Myths of Mental Skills Training

23 04 2018

Myths are beliefs that guide our thinking and behavior that may contain partial truth while also containing misguided information.

When I was growing up my mom would tell me I could not go swimming after dinner because I would drown from immediate cramping. For many years I thought that eating and swimming were dangerous only to find out that it was not true. I could now eat and the jump in the water! FREEDOM.

I suspect that we all have hooked our wagons to mythical beliefs only to uncover or find out the error of our ways. When myths are uncovered, it is because a NEW TRUTH that dispels that myth is learned or discovered through experience. My purpose for writing about myths and mental skills training is to bring new and fresh information to you in a manner that helps open up new roads of understanding. When this happens, you just may uncover something that could help you reach new heights of living and performance.

Myth 1: You have to be struggling to benefit from mental skills coaching.

Back in the day, you might have heard a story of an athlete working with a Sports Psychologist, or Mental Skills coach, primarily initiated when a STRUGGLE was sabotaging performance or life. Much of this work was done privately (nothing wrong with this at all) and with only a few having awareness. The work might have come to the forefront when the athlete had attained some space between that struggle, so they were better able to be open up about it. These brave and courageous individuals carved a pathway for more to consider the value of mental skills work. I have these people to thank and many others that have championed the value of these skills for 30 plus years. However, one shift that I believe is VITAL is to not only associate these skills with overcoming struggle but to understand that anyone CAN ENHANCE their performance, consistency, and overall life quality by learning, practicing, and strengthening their MENTAL SKILLS.

Truth 1: Mental Skills work can be learned, strengthened, and sharpened no matter how you are performing and what you might be going through.

You would never say to yourself, “I am playing good enough to stop getting stronger or more skilled.” It is common to keep pursuing mastery of sport-specific skills, so why would we ever believe that MENTAL SKILLS work is any different?

Learning how to improve your capacity to notice key triggers that lead to poor and unproductive thinking and re-structure the focus of those thoughts and the quality of the thought is significant. Just this one skill has become a game-changing skill for many I have coached.

Learning strategies for overcoming failure by committing to extracting the next piece of learning to enhance future performance has been a game changer not only in sport but life, for many I have coached. These are just a few examples of the importance of learning some skills that originate in the mind to enhance performance as well as overall life experience.

If you have ever thought that working with a mental skills coach is only for those that ARE STRUGGLING and hold the stigma that to work with this type of coach means you are FLAWED, WEAK, or ILL, then it might be time to re-look at this option.

I want to make it easy for you!

I invite you to join me for a free 30-minute MENTAL SKILLS COACHING SESSION.

Yes! Click here to get your FREE Coaching Call

Keep an eye out on our blog for myths two and three to follow.

Shaun

IMPORTANT NOTE:
**** It is important to understand that there is a difference between working with a Sports Psychologist and a Mental Skills Coach. A Sports Psychologist is licensed to diagnosis and therefore take into consideration influential factors that might be responsible psychologically for the struggle that often requires a more advanced treatment approach that is more broad and holistic than that of a Mental Skills Coach. When these psychological factors are present, Mental Skills Coaches need to understand where their training is insufficient because the needs of the client lie beyond their training. This understanding helps us to serve the individual with the utmost professionalism, ethics, and excellence.

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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.





What is Focus?

20 07 2017

We hear a lot about the importance of focus in discussions about HIGH PERFORMANCE. Rarely is this concept unpacked with clarity and practical application. For this purpose, I offer these thoughts.

First, let me ask a couple of questions:

Do you find yourself with a daily desire to experience more in your life?
MORE…
Energy
Accomplishment
Peace of mind
Motivation
Purpose and Fulfillment
Connection with others
LESS…
Distraction
Fear
Uncertainty
Discouragement
Isolation
Empty days with endless tasks but very little purposeful results

If you can relate with these then I suggest that generating MORE focus is the equivalent of generating more power in your life. I have learned from coaching thousands of people that the LACK of FOCUS is always CONNECTED to a lack of true POWER in their lives.

Let me explain.

Focus is the capacity to continually invest yourself in the direction of clearly defined goals that connect you to your deepest desires and dreams. The emphasis here is on CONSISTENCY and INVESTMENT. The basic form of FOCUS is found in these words.

The reason why distractions are so destructive is that they turn off the continual feeding the fuel needed to generate or create the outcome for which you desire.

Many get lost right here, in distraction!

When asked what their goals and dreams are, responses vary but they sound something like this:

I want to have a great marriage!
I want to be an outstanding parent!
I want to make more money!
I want to have better friendships!
I want to make the A team!
I want to get better grades!
To name just a few…

The derailment has begun at this point because the strategy for progressing towards these outcomes is UNCLEAR, VAGUE, and LACKING TRUE FOCUS. In other words, great intention but very little capacity to turn the intention into the outcome sought after.

Here is a better, more focus friendly way to approach these goals:

I will pursue being a better parent by bringing a heightened degree of energetic, engaging presence to my interactions with my kids. I will focus on being present and intentional in the practice of this with each and every interaction.

If you wanted to make the A team in a sport you would say this: I will dedicate myself to mastering the skills needed to elevate my performance so that I increase my chances of making the A team. These skills include (list the skills specifically). I will pursue this mastery by dedicating 1 hour a day of practice in each of the skills I desire to master.

The power in statements like these is that they give a point of FOCUS for the individual to INVEST THEIR ENERGY ON A CONSISTENT BASIS. Without a CLEAR AND SPECIFIC point to direct one’s focus, you are left with a goal but nothing to point your energy towards on a consistent basis that moves you closer to that which you desire.

You might find this basic framework helpful as you work to generate intentional focus in your life:

I will progress towards my goal of _________ by ________ over the next 30 days so that I can reach my goal.

What is focus?

Focus is the intentional, consistent and ongoing pursuit of the desired outcome. When you use this formula to direct and guide your energy on a daily basis you literally generate your outcome because of your consistent pursuit.

Put the formula to the test in an area that you are looking for accomplishment.

If you’d like to dive deeper into this concept of focus and clearly defining your goals, sign up for your personal High Performance Strategy Session with Shaun now by clicking here.





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