Silent Screams

30 03 2018

One evening I got a call from a young athlete that had tried out for a specific team, and Silent Screamshe was struggling to understand why he did not make the team. With great frustration and anger, he detailed for me all the work he did and how angry he was that the work did not seem to make a difference. As is often the case, I dug a bit deeper to understand what was truly fueling his intensity. He went on to describe how many of his friends would be on the team and how sad he was to miss out on those experiences. I replied; “Is there anything else that is hard for you?” He then said; “I know my dad is really disappointed in me. He told me that I needed to work harder to keep improving rather than play video games.”

I have had this type of conversation too many times to count.

Tryouts bring with them fear, anxiety, anger, frustration, joy, relief, and uncertainty.

This blog is not designed to be about the fairness, or lack of it in youth sports, although there might be value in making some statements with regards to this topic. This blog is about the SILENT SCREAMS that often hide behind seemingly normal types of youth sports experiences. For the sake of clarity, I would like to highlight 3 SILENT SCREAMS I have experienced over 18 years.

The need to feel accepted is huge for young athletes. This need doesn’t discriminate according to skill and talent level at all.  As young people play, they carry an internal “acceptance” module. What this creates is a filter within that is constantly measuring and evaluating, with every action, the curiosity of acceptability. This need is so strong that many young athletes consistently look into the stands, or across the gym or field to read how they are doing from their parents or other loved one’s body language.

One story illustrates this: Some years ago I was working with a young hockey goalie. He was tremendously physically skilled, with cat-like reactions, great size and strength, and advanced instincts. But he was also plagued with tremendous anxiety, fear, and a lack of belief in himself. One day I asked him; “Are you afraid of failing?” He said; “NO!” I responded with; “Then why all the anxiety and fear?” He said; “Everyday I am afraid that I will let my dad down. I can tell by looking in the stands if he is satisfied with how I am doing.” He continued; “Somedays I look in the stands, and I see him with his hands over his head, and I know he is mad or disappointed about something. This makes me not want to play at all.”

I have since heard this type of story hundreds of times over the years.

The silent scream connected with the fear of rejection is often anxiety and a lack of belief. It rarely occurs to us that these symptoms may have a connection to us and the information that we are giving both verbally and nonverbally to our young people. Young people regardless of ability are looking to experience acceptance from the important people in their lives. At the core, this means the capacity to accept and positively reinforce the individual regardless of performance. Too often, parents and coaches relate to athletes like they are feelingless machines performing to make them happy and proud. When a player’s level of performance dictates the mood and posture in a relationship, then questions begin to form in the mind of an athlete about their acceptability and anxiety and fear strengthen. We must elevate our capacity to disconnect a player’s value from the quality of their performance and learn to communicate acceptance and appreciation for attributes that we notice that are worthy of reinforcement. Young people are super sensitive to this and because of this SILENT SCREAM anxiety, fear, and mental dysfunction is at epidemic proportions.

Young people not only want to experience acceptance but also want to be noticed. On every team, there are those that are the most skilled and those that are less skilled. We tend to have preoccupation and unbalanced focus on those that are most skilled. I am not referring to playing time here. As young people grow and play at higher levels, I believe that the best players should play. However, this does not mean that less skilled players have to become invisible. Often, most of the feedback, coaching, and focus goes to the most skilled players. One’s level of skill should not dictate the quality of coaching or feedback. Every player deserves to be coached and given the opportunity to progress their craft. Unfortunately, this is not the case for many. Once they have been slotted as a “role” player often, they become invisible. From this experience motivation drops, practice engagement slips, and desire to keep playing decreases with every experience. In this case APATHY SCREAMS! The foundation of this apathy is invisibility. When asked about why an athlete has “lost their motivation” it is hypothesized that they simply have other interests. I am not denying the viability of this argument, however, when young people do not feel or experience evidence that their presence is valued or needed motivation drops significantly, and the SILENT SCREAM OF APATHY OCCURS.

Taking the initiative to focus on the contributions, and assets that every player brings to a team goes a long way to silencing the scream of invisibility.

At first glance, you might take a double take when reading the title of this silent scream. Let me attempt to explain this. I think most if not all of us would like to raise confident and self-assured young athletes. In fact, many parents retain my services to teach this to their young athletes. However, my concern is that we are not truly raising CONFIDENT and SELF-ASSURED young athletes but, athletes that feel “special,” “privileged,” “entitled,” and “delusional.”

Confident and self-assured young people understand that struggles, disappointment, and failure will find them. In spite of this, they can stay engaged, find the value in the experience, and turn the moment into learning that elevates their capacity to grow themselves and their skills. All of this without damaging their sense of self or motivation to move ahead. Contrast this with young athletes that have been told they are “special,” “talented,” and are “unfortunate” when a moment of failure or disappointment finds them. We make excuses, feel sorry for, and find words to soften the impact of disappointment. The message here is often; “YOU ARE INVINCIBLE.” When young athletes believe that they are invincible, struggle, disappointment, and failure DISRUPT, DISMANTLE, and DESTROY them leading to emotional breakdowns, pouting, crying, and internal disarray. Recently, a young man called me in a total emotional meltdown. His team had just lost a game they were expected to win without much effort. The talent was not at all equally distributed. His team was the favorite. He was so distraught I could barely understand him. After calming him down, I asked why he was so emotional? He said; “I have never experienced such a bad loss.” “What makes the loss bad?”, I asked”  He answered, “Maybe we were not as good as we thought, maybe I am not as good as I thought?” One loss in a season of great moments was enough to have this young man question it all. There are a plethora of young men and women playing youth sports that are emotionally destroyed and deeply discouraged from NATURAL AND NORMAL occurrences in youth sports.


Because we reinforce the message of specialness and entitlement, our young athletes often conclude that they ARE FAILURES WHEN THEY EXPERIENCE FAILURE. This is the SILENT SCREAM OF INVINCIBILITY. This conclusion erodes one’s sense of self and leaves them feeling hollow and without the tools to turn those moments into platforms for growth and future accomplishment.

After 18 years of working with young athletes on the mental side of things, I have learned that what presents itself as the problem is rarely the real problem. These three silent screams of young athletes often hide. As a result, creating solutions to transform the scream into growth can be a challenge. However, I have seen many young athletes turn these screams into improved self-awareness, greater confidence, and overall self-mastery. As leaders and parents, we need to look deeper when we see attitudes and actions that are troubling. More often than not we will find a SILENT SCREAM.

Silent Concussions

24 02 2017

“The trauma that results when coaches over step the boundaries of human decency and respect.”silent-concussion

We have become INCREASINGLY aware and sensitive to the dangers of concussions over the last couple of years. Professional sports is implementing increased protocols in an effort to protect their players as they should. Traumatic brain injuries, as many know, debilitate the functioning of the brain and therefore ends up forever affecting the quality of life for the one affected as well as those around them. We all know that prevention is the key.

There are certainly no shortage of concussions in youth sports. I am glad that greater awareness is paving the way for preventing and protecting more youth sport athletes.

However, there are “BRAIN INJURIES” that our young athletes are encountering with little to no intervention or treatment. These injuries often come in the form of coach/athlete interactions. Often through simple observation you can attend any youth sporting event and witness interactions that are laced with demeaning abusive language, demeaning body language, a complete lack of self control, as well as, an overall disrespect for the athlete. These interactions are often excused by believing they are done in the “name of developing the athlete.” The athlete needs to: “toughen up”, “get more motivated”, “be sent a message”, “learn from their mistakes”, “quit making excuses”, etc. If we truly believe these types of interactions actually correlate to the outcomes purported, we need to truly re-think our logic. The bigger question is why are we so tolerant of these interactions especially when it comes to our young people.

The damage that these interactions are having on the psyche of our young people is astounding!

I often hear from parents, “Well if I do anything my kid will be punished, lose playing time, be alienated,” (or some reason that has FEAR at the center).

What about this? If we continue to tolerate coach bullies we are going to cultivate a generation of mentally intimidated, cowering, fearful, depressed, and dis-empowered young people. Personally, I would much rather have a young person lack playing time than confidence, self definition, personal empowerment, and courage. In my mind there is no contest in that trade.

Some of the damaging symptoms of a concussion include the slowing down of brain functioning, a feeling of fog, headaches, dizziness, and a lack of capacity to think clearly. If we look carefully, when our young people are bullied through intimidation, tactics that feed on fear and mental game playing, we are generating some of these very symptoms. CONFUSION, AND SLOWER BRAIN FUNCTIONING to name a couple. To make matters worse when we see evidence of these symptoms that are attributed to the environment generated through and because of these interactions we BLAME THE ATHLETE for the symptoms.

What has led to us believing that this type of behavior is acceptable?

When did we lose all common sense to think that learning, developing and progressing happens in an environment of confusion, intimidation, bullying, and fear?

The imprint these strategies are having on our young people is TRAUMATIC!!!


In my opinion, quality interactions should include:

  • Clear and specific expectations.
  • Honest feedback that gives understanding for the decisions that are made that impact the athlete.
  • Specific and personalized feedback that explain the strengths and work areas for the athlete and his/her ability to contribute.
  • Accountability that helps the athlete learn about responsibility to his/herself and the team.
  • An approach-ability that allows for young people to talk openly about their experiences without fear of punishment.
  • Kindness! Kindness and an overall love of kids should translate to an expectation that at the core of coaching young people is a love for them.

Young people flourish in an environment of clear, specific, consistent, honest, kind, and personalized feedback. The long term benefits of this are numerous and powerful.

It is time to make a shift in the environment that we expect our young people to play and compete in.

We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.


The Challenge is Real

14 12 2016

Many people I care about and love are in the midst of significant life challenges! You might be one of those in the midst of a significant challenge.

TheseThe Challenge Is Real challenges could be best described as “being in a war.” The challenge never seems to let up. No matter which way you turn, there it is seemingly waiting to torment and therefore, torture you. It is said that when we face challenges of this intensity we come face to face with our true self.

I have to be honest and admit that the intensity of some of the challenges I am seeing go beyond a “problem to be solved.” Truthfully, a problem would be far preferred than a challenge. Problems can often be solved through advanced thinking, surrender and increased support. Challenges seem to dig at our humanity, value system, spirituality, and in some cases, our very existence. They force us to quickly assess our emotional, social, spiritual, and at times, financial resources.

How are we to respond when faced with a challenge(s) of this magnitude?

Whatever threatens our health, well being, family, security, and certainty is a real challenge. When life is at its best the strength of these arenas allow us to LIVE WITH DAILY CONTENTMENT. Once they are threatened then our life feels like it us under attack.

A bad doctors report puts the vision for tomorrow in question.

The loss of a job brings deep uncertainty of how to cover our financial responsibilities.

When one of our children or another loved one is struggling we are often faced with fear about what might happen.

Suffice it to say any of our lives could come under attack at anytime and without warning.

These challenges are REAL. They Require Encouragement And Love. (REAL)

CHALLENGES that shake us at our foundation demand the ASSEMBLING of an ARMY. No one goes to battle intelligently without an army. Armies have one thing they focus on…WINNING THE BATTLE.

We all need an army! A group of people that stand with us, fight for us and, without hesitation, go to war on our behalf.

What troubles me are the battles that people are fighting without their own personal army.

Armies compound courage in one another. BEING IN THE FIGHT WITH SOMEONE ELSE HELPS US TO FIND HOPE, COURAGE, STRENGTH, and FAITH IN THE BATTLE. Some of the challenges we face do not have any quick and certain answers. Maybe, the presence of a challenge forces us to GET OUTSIDE OF OURSELVES and LEAN INTO OTHER SOLDIERS borrowing their strength, hope and courage even if just for a season.

To those of you under attack because of a seemingly insurmountable challenge, I URGE YOU TO ASSEMBLE YOUR ARMY.

Many challenges appear to have no answers even though we chase answers with diligence and often desperation.


Don’t go it alone,


Struggle and Strength

21 11 2016

I think most of us would agree that increasing strength is a good thing. Athletes invest countless hours training for the purpose of increasing their strength.Theystrugglestrength do this because the rigors and challenges about to come REQUIRE ENHANCED STRENGTH to succeed. Without adequate strength they will be overwhelmed and out matched by the demands of the sport.


Physical strength is trained by utilizing resistance. I have never heard of an athlete that goes to the gym to train with AIR. Resistance is a CRITICAL element of strength building. However, if the resistance is not moved with correct form then INJURY can occur which has the exact opposite effect on the body. What initially was intended for BENEFIT has now become HURTFUL simply because of the use of IMPROPER FORM. The RESISTANCE is not the problem. The FORM is the variable that allows for injury.

Through the thousands of conversations and observations I have had with athletes and those around them, I have come to a DEEPLY HELD BELIEF AND OPINION:

The emotional, mental and social training our young people need to generate success will require a complete change in “FORM” with regard to STRUGGLE. It seems whenever the presence of struggle emerges we immediately seek to remove it, avoid it or numb it.

Struggle emerges when our life circumstances are not cooperating with our current psychological framework. Simply stated, this means that we are not getting what we want. This is similar to an athlete in the gym training and the trainer puts a certain amount of weight on the bar and the athlete wants to BARGAIN, COMPLAIN, NEGOTIATE, OR AVOID the work that is ahead. In life people face struggles almost everyday. Tests, homework, crazy drivers, parenting, relationships, conflict, money, etc… rarely does life put a manageable weight on the bar of our life.

It is by having GOOD FORM (Growth Mindset) while in the midst of these struggles that STRUGGLE becomes LEVERAGED or UTILIZED by us for increased strength, maturity, confidence, trust, competence to name a few. In my opinion it is VITAL THAT WE IMPROVE OUR FORM CONCERNING THE VALUE OF STRUGGLE IN THE LIVES OF OUR YOUNG PEOPLE. Rather than looking to change the WEIGHT (or eliminating it all together) we need to COACH young people to engage in proper form to LEVERAGE the struggle resulting in GREATER STRENGTH and MATURITY.

Learning the proper form is different than changing the weight. Take some time and think about how your life might be different if you were able to:

Learn how to UTILIZE and LEVERAGE your biggest challenges and turn them into your greatest assets!

Grow stronger and more confident by doing nothing more than re-inventing your PERSPECTIVE and APPRECIATION for the events, challenges and opportunities that are right in front of you.

Becoming EMPOWERED to EMBRACE challenges that have limited your expression of your best self.

Learning this skill and other mental strength skills are just some of the benefits of having a SKILLED and EXPERIENCED COACH in your life!

I’d love to hear YOUR current struggle and teach you how to leverage it into an asset.  Comment below and I’ll will personally answer you!

Happy Thanksgiving!



What is Your Aroma?

6 10 2016

aromapostI attended my first teen support group about 30 years ago. I remember that night like it was yesterday. My first encounter was with a 15 year old that asked, “What the ******** are you doing here?” To which I honestly had no good response. To be honest, as a recent college graduate I believed that I had answers to the problems that many teens were experiencing at the time. I was there to share wisdom and provide a pathway to better living for those that were lucky enough to listen to my counsel. (I now realize how misguided I was)

This is where MY education began!

For the next 6 months I listened to young people talk about family breakdown, drug abuse, suicide, school failure, rejection, depression, hopelessness, and deep discouragement to name just a few. I realized that my answers were weak and unwanted, not because they were without merit, but because my presence reeked of superiority and judgement. I certainly did not intend this, but in retrospect, I understand.

You see my first encounter was a test. The test was, are you here to PROVIDE an ANSWER or are you here to BECOME PART OF THE ANSWER? Becoming part of the answer meant LISTENING INTENSELY before offering a solution. It meant truly seeking to understand before being understood. It meant EARNING through commitment and consistency the influence to MATTER over the long haul . After thousands and thousands of hours engaging in deep, honest, courageous, and vulnerable conversations, now 30 years later, I realize that the aroma that I brought to that first meeting had a distinct smell.

That smell was the aroma of LET DOWN.

Why? Because, providing answers and solutions to complex challenges without immersing myself in learning the learner has the smell of superiority and smugness.

This is often the aroma we bring when we want to solve heart-felt hurt, fear and desperation with simple cliches.

The truth is this AROMA is ALL OVER THE PLACE.

My presence and mindset that first meeting would have lead to nothing but more hurt, disappointment and LET DOWN to those I was with. The memory of my first years and what I have learned is one of the greatest gifts I have received in my life professionally and personally.

Here are three distinct POWERFUL PRINCIPLES that I have learned that I believe can guide you to better relationships, team work, personal success, and fulfillment.

People are wired to want and thrive from knowing that they are not ALONE. The disappointments, fears, failures, hurts, and unrealized hopes are best endured and healed through the unconditional presence of a loving person that simply seeks to walk in these moments WITH PEOPLE. Providing answers pales in comparison to being fully present. It took a group of teenagers to teach me the power of this principle. Many feel isolated, alone, and inferior without the relational experience of knowing they are not alone.

Practical help is the by product of deep listening and empathy. When we truly seek to understand the dreams, disappointments, and struggles the practical solutions become more clear. We often under estimate the power of UNDERSTANDING where one is coming from. This requires patience, curiosity, courage, and consistency. When this happens people grow wings of freedom and belief. When we take the time to LEARN THE LEARNER we become a powerful force for COURAGEOUS EXPRESSION and FREEDOM.

The aroma of our heart surpasses the wisdom of our words. Simply stated, “People do not care how much we know until they know how much we care.” This is a mantra for living, working and competing. I learned that everyday I am being vetted according to this principle and so are you.

When we are willing to BECOME part of the solution for others and serve them in this capacity we become forces of positive influence.

I want to humbly challenge us to change the aroma of our hearts by courageously investing in those around us. Lets see ourselves, not so much our solutions and wisdom, as part of the formula that unleashes FULL and FREE expression of those around us. Think of the untapped potential that could be realized if everyone had this in their lives.

Thirty years ago a group of 15 year olds taught me what was required and needed to truly become a force for growth and optimal expression of self. My hope is this blog can do the same for you!

Overcoming Fear

3 05 2016

Have you ever backed down from an opportunity because you were afraid?


Have you ever felt your heart race while doing something that evoked incredible fear?

Have you ever wished you could have more COURAGE?

Maybe you have organized your entire life in a manner that guards you from facing your fears?

If you can relate to any of these statements I have some GREAT NEWS FOR YOU!

YOU CAN OVERCOME the debilitating nature of FEAR.

I am not saying you should overcome ALL FEAR. Some fear is based on the awareness of danger. Feeling afraid in the face of real danger is normal, natural and helpful. In this case learning to calm oneself is valuable.

For the remainder of this blog I want to focus on HOW TO OVERCOME DEBILITATING FEAR. This is the type of fear that inhibits us from LIVING all out in FULL EXPRESSION of our best self. There are three basic fears that I believe we all need to wage war against on a regular basis.

First, is the fear of what others will think. Second, is the fear of rejection, and third, is the fear of failure.

At the start it might appear we need a whole bunch of tools to overcome each of these fears.

The main assault weapon against FEAR is CLARITY!!

When we do the internal, personal and reflective work to gain CLARITY about WHO WE ARE, WHAT SUCCESS LOOKS LIKE and WHAT RELATIONSHIPS MATTER many of our normal everyday fears begin to lose their power. Fear lurks and does its work within chaos, confusion and conflict and is weakened in the face of CLARITY.

Much of my fear has centered around doubts, uncertainty and fear of failure. Let me illustrate: as an athlete I competed as a hockey goalie, my fear would begin to mount in the week of practice leading up to a game. I would literally obsess about whether I was playing well enough in practice to be qualified to play in the game. My mind was overcome with uncertainty, anxiety and the fear of rejection. My problem was that I had zero clarity about what I needed to do to improve or earn the right to play. I lacked any sort of clarity.

To this day I have no idea what mattered in making that decision. This was repeated weekly for the entire season. Is there any wonder why I lacked confidence, was inconsistent and riddled with anxiety? My fear flourished because of the incredible lack of CLARITY. My mind would run in so many directions that I could not keep up with the thoughts.

Today THIS is how it would be different. I would invest my energy in focusing on what MY BEST would look like (clarity). I would generate CLARITY around playing my position with excellence and mastery. This might include breaking down the position and understanding the four critical skills of mastery and focusing on my daily thoughts and actions in that direction. I would then invest my thoughts and energy in controlling what I COULD.

This has lead me to believe this:


FEAR debilitates because it lives in the land of confusion and chaos. EVERYONE of us can do the work of CLARITY. When you commit to living from a point of CLARITY fear diminishes because its fuel source of confusion and uncertainty is diminished.

Ask yourself these critically important questions:




In fact if you will spend time reflecting and writing about these three questions you will find a deep sense of peace, courage and focus that most lack because they have not done this work.

Does this resonate with you? Want to dig deeper into this skill with me?

I have a world-class process that leads people through (12) experiences that many have found game changing in their quest for a GREAT LIFE. If you would like to a sample ONE of these 12 EXPERIENCES for yourself, then click here to schedule your own HIGH PERFORMANCE COACHING STRATEGY SESSION with me.

This is your time to overcome your fears!


A Mental Edge Unsung Hero!

29 02 2016

After our latest post, we received this AMAZING response from one of our own Unsung Heroes of the Mental Edge!


Sitting here studying, I stumbled across your email from the Mental Edge on the subject matter of Unsung Heroes. I couldn’t help but to send an email saying thank you, give a players perspective, and share what I have learned from YOU and many others. This article sparked something within me and I hope my experience and those experiences of everyone else who has been in this same situation can help those struggling with their coaches, sports, and themselves.

This is the first time I have legitimately sat down to take what I know now and apply it to when I was in this very situation while skating for Saint Thomas Academy.

Playing for Saint Thomas, like every other team, was a battle. The process was physically tiring but more importantly Mentally Draining. The body heals overnight. The mind however, takes much longer.

There was so much pressure from coaches to perform and there was even more pressure from myself. Pressure to fulfill dreams I have had since I was a kid and pressure to perform at such a high standard. When things didn’t go my way I turned my blame to my coaches. I asked myself “why me?” Or, “I work harder than him and yet coach plays him over me?”

The line changes every week (mental games as I saw them) and not seeing the results I had hoped for left me broken. I let myself become a victim and blamed the coaches. I fell into this mindset of since I wasn’t scoring goals or skating on the first line that I didn’t matter. I saw opportunities as another chance for the coaches to take something away from me.

I was mentally broken when I came to you that very first day when we met in Minnetonka at the Caribou or Starbucks. I wanted to quit hockey. It was doing more harm than good at the time. I blamed others for not seeing the results I wanted to see. I blamed the coaches for not giving me chances to prove myself.

I emerged from that meeting, and the many more to come after that, with a new mission and mentality. I no longer thought as a victim but a victor instead. I realized I was to blame. I didn’t need chances to prove myself. I already did that on tryout day. I was not seeing the results I wanted to see because I was looking in the wrong place and with the wrong attitude.

I returned senior year with a clear vision of what I was working towards. I set the politics of sports aside and made sure that when my name eventually got called I was going to do everything I could to make the most of it.

I wasn’t the best and I didn’t get the most playing time. I sat nearly the whole game sometimes before getting my first shift. Some games I never even saw the ice. Is it fair? Absolutely not, but I did not care. All I cared about was making something happen when that chance finally did come. I started to create opportunities for myself instead of waiting for them to come to me.

The unsung hero isn’t just about playing a game. After all that is all sports are, a game. Some will go on, many won’t. The life lessons learned are what is most valuable.

The unsung hero is also about what goes on while not playing in the game. Taking new players under their wing and making them feel as if they matter. Creating a fun atmosphere in such a tense environment. Watching out for others. Being the one to give good positive feedback when the coaches fail to do so. Being happy for teammates who are doing well while you remain on the bench waiting eagerly for your chance to get out there and shine. However, the moment the name of an unsung hero gets called, a switch is flipped and something is going to happen that will change the game for the better.

The unsung hero is a weapon, but only when he or she realizes the fact they do matter and have more power over the team than those actually in the spotlight.

That is why people like John Scott draw so much attention. His name was finally called, doesn’t matter how, and he made the most of it. His smile was infectious to those around him on the ice and he set a new standard for the future All-Star Game Weekends.

The principles you have taught me have changed my life for forever. I was lost when I came to you and you helped me find myself and all that I am capable of. You saw it when I didn’t and told me what I needed to hear. You told me I was destined for more than chasing a game and lifestyle that I had no business being in any longer. You have helped me develop a mentality that has allowed me to excel in many areas of my life. I will forever be grateful.

Keep changing the lives of everyone you encounter Shaun. I strive to do the same!


Jake Geiser