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Turn Up the Pressure to Train, Turn it Down to Perform

Here is some simple advice to improve more in practice and perform better in games: turn up the pressure to train, turn down the pressure to perform . This is very similar to the saying, "practice like you play, play like you practice."  In general, there isn't as much pressure in practice as there is in games. It may not matter that much if you go through the motions and make mistakes in practice, because it's just practice. The consequences of your actions in practice aren't as immediate as they are in games. Overall, most athletes don't put enough pressure on themselves to train hard in practice, and they put too much pressure on themselves to perform well in games. As a result of this, they often enter competitions unprepared and overly anxious, which causes them to underperform and fail to reach their potential.  This is why coaches need to teach athletes to turn up the pressure in practice and turn it down in games. Games are already pressure-filled eno

Balance Solidarity and Individuality

The best coaches create a culture that balances solidarity and individuality. On one hand, they do a great job instilling a team-first attitude within their players. This is very important for obvious reasons. In order for a team to succeed, everyone on the team must completely buy into the team's goals, culture, and system. When players care more about the team than their own personal agendas, great things happen. Perhaps the best way to increase solidarity within a team is to inspire players to be a part of something greater than themselves. It doesn't always feel good to swallow your pride, but once players discover the joy and love of being a part of something greater than themselves, they become much more willing to sacrifice their selfish desires and put the team first. When this happens, they begin priding themselves more on their team success than on their individual success. However, there is only so much solidarity athletes can handle. They can't suppress thei

How to Deal with the Boredom of Training

One of the biggest obstacles to success is boredom. Many athletes end a training session early not because of how physically tough it is, but how boring it is. Let's be honest, working on the fundamentals and doing the same drills over and over again can be boring. However, to become great, you have to tolerate boredom and find ways to make training more fun. Here are many things you can do to deal with the boring parts of training: Discipline and extrinsic motivation:  Sometimes you simply have to toughen up, suck it up, and deal with boring parts of training. It may not be fun to watch hours of film, but you need to be disciplined and do it anyways, to help you improve and reach your goals. Attitude and intrinsic motivation: Understand that not every part of training has to be fun. There are going to be parts of training that are boring. You have to accept this and take the good with the bad. Know that overall, your training is still enjoyable and worth it. Also, you need to

Watching Sports as a Mental Exercise

Watching sports on TV can be stressful, especially if you're a fan of one of the teams. When your team makes a good play, you usually get happy, but when your team plays poorly, you usually get angry or sad. You can also get very angry if the referees make a bad call against your team. Overall, watching a game can put you on an emotional roller-coaster. For the most part, this is fine if you're just a fan. However, if you're also an athlete, this can reinforce unhelpful thinking patterns that can make you mentally weaker in games. When you're playing in an actual game, you don't want to think like a fan. You want to think like an athlete! You don't want to get too emotional after good or bad plays. For the most part, to play your best, you need to stay calm, focused, motivated, and confident after each play, no matter how good or bad it was. This is why reinforcing negative thought patterns as a fan can hurt your mental toughness as an athlete. However, this doe

Book Review: Choke by Sian Beilock

Choke: The Secret to Performing Under Pressure by Sian Beilock is another great book you can read to help you perform better under pressure. I've already written three reviews on books about performing under pressure. They include: Performing Under Pressure by Hendrie Weisinger and J.P. Pawliw-Fry Perform Under Pressure by Dr. Ceri Evans Psyched Up by Daniel McGinn Choke by Sian Beilock adds to this collection with its own helpful advice. The great thing about Choke is that it's written by an author who has personally researched the topic of choking and performing under pressure in university laboratories. The knowledge and advice she gives in this book is not only well-researched but also very easy to read. Beilock does a great job simplifying the language. Unlike other scientific books, you can read this book relatively fast and comprehend all of it at the same time! The premise of this book is that by understanding how people choke in different situations, you can bett

How to Improve Your Concentration in Games

There are two keys to improving your concentration in games: 1. Preventing and managing distractions. 2. Focusing on the task at hand. Both of these things are needed to improve your concentration in games. One without the other isn't enough.  Let me first talk about the importance of preventing and managing distractions. Obviously, it's hard to focus when you're distracted. The better you manage distractions, the easier it is to lock in on the task at hand. The main way to block out distractions is not by resisting them, but by focusing more on the task at hand. The more you focus on the task at hand, the more distractions will fade away in your mind. However, there's more you can do to manage and eliminate distractions. The first thing you need to do is make sure you don't enter a game distracted with outside sources of stress. Many athletes have trouble focusing in practice or games because they are too worried about their grades, their relationships, etc. As

The Importance of Habits

The three main factors that determine your work ethic are:  Motivation  Discipline  Habits I've written a lot in the past about motivation and discipline , so today I want to focus on habits. Habits are important because they are largely controlled subconsciously, which means they require little conscious motivation or discipline. This is very helpful because you only have so much motivation and willpower (discipline) to use every day. Once you use up all your motivation and willpower, you'll stop working hard. So the key to improving your work ethic is building positive habits so you can conserve most of your motivation and willpower to be used for more difficult tasks. For example, if you form the habits of waking up early, eating a healthy breakfast, stretching after practice, and watching film at night, you can do these things without using much motivation or willpower. You can then focus your motivation and willpower on more difficult tasks such as completing a tough worko

The Weakness Avoidance Loop

Here is an example to show how the weakness avoidance loop works: A basketball player realizes he has a weakness, such as three point shooting. Because he is afraid of the struggle and embarrassment that comes with fixing his weakness, he avoids practicing his three point shoot in both practices and games. Because he avoids practicing his three point shooting, it remains a weakness. The longer he goes without fixing his weakness, the weaker it becomes, which deepens his fear of confronting and fixing his weakness. The more an athlete gets sucked into the weakness avoidance loop, the harder it is to break out of it.  The weakness avoidance loop can be a major obstacle in the development of athletes, which is why it's so important to fight against. It can be difficult, but it's completely possible to stop procrastinating about fixing your weaknesses. Breaking out of the weakness avoidance loop mainly requires motivation and courage. At some point you need to be fed up with your w

One Way to Calm Yourself Down Before Games

A great way to relieve your nerves before games is to write down your worries on paper. By writing down your worries on paper, you can get things off your chest, which feels good in itself. But also, writing can help you find the source of your worries and nervousness. It can be hard to calm yourself down if you don’t know exactly what is making you nervous. Once you discover the main sources of your nervousness through the process of writing, you can better confront these worries and replace them with more positive thoughts. This form of cognitive behavioral therapy can greatly improve your mindset before games. Also, to make this writing exercise even more effective, you can write about your positive qualities and past successes to increase your confidence. Remember, no one has to see what you write, so you should be as honest as possible. I encourage all athletes to try this strategy to relieve nerves. Trust me, it’ll help! And don’t just do this exercise in your head. Actually use

Book Review: The Brave Athlete by Simon Marshall and Lesley Paterson

The Brave Athlete by Simon Marshall and Lesley Paterson is a great sports psychology book. What I liked most about this book is that it balanced being scientific and coherent with being practical and fun to read. In this book, Marshall and Paterson go over twelve of the most common issues that athletes face, which are: Creating a healthy athletic identity.  Building confidence.  Improving work ethic by forming good habits.  Dealing with social comparisons.  Dealing with body image issues and eating disorders.  Coping with injuries.  Dealing with exercise dependence.  Leaving your comfort zone and overcoming fears.  Persevering through challenges and fighting the temptation to quit.  Embracing the suck and building mental toughness.  Improving concentration skills.  Performing under pressure. To begin the book, the authors teach us about a simple metaphor used as a mental model to help represent and understand the brain and human psychology. In this mental model, the brain consists of

Performance Tip: Just Do It!

There are certain plays in games where an athlete has to wait momentarily before taking action. Examples include a soccer player waiting to take a penalty kick, a tennis player waiting to serve, and a basketball player waiting to shoot a free-throw. In these situations, the longer you wait to take action, the more likely you are to overthink and choke. Conversely, the sooner you commit to taking action, the less likely you are to overthink and choke. Here is an example to explain why this is the case. When a basketball player is nervous about taking a free-throw, he usually waits longer than he normally does to shoot. This is because he doesn't believe he is ready to shoot. He may think he is too nervous and will likely miss, therefore he takes more time to settle his thoughts and emotions. Sometimes this helps, but sometimes it backfires. Instead of calming the athlete down, waiting to shoot can actually lead to the athlete overthinking and becoming more nervous. This is because t

Prepare to Succeed!

Stop bracing for failure. Prepare to succeed instead! When athletes are worried about an upcoming game, they often try to reduce their stress by bracing for failure. They may tell themselves, "I'm probably going to lose. It's okay though. I'm not supposed to win anyways. Besides, I'm not 100% healthy, so I have an excuse." This type of defense mechanism is often used during games when an athlete is losing. For example, an athlete may say to himself, "I'm playing so bad. Today isn't my day. I'll just tell my friends and family that I wasn't feeling good today." Bracing for failure may make you feel better about yourself, but it doesn't help you perform better, which is what really matters. Instead of protecting your ego by bracing for failure, wouldn't it be better for you to instead improve your performance by preparing to succeed!? When you're nervous about an upcoming game, instead of bracing for failure and procrastinat

Using Anger as Motivation

In sports, it is quite common for athletes to use anger as motivation, especially in aggressive and physical sports such as football. Anger can be a powerful emotion that can fuel people to work hard towards their goals. Athletes often feel most motivated when they're angry about something. Much of the time, athletes get angry after losing or after being disrespected/overlooked. For the athletes that hate losing, they often use their anger to work very hard to make sure they succeed more in the future. And since it is human nature to desire respect and high-status, many athletes hate the feeling of getting disrespected or overlooked by others. They take these things personal and use their anger as motivation to prove their doubters and haters wrong. With my experience helping athletes and coaches, I've learned the advantages and disadvantages of using anger as motivation. The obvious advantage of using anger as motivation is that it can be very strong. It can help you stay disc

Book Review: Relentless by Tim Grover

Tim Grover has been a big influence on me ever since I read his book, Relentless  in high school. I've learned so much about motivation, work ethic, and success from this book. I continued to draw inspiration and lessons from this book after rereading it this week. The great thing about Tim Grover is that he tells it how it is. He's not afraid to tell the truth about what it takes to succeed at the highest levels of sports. You may not agree with everything that Grover writes about in this book, but at least it will give you a new perspective to look at things. In this book, Grover breaks down people into three groups: coolers, closers, and cleaners. A cleaner works relentlessly to get the best results. A cooler is a lazy person who allows life to dictate their outcomes. And a closer is someone in the middle. Throughout the book, Tim Grover shows how cleaners distinguish themselves from everyone else. According to Grover, these are the 13 characteristics that cleaners sh

Three Reasons Why You Should Put the Team First

Here are three reasons why you should put the team first and be a good teammate: 1. You'll experience deeper happiness through team success. Team success > individual success. When all you have is individual success, you can remain a little empty inside. Your individual ego is too small to fully satisfy yourself. Happiness is meant to be shared. When you share your success, you'll feel more satisfaction, love, and connection with others. It feels amazing to be a part of something greater than yourself! 2. Putting the team first actually helps you individually by making you look good in the eyes of coaches . If you're a good teammate and leader, your coaches will speak highly of you, which will help advance your career. In the long run, this will benefit you much more than being a selfish teammate does. 3. Lastly, and most importantly, being a good teammate improves your character and makes you a better person. In the grand scheme of things, this is much more importa

Natural Talent and Motivation

What is the relationship between an athlete's natural talent and their motivation? Who usually has more motivation: athletes with lots of natural talent, or athletes with little natural talent? I believe both these kinds of athletes can be highly motivated in their own way. Athletes that are naturally talented (gifted with great athletic genes) have a great motivational advantage working in their favor. Since they are naturally athletic, perhaps with great size, strength, speed, or coordination, they have a high ceiling. They have a lot of potential for athletic success. This gives them a lot of confidence. They know that if they put in the work, they can reach their potential and achieve great success. This is very motivating. Some of the most successful athletes are motivated for this reason. They know they have God-given talents, and they don't want to have them go to waste. They want to get the most out of themselves and reach their potential. Lebron James is an athlete w

Internal Pressure vs External Pressure

Pressure is a form of stress, and no one likes stress. However, some stress is good for you. It keeps you motivated, and motivation leads to effort, which leads to success. You can't succeed without dealing with some amount of stress or pressure. The most successful people don't just tolerate pressure, they embrace it. They actually turn up the pressure at times to increase their motivation and work ethic. But as you know, there's only so much pressure and stress a person can take. Eventually, you can burn out from working under too much pressure. However, there's a way to thrive under more pressure. The key is to maximize internal pressure and minimize external pressure. Internal pressure is the pressure you put on yourself. It is working towards your own goals, for your own reasons, because you want to. On the other hand, external pressure is the pressure other people put on you. It is working towards a goal for other people's reasons, to earn their approval, be

Five Ways to Motivate Yourself Against Weak Competition

One of the most difficult challenges in sports is motivating yourself to play your best against weak competition. When playing against a weak opponent, many athletes play down to the level of their competition. This is mainly because they lack motivation for these games. Many athletes are simply bored when playing against a very weak opponent. Their opponent offers no challenge or excitement, therefore they often just go through the motions and give the minimal amount of effort needed to win. They just want to get the game over with and move onto their next opponent. All of this, of course, leads to poor performance. It can even cause you to lose to a weaker opponent. This is why every coach needs to try especially hard to motivate their team when playing against weaker competition. Here are five ways to motivate yourself against weaker competition: 1. Don't be satisfied with just winning. Aim to play your best and dominate! When playing against a weak opponent, you shouldn't

Book Review: The Captain Class by Sam Walker

The Captain Class by Sam Walker is a great leadership book that I recommend to all athletes and coaches. What makes this book unique is how instead of focusing on the leadership of coaches, it focuses on the leadership of players, specifically the leadership of the captain of a team. Walker makes the case that the leadership of a captain is the most important contributor to team success. I can't say I completely agree with the author's claim that the captain is the most important factor. I personally believe that having a great coach and a talented roster are about just as important as having a great team captain. No matter how good a team captain is, they still need the help of their teammates and coaches to succeed. However, I also believe the value of captains is very underappreciated. Too much importance is placed on coaches and talent, and not enough is placed on captains. This is unfortunate, because it is the captain that acts as the mediator between the coach and the

Low-Intensity Training

When it comes to training, more isn't always better. Your body (and your mind) has limits. Once you reach a certain point, more training becomes over-training. Over-training is of course something to worry about. However, there are many athletes who think they're training at the optimal amount, but in reality, they could be doing more. After a few hours of high-intensity training on the practice field and in the weight room, they may think they have done enough for the day. They are convinced that they need to rest. This may be true since there is only so much high intensity training you can do everyday. However, they may be forgetting that while they don't need to be doing any more high-intensity training, they could still do more "low-intensity training" that adds very little wear and tear to their body. The problem is that many athletes and coaches laugh at the idea of "low-intensity training." They think that training is only worthwhile if it&#

Extrinsic vs Intrinsic Motivation

Extrinsic motivation is the motivation to gain something external from yourself. Extrinsic motives include money, scholarships, praise, accolades, recognition, fame, rankings, and trophies. External motivation can be in the form of punishments as well. For example, you can be motivated to avoid punishments such as being yelled at by your coach, losing your ranking, or losing money. External motivation is common because most people need tangible rewards in order to survive as well as to feel pleasure and self-esteem. Some people want these external rewards so much, that they become powerful motivators and lead to great work ethic and success. However, there are some major issues with external motivation. First of all, they only motivate you as long as they remain provided. If the rewards stop coming, you may lose your motivation to work hard. If you want more reliable motivation, you need to be intrinsically motivated as well. You don't want to become too dependent on extrinsic mo