Imagine trying to communicate without being allowed to use any vowels in your words. Howmany words would you have access to? Imagine how limited your vocabulary would be and how you would struggle to get your point across. The same is true when athletes and coaches neglect or underestimate the value of nutrition.
In addition to coaching tennis for 14 years at Cal, I also co-taught a class to athletes in the department entitled High Performance Training for Student Athletes. One section covered nutrition. Well, to an athlete, most talk about nutrition sounds like Charlie Brown’s teacher, “Wah,wa,wah, waha.”
Nutrition is one of the foundational pieces of peak performance. Unfortunately, athletes often do not appreciate how important their daily choices are in this area. Many will work hard to condition themselves but neglect the importance of nutrition, and hydration. In my experience most athletes are undernourished and under hydrated. As a result, they compete with a limited nutritional vocabulary and have access to only a portion of what they’re capable of achieving. When you pay attention to the basics, you maximize your potential as an athlete.
In class, I realized that what I had to say would not matter until they came face-to-face with their nutritional reality. So I developed a simple tool called the Nutri-Log. It worked wonders. It was easy to use and visually gave the athletes a clear picture of where they were.
Here’s a sample for you to download: click here
Coach, I’d like you to step up to the nutritional plate and honestly fill out the Nutri-Log for 3 days.
Remember, we are role models. Our athletes learn a lot from us just by observing what we do. Do you model sound food choices? Are you hitting all the letters in the nutritional alphabet? The Nutri-Log is a great tool to use with your team. It’s value will multiply when you have first hand experience with it. Athletes respect us more when we ask them to “Do as I do” rather than “Do as I say.”
I have a lot of great stuff to say about the role of nutrition on and off the playing field. And I know you won’t hear me until you face your own reality. Get to work. Fill out the Nutri-Log and we will have some fun next week.
We all do it. Sometimes it’s harmless. Yet most of the time complaining kills teams. We’ve all had players (and/or assistants) who are a seemingly endless stream of complaints. Often it’s “recreational complaining” where it’s just talk. There’s no intention to do anything about the subject of the complaint.
Complaints about the weather, traffic, and time all fall into the category of recreational complaining. The secret to successful recreational complaining is to thoroughly enjoy yourself while you’re doing it.
The harmful style of complaining is covert. Inside every complaint is a hidden request – something the person wants but is not directly asking for. Instead of asking for what they want, they often complain about what they don’t have. Complaining is an energy drain – on you and those around you.
To get where we want to go in the world, it’s essential to get in the habit of making a request rather than complaining.
Let’s look at an exchange between a coach and an athlete:
Athlete: “Pat pisses me off. He never offers me a ride after practice – and he lives right next to me!
Coach: “I hear ya. That’s too bad.”
Contrast that with:
Athlete: “Pat pisses me off. He never offers me a ride after practice – and he lives right next to me.
Coach: “Really? What do you mean by ‘never’? Not ever?”
Athlete: “Well, not so far this semester.”
Coach: “I see. How often do you need a ride after practice?”
Athlete: “Tuesdays would be great.”
Coach: “Have you ever asked him for a ride this semester?”
Athlete: “Well, no, but….”
Coach: “Well, next Tuesday, ask him for a ride. If he says, “Yes,” great. If not, talk to him about it.”
Athlete: “Okay. Can’t hurt.”
Notice how the second conversation went from complaining to making a request. If team members (including coaches), stopped listening to complaints and instead demanded that the complainer make a request of whomever is in a position to do something about the complaint – the wasted energy of complaining would be put toward action.
So coach, you need to model the art of making requests. Here’s your assignment:
- List all the COMPLAINTS you have about your team, job, life, health, family, etc.
- Rewrite each complaint into a REQUEST.
- Next, write down the name of the person WHO can resolve the complaint.
- Now write in the date by WHEN you will make a request.
- Go get your complaints resolved!
S –> R. This little equation runs your life on and off the playing field! Let me explain. Have you ever had a pet? How about a cat or a dog? Let’s take a dog for example. Does your dog know when it’s time to eat? How? Is it a particular time of day when he comes charging? Is it the sound a cupboard or closet door opening? Is it the sound of the can opener for wet food or the dry food being poured into the bowl? Dog lovers know what I am talking about. This is the classic “stimulus-response” phenomenon or the Pavlovian effect. A stimulus occurs, the sound of dog food being poured into the bowl, and a response occurs. Your dog comes running.
So what’s a stimulus for a coach? Another word for stimulus is “stressors.” What stresses do you face as a coach? Hostile crowds? Weather? Bad calls? Mistakes (yours or your players)? Administrators? Parents? Athletes? The list can go on and on.
So coach, how do you respond in the face of these stressors? Do you keep your composure or do you wear your emotions on your sleeve? Remember, your athletes are watching – and more importantly, learning from you.
Let’s look at the at the S –> R equation again. What side do you have control over? That’s right, we only have control over one side—our response or reaction to what happens. The list of stimuli or stressors will never go away and we can’t predict them. Top performers, however, learn to control their reaction in the moment no matter what happens. Part of your coaching responsibility is to train athletes not only in the “x’s” and “o’s,” but also in how to adapt, shift, and respond to stimulus or game-time situations. This skill set is another integral component of the art of coaching.
Coaches are never neutral. Everything you do or don’t do impacts your player’s “Emotional Tank” – a term I discovered as a PCA trainer. We either fill a player’s tank or we drain it. There’s no middle ground. We all have an emotional tank. When our tank is full, we perform well. If the tank is empty, good luck.
Dr Loehr also taught me the importance of emotion and performance. He is known for the saying “Emotion Runs the Show!” Your athletes may have all the talent in the world, yet if they are not in the right emotional state during game competition, a great performance won’t happen that day.
Here’s a simple yet powerful tool to help you keep track of tank levels. At the end of the week, sit down with a copy of your roster. Look at each name one at a time and think back over all of your interactions with this athlete during the previous week. Bring to mind all the things you said and did as well as the looks you gave. Before moving on to the next player, give yourself a tank filling score (A-F) for the week and write it down next to their name. Do this for each athlete on your team.
- What do you notice?
- Are you happy with your scores?
- Are there players you need to focus on next week?
NOTE: Research suggests that 5:1 is the ideal ratio of positive (things that fill) to negative (things that drain) in terms of maximizing effectiveness. This ratio holds true in your personal relationships and with your team.
Whether you like it or not, you are role model for your players. Your athletes (you’re your kids) notice everything you do. They do not miss a beat. Today’s post is the first in a series looking at the subtle and often unexamined ways we model life skills (or the lack there of) for our athletes.
We expect our athletes to handle their daily lives. Yet, how do we do as coaches? What do your athletes see you do in terms of managing the days demands? Are you always rushing from one appointment to another? Are you a master multi-tasker? Does practice routinely start or end late? Do you eat lunch on the run?
Do your actions around “time” model life skills your players can rely on when they leave your program?
Each of us has our to-do lists, and we are supposed to be proficient at “time management” in order to get everything done. For student athletes, the time-management challenge involves a balancing act between school, sports, homework, social time, personal time, and family activities. Coaches face a similarly daunting challenge.
There are literally thousands of books that claim to teach us how to juggle all of these tasks and effectively manage our time. Of course, “time management” is a bit of a misnomer. No one can literally manage time—time just keeps moving regardless of what we do. However, what we choose to do with our precious time determines the degree to which we will fulfill our potential and realize our goals.
Accomplishing goals and mastering the art of coaching does not happen by accident; it is the result of planning. You and your athletes have the same amount of time as your competitors do. How you choose to spend that time is what matters most. Do your choices support your quest for success? Do they move you closer to your goals?
Chances are that your choices won’t enhance your success unless you do some thoughtful planning. Planning your activities allows you to focus on the things that you decide matter the most. We talked earlier about the importance of planning your practices – the same principles apply to planning your day.
Effective planning is a skill, not a gift. Like all skills, it can be developed with practice. This is an amazingly powerful skill to model for your athletes. Successful people (coaches, athletes, students etc) are proactive in their lives – they plan, perform, evaluate, and plan some more. Above all, they organize and manage their time around what’s important to them based on their values and beliefs. They put their time and attention on the things in their lives that produce results. Successful people don’t just do things differently. They do different things!
The following popular story illustrates my point.
A professor stood before his class with some items on the desk.When the final student was seated, the professor picked up a large glass jar and proceeded to fill it with rocks about two inches in diameter.
The professor asked the students whether the jar was full.
They agreed that it was.
He then picked up a box of pebbles and added them to the jar, shaking it lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the rocks.
“Is the jar filled now?” the professor asked. “Yes,” said the students.
The professor picked up a bag of sand and poured it into the jar.The sand settled in the spaces between the rocks and pebbles.
Once more the professor asked whether the jar was full. After some thinking the students said that it was.
The professor then took a large glass of water and poured all of it into the jar.
After the laughter subsided, the professor spoke.
“I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life,” he said. “The rocks are the important things in your life: your family, your friends, your health things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.
“The pebbles are the other things that matter, like school, your sport or job, and your car.
“The sand is everything else. The small stuff.
“If fill the jar with sand first, there is no room for the pebbles or the rocks. The same goes for your life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you.
“Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness and success. Take care of the rocks first¾the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”
[NOTE – this is a great story to share with your team. Better yet, replicate the actual exercise – cause seeing is believing!]
So coach, make a commitment to model better “time” management. This includes setting aside time for weekly and daily planning. I’ve noticed over the course of my career, that the most successful coaches use some sort of tool to manage their activities. The tools ran the gamut from small calendars to elaborate paper day timers or sophisticated electronic versions. The choice of tool was personal, but the results were the same.
Pick your own tool, and take twenty-five to thirty minutes at the beginning of each week to plan the week ahead. Sit down in a quiet place, take out your calendar or day planner, and decide what you want to accomplish during the coming week. Remember to filter out the unimportant things. Reconnect with your vision, your dream. Review your goals and set objectives for the week.
Follow up by spending ten to fifteen minutes each day reviewing and revising your plan. Ask yourself, “What can I do today that will move me closer to realizing my vision?” Base your day’s actions on your answer.
Let your athletes see you planning. Refer to your planner during meetings. Share your process with your team and encourage them to start planning today!