Progress is Power

15 03 2018

Some months ago I was talking with a young athlete, and I asked him how things were going for him.

His response was, “I DONT KNOW.”

To most people this response would be a dead end and the conversation would have moved on to something else.

Not this time!

I continued to explore with him what “not knowing” meant. My next question was, “Does ‘I don’t know’ mean you don’t know how to describe how it is going?” With immediate tears, he said, “YES.”

This experience opened my eyes to the reality that many young athletes are living with deep disappointment, discouragement, and despair without the words to describe their reality. This has emerged as a trend as I have worked individually with young athletes. Much of their experience leaves them confused, frustrated, and without direction.

Recently, I spoke to a young athlete that expressed to me his deep desire to succeed, but with frustration and anger he said, “I have no idea what I can do to get better.” This is an epidemic in the youth sports culture. Many young athletes that have the MOTIVATION TO IMPROVE have little, to no clarity about how to invest their energy. In fact, when a young man/women have the actual courage to approach a coach and ask what they need to get better, they often hear, “Just work harder.” I do not think there is any intent here to frustrate or anger these young athletes. I believe we have a great number of coaches that are unskilled in communication. This inability to communicate with clarity is what leaves these athletes at a loss of what to do. The accumulation of this over time leads to a great deal of frustration, confusion, and at its height, ANGER. The result is motivation is decreased, enjoyment is dissolved, and engagement is replaced with distraction and dissatisfaction.

We all want to feel like the effort we invest is leading to progress. PROGRESS IS POWERFUL!!

Recently, a young athlete reached out to me for coaching concerning his desire to control his emotions and have better focus. During my initial interview with him, he expressed tremendous discouragement and frustration because he was “trying” without PROGRESSING. During our first coaching call, I gave him some clear and specific strategies to invest in his “trying.” After just a couple of weeks, he reported feeling significantly better. When I asked why he felt better, his response was, “I am improving!”

IMPROVEMENT IS POWERFUL! Progressing leaves young athletes with an internal center of power that their efforts are getting them somewhere. They are not spinning their wheels and shooting into the dark about what they need or can do to improve. This is huge! In my opinion, the feeling and feedback that one is progressing may be the single greatest source of ongoing motivation for young athletes.

The next motivational variable is having a clarified role that brings with it a way to mark contribution. When a coach has observed and evaluated the strengths and weaknesses of an individual, communicated that to the athlete, and followed that with continued feedback as to the ongoing level of progression concerning the skills needed to contribute effectively within that role, motivation and perseverance are at their highest. Doing this well requires the capacity to look beneath the obvious. A contribution is often only associated with that which is most glamorous and easily observed. However, success in any team sport is dependent on different roles performing at high levels that combine for high-level team performance. When players are not clear about their role and opportunity to mark contribution, WINNING is of little value or consolation.

One player exhibited this with this example:

Following a weekend tournament that her team had just won a coveted championship while talking to Jill, I  asked her how it felt to win the tournament. Her response was troubling. She said, “I didn’t feel like I did anything to help the team win.” Her head was down, and her body language was discouraged. It would be easy at this point to shame Jill for not being a team player. However, her response speaks to the importance of leading young people to understand that they often have great contributions that go unnoticed. At least, in this case, her discouragement wasn’t about selfishness, it was about the DESIRE TO MARK A CONTRIBUTION TO THE TEAM.

I wonder how often we misread this?

Being a great teammate is about OFFERING WHAT YOU HAVE for the betterment of the whole.

What if the discouragement we see in some players is connected to their lack of clarity as to how to MARK THEIR CONTRIBUTION? When CONTRIBUTION cannot be marked, belonging is eroded. This can lead to discouragement often appearing in body language and actions that get labeled as immature and selfish. Telling athletes to be “team players,” without giving them a clear role, is nothing short of systematic rejection.

Young athletes are craving a clear path towards improvement. With clear roles, qualitative feedback, and a team atmosphere that values and reinforces differing forms of contribution, engagement increases, and discouragement and confusion decreases. This will lead to more young athletes feeling proud of their contributions.

Progress is POWER.

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Cultures of Care

19 02 2018

culturesofcareCULTURES OF CARE = WINNING EXPERIENCES

Over the years I have been paying attention! I realize that this statement is quite vague on the surface. One could easily ask, “What have you been paying attention to?” The answer is what provides the clarity and understanding.

What I have learned over 30 years of working in the personal development field is this: what we “pay attention” to is what determines how we think, act, and live. If we have trained ourselves to notice what is lacking, wrong, insufficient, frustrating, or problematic then we are focused on all the information that supports these principles.

I want to suggest that the danger in our focus is not simply WHAT we are focusing on. Maybe the bigger danger is what we are NOT focusing on.

Let me explain. For the better part of 18 years, I have dedicated myself to learn and pass on the most advanced science on what unleashes HIGH PERFORMANCE for athletes, individuals, business professionals, and others simply seeking to “BE THEIR BEST.” My focus led me to pay attention to and help individuals succeed within the context that they were performing or competing. There is nothing inherently wrong with this approach. However, I have become acutely aware of something that requires my ATTENTION.

When the group succeeds, individuals thrive as well. Where individuals succeed only, the group rarely thrives.

I have come to believe that the future success of many individuals is going to exponentially increase as more and more intentional efforts and strategy are invested in the RELATIONSHIPS that turn a group into a team.

Simply stated, for youth sports to THRIVE we must bring back a focus on DEEP FRIENDSHIPS. What I mean is that we must consistently and intentionally put teammates in positions to not only express themselves authentically but teach others how to embrace the individuality of each person. I think we have neglected this because we think the shared goal of winning and succeeding is what brings people together. This only proves to be true when everyone on the team plays to win. This is where the myth begins. Most youth sports athletes do not only play in order to WIN. They play, ironically, to be with their friends and share experiences. What if we focused on amplifying the connection between teammates? I believe we would find an explosion of MOTIVATION, ENGAGEMENT, CONSISTENCY, and, quite frankly, I believe there would be less drama, more fun, and coaches would enjoy the process more.

I am not saying that WINNING does not have value. However, I believe that a focus on winning has created a point of focus that will keep us unaware of what truly will lead to greater success! Fully engaged, energetic, caring, and connected teams will outperform the opposite all the time when talent is equal.

In other words, we do not have to focus on WINNING to CREATE A WINNING EXPERIENCE.

In the depth of where my passion and experience resides, I believe our young people are craving genuine, authentic, and caring cultures to freely experiment, fail, succeed, and, maybe most importantly, LEARN ABOUT WHO THEY ARE.

My passion is designing team experiences that build a caring culture and teammates learn about themselves and others.

Shaun





UN. PRECEDENTED.

11 11 2017

While preparing a talk for a team that I have invested in and worked with for the past 7 years, one word kept resonating within me…

UNPRECEDENTED

It was not until after the experience was over that I understood why this word rang boldly within my spirit.

For many years I have held the belief that those who participate in youth athletics are missing a HUGE OPPORTUNITY! Yesterday it was confirmed in an UNPRECEDENTED way that my belief is indeed accurate.

The team gathered with the numbers reaching close to 100 athletes. They each grabbed their chair and formed a group in front of me while talking with their neighbors, as is normal for this group. Rather than use my voice to mark the time to start, I simply stood quietly, observing the interactions and noticing the energy of the group. Without uttering a word the group refocused their attention to the front with a curious aura about what we would doing.

I opened with a story from my teen years describing my first day of seventh grade when two seniors cornered me in a hallway, lifted me, and hung me by my belt loop on the back of a door leaving me there while people walked by and laughed. While I told my story their eyes were riveted with respect and empathy. I could see the impact of my words in the eyes of the group, as well as, feel it with the energy present in the room.

After my story, I sought to inspire the team to move from a group of individual participants to a powerful TEAM of courageous, bold, and connected teammates while offering a four-tiered understanding of this process which included emotional safety, bonding and belonging, courageous and creative expression, and lastly, bold leadership. In most cases, this is where the experience would end and practice would begin.

NOT TODAY!

Best selling author, Brene Brown, said: “It is hard to hate from up close.” So, I thought it might be time to challenge these young people to get to know some of their teammates UP CLOSE.

To the coach’s credit, she said: “Shaun, take the time you want to build this experience out. If you need all of our practice time, take it.” It was this permission that gave me the freedom to then ask this question to the TEAM:

“Do you want to do something UNPRECEDENTED TODAY?”

Even though there was some hesitancy the TEAM said yes. (They could have just wanted to get out of going to practice.) What followed will be remembered as one of the most powerful experiences I have been a part of in my 17+ years of coaching.

The next request I posed was, “I need some volunteers to come forward to PUT INTO PRACTICE what we just talked about. You will be interviewed in front of your peers (teammates) and the questions will not be easy.”

I thought I might stand alone up front without any volunteers.

What actually happened is about 35 courageous young people of different ages came up front to be interviewed in front of their teammates and peers. In spite of sweaty palms from anxiety, tears because of deep-seated unspoken fears and hurts, and uncertainty, these 35 courageous team members left their hearts out there to be cared for and understood in an UNPRECEDENTED way. The team members that were left in the crowd listened attentively for almost 2 hours without distraction or disrespect.

Some of the questions I asked:

  • What are you most proud of?
  • What hurt are you carrying that has gone unexpressed?
  • What is something about you that others do not know?
  • What is one dream you have?
  • What are your deepest fears?
  • How do you deal with your deep fears?
  • What kind of team do you want to be on?
  • What are you willing to bring to the team?

The responses to these questions were far from what might be posted in a snapchat story or social media post. The outpouring of genuine love and support was powerful and UNPRECEDENTED! I stood there proud and honored to be in this space with these amazing young athletes wishing that others could see this.

WHY?

Because I believe that our young people are starving for meaningful connection and authentic engagement. Their hearts are so starved that they would risk embarrassment in front of their peers to get a taste of this seemingly sparse resource. What we need to understand is that the resource is not lacking abundance. Many coaches and other adult leaders have disregarded and underestimated the capacity of young people to be GAME CHANGERS for those they play and compete with. Let’s hope that this experience moves from being UNPRECEDENTED to the PRECEDENT.





Who’s Got Your Power?

23 05 2017

I often get calls that start off like this, “Shaun my son/daughter is really having a tough time this year. EVERYTHING has changed.” They continue by stating, “Something is off.” They conclude by saying, “I do not know what to do to help! Can you help?”

This is truly a difficult spot for a parent to find themselves. Knowing that your kid is struggling and not knowing why or what you can do to help is truly disturbing and a bit scary as well.

This experience has become far too common and as a result, it is going to be the focus of this blog to help give perspective, guidance and some encouragement to those that might be dealing with this currently or in the future. We can all learn something.

Every player that I have worked with over the years WANTS TO DO WELL AND PLEASE THE COACHES they have. Hopes are high, motivation is strong, and most of the time they have invested significant time and energy to perform well. What often transpires moving forward is NOT WHAT THE PLAYER HAD IN MIND. As time goes on, playing time may be limited, communication is sparse, confidence is questioned and discouragement, frustration, and disappointment begin to overwhelm. It is at this point that fear also begins to run deep because answers and hope are absent.

WHAT HAS HAPPENED?

Every player’s experience is different. However, I have learned something very important over the years. MOST players have GIVEN AWAY their personal power to their coaches. What this means practically is that they have given away (unconsciously) their identity as a player and person. Instead of defining for themselves their priorities, purpose and strengths they look to others to affirm, provide certainty and make it better for them.

WHEN SOMEONE ELSE HAS YOUR POWER YOU WILL ALWAYS BE A SLAVE TO THAT PERSON. Your thoughts about yourself will be dictated by them leading to a complete internal breakdown. This is happening to athletes of all ages, skill levels and personality types and it destroys confidence.

There is no substantive change until the player takes back the power and digs deep and decides that they are going to strengthen themselves from within to PLAY and LIVE from this internal center of power. This is not to say that you shouldn’t take feedback from those around you, but, you should always reserve the right to have the FINAL SAY.

Let me give an example: a number of years ago I received a call like I cited at the beginning of this blog. The player was absolutely beside himself, mom was in tears out of despair and the future looked extremely bleak. It was apparent that this players power was in the hands of his college coach.

When I said, “Why does your coach have all your power?”

His response was, “Until now I didn’t know that was the case.”

From that moment forward there were a number of conversations that centered around him taking his power back by PERSONALLY defining his purpose and matching that with decisions to re-engage in his own empowered manner. His mom would tell you today this was his MOMENT OF TRANSFORMATION. Her words were, “Shaun I have my son back! I do not know what you did but I got my son back.” This story is not isolated but has been repeated many times since with many different athletes.

What did I do?

I taught this player to take back something that he should have never given away! HIS POWER. He recently graduated and he was able to reignite his love for the game, play at the highest level he has ever played at and finished the year playing some Pro hockey. Most importantly, he learned a valuable life lesson.

Here is the lesson: The best person to have control of me is me!

People are powerful when they live from their center and reserve the final say for themselves. When they are fortunate to have positive influences in their lives they can integrate these messages to elevate their performance and life experience. But they should always ask themselves WHO’S GOT MY POWER?





Fear of Failure vs. Mentally Strong and Confident

20 03 2017

As a parent I have never really feared my kids physical abilities and skills to compete in the sports they have been in. My greatest fears have centered around their mental skills.

It is their failure that I fear.

I often wonder what will happen to their self esteem, confidence and overall well being if they fail. In an attempt to avoid having to see this outcome I have OVER USED encouragement and pep talks to do anything I can to PROTECT THEM from the possible fallout of experiencing failure.

It never occurred to me that FAILURE, STRUGGLE and DISCOURAGEMENT was actually the “game they needed to win.” Rarely was I concerned with wins and losses. MY CENTRAL CONCERN and point of interest and ANXIETY was EMBARRASSMENT. I did not want to see my kids get embarrassed. I equated the possibility of failing with them being embarrassed. I believe that this is what drives most parents in their interactions with their youth athletes.

THEN IT HIT ME…

What if I EMPOWERED, TRAINED AND TAUGHT THEM to UTILIZE these moments to GROW and STRENGTHEN?

What if I grew in my assurance that they were STRONG, RESILIENT, CREATIVE, and MENTALLY SKILLED?

THEN I COULD REST AND BE AT PEACE!!!

As a result, I created Stay In The Sport Zone!

Do you want to get a jump start on your MENTAL SKILL TRAINING?

Do you get confused about where to go to begin your training?

Do you want to learn from someone that has many years of experience coaching and training youth athletes to improve their mental skills?

If you answered yes to any or all of these questions then Stay In The Sport Zone is for you!

Stay In The Sport Zone is an online, non-threatening coaching program you can do in the privacy of your own home. I personally will lead you through (6) powerful mental skill teachings that will propel you forward in the pursuit of a STRONGER MIND!

Each video coaching module provides a step-by-step approach on how to build these vital sport-zone skills:

MODULE 1: Moving from Frustration to Fire
MODULE 2: Building Laser Focus
MODULE 3: Becoming Unshakably Confident
MODULE 4: Peak Performance Practice
MODULE 5: Powerless to Empowered
MODULE 6: Moving Beyond Your Fear of Failure

Here is what is being said about this program:

“This email is to THANK YOU for your great video series Stay in the Sport Zone, I spoke with you on what you offer athletes for working on building their mental skills. After hearing all the options we ended up going with the online “Stay in the Sport Zone” online program where my kids could work at their pace and even revisit different concepts.

I don’t think I could possibly convey to you in an email what a big difference, in a positive way, your online program made to my daughter this senior season of her high school career. It was pretty amazing! We’ve always thought she had many athletic tools but for the first time, I think EVER, she was a very composed and confident athlete even when she had a few minor set backs. It was such fun to watch her all season long and admire the personal growth she made. She made some big goals for herself…. and she accomplished them. Knowing this kid — this came down to her finding something she’d never had before and that was truly a mental edge. She ended up accomplishing LIFETIME best time in her event (by a lot, after 2 years of a plateau) and making individual All – State which was the biggest deal ever to her. She diligently and completely (on her own) used your program all season and grew as an athlete. It was obvious to me she connected with the concepts and used them to grow and enjoyed the process. She enjoyed her season so much she’s planning to continue in college.

Just want to say thank you for having that program available!!

It’s made a huge difference to a kid who has now wrapped up her high school career in a sport she has put so much time into, in the most positive outcome we could have hoped for. THANK YOU!”

Parent of a Stay In The Sport Zone Client

“Working with Shaun has been an incredible opportunity. I started meeting with Shaun as a freshman in high school, and little did I know that moment would change my life forever. I was ecstatic to begin my journey with Mental Edge and boost my athletic performance by working on my mental game. Shaun not only taught me strategies of how to become more mentally tough on court, but also how to be a supportive teammate and compassionate person. He’s by far one of the most incredible, kind, and generous people I’ve ever met and I’m lucky to have him in my life.”

Student Athlete

Go ahead and get registered for this life-changing video coaching and I’ll see you on the other side to get started!

Shaun





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!!!

WE MUST STOP TOLERATING ABUSIVE INTERACTIONS BETWEEN YOUTH COACHES AND ATHLETES.

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.

Shaun





3 C Power

7 02 2017

stencil-youtube-thumbnailLike many, I am fascinated with the formula for SUCCESS. I realize that success has different meanings depending on the source. However, for the sake of this piece I am simply looking to understand a formula for living with purpose, resulting in something being produced, fueled by passion, and challenges our potential.

Simply stated, success might be be defined as living purposely to produce an outcome motivated by passion to realize our potential.

Isn’t this why we pour hours of energy into a sport, career, relationship, hobby?

Are we not truly desiring to have purpose and intention in our living?

Do we not want to see results from our efforts in the form of some outcome?

Are we not trying to live with passion and motivation so we can sustain ourselves through the challenging times?

Are we not also curious about what we are capable of and truly seek to tap into the deep potential that lives often latently in the depths of our being?

I want to suggest that there are 3 C’s that can propel us to this end.

First, is COURAGE. I really believe that removing unfounded fear and living courageously is at the center of fulfillment, purpose and achievement. Regardless of what you are striving for at some point courage will be necessary. Whether we are looking to improve a relationship, performance at a job, improve our grades in school, or let go of a dream to cultivate a new one, COURAGE IS PART OF THE SUCCESS FORMULA.

Second, CHALLENGE. Challenge is like the weight room of life. It is here where you face your limitations and train past them. When you are engaged in a well grounded strength training program limits and resistance are used to grow strength and endurance. Aren’t we all looking for strength and endurance in our lives? We MUST EMBRACE THE CHALLENGES IN OUR LIVES!! When we do so with wisdom these challenges can be transformed into strength and endurance. Success is often achieved through the expression of strength and endurance as seen in commitment and persistence.

Third, CONTENTMENT. This one will most certainly come as a shock to many. In this ELITISM SOCIETY where being EXCEPTIONAL is often looked at as the norm, NORMAL HAS NOW BECOME SEEN AS DEFECTIVE. Success for most of us will reside in living with a healthy contentment knowing that we did the best we could have. There is nothing wrong with being content with your best even if your best was at the low end of the norm. I see many knocking themselves out to pursue exceptional and elite status at the expense of their own well being with no real hope of ever reaching exceptional status. I have to thank my mentor, Micheal Anderson L.P. and co-author of the book GIST The Essence of Raising Life-Ready Kids, for this concept.

COURAGE, CHALLENGE and CONTENTMENT. 3 C’s that provide a framework for us to intentionally live with purpose and deep fulfillment as we navigate through the many experiences that we will encounter in life. I urge you to take these 3 C’s and activate them in your life.

Let us know your definition of success in the comments below!

Shaun