Stop the Sink'n Think'n
Any level athlete that is a competitor has expectations which can be unrealistic at times. How often do we see the cartoon on below play out in games or practices with our youth athletes??? Typically, the coach in the moment will tell the athlete to “forget about”, “move on”, or “focus” -- or the parents will yell from the sideline “good try” or “you’ll do better next time”. This is all well intended to get the player back on track and not down on themselves so as not to negatively impact to their play or the team’s attitude. However, mid-game when players’ emotions are impacting their thought process and play, it is difficult or nearly impossible to stop the negative spiral from happening in the athlete’s head. These situations can be avoided by helping your athlete(s) learn some simple strategies to employ in these moments and STOP THE STINK’N THINK’N!!!!
PRACTICE WHAT YOU FEAR
The practice what you fear is exactly as it sounds: the practice of putting your athlete in a situation that causes them fear or anxiety within the safety/comfort of practice. This allows them to normalize those experiences and reduce the negative impact it will have by reducing their arousal to those situations, thus being able to maintain a high level of performance. With older athletes you will be able to discuss this strategy and practice scenarios. With younger athletes, you will need to help identify the fear and anxiety triggers by making notes during a game about their reactions to events (e.g. missing a free throw, not having a foul called, etc.). You may find that many of the athletes react poorly to the same or similar events. Add the situation to practice using the following guidelines: (1) small doses (2) repeat the activity (3) gradually increase the challenge.
Perhaps you have heard the phrase by Henry Ford, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t - - you’re right.” What we tell ourselves comes from how we interpret events and will impact our performance. There has been much research into the impact of Self-Talk on performance. We believe what we tell ourselves, whether it is true or not - positive or negative. Helping your athletes develop positive Self-Talk will help improve their performance, the team’s energy, and outcomes. Use the following formula to help guide your athletes. By regular practice they can change their automatic negative Self-Talk into realistic and desired outcomes.
Event Start of Negative Self-Talk STOP Rephrased/Rehearsed Positive Self-Talk
Getting the ball to shoot free throws Athlete starts to think about missing STOP Use legs, spread fingers, snap wrist, and nothing but net