case you want to dive deeper or get a book for a parent, coach or athlete in your life. Enjoy.

Best Book for Coaches:

This book was the clear winner for me this year. Most books by coaches (Mike Smith Coaches the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons) talk about their championship season. This book shares how Smith took the Falcons from an also ran to perennial title contender by purposefully building the culture. Then it details how he lost sight of the things that made them great, which eventually cost him his job. The book also contains tremendous insight from Jon Gordon on his work building positive team cultures, and tons a great activities for coaches to do with their teams. This book is a must for any serious coach!

Honorable mention:

Extreme Ownership: How US Navy Seals Lead and Win by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
How do coaches and leaders get the most out of their people? Start by taking ownership of everything, both good and bad. This great read details lessons learned by the authors during their time as SEAL team commanders with Task Unit Bruiser during the Iraq War, and how any leader can learn from what the SEALs do. Our biggest takeaway: when a leader blames a team member, the blame game starts and excuses start flying. The blame cascades down and ultimately no one takes responsibility. But when leaders have “extreme ownership” then team members will admit to wrongdoing and be held accountable as well. Think about that your next team talk!
The author attended our Way of Champions conference in July 2016, and that is how we learned about this wonderful book. In it, she tells her story as a consultant with a talented but underachieving high school hockey team. She tells how she used her business experience building strength based teams to help every individual understand what their teammates brought to the team, the reasons behind their behavior, and a path forward that eventually leads to a state championship. Monte shares her entire blueprint that coaches can do with their own teams. It is a great read.
Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise by Roberto Pool and Anders Ericsson
If you have read The Talent Code or Outliers then you have heard of Anders Ericsson, the researcher on expertise whose work was slightly bastardized by Malcolm Gladwell and others into the false “10,000 Hour Rule.” In this book, Ericsson sets the record straight, replies to other critics of his work, and teaches coaches how to make practice both purposeful and deliberate. There are some real gems in this one.
Click on the link below to read the rest of the article:

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Let’s Stop the Early Sport Specialization Madness!

September 27, 2016

(photo: bretcontreras.com)

(photo: bretcontreras.com)
“I have a question,” said a mother recently at one of my speaking engagements. “I have an 8-year-old son who loves soccer. But the only soccer team in our town requires that he play all year round, and he still wants to play other sports. What are we to do?”
Sound familiar?
Across the country, I hear similar questions all the time. I meet parents who understand that playing a single sport year-round prior to high school is not good for their kids. But they are stuck. There is no alternative. Name any sport, and parents are often faced with a similar dilemma. The only organizations that provide higher level coaching, and where most of the better athletes play, require all or nothing commitments far before any experts recommend them (As a caveat, this article does not pertain to sports considered early specialization sports such as female gymnastics, figure skating, and diving, where elite competitors reach their athletic peak in their mid-teens).
Want a spot for your 8-year-old soccer player? Welcome aboard, as long as you make soccer your primary commitment 11 months a year. Want to play basketball this winter for three months? Sorry, we will give your spot to someone else. Does your family like to camp on summer weekends? Sorry, we have baseball tournaments every weekend, and we don’t take kids on our spring baseball travel team who won’t commit to playing in the summer and fall.
Want to make the high school team? Want to be recruited for college? So many parents feel the pressure to force their kids all in too young, especially when colleges in sports likes women’s soccer and lacrosse are scouting middle school age events. (The NCAA, sadly, has refused to take action, even though the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Associations have drafted and supported proposals banning contact with kids before September 1 of their junior year! Even the Ivy League has asked the NCAA to put a stop to early recruiting.)
The youth sports system, aptly called the “youth sports industrial complex” by ESPN writer Tim Keown, is failing our kids, especially when it comes to early sports specialization. We are robbing our kids of their childhood and the opportunity to experience the joy of participating in multiple sports.
Click on the link below to read the rest of the article:

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Olympic swim coach David Marsh says secret he learned long ago helped US women to gold

August 12, 2016

2016 U.S. Olympic women's swim team coach David Marsh says he’s needed to gain the trust of his team to help motivate them.

2016 U.S. Olympic women's swim team coach David Marsh says he’s needed to gain the trust of his team to help motivate them. Jeff Siner

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/sports/spt-columns-blogs/scott-fowler/article95400887.html#storylink=cpy

- David Marsh thought the banner was a good idea at the time, although in hindsight he believes it was one of the dumbest coaching decisions he ever made.
This hard lesson in how to best coach women came more than 15 years ago, long before Charlotte's Marsh ascended to his current high-profile summer job as the head coach of the extremely successful 2016 U.S. Olympic women's swim team. That team has grabbed multiple medals almost every night so far in Brazil at these Olympics, helping push Team USA to the top of the overall medal standings.
Marsh still lived in Alabama 15 years ago when he found out what not to do when you coach women. He was the head coach of both the men's and women's swim teams at Auburn. His women had just finished the first day of a three-day meet that would decide the national championship. They had never won a national title before, but they were in the lead and flying high.
Let's really motivate them for the final two days, Marsh and his staff decided. So they had a mock banner designed for the team meeting that night proclaiming the Auburn women's team as national champions and then unveiled it to the women.
"And we couldn't have swum worse the next day," Marsh said. "There were tears all over the pool deck. We had projected an outcome, making it more about results than relationships. It was ridiculous."
In his regular job, Marsh coaches some of the best male and female swimmers in the world for SwimMAC Carolina's Team Elite in Charlotte. But he doesn't coach them the same way. He has learned a number of things over the years. The most important one, he said, comes down to the fact that most female swimmers value relationships over results.
"The magic happens when they all get along," Marsh said. "And they also want to hear from people they trust. With the men, they often want to hear from just anybody who will jack them up a little bit. With the women, if they don't trust you, you can't motivate them."

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/sports/spt-columns-blogs/scott-fowler/article95400887.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/sports/spt-columns-blogs/scott-fowler/article95400887.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/sports/spt-columns-blogs/scott-fowler/article95400887.html#storylink=cpy
Click on the link below to read the rest of the article:

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/sports/spt-columns-blogs/scott-fowler/article95400887.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/sports/spt-columns-blogs/scott-fowler/article95400887.html#storylink=cpy

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Championship Behaviors For Better Coaching

By Terry Pettit
August 8, 2016

Terry Pettit
Coach Pettit talks to members of his 1995 national championship team (Lincoln Journal Star)

Consider these Championship Behaviors that will make you a better coach this season!

1. Limit the amount of talking you do in practice with the use of key words. If it takes more than two minutes to explain a drill or a behavior you are entertaining yourself and confusing your players.

2. Leave sarcasm at the door. Sarcasm is easy and fun with peers, but it erodes trust when used by an authority figure with the people he is attempting to teach or lead. Even when the person of less power laughs she can feel diminished by the most important person in her development.

3. Every time we ask a player to make an adjustment we are entering into a contract with them that says: If you are willing to be uncomfortable and take this risk as a player, then I am going to limit my feedback to you on this one behavior. It's not productive to ask a player to lengthen the first step on her approach and then observe that she attacked the ball to the wrong zone.

Click on the link below to read the rest of the article:


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

That’s Not Coaching. It’s Child Abuse.

By Harlan Coben

May 30 (Bloomberg) -- The coach called one player a “f*****g retard” in front of his teammates. He told others that they shouldn’t enjoy themselves after a game because they played like, well, a compound obscenity sometimes used as a derogatory term for the female anatomy.
In the coach’s attempt to motivate his boys during one halftime, he gathered them around him and told them that they were playing as though they were (pardon the shock value) undertaking a sexual act with, yes, their own grandmothers. It seems kind of small by comparison, but he also threw clipboards and kicked equipment, insulted the players’ families, cursed out coaches and referees, and humiliated and berated and singled out several players to the point of tears.
No, this isn’t Rutgers University or the latest collegiate scandal. This is a volunteer father coaching my son’s grade-school lacrosse team in my New Jersey hometown.
Why are we still allowing this?
The above story isn’t unique. We’ve all seen these guys on the sidelines. We parents may not condone it, but we’ve learned to accept it. We put up with this behavior because we worry that if we question it, there will be repercussions for our kid. He’ll get less playing time, we fear. She will be moved down from the A to the B team. He will be the brunt of even more abuse. We see our choices as putting up with it or denying our kid the sports experience. We start to justify it in our minds. “Hey,” we tell ourselves, “this is how Woody Hayes coached. The guy really knows the game. Maybe it’s a good thing.”
I, too, was guilty of thinking like this.
But we know better. And it has to stop.
Maybe the screaming and shouting worked for another generation. It doesn’t work now. And even if it did, even if your sixth-grade program ended up with a record of 11-2 with abuse when it would have been 9-4 without (and the evidence strongly suggests that the opposite is true), so what?
New Jersey has just adopted some of the toughest anti-bullying legislation to which our own children are accountable. Shouldn’t we demand the same from our coaches? Could you ever imagine a schoolteacher or debate coach behaving in such a manner?
What I’ve noticed -- and yes, this is anecdotal -- is that the best teams with the best coaches seem to be have the calmest sidelines. Rather than shouting specific instructions at players -- and chastising them for every mistake -- these coaches have already taught their players what to do. They trust these kids to take responsibility. Sure, the kids mess up, but there is a lot to be said for playing without fear. They play better, learn to be instinctive, and -- gasp -- have more fun.
Click on the link below to read the rest of the article:

Monday, June 20, 2016

Life Lessons from my “Old School” Sports Dad

June 14, 2016
I remember the conversation like it was yesterday.
I was a sophomore in high school, and I was mad. I was offended. I was aggrieved… I had been benched.
When I got home from school, I wanted someone to tell me how I was right, and the coach was wrong. I wanted someone to tell me that I was great, and my teammates who had replaced me were not. I wanted someone to validate my feelings..
Luckily for me, I had chosen to have my “woe is me” talk with my dad. He was an old school guy, born and raised in the Bronx. He had been forced to retire from his dream job — the NY City Fire Department — after destroying his back during a fire. Life had been good to him, and tough to him, and he certainly wasn’t intending to make it easy on me.
His goal wasn’t to make me feel better that day. His goal was to make me BE better.
“John,” he said, “regardless of whether you think your coach is right or wrong, regardless of whether you think you are better or worse than your teammates, that is really all beside the point.”
I sat quietly. You do not interrupt my dad.
“The question you have to ask yourself is ‘have I done everything in my control to earn a starting spot?’”
I thought about it. “Yes, I’m better than those guys,” I protested.
“That is not what I am talking about,” he said. “That’s one man’s opinion. Here are some things that are not. Do you show up early and do extra work? Do you stay after and work on your game, or even run laps and improve your fitness? Do you pick up the cones when training is done? Have you gotten up before school yet this season to do extra work on the track, or against the kick back wall?”
“No,” I answered, not liking where this was heading.
“Well, until you have done anything and everything you can do to show your coach and teammates beyond any doubt who deserves to be out there, you have nothing to complain about. I suggest you get back to work and leave your coach no choice but to put you in, because right now he clearly has a choice.”
Conversation: TERMINATED.
This was a defining moment for me as an athlete. Our relationship was not always rosy when it came to sports, There were certainly other things he said and did that did not affect me in a positive manner. For whatever reason, though, this lesson had the desired effect. From that day forward, as a high school, collegiate and professional player, I always believed that I had nothing to say until my actions spoke first. It was up to me to leave no doubt. In the words of inspirational former Cornell Lacrosse player George Boiardi, as told by Jon Gordon in his great book The Hard Hat: 21 Ways to be a Great Teammate,“Well done is better than well said.”
I get a lot of emails and inquiries about kids ‘playing out of position,’ about being ‘forced’ to play for a tough coach and struggling for playing time. Since the recent changes in US Soccer birth years, I have heard a ton about kids having difficulties adapting to new teammates and age groups. And I get it.
Click on the link below to read the rest of the article:

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

3 Ways Coaches Can Inspire Their Athletes

May 31, 2016
A few nights ago I went to a graduation. Not a high school or a college graduation, but one far smaller, and far more personal. In fact, there were only seven kids, one of which was my 9-year-old son TJ. He and six others were being recognized by their amazing teacher for their dedication, hard work, and persistence in overcoming their struggles with a language-based learning disability that strikes one in five children. They all have dyslexia.
The teacher began the ceremony with a talk about self-efficacy.
“Self-efficacy,” he said, “is the belief that your effort and hard work matter. It’s a child’s belief in their ability to achieve their goals and complete tasks. In our schools, in our sports, so many times these kids lose that belief because of a learning disability. They are called slow learners, they are called frustrating, they can’t sit still so they are called disruptive, and yet, in reality, they probably work harder than anyone else in their class. They just have a disability that impedes their progress, through no fault of their own. They work so hard, and yet are led to believe that their work does not matter. So they eventually give up.”
One by one the seven kids were called to the front of the room, and their teacher described their unique gifts, their unique paths, and how they had overcome their own unique struggles in school and in life. He gave each of them an award related to their contribution and development, not just in reading, but in art, in laughter, and in relationships with others. He caught them being good at things and recognized them for it. And as he described each award, I saw an amazing thing: a smile on each kids face that could light up a room.
As the famous conductor and speaker Benjamin Zander says: “Look at their eyes. If their eyes are shining, you know you’re doing it.”
I saw seven pairs of eyes shining that day. Which brings us to an important question:
Are your players’ eyes shining when you coach?
Does your presence make your athletes day a better one?  Do you recognize each and every one of them for their unique gifts and contributions to the team? Or do you only spend time with a few of your players, likely the starters and/or upperclassmen. Have you ever wondered why you had a roster full of talent, but no team? I have.
Many years ago I had a group with lots of talent, but no team. We had players dissatisfied with their role. We lacked effort in training. We were outworked in games. I had front row seats watching our season go down the tubes. Thankfully, I also had a friend and mentor who happened to be a 6x national champion NCAA soccer coach, Jerry Yeagley from Indiana University, whose words stick with me to this day:
“John, coaching isn’t just running practices and X’s and O’s. It’s about culture, and unity, and recognizing every player for what they bring to the table. Your problem is you have a bunch of piano players. Every team needs some piano carriers too, and if you want people to carry the piano in training and games it’s up to you to let them know that they matter too.”
Those words from Jerry nearly two decades ago changed how I coached, how I led, and how I set up my teams. But something far more important happened that day.
The fact that the legendary Jerry Yeagley cared enough to help me – an unknown, unimportant college assistant and youth coach – made my eyes shine.  He made me feel like the most important person in the room. He made me remember how my favorite coaches made me believe in myself and let me know that my contribution mattered. And he made me feel like I was progressing, and I had a future in coaching.
What I realized that day was this: If I can make my players feel like Coach Yeags just made me feel they would run through a wall for me, and for each other. If I could get them to believe in themselves like his words made me believe in myself, then nothing could stop us. I learned that day that coaching isn’t only about X’s and O’s, but about relationships. I realized for the first time that if I could win the relationship game, I could help my teams win the game on the field too.
I realized that I had to make my own players’ eyes shine!
Most coaches ignore the relationship game. They assume that players know when they are doing well and when they are not. They forget how great it feels to get a compliment, or to be trusted and believed in. They forget what it was like as a player to see progress, and have your contribution recognized. Maybe that is the way they were coached, so they assume since they were OK with it, everyone is OK with it. But they are not.
Another mistake coaches make is that they spend too much time focusing on their top performers. Yet what about the other players on the team, the ones who don’t get the recognition? The ones whose names don’t appear in the paper, and may not even appear on the game day roster. They may never score the winning goal, or make the big save, yet they are a vital part of the culture of championship teams. They make practices better. They are the top players #1 fans. They can be your biggest allies, or your worst adversaries. How do we serve them?
I recently had the opportunity to see business and organizational health guru Pat Lencioni  speak about his excellent new book The Ideal Team Player, and he discussed three areas bosses often fail their team members. In essence, he was discussing how we fail to make our people’s eyes shine.

Every athlete, whether a star player or the last one off the bench, needs three things from a coaching staff. The presence of these three things will help get every player to buy in. The absence, or worse, the antithesis, will destroy your culture, and tear your team apart.
Here are three keys to making your athlete’s eyes light up, improving performance, and building a championship culture:
Click on the link below to read the rest of the article:

Saturday, May 21, 2016

It’s Time for the NCAA to Stop the Early Recruiting Insanity


"The lacrosse recruiting process is a broken system that fails kids and their families," writes former U.S. U19 coach Kim Simons. (Kevin Tucker)

"The lacrosse recruiting process is a broken system that fails kids and their families," writes former U.S. U19 coach Kim Simons. (Kevin Tucker)
I recently received a phone call from a friend who is one of the national directors of coaching for a major US sport governing body. He told me the story of a recent phone call his office received from a distraught parent:
“We just had tryout for our local club and my son was placed on the B team. I need someone from your office to contact our club and demand that my son be placed on the top team. There is no way he should have been cut and he is going to miss out on going to the right events these next few years,” said the distraught mother. “My son is a Division 1 prospect and he is being cheated out of that opportunity.”
“Here is the kicker,” said my friend with a chuckle. “Her son was 9 years old!”
Has this parent lost the plot? Yes. But here is what is scary.
That mom might might have a 13-14 year old who has already been asked to make a verbal commitment to a college! She might have an 8th or 9th grade daughter playing lacrosse, soccer, or a number of other sports on a weekly basis in front of college recruiters. She is not the only one who has lost the plot.
The recruiting scene in youth sports has gone completely insane. It is hurting families. It is ramping up pressure on parents, coaches and kids. And it is terrible for universities that have freshmen on campus who have sometimes committed to a school they never visited, playing for a coach that didn’t even recruit them, and over their heads academically, athletically, even socially.
I feel for parents and athletes in the current environment. Mom and dad are scared their child will miss out on a scholarship because they hear about 8thgraders being recruited and 9th graders verbally committing. I cannot imagine what it feels like for a kid. When I was a high school athlete, if you committed to a college in September of your senior year, before you had even applied, people looked at you with a look that said “why are you in such a hurry?”
Today, kids who have not committed by spring of their sophomore year are told “what are you waiting for?” This is insane.
I have yet to meet a college coach who likes it.
I have yet to meet a student athlete who benefits by it.
I have yet to meet a parent who isn’t stressed out by it.
Most importantly, I have yet to come across an institution that so blatantly disregards its mission statement to serve student athletes as does the NCAA. They allow this environment to exist with a shrug of the shoulders, claiming this section of their 500-page recruiting rule book is “unenforceable” and might limit student opportunities to gather information about schools. Meanwhile, they march off to the bank to cash that next billion dollar TV contract. It’s not only sad; it’s a complete abdication of their responsibility.
In her excellent piece about the recruiting nightmare in women’s lacrosse former Georgetown head coach Kim Simmons Tortolani does a fantastic job outlining the detrimental effects on her sport caused by the accelerated recruiting calendar. She points out how it encourages early sport specialization, parents holding kids back a year to get an athletic advantage, year-round lacrosse, and high cost travel and club sports at younger and younger ages that kill participation numbers. These same issues exist across all sports.
Early recruiting also contributes to the high transfer rate among sports with early commitments. Michigan St men’s basketball coach Tom Izzo recently commented on the alarming transfer rate among NCAA D1 basketball players which has risen from 200 transfers a decade ago to nearly 800 this year. He states that players lack resiliency, but at the same time, how many kids transfer because they get to a school they committed to years prior when they were a different player, and a different person?
Finally, many athletes simply quit playing after their freshman year, burnt out on a sport they went all in on way too young, no longer willing to commit the 30 plus hours a week to their sport required in college. In its recent study of its athletes, the NCAA found that the number of athletes who committed to a single sport prior to age 12 was on the rise, and that the number one regret of athletes was that they did not play more sports growing up.
Click on the link below to read the rest of the article:

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Is Your Kid’s Coach a Bully?

By John O'Sullivan
March 30, 2016

A youngster chews on his mouthguard during the filming of the television docu-series "Friday Night Tykes" in San Antonio, Texas.
A youngster chews on his mouthguard during the filming of the television docu-series "Friday Night Tykes" in San Antonio, Texas. (Walter Iooss—Esquire Network/Reuters)

“I think my kid’s coach is a bully, and I don’t know what to do,” a distraught parent named Dan said to me the other day. “My kid hates a sport he used to love. He has been called things by his coach that no kid should ever be called. Forget sports; this is trickling into every aspect of his life!”
“I’m a teacher,” he continued, “and if I treated my students like that everyone would go to the principal. But it is his coach, so we all stay quiet. I am afraid if I say anything to this coach, or to the school, my son will be the one who suffers. What do I do?”
Have you ever felt like Dan did in this situation?
Have you felt that your son or daughter was being treated in a way that had potential long term consequences far beyond the sports field, yet felt helpless to intervene because you were afraid it might even make the situation worse? Has your child told you “just forget about it” even though you see negative effects from the behavior on and off the field?
Could there be a more difficult situation in youth sports for a parent and an athlete?
Sadly, bullying behavior by coaches is not uncommon. Far more worrisome, though, is that it is often overlooked in the sport arena, by the very same educational administrators that would never tolerate such behavior by a teacher. In the club sports world, with far less oversight, I fear the problem may even be worse.
A year ago I set out to write this very article, and instead ended up penning one called Are Great Coaches Becoming an Endangered Species? I did so because in my experience people often misunderstand bullying, or mischaracterize tough, challenging coaching as bullying. Without rehashing that entire article here (and before you go off on kids getting soft and this is competitive sports, etc., I encourage you to read it as we are all for coaches who hold kids to a high standard when done the right way)
Here is a  partial list of items that are often mistaken as bullying, but are in fact why coaches are so necessary in the life of a child. A great coach improves sport performance and teaches life lessons by:
  • Positively pushing your child out of his or her comfort zone to improve performance;
  • Demanding focus and effort each and every day, whether at practice or competition;
  • Playing your child in an unfamiliar position to stretch his or her ability to handle adversity;
  • Does not feel pressure to start your child every game to appease you, the parent;
  • Having higher expectations for your child than you or your child has
  • Having a different opinion of your child’s potential than you do;
  • Expecting commitment and following through with reasonable repercussions for players who do not fulfill it, applied equally for every player;
  • Expecting your child to adhere to team rules and standards;
  • Holding your child to a standard that you might not hold him or her to, regardless of the effect it may have on the outcome of a game.
So what makes a coach a bully?
First of all, in this article Signe Whitson gives an important explanation of the differences between being rude, being mean, and being a bully. Being rude is inadvertently saying or doing things that hurt others. Many coaches use sarcasm in their coaching, and they unintentionally hurt their players. While these actions might seem to be bullying, according to Whitson, in context they are actually “incidents of rudeness that are usually spontaneous, unplanned inconsideration, based on thoughtlessness, poor manners or narcissism, but not meant to actually hurt someone.”
Some coaches are downright mean, in that they intentionally say and do things to hurt others once or twice. Mean coaches are different from rude coaches because of the intent. “Why did I ever pick you for this team Johnny, you are a waste of a uniform.” “Jenny, you are so slow, and you are 20 lbs overweight, you really shouldn’t be out here.” These comments are downright mean, and not appropriate for a coach. Yet by definition, they are not bullying if they happen once or twice, according to Whitson (sadly, that one comment could still be one that makes a child quit).
Click on the link below to read the rest of the article:

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Praise Them Like You Should

By Mark O'Sullivan
February 25, 2016
The Responsibility and Privilege of Coaching Youth Sports - CoachUp Blog - Jackie Bledsoe
At this time of year, the coach education courses are coming thick and fast. Nearly every weekend from January to May I will be delivering to coaches either of the first two stages of a fantastic curriculum developed by the Swedish FA. Each group I work with is unique. Coaches between the ages of 16 and 55 sit in the same room discussing personal experiences, training design, how we meet the child’s physical and emotional needs and the many issues that are presently polarising the debate around child and youth sport in Sweden. Opinions come in many shades as experiential knowledge and socio-cultural factors are so varied. This leads to many rich and rewarding discussions and hopefully with the material provided during the course helps guide the coaches (and me) towards developing a more informed opinion.
One thing that I have been reflecting on after leading these courses (with the aim of deepening my understanding of how the learner learns and how learning occurs) is the praising of effort by coaches. Richard Bailey in his Psychology Today article “The Problem with Praise” refers to a rationale that is commonly expressed by coaches during these courses. One of praise bolstering self-esteem and criticism harming it. “In effect this is the “gas gauge” theory of self- esteem, in which praise fills up the tank with good feelings and social approval and criticism drains it”. Later in the piece Bailey delivers a crucial line that us coach educators need to take with us in to the classroom saying, “poorly judged praise can do more harm than good”.
We need to discuss the howwhy and what of coaches praising effort. What do they say and how is this interpreted by the learner? Why do they say it? What is that effort, does it lead to learning and if not how can we ‘nudge’ or guide the leaner to find a way?
“Always try to praise the effort, not the outcome. That’s the lesson that parents and teachers often take from my work. But it’s the wrong lesson, or it can easily become so.” – Carol Dweck
Praising effort has for many been interpreted as central to the work of Carol Dweck. This interpretation has created many misunderstandings. Recently Dweck has spoken out about the common misconception in equating growth mind-set with effort. She explains, “It really is about learning.”
When we are stuck between a rock and a hard place “we need a learning reaction”. We need to vary our approach to learn and improve. We can reflect on what we have done, the effort that got us here but we must be willing to investigate and develop new strategies. We need to seek out help from others. We need to learn to thrive in the storm of the challenge embracing setbacks on our way to learning. Navigating this storm is complex. A young player may display a growth mindset but suddenly a “trigger” can propel him/her back to a fixed mindset. This also applies to the coach.
I must ask myself how good am I at understanding these triggers and recognising a fixed mind-set reaction?
Click on the link below to read the rest of the article:

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Mike Ditka’s Lasting Influence on Ron Rivera

Rivera was a member of the 1985 'Super Bowl Shuffle' Bears, and he's finally recaptured some of that old magic in Carolina

By Peter King
January 21, 2016

The best team has a great sense of family.
The best family has a great culture.
Within that culture there is tremendous character.
— Ron Rivera’s mantra, repeated daily, to his team.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Blah blah blah character, blah blah sense of family and blah culture. Heard it before. All coaches at all levels in all sports say something like this every season, or maybe a few times per the season.
Do they say it every day? Do they also have it leading off a Power Point at the daily team meeting? Do they carry the message on a folded-up index card in a pocket during games, alone in the pocket, so it can be pulled out to remind the team about family and culture and character if need be?
Rivera does. He doesn’t care how corny and hackneyed it is. It’s a feeling he got in his second season as a player in the NFL, with the Super Bowl champion Bears and coach Mike Ditka in 1985, the Super Bowl Shuffle Bears. And it’s a feeling he’s been chasing ever since—in every coaching job he’s had, and certainly in this one, with the Panthers, who will host the Cardinals in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday. It’s the first conference title game ever in Charlotte. You can credit many people for the Panthers playing the biggest home game in their history this week, but the more people you ask around here, the more say it’s not happening without the steady and nurturing hand of Rivera.
“When I talk about family, and culture, and character, I know what a lot of people think,” Rivera says. “But to me this game has so much to do with building a family. I think back to that ’85 team, which was different than any team that Coach Ditka had. That ’85 group of guys loved each other. And in ’86 it was different. Even though we were better statistically, ’85 was about a family and we never recaptured that. This team right now seems to be capturing that family sense. As a coach it’s exciting because you watch these guys and they go to dinner, they hang out, they go bowling, they go to the basketball games together. Guys have a charity event and 25 teammates show up. We bring Charles Tillman in this year, and he’s new, and he does this thing for the Wounded Warrior Project and 25 or 30 guys show up, but that’s the kind of group that we have.”
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