The next few posts will be responses to questions posted on our PC/Ultimate Mindset Facebook Page. Enjoy and keep the questions coming!
Original comment/question: "Getting the team hyped up the wrong way - during a game there's an important point - do you pump up by saying "do we want this?! Do we want it more than them?!" ...etc...Do you pump at all? I feel that's when a lot of teams make mistakes is in that game point...certain things you say I think can have a more negative impact because you're putting more pressure on it.
I'm guessing this question is stemming from experiences with the often used strategy of a rowdy pep-talk intended to pump people up to increase motivation, effort, or execution. We yell things like, "C'MON, YOU KNOW WE WANT THIS MORE THAN THEY DO!" or "THIS IS OUR GAME!" or "WE'RE BETTER THAN THIS TEAM, WE'VE GOTTA STOP PLAYING DOWN TO THEIR LEVEL." Etc...etc...etc.
I'll be clear, I say "we" because I have given my fair share of these speeches (feel free to check with my Ultimate and soccer teammates dating back to high school). Sometimes they work and sometimes they don't.
Why is that and how do we fix it?
Problem: Everyone is different.
Okay, maybe not everyone. But on a team of almost any size you're going to have pockets of people who have different needs in different moments. That speech will work for the other people who need that type of speech in that moment. Unfortunately, in that same moment, you'll have pockets of people who need calming reassurance or a deliberate breath and that speech will only derail them further.
Strategy: Make a plan as a team.
Take 10 minutes during a stretching session at the end of a practice to ask people to talk about what they need in those moments. Make it a conversation driven by curiosity and team growth - aka, don't heckle people's contributions. Ask what works for them and what doesn't. Not everyone will participate, and that's okay...but get as many people talking as you can.
Key takeaways from this conversation should be:
-We hear you, we took notes and we (captains/leadership/coaches) will cater to everyone's motivational needs as much as we can, but it'll never be perfect. So....
-Each of us is responsible for our own needs. Be aware of where you're at, what you need, and how you can get it. (This may mean staying in the huddle but tuning out the speech).
-Find buddies who have similar motivational styles as you so you know who you can talk to or simply be near in those moments.
If the pump-up speech is a leader's only strategy it is likely going to lose value and effectiveness.
Strategy: Look inward / Speak up
If you're the leader/teammate overusing the pump up speech: Look inward. Pause, relfect and ask yourself curiously why is that my go-to strategy? What am I seeing/feeling that makes me want to say something? Do I have an accurate read on how my speeches are perceived by my team? What are other strategies I can try? The answers to these questions may not come to mind readily, so give them time. If you don't know how your speeches are perceive - ask around. If you're not sure what other strategies you can try...practice breaking down what you're seeing: is it an effort thing? is it a precision thing? is it a confidence/composure thing? As you refine your observation about what's going wrong, you'll be able to diversify what you're saying to fix it. (And, as always feel free to ask me anytime).
If you're a teammate of someone who is overusing the pump-up speech: speak up. That doesn't necessarily mean go straight to this person and tell them you think they're overusing the pump-up speech. I'd suggest first speaking to other teammates to make sure you're not the only one who feels it is overused. (Caution: this should be approached with a behavior-focused, problem-solving manner...Not as a gossip session which tends to be done in a person-focused, problem-lamenting manner.) If your data suggests others have the same sense you do, then speak to the person directly.
Problem: The message and the messenger
If the message comes across as inauthentic, fake, or simply lacking the right emotion - the speech will likely demotivate instead of motivate. If the message is too focused on the outcome instead of the process OR the person giving the speech is too emotional - the speech will likely create unnecessary or unhelpful pressure.
Strategy: Be flexible
I almost always see inauthentic speeches when coaches/captains/leadership feel like it is their sole responsibility to motivate. This means they give a speech even if they aren't feeling it or they try to get the team to calm down, but they're a hot mess.
I encourage all team members to look for the person who has what the team needs in that moment and leverage them. If your team needs fire, who's got fire? If the team needs calm, who's most composed? It might be the rookie. It might be the quiet one. It doesn't matter. Ask them if they can share what they've got in a way that works for them. This is a task not just for leadership, but for all team members.
Keeping speeches focused on the process takes practice. It takes re-training your brain to first think about the process: Yes, we want to score this point or win this game, but reminding people of that often adds pressure that people weren't expecting in that moment. Instead, tell us what we can DO to make that happen: shut-down person defense? taking more risks with the disc? taking fewer risks with the disc? running through catches? better sideline talk? simply out-work the other team?
1. Mental training should be as deliberate as your fitness and skills training - both for individuals and teams.
2. Ultimately, we are all responsible for ourselves. Own that. Because when you do, what other people say and do will only effect you if you want it to.
Hopefully this was helpful and answered the question asked!
Other questions I'll be answering in the next few posts (in no particular order):
-What are other quick ways to recover and get back on track when you're struggling?
-What can players do to be good teammates when we feel the mental toughness/morale of the team slipping?
-Are there mental warm-ups we should be doing in addition to our physical warm-ups?
If you have a question that's not captured here, reach out via email or social media and I'll add it to my list!
Building resilience and mental toughness: TIPS FOR COACHES AND PARENTS OF YOUTH & HIGH-SCHOOL ATHLETES
The fall season is coming to a close, and many of our young Ultimate players will be competing in championship events like high school state tournaments or YCC Regional Championships.
As coaches and parents of youth and high-school athletes, you have the opportunity to develop their mental toughness and resilience. While this may as well be considered a full time responsibility of coaches and parents, your impact will be particularly strong during these ‘big’ championship-type events.
Some of your influence is explicit – e.g. how you talk to your athletes about winning and losing. And some of your influence is implicit – e.g. your body language (subtle and grand) when your team scores/wins or gets scored on/loses, etc. The 4 tips below will help you make sure your explicit and implicit influence is developing mentally tough and resilient athletes.
1. Focus on the process and the experience:
Let me be clear, I am not saying winning and losing don’t mean anything. I’m saying winning and losing aren’t everything. The thing is, focusing on the outcome often moves us farther away from our desired outcome. Focusing on the process keeps us motivated, learning, growing, and enables us to move closer to our desired outcomes. While most of us likely understand this, it can be easy to get caught up in the moment. Use these strategies and examples to stay focused on the process and experience:
*Parents: These are often the conversations you have after the game or in the car ride home. To keep your kids interested, motivated, and enjoying their sport consider moving your conversations toward the process.
2. Don’t sugar coat performance – have the tough conversation:
Often as coaches and parents, we have a gut reaction to protect our kids and athletes. Making a mistake, getting scored on, or losing a game can be embarrassing, frustrating, or devastating. So when it happens, we try to make them feel better. We say things like, “it’s okay” or “you’ll get ‘em next time.” While both of those things are true, they are not complete. Mistakes/losing/failure “is okay” because it is part of the learning process, but we as coaches and parents need to help that learning occur. That, after all, is what will help them “get ‘em next time.” The thing is, ignoring or sugar coating mistakes, poor performance, and losses prevents learning, growth and development of toughness. Calling-out/acknowledging, normalizing, and processing mistakes and failure fosters growth and resilience. Being sure to separate the behavior/incident/outcome from their value as a human being (“yes you failed, but that does not make you a failure.”)
*Parents & Coaches: It will take some practice. It may not be easy, but it is critical to helping them develop the mental toughness and resilience you want them to have in and out of sport. And, wouldn’t you rather they learn these lessons from you, their loving and caring parent or coach, than someone else?
3. Provide “effective” praise (not just praise/compliments):
Sometimes we inadvertently, unintentionally, or implicitly send the message that the only thing we can learn and grow from are our failures (see above). But that is absolutely not the case - we can learn a lot from our own success and the success of others! Indeed, this can be a great way to develop young athletes as it allows you to ‘coach’ them without criticizing/critiquing their performance. The thing here is simply remembering to label the effort, strategy, or skill they used to produce the success in addition to praising.
*Something critical to keep in mind is that your athletes/kids may not know what they did that enabled their success. By labeling it for them, you’re teaching them how to be successful again. While this might take a smidge more work up front, it actually enables them to repeat their own successes and requires less coaching and correcting later on. Remember: name the effort, strategy, or skill that allowed them to be successful in the first place.
4. Model mental toughness and resilience:
I saved this for last because I want to make sure it sticks with you. At the end of the day our actions speak louder than our words. As a parent or coach you could say all the right things, but if you aren’t living those things yourself – that’s what your kids and athletes will notice and remember most. I encourage both parents and coaches to deliberately think about the values, habits, and qualities you wish to instill in your kids/athletes. Write them down and make note of what they mean to you and what it looks like to demonstrate those values daily.
*Other questions to consider: How do I want my kids/athletes to act when we win? How do I want them to act when we lose? How do I currently act when we win/lose? What words do I choose and what message does my body language send?
Hi! My name is Petra. I am an Ultimate player, wife, mom, and human performance coach. My passion and my profession is to help individuals and teams perform at their best through research-based mental skills, resilience, leadership and team dynamics training.
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