Putting on a Game Face – Parents Too!
I recently received an email from a little league coach looking for strategies to keep his athletes focused in practice, during pre-game drills, and during the game without outside distractions like opposing players,parents and other coaches? He was also interested in what could be done to help them learn how to Put On a Game Face. Here are my thoughts.
I would first stablish a set of ground rules pertaining to “standard of conduct” and “honoring the game.” When players are between the lines on the baseball field the standard of conduct applies. Just a few ground rules will do. Make sure the parents understand these ground rules so it’s clear they are requested not to distract their kids when they are on the field – period. The ground rules apply in practice and in games.
Practice is a critical time for kids to understand that execution success occurs on the practice field before it shows up during games. This is a tough concept for kids because they may not have reached the maturity level to understand what it takes to improve performance, but nonetheless it’s important to start somewhere. It’s also very important the kids understand the game is a game and sport participation is for fun and enjoyment.
Suggestions for Standard of Conduct Rules:
Game Face is an essential tactic that if learned well can become a very strategic tool for any team. It’s about the facial expressions or outward appearance an athlete portrays that exemplifies confidence, and game readiness to ones self and opponents. It’s important that all members of the team are one in the same and collectively focused on being champions. Its about emotion and love for the game that sends a message that I have purpose today and there is no room for distractions of any kind. Finally and most important it’s about having fun. Competition and success is important, but having fun is most important in my view.
1. Ground rule #1: When the players are on the field and between the lines all forms of communication come from within. This means communication happens between team members, and coaches only. Be sure the parents understand this rule.
2. Ground Rule #2: Team members support one another and speak to one another with respect and dignity. Profanity will not be allowed, neither will bullying, name calling or negative comments about another team mates ability. Team members can support, and encourage others on the team, but may not ridicule anyone for making errors. Everyone backs one another up with support and esprit-de-corp.
3. Ground Rule #3: Teach players to come to practice clear of mind without distractions. It’s a simple process of choosing to be present and let go of the days challenges before practice. Presence of mind without distractions will enable athletes to practice at their highest level therefore improve their skills to the highest level. Performance success is directly related to present tense presence of mind. I call it “playing functional sports.”
3. Ground rule #4: The team has a pre-determined set of objectives, a plan for practice and for games where every player is an integral part of the plan. Everyone has an assignment whether it be on the field or off the field. All players are engaged and working to either improve themselves or adding value to the team. Its important the team understands the plan and successful execution requires everyone understands the mindset required to be successful. Every player buys into the game plan and commits to work toward game plan execution. Success is all about execution because execution is what they have control over – not the end result.
4. Ground Rule #5: Educate the kids about taking their energy to the next level. Here is where the “game face” comes in. This can be done with music like (Under Pressure, Eye of the Tiger, You’re the Best, St. Elmos Fire, The Final Countdown, or words from a inspiring speech from (Friday Night Lights – Billy Bob Thornton, Hoosiers – Gene Hackman, Any Given Sunday – Al Pacino, Miracle – Kurt Russell, or from Remember the Titans – Denzel Washington. Its important for kids to understand they have control over their emotions, and energy level. They have the power to fire themselves up. Sometimes its hard to believe in yourself all the time especially when you feel like your performance is not where you would like it be. All the more important for each team member to know that execution is individual in nature, but success is a collective effort. Everyone contributes to winning or losing including the parents.
6. Ground rule #6: Educate the parents about reinforcing success, and how to cope with failure. The first thing kids typically do is beat themselves up for making mistakes or errors. There is little developmental value if parents focus mostly on the mistakes without equal or greater time on the success that was achieved. I like the 5-1 rule. For every mistake teach them to find 5 things they did well during the game. From experience I can tell you there will always be 5 things they did well. It might be hard for them to find the successes so continue to reinforce what they did well using the 5-1 rule. Rewarding success develops a greater sense of self-esteem and confidence. Setbacks teach us the value of hard work and without setbacks we would likely not learn as much. When mistakes are made its important to look at what went wrong and then try again. We all want our kids to embrace the “second chance” mind set. There is always a second chance to get it right no matter the circumstance. As sports parents and coaches you can help your kids stay confident by helping them understand they will make mistakes. Make sure they know that letting go of mistakes opens the door for corrective action and sets the stage for getting back on the path to success.
If you wish to teach your athlete about success and how to achieve greater levels of success take a look at The Mental Edge Performance Journal System. www.protexsports/products.
John R. Ellsworth – Mental Game Coach