2 Words For Athletes To Avoid At All Costs

By using negative words like HAVE TO and CAN’T we vocalize our fear of failure. Teaching athletes to keep a positive and growth mindset is important because being an athlete means you will fail multiple times a day, and that’s okay! However, you must learn to fail, and not be afraid of that failure. Here are two words that athletes should avoid using to stay in the right mindset.

HAVE TO– Instead of saying have to, say you WANT TO. When we say, we HAVE TO do something we create a belief that someone is forcing us to do something. For example, when a coach gives an athlete a specific workout, and the athlete asks “do I HAVE TO?” This athlete is creating doubt, and does not have the desire to accomplish the workout or their goals. To have a productive training session change your word choice to WANT TO, and the overall atmosphere and morale of you and your teammates will increase. Have a drive and a WANT to work towards your goals, and not do something because someone is making you do it.

CAN’T-Instead of saying can’t, say not yet! This is the most used, and most hurtful, word to our goals and mindset. When we say, I CAN’T, we are telling our brain that our body will not be able to perform the action. We have put up a mental road block on our path towards success. By changing the outlook, and saying NOT YET to something, we are keeping our path clear to continue towards our goals. Coaches may even respond to you when you say can’t with “not with an attitude like that!” If something seems hard try it anyways because you never know what you are capable of until you try.

Are you having a hard time finishing your training sessions strong? Do you/or your athlete feel defeated before even attempting your session? Watch what you say, and try changing a few words in your training vocabulary. Teaching athletes to keep a positive and growth mindset is important for their mental health, and goals.

Failing is part of life and all sports. When we learn to fail, and learn to overcome that failure we learn to have resilience. When we get knocked down we learn to get back up!

Why Athletes Should Train Every Day

You don’t have to train physically every day, but if you have certain goals you need to be disciplined enough to continually “train” your mind as well. Professional athletes never have an off day because they are consistently working towards their goals both physically and mentally. Training daily can have many benefits for your body, and your mentality. If you want to be a successful athlete, you must be willing to put in the work every single day.

When you take a day off from training you are basically saying that “I’m not working on my goals or me as an athlete today.” You are telling yourself that your goals are not important, and they are ideas or things that would be cool if you accomplished them. If you have a goal you want to reach you must work for it every day not just physically, but mentally and emotionally. When you choose to not train you’re pushing your goals further away, and you develop excuses later that turn into habits.

Not every athlete can train every day due to different circumstances, and that is understandable. However, when taking a “rest” day you need to take the proper steps to continually grow as an athlete. Don’t’ be afraid to work towards your goals every day.

3 Ways to Break Out of a Slump

Slump_velocity_sports_performance_ortiz_0513

We all go through times when things just don’t go our way. We try to break out of it, but no matter what we try we can’t seem to shake it. This could be in sports, in school, at work, or in the gym. It happens to even the best of us.

Here are three ways to help break you out of a slump:

  1. Acknowledge the Slump

Accept it, don’t fight against it. Like getting stuck in a strong current, fighting the waves only tires you and worsens your chances of making it to shore. Fighting it can make a slump last longer and feel much worse. Ask yourself, what are my body and mind telling me? Acknowledge that maybe this is its way to tell you to slow down. The best athletes learn how to take advantage of the adversity that they face and come out stronger as a result.

  1. Write It Out

Try a free-writing exercise where you spend 10 minutes writing whatever you want. The only rule is that you have to keep writing. More often than not, writing exercises like these can help you get to the bottom of any problem you might be having. It takes time to master, but having a daily journal like this can help you understand your habits over time. It is also quite valuable to look back and see if you have had this problem before, and how you dealt with it.

  1. Positive Mental Attitude (PMA)

Don’t throw yourself a pity party. The only people that want to attend are the ones that want to tear you down. When you’re in a slump don’t give into it. Have a positive mental attitude and surround yourself with other like-minded individuals.

Remember everyone gets in a slump. Acknowledging that it happens is the first step to breaking out of it. Try free-writing exercises to discover your habits. This will help guide you in making the right adjustments to break those bad behaviors. Attack your slump head-on with a positive mental attitude and surround yourself with others that exude that same positivity and you’re sure to be a success.

How to Keep Your Athlete Focused

Stay-Focused

When it comes to playing youth sports, the best predictor of success is not based off of an athlete’s physical abilities or skills. What really matters is which athlete is able to remain focused on the task at hand when they are tired. The more focused an athlete is, the more successful an athlete will be.

Look at a pitcher as he prepares to throw, he is focused on the catcher’s glove. Consider a weightlifter or gymnast, notice how calm they are before their event. They are totally locked into “the zone”.

So how do we teach our youth athletes to get into the zone and have laser sharp focus when they need it? Luckily, focus is something that can be trained.

As a coach, you must plan practices with the goal to keep athletes engaged. How do we do this? Here are some of our tricks:

Limit Distractions

One easy way to do this: NO CELL PHONES. Smartphones of any kind can dramatically decrease focus and productivity. To keep it simple, and increase focus, our rule is: Phones stay in the bags.

3 Words: Structure, Routine, Consistency.

Having a structured practice with little down time is necessary to keep athletes engaged and focused on the task at hand. When practices are consistently the same, athletes develop a routine. Routines are very important for helping an athlete increase focus. Let’s be honest, athletes are going to lose focus from time to time, so developing a strategy to regain focus is critical to help them get back into the zone. This is why a routine, or ritual, is important. For example: consider a baseball player’s at-bat routine. After each pitch, they step out of the box and adjust their gloves and helmet the same way before stepping back into the box. They consistently do the same thing over and over. This helps them maintain focus.

 Understand Different Learning Styles

Each athlete is different and they learn in different ways. There are three types of learning styles: audio (hearing), visual (seeing), and kinesthetic (doing). Coaches and parents need to be aware of the possibility that the information they are presenting their athlete might not be done so in the style of learning that they understand best. In this case, the athlete is less likely to pay attention. Engaging your athletes in all of the different learning styles helps them to remain focused.

Find a Balance

Challenge is an integral part of your athlete’s overall improvement. However, keeping these challenges in line with their skill level is important to keep them from losing focus. It’s impossible to stay focused on a task that is way too challenging. Coaches need to create attainable challenges their athlete’s in order to keep them focused on completing the task at hand.

Don’t Over-Coach

Many times as a coach we feel the need to tell our athletes everything they are supposed to do and exactly how to do it. This can be information-overload for an athlete. When there are too many things to focus on, the athlete is overwhelmed and breaks down. Giving them one task to focus on is the best way to see them succeed. Once they’ve mastered the initial task, you can begin to add more.

 Keep it Fun

Sports are fun. Plain and simple. Let’s keep it that way. If an athlete is not having fun, they will be less likely to stay focused and and more likely to disengage.

6 Ways to Build Confidence in Young Athletes

Confidence

In order for youth athletes to make it to an elite level, they have to have talent, dedication and the drive to work hard and improve their skills. While ability and work ethic are very important skills for athletes to develop, the one skill that sets elite athletes apart is confidence.

By improving one’s confidence on the court of field, it benefits all aspects of an athlete’s life. On the other hand, a lack of confidence can have devastating results for an athlete’s performance in sport and in the classroom.

As a coach or parent, we want the best for our athletes. We want them to have faith and confidence in their abilities. We want them to know what they’re capable of achieving today and, with hard work and dedication, what they’re capable of achieving tomorrow. When an athlete is confident in their abilities, they are more aggressive and generally play harder and better.

Just like physical skills, confidence is something that can be developed with practice.

Here are 6 ways to develop confidence in youth athletes to set them up for long-term success:

Lead By Example

Kids learn how to react to situations by watching their role models. For example, when a young kid trips and falls, they pause for a second or two as they try to figure out how to react. Am I ok? Should I Cry? During those few seconds they are looking at a coach or parent to gauge their response. They search for cues in the faces of their coaches or parents, and will respond accordingly. If we rush over panicked and worried, they are going to be panicked and worried. If we respond by acknowledging the fall calmly and offer a bit of encouragement— “you’re ok, it was just a fall, dust yourself off” — they will usually pop right back up. It is important for parents and coaches to be role models constantly displaying the discipline, hard work, and self-belief that you hope to see in your athlete.

Practice Makes Perfect

Confidence is based on evidence and experience, which comes from practice. Practice is the time for athletes to work on their skills. If an athlete is constantly sharpening their skills and abilities, they are constantly reinforcing faith in their capabilities.

Start Off Easy & Develop the Fundamentals

A simple way to improve confidence is to start with something easy. For example, if you’re teaching someone how to hit a baseball for the first time, you won’t start by pitching a fastball from the pitcher’s mound. You wouldn’t do this, because it simply won’t be fun for a new player to constantly swing and miss. Instead, start them off hitting from a tee. They can learn how to keep their eye on the ball and make firm contact. As they get better, you can try tossing the ball under hand to them from a few feet away. Finally, as their skills continue to develop and their confidence grows, you can move back to the pitcher’s mound.

Break It Down

Anything you do well becomes enjoyable. That is the idea for starting on the tee and developing the fundamentals from the last example. It is important for coaches to break down the skills so the athlete can understand what they need to do. Once they have consistently shown that they have mastered the fundamentals off the tee, they will get bored of the tee. Once they get bored, a coach will introduce a slightly more complicated skill to develop. Putting in the time and working on the basics doesn’t appear glamorous — but athletes who constantly sharpen their skills, sharpen their confidence. MLB players warm up the same way by starting on the tee to make sure their fundamentals are dialed in and they are confident before they hit live.

Focus On Doing Your Best

In sport, the objective is to win. But the desire to win shouldn’t take away from an athlete’s most important goal: doing your best. The best team or player doesn’t always win, it’s the team that plays the best that wins. As coaches and parents we have to let our athletes know that there is no shame in losing if you do your best. Sometimes its bad luck, or sometimes the opponent is just better than you. If you know during practice that you put your best effort into learning and mastering the fundamentals, and focusing on doing your best instead of being the best, the wins will come as long as you play hard.

“Don’t Fear Failure”

Lastly, and perhaps more important, teach kids not to be afraid of failure. Confidence in youth athletes comes down to the battle between faith and fear. Fear of failure can really destroy an athlete’s confidence even to a point where they don’t want to participate so they don’t make any mistakes. As a coach, we have to recognize when athletes are afraid and nervous. When we recognize this, we must empower them, we must offer words of encouragement and remind them of their abilities. Understanding fear is the best skill you can teach a young athlete. Fear of failure holds us back from being the best we can be — not just in sport, but in all areas of our lives.

How to Improve Your Mental Game with Visualization

Visualization

Visualization is an important tool used by elite athletes to gain a competitive edge. Visualization is a technique of creating visual imagery of circumstances that you want to occur in reality. In other words, see it to believe it. For athletes, it is a mental rehearsal.

Here are two visualization techniques to use to improve your athletic performance:

Visualization Technique 1

I am the greatest. I said that even before I knew I was.  -Muhammad Ali

If you think you are the greatest and you visualize yourself being the greatest, you will become the greatest. As an athlete, if you want to be the best, you have to think you’re the best. It is best to try to include all of the senses when visualizing you winning or accomplishing a goal.

 

Visualization Technique 2

Visualizing movements, routines and specific plays helps athletes mentally rehearse for competition. Notice how elite athletes remain calm under pressure. Their secret? They have already ran through every scenario and possible outcome in their head before stepping into the game. All this visualization means, when the pressure’s on, you don’t have to think, you just have to react. This is what separates the good from the great — anticipating what’s going to happen before your opponent keeps you a step ahead.

You can also visualize complex movements, like throwing a baseball or swinging a bat. Mentally rehearsing these complex movements activate the same areas of the brain that are used when completing these movement in reality. This neurological activation can help reinforce movement patterns making those pathways a little bit faster.

Learn how to up your game with visualization techniques with the elite coaches at Velocity Sports Performance.

 

Why Athletes Should Watch Water Boil

“A watched pot never boils.” Or does it? Have you tried? It feels like it takes forever if you watch it. In actuality, whether you watch it or not has no effect on how fast the water takes to boils—you can’t make it boil faster by wanting it more.

So now, you ask, how will watching water boil make me a better athlete? Watching a pot of water boil trains your willpower. You train your willpower the same way you would train any other part of your body. Your brain makes physical changes through the power of meditation and mindfulness training.

Wait, meditation? Isn’t that some spiritual or religious thing? Yes, but that’s not all it is. The practice of meditation teaches your mind to focus on specific and targeted thoughts. Being able to do this helps block out all of the things that take you away from your goals. The hard part about meditation is that it requires you to sit still for specific amount of time— but while it is hard, it is also the reason why meditation is a useful took for athletes — it trains the mind to adapt.

Watching water boil in a pot is simply a form of mindfulness training that is similar to meditation without having to sit crosslegged or chant mantras. I know this sounds silly, but just as squats make your body physically stronger, meditation and mindfulness training strengthens your willpower!

Meditation Training Exercise

For the next 30 days, complete the following meditation exercise:

Step 1: Get a small pot and put some water in it.

Step 2: Put it on the stove and turn it up to high.

Step 3: Stare at the water until you see a rolling boil.

Do the same pot of water for seven consecutive days. After that, get a bigger pot and add more water. It is like training the body gradually to increase the load to work the muscle to get stronger.

*Don’t move your eyes from the water no matter what else is going on around you.
*Don’t worry if your mind wanders.

The first few times you complete this training, you might experience anxiety or stress waiting for the water to boil. This will pass as your willpower improves.

This meditation training will slowly build your willpower up over time. It is amazing to see what sorts of things you think of when you are forced into a structured —and seemingly boring — situation.

Mental training is a critical part of all competitive athletes’ training program. Improve your mental game with the techniques and tactics employed by the elite coaches at Velocity Sports Performance.