Sunday, October 19, 2014

Being Told No, Doesn't Need To Define You

I have to admit, I am a fan of Hell's Kitchen, its a bit of a guilty pleasure.  I'm intrigued to watch people who are chasing a dream and subject themselves to a very demanding screening process and yet are so very quick to point the finger of blame about their shortcomings on someone else. 
When you walk into Hell's Kitchen, it is known Gordon Ramsey is going to put you through very extreme mental and sometimes physical challenges in order to see who can excel under adverse conditions.  Yet, I'm amazed how shocked some of the people seem to be as to how hard it is.  He doesn't want just anybody to run his restaurants, he wants "the somebody" who can perform to their greatest potential on a consistent basis and provide a high quality service.  When the contest is over there will only be one person left, so what about all the chefs who don't make the cut?
So often you hear the ones who have been let go reflect that Chef Ramsey didn't think they were good enough or they feel their dream is over and now don't know what they'll do, but just because one person didn't pick you or one attempt at a goal wasn't taken to completion, does not have to define you.  Most likely though, this is the mindset that leaves you coming up short because your basis for success is being externally driven because you don't believe in yourself enough. Your belief as to whether you're good enough is solely based on someones opinion, but you have to believe in you first and foremost because your opinion about yourself IS what matters most.
When we allow the "I'm not good enough" voice to take charge, that is our gremlin talking. The little voice that tries to protect you by keeping you small, not allowing you to go for it because then you won't get hurt.  Yet when you allow your gremlin, your fear, your lack of personal accountability to lead the way, all you'll ever be is less than your best self.  No one else should define you, but you.  When you allow the decisions or opinions of others to define you, you give away your power, your strength and it's based on external influences.
I'm encouraging you here today to believe in you, go within, trust in you.  Believe in your abilities and the "no" you may have just heard only means it's not yet the right fit.  Take charge of that gremlin and let her know you're in charge and she can rest because you've got this. 
So yes, it may be disappointing when we fall short of a goal or something we want doesn't go our way this time, but it does not define who you are. Be ready and wanting to take sole possession of your life and take full responsibility and accountability for all you are, all you have, and all of you'll ever be. The only one who can and should ever define you is the person looking back at you in the mirror and that's YOU. 
Now go make great things happen........

Monday, November 18, 2013

Specializing in One Sport, Yay or Nay?

This is a question many people have; should I specialize on one sport or is it okay to “still” be a multi-sport athlete?  The first question I would ask; what’s your motivation behind why you’re playing in the first place.  If the answer is to get a scholarship, you’re already headed down a dangerous road.  The only motivation anyone should have for playing is for the love of the game, enjoy the challenges the game brings, the life lessons they learn, and wanting to be better today than yesterday.  The intention behind why you play is the ultimate driving force creating the results you’ll have.

But let’s go back the question at hand.  Should you specialize or play multiple sports?  Having coached in college for 20 years and being a Division One Head Softball Coach I saw many, many talented players through the years.  Without a doubt, there were some amazing softball players who had only ever played softball, but hands down the best players I had or ever saw were the ones who were multi-sport athletes.  It’s mainly due to the physiological and psychological benefits.  Each sport has its own characteristics and skill sets required to be successful, but they all require balance, coordination, and body awareness.  Learning the nuances of each sport, while incorporating these physical factors trains the body to move in many different ways and you avoid the dangers of specificity training.

When you specialize in only one sport the body learns only those movements required and the muscle memory is one dimensional, but to play multiple sports your body is better equipped to adapt to various physical stresses.  You also improve your physical prowess, especially coordination. Serve, receive in tennis and volleyball or a penalty shot for a goalie in soccer is a similar pre-set stance to being a second baseman or short stop in baseball or softball.  They all require quick explosive movement that could be front, back, up, down, or side to side.  Imagine how much better you would be as a fielder after having played these other sports.  The skill set training is different, but the impact on the crossover would be tremendous.  You also gain the psychological impact of learning different skills, being challenged to cope with various successes and failures, adapting to coaching techniques, and learning game strategies which increases your mental aptitude for decision making.

Another area that is always a concern when someone plays a sport is preventing overuse injuries.  When you play only one sport you increase your chances for these types of injuries because the body is always doing the same motions, in the same way.  Orthopedic doctors are seeing an increase in the intensity of overuse injuries in athletes at much younger ages.  Many of it being contributed to the age the athletes are starting, the amount they are playing, and the specialization of only one sport causing too much repetition of similar movements.  

Ok, but what about the scholarship?  Don’t I have to specialize to get a scholarship?  The answer is absolutely not.  As a matter of fact, being a multi or dual sport athlete will give you credibility and add value to college coaches.  When you are good enough to be considered for a scholarship the coaches know who you are.  Coaches are looking for the future potential in an athlete and specializing limits that potential. It’s just like when you play only one position, it limits your effectiveness and future possibilities.  Yet a multi-sport player brings all sorts of possible options because of the various skill sets you have to have.  I could spot the best athletes in warm ups.  I knew who I would follow and want to track very quickly, because I saw their athleticism.  I know I can teach an athlete a new skill easier than I can change a one dimensional player’s bad habit.  I also knew to be a multi-sport athlete they would need discipline in time management, setting priorities, and have a strong work ethic.   

Lebron James was an excellent football player in high school, but his basketball skills were not missed.  As a matter of fact, last year during the basketball strike there was much discussion about whether Lebron would play wide receiver for some NFL team.  Russel Westbrook, the Seattle Seahawks QB, played professional baseball during the summer while he was in college.  Tom Brady was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays before going to Michigan to play football.  There are many famous professional players who were not only multi-sport athletes, but so good at all their sports they created options for themselves and their futures.  I think it is safe to say, being a multi-sport athlete did not hurt the exposure or the effectiveness of these players.  

One last fact to consider is you have a limited window to be a multi-sport athlete.  High school should be about options, exploration, and growth.  You only have a short time to experience playing multi-sports for your high school, being a part of different teams, different coaches, and different rivalries.   If you are fortunate to play in college (and there are so many options to make that happen) you will specialize in one sport, so why rush the process.  So I return to my original question.  What is the motivation behind playing only one sport?  If it is so you’ll be good enough to play in college and get a scholarship, re-visit your thought process and realize you will be much more likely to reach that goal if you are a well rounded athlete.  Coaches want healthy, well rounded people who are great athletes, not a one dimensional, specialized product.

Monday, November 4, 2013

There Is No Place for Bullying

On Friday, my radio show focused on a few topics hot in youth sports. One of them was whether or not a lopsided game of 91-0 constituted a bullying accusation filed by a parent of the losing team.  In doing some research it became apparent the players stayed respectful, showed good sportsmanship, the clock stayed running, and the players even did some things to not score a few times when they could. On the show we discussed there is a difference between one team being over matched due to talents levels and bullying and that the parent filing a formal complaint actually diminished the serious nature of bullying that we do have going on right now.  The lopsided win, in my opinion, was not a bullying case, it was an unfortunate mismatch of player abilities and schools that will need to reevaluate their schedules.  I wish one team did not have to experience such a loss, but the players weren't targeted, taunted, or ridiculed.  It was a bad loss and I wish it didn't happen.

Unfortunately, over the past week a true and serious bullying/hazing situation has come to the surface within the Miami Dolphins organization.  One player seriously bullying another player to the extent the bullied player had to leave the team due to mental distress.  Fortunately the player who IS the bully has been suspended by the team and the NFL is further investigating the situation.  There is no place for bullying/hazing in sports and certainly not in our everyday lives. 

It is time we started showing more compassion for each other.  Time to start welcoming others instead of closing doors.  Making yourself feel good by hurting someone else, doesn't take away the bullies pain (because that's what they are, in pain or in fear of something) it only brings another person down into an emotionally and sometimes physically distressed state.  Bullying is painful, bullying has pushed way too many kids and people to believe they are not good enough to the point they try to commit suicide - with far too many not being saved in time.  It has to stop, but it won't.  My only hope is a serious story such as this will bring a new light to the seriousness of bullying and that it happens everywhere.  Even to big and physically intimidating and strong football players.  The size of the person being bullied has no barring on the pain it internally inflicts.  Inside we're all the same size.  Inside we all want to be liked, loved, accepted, and know we have value and matter.  Usually the bully doesn't feel any of that and when they inflict their words or physical harm on another, the one being bullied certainly doesn't feel it.  Yet we all do MATTER, we all do have VALUE, and we are all LOVEABLE.

So the next time you make a joke at someone's expense remember to them it's not funny.  The next time you laugh at a practical joke that humiliates another, think of the deeper pain it may be causing.  We don't know what is going on inside another and we should never do anything to make ourselves feel better by bringing someone else down.  Live with compassion and empathy and together we can all make this a safer, more accepting world.

Here is a link to my radio show - Train Your Brain to Up Your Game with Coach Mandy

Friday, November 1, 2013

Turning a Lopsided Loss Into a Win-Win

There was a recent youth sports story from Parker County in Texas that hit the news.  The story was about the mother of a high school football player who filed bullying charges against the coaching staff of the opposing team.  The mom made this claim because her son’s team lost  91-0.    The complaint suggests the coaches should have told the players to take it easy on the competition.  The irony to the complaint is she goes on to say the players from (Aledo High School) showed respect to her son and thanked them for the good sportsmanship.  So why even file the complaint in the first place?  She states she didn’t know what to say to my son on the ride home.  The issue with the filing of this complaint is that bullying is a problem in our school systems right now; it is a real epidemic with how freely kids can be targeted through social media and taunting at school.  Lives are being lost due to bullying and this complaint minimizes the legitimacy and severity of bullying.
 It’s the reality of sports that one team wins and one team losses.  It is certainly more difficult to be on the losing team, especially if it’s as lopsided as 91-0, but does this constitute bullying?  If the players played their best, displayed good sportsmanship, didn’t intentionally run up the score, how is this bullying?
 This game can be used to teach some life lessons, for both teams.  The winning team can foster discussions around; how do you continue to show respect for an opponent when it’s clear they are over-matched?  Is stopping at the goal line instead of scoring respectful or not?  What would they want the other team to do if they were on the other side?  If they were in another game like this, what would they do differently and still be respectful of the other team?  What did you learn from this experience and how can you use this lesson later on in life?
The discussions that can be had with the losing team could be; what did you learn about yourself by continuing to play hard even though you weren’t going to win?  What would you have wanted the other team do differently?  What would you have done if you had been the other team? How will being in a game like this help you later on in life?
When you play sports, the basic concept is one team wins and one team loses.  It is very unfortunate the Fort Worth’s Western Hills football team lost 91-0.  It is certainly not the way anyone ever wants a game to go, but it does happen and it appears the Aledo players did their best to limit the damage.   But I think it can be agreed that a lopsided score does not qualify as bullying.  Everyday we’re faced with obstacles, how we take on these challenges is what shapes who we are.  What we learn from these experiences helps us in how we will show up the next an issue arises.  Ultimately, it leads us to form what actions we will take.  There are opportunities in everything that happens to us, we just need to be able to have an open mind to take these win – loss experiences and shift them into a win-win. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

You Have the Power

No one is in control of your happiness but you; therefore, you have the power to change anything about yourself or your life that you want to change. Barbara de Angelis 

Listen to the language you use on a regular basis.  Do you say; I can't, I wish I could, If only, someday I will, one of these days, and on and on.  All these phrases immediately stop you in your tracks from being in charge of yourself, you are giving away your power, you are eliminating potential opportunities that may be right in front of you.  Your words, your mindset, your energy all set the tone for the life you will live.  It is all within your control and power to make it anything you choose and it is always a choice. It may not be easy, it may not always go smoothly, but when you take action and empower yourself you take care of you and you set the standards.  Decide today on just one thing you want that you have felt was outside of your reach and set the intention to make it happen.  Then everyday, no matter how big or small, do something towards making it happen. To walk a mile you must take one step at at time, this is no different.  You have the power now unleash it, go for it, be it, live it.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

You Want to Be a Better Player

Do you want to get better at your sport?  Then all you have to do is practice more, right?  If practicing the skills and drills were all you need to be your best, then everyone would be really good and everyone would want the ball for the last minute play or covet the at bat with two outs and the winning run on third.  As we know, that’s not the case. 

We’ve all seen the player who has incredible physical skills, but struggles to get the job done when the going gets tough, or the great practice player who just never seems to bring it to the game.  Yet there is also the “average” skilled player who maximizes every ounce of physicality they possess and just brings it every time; the one you can count on like the sun coming up everyday.  So what separates players when push comes to shove? What makes the great player average and the average player great when it’s all on the line?  It’s their mental make-up.

So much time is spent on physical training, conditioning, and eating right, but the mind drives the bus.  Training the brain like we train our bodies can offer up an advantage that so many overlook.  Mental game training can:
·   Help grow confidence in athletes who have doubts (the doubts that tend to come up when it’s all on the line),
·   Develop coping skills to deal with setbacks and errors,
·   Instill a healthy belief system and identify irrational thoughts,
·   Help teams develop communication skills and cohesion, and so much more.

The games are played from the neck down, but they are won from the neck up.  Being a complete player requires complete training, which should include mental game training.  One great tool that many people have heard about is mental imagery or performance visualization.  There have been studies that have shown an athlete can improve their performance simply through mental imagery exercises.  The mind can’t tell the difference between visualization and an actual movement.  This is what makes our minds so powerful and unique.  A quote from Zig Ziglar says it real well, “the mind completes whatever picture we put into it” and our bodies will follow the message our mind sends. This is true not only in sports, but also in any area of life, because as we also know sports provide us with so many lessons for lifelong learning. 

Creating awareness and learning to connect the body and the mind can not only make you a more complete and successful player, but it will be helpful in all areas of your life because they are forever joined; we just aren’t always attentive to this fact.  To be a complete player you must be a complete person, which includes on and off the field actions and making the mind and body connect.  Sounds simple, sounds easy, and it is.  All it takes is hard work and practice, because every great athlete knows, there are no shortcuts.