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Friday, July 26, 2013

CAREER STARTER BOOK #2: COACHING THE MENTAL GAME

A few weeks ago, I had a post about a book and made reference to the fact that I would have loved to have read it when I first started coaching.  In fact, it would be in my Top 10 books that I think could've impacted me greatly as a young coach just starting out.  I have since received a great number of requests asking for the complete list and so each day, over the next few weeks, I will list a book that I think young coaches would benefit from reading as they start their coaching journey.  I would imagine that many will be looking for X&O books -- just as I did when I first started coaching -- but instead you will find a list of books that will not only make you a better coach, but a better person. Books that concentrate on teaching, goal setting, communication and leadership.

Book #2

Coaching The Mental Game
H.A. Dorfman

I’ve told the story before, but while an assistant coach at LSU, I was sitting in my office one spring when I got a call from Greg Brown, than the assistant coach at the University of Central Florida.  In Greg’s office was a mentor to us both, Don Meyer.  They then proceeded to tell me about the book Coaching The Mental Game.  If Greg and Coach Meyer spoke highly of it, it was high on my list of books to purchase – and it is such a great read.

ON BIG GAME PREPARATION
The athlete’s mind should be on doing all the things she always does to prepare and to perform — without changing any aspect of that mental routine. She doesn’t plan to “try harder,” because this game “really matters.” She doesn’t entertain a win-or-else approach. She stays balanced and focused on the task, as always. Consistently and relentlessly. That should be the goal for an athlete, and intrusive points of view — such as the “urgency” and special meaning of an upcoming event — are likely to be counterproductive.

THE NEXT TASK
"The lowest common denominator every performer shares is the execution of the next task.  What has happened and what might happen will vary with each athlete and each circumstance.  But the next task must be made: a block, a tackle, a pass, a pitch, a stride, or a stroke.  It is a universal truth within every game."

THOUGHTS ON ADJUSTING YOUR PHILOSOPHY
Have faith in your philosophy of leadership, but be pragmatic. Only a coach who has faith in himself will have faith in his players. Or get that same faith from them. Know how you want to go about directing your team—and do what you know—as long as you see its positive effect.

The ninety-year-old John Wooden again: “My basic philosophy would be the same (now), but you have to change with society to some degree. There has to be a line of demarcation, but you can’t be bull-headed.”
Adjustments are not frivolous abandonments of philosophy. If the philosophy is based on application, rather than just theory, then the coach will consistently be observing how his players respond to him and to his techniques.

COACHING ANGRY
People who are continually angry devour, at least, much of what is good about them.  An angry coach loses his capacity to think -- to rationally assess, understand, and solve whatever needs a solution.

One of the dangers of being angry is that once a coach starts on it, he is apt to get much more than he bargained for.  And so do the objects of his anger.

The coach should have a good reason for it -- and be in control of it.  Meaning, anger acted out as a tool -- to teach or get one's attention -- can be an effective coaching device.  It should be purposeful, calculated, and controlled.

One million brain cells are destroyed every day.  Coaches shouldn't waste what they have left -- and need.

We may ride anger for a short while, but it will ride us in the long run.


IMPROVING CONCENTRATION SKILLS 
An athlete must understand a few basic things if he's going to improve his concentration skills. First, he should understand what is possible to control and what is not.  It's possible to control one's thoughts, feelings and behavior.  We can't control external events, other people's thoughts and deeds, and consequences beyond our behavior.

-The athlete can tell himself what to do in positive terms
-The athlete can focus on the immediate, rather than past or future (The next task -- "now -- is all that can be acted upon.) -The athlete can focus on his approach, instead of results -- past or future.

It's often easier for an athlete to practice mental skills than physical.  He doesn't need a physical environment.  He can work on some concentration skills away from the field or arena, sometimes just by sitting in a chair at home.


A bonus post from Coaching The Mental Game on Tony LaRussa being a continual learner.