Thanks For The Motivation, Coach!

By: “The Other Coach K,” David Kelly,
High School, College and Professional Football Coach

Hi everyone ….. it’s blogging time again with “The Other Coach K”! I was truly humbled by the tremendous response, and conversation generated from my last blog, “Are You NFL Ready?” This month’s blog was motivated by an occurrence that’s happening at youth sporting events across the country. Many times our good intentions can be very damaging. Today, I want to share with you FOUR COMMON MISTAKES we as coaches and parents make when trying to MOTIVATE our athletes. Much of the following is attributed to Lisa Brown, a well-known Canadian athlete and mental toughness coach whose works I have studied and practiced extensively.

MISTAKE #1: Trying to “Help” Athletes Perform Better By Correcting Them
What is your natural tendency as a coach or parent when you see your athlete make a mistake? It’s usually to “help” them by verbally instructing them in how to correct an action, right? But guess what? Only about 5-10% of athletes are able to take a verbal correction and implement it effectively. The other 90-95% may say “OK, I got it Coach”, but then they will go back to exactly what they were doing. In fact, many athletes respond to verbal corrections in a negative way by losing confidence and performance. Why is this? First, most athletes don’t “like” being corrected. They need to figure it out on their own by “feeling” and believing in a correction or change. Second, most athletes don’t really understand the correction because it was only given verbally. Rather than correcting your athlete verbally, coaches and parents can truly “help” their athletes perform better by encouraging them to visualize and feel a correction or movement. Try it out next time and see what you think!

MISTAKE #2: Failing to BELIEVE in Your Athletes
Have you ever given your child or athlete a pep talk or compliment to boost his or her self-confidence, only to observe his or her performance worsen? Well, guess what? This should not be a surprise, because now your child or athlete feels your doubt! It’s natural to begin doubting a player who is inconsistent, negative, or lacks confidence. And as a coach or parent, our natural tendency is to try and “fix” the problem through pep talks, compliments, or corrections. Despite our good intentions, what we are really communicating are our doubts. Dr. Steven R. Covey, in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, describes a situation where he and his wife struggled to believe in their son. When they began to focus on their son’s unique qualities, they saw huge potential that would be realized at his own pace. They changed their approach to value him for who he was, and within months, he developed a quiet confidence academically, athletically, and socially. I heard a great definition of a coach that we can also apply to parenting: “A coach is a person who sees a larger possibility of you than you do of yourself.” How do you see your struggling athlete or child? Do you really believe in their potential, or are you waiting for them to show you something first? And by truly understanding how to cure fear in those you mentor and support, you will finally reach your full potential as a coach or parent. Success will seem easier, but in reality, it will be YOU who has changed!

MISTAKE #3: Being Too “Nice” To Athletes
Did you know that most motivated athletes don’t respond well to the “nice” coaches, like me??? ☺ We don’t have to treat our athletes harshly to get good results – – – but being too “nice” will not gain an athlete’s approval and may work against his or her self-confidence. Athletes are confident and mentally tough from the inside out. When they are truly confident, they are motivated to win mentally and physically. They will train harder because they believe they will prevail. If your athlete perceives you as looking for his approval, he will become uncomfortable and less likely to follow your coaching in a motivated way.

MISTAKE #4: Praising Athletes
What’s wrong with praising athletes? Praise is not actually the problem – it’s the way coaches and parents deliver the praise. According to Dr. Nathaniel Branden, author of The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem, we need to use “factual praise” rather than “judgmental praise”. Factual praise creates confidence and self-esteem by training your athlete to seek their OWN approval, whereas judgmental praise sends a sometimes subtle message that the athlete needs YOUR approval. Rather than praising your athlete by saying, “Wow, what a performance today, you did great!” ….. try a factual approach such as, “I noticed how you challenged his quickness today. You worked really hard to maintain your poise and it paid off!” You just might get a beaming response from your athlete along the lines of, “Yes, my strategy worked today. I’m getting smarter all the time!” Try it next time, and tell me what you think!

Hopefully you were able to gain a little from the above information, and if so, pass it on to a fellow parent or coach. Our youth are our future, so let’s build a solid foundation for them to SUCCEED!

Oh no, I think I hear Jonathan (“Coach Darth Vader”) returning to the workout facility, so I have to hurry out of here before he makes me do another set of the “Human Torture Exercise” (Turkish Get-ups).

Final Note: In honor of the late, great, Dr. Maya Angelou, some of her most memorable thoughts:

(1) “Be a rainbow for someone amidst the dark clouds of life.”

(2) “As soon as you know something, and you have tried it, tell it to someone.”

(3) “I learned things this week that I didn’t know last week. This is one of the reasons one stays alive and interesting-they continue to learn.”

Talk to you next month!
“The Other Coach K”

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