7 Practical Ideas to Contain Team Gossip

Team harmony can be improved when friendships develop within the team. The downside is cliques and gossip starting to increase. The line between casual communication and destructive gossip is thin. How can you stomp out gossip without discouraging bonding among team members? Gossip benefits no one. In fact, it’s one of the most common team chemistry destroyers. What can you and your players do to keep gossip at a minimum?

The following was excerpted from the book Championship Performance Coaching.

3 Ideas for Coaches: 1) Anticipate your team members information needs. Answer questions before they are asked.

2) Confront rumors. Call a meeting as soon as you get wind of a rumor. Let team members bring their questions and fears into the open.

3) Realize the grapevine will always exist. Be satisfied with knowing what’s happening within it. Be prepared to take appropriate and swift action to counteract its effects.

4 Ideas for Athletes: 1) Be aware. As with any bad habit, team members must first be aware that gossip is a problem before they decide to do anything about it.

2) Make a decision. Despite that fact that gossip is something that is hard to stop “cold turkey”, anyone can start with a step-by-step approach. First, cut back 10 or 20 percent per day. Don’t gossip about anyone on the team. Then gradually cut back more and more.

3) Change the subject. If you sense a gossip conversation starting, change the subject. Don’t embarrass the person who is talking. Simply change the direction of the conversation. If that fails, politely exit the conversation.

4) Play the “reverse gossip” game. When a teammate says something ‘gossipy’ about someone, respond by mentioning that players good points.

Excerpted from the book Championship Performance Coaching Volume 2: 101 Practical, Proven Sports Psychology and Team Building Strategies to Win More This Season.

Get hundreds more super practical, winning ideas to make your team better in the 2019/20 season.



Chip Kelly’s 6 Keys to Run a Great Practice

Current UCLA and former Oregon football coach Chip Kelly is recognized as an innovator in his approach to the game. It all starts with the way his teams practice. Here are his 6 keys to running a great practice.

(The following was excerpted from the book – The Football Coach’s Gameplan for Leadership: Interviews with Football Legends, Detailed Organizational Plans and Coaching Strategies to Build Your Team’s Leadership Culture).

1) Improved Execution by Speed and Repetition. “If your players have not run that (game-deciding play) over a thousand times in practice, you will not have a chance to be successful. My old high school coach told me a long time ago that ‘If your head is moving, your feet are not.’ That means if you are thinking about what you do, you are not doing it as fast,” Kelly said.

To Kelly, practice is for one thing: repetitions. Learning by doing. Teaching and talking takes place in classrooms and video sessions beforehand, whenever possible. Stopping to talk during practice is a wasted opportunity and pulls you away from the rhythm of actual games.

As much as possible, every aspect of practice, emulates the game environment. If you can’t stop a play and instruct your player in a game, don’t do that in practice. Kelly’s assistants only correct players if they are substituted out of the scrimmage. The loud music is designed in part to simulate game conditions, specifically players’ ability to communicate without shouting or hand signals, but also the excitement of the event. It’s an exercise in focus despite distractions.

Kelly’s practices start fast and keep accelerating. His teams typically run 135 plays in each practice and sometimes more than 150. Some players have said that games seem slow in comparison. They ran no wind sprints; the entire practice was a wind sprint in the form of reps.

2) Building Trust. The teaching isn’t just to make players learn new systems. It also builds trust as Kelly takes the time to explain why they do certain things other teams don’t.

A former player noted: “One thing I liked about Coach Kelly is that you can go in and ask him why am I doing this – why am I running this route instead of that route and he will tell you directly – boom, boom. That makes you respect him more and gives you a place where you can voice your opinion. He doesn’t take it as a threat. Everything has a purpose. If it’s not proven, we won’t do it.”

When trying to innovate in a very traditional sport, this type of open communication is crucial and so is lack of defensiveness. It’s not about the coach having to be right, it’s about finding out what works and giving the players a say in what brings them to their best performance level.

3) Developing Leaders. At Oregon, instead of having one or two team captains, they had sixteen – one leader for each position. Kelly let the players choose who those leaders would be because: “Those guys have a better feeling for it. Once we have those sixteen squad leaders, I spend more time with those guys than anybody else. Talking about what being a leader is all about. Be the first one to serve, be the last to be served. Be the first one to indentify what our team standards are and be the last to break them.

4) Communication. Kelly’s programs have done this both with the players and with assistant coaches. In Philadelphia, plays will not just be called by the head coach and relayed in. Position coaches will be sending signals in to just their players, allowing much more specific and complicated messages and making it impossible for opponents to steal the calls in time to relay them to their players.

5) Changing Bad Habits. It’s crucial in the Kelly system to catch bad habits in practice and break them there. In the pressure and unpredictable flux of a game, players don’t have time to analyze or think about what to do. They will react based on the instincts developed in practice, so bad habits not corrected will emerge at game time.

This has been proven by research into the brain. It turns out that pathways in the brain actually reinforce themselves through use, so the concept of habits is not just a nagging point – it’s burned into the brain through repetition.

6) Daily Super Bowl Mentality. Much of the even keel emotional state that Kelly encourages comes from the idea that “every game is the Super Bowl.” No rival is more important than another. No one is getting caught up in next week’s glory. The focus is always to perform the next play as well as possible. That is the only thing that matters. It’s an attitude that keeps you focused in a game, no matter what the score says. He wants his teams to play with a focused intensity that he calls “fearless and fun.”

Want more on how the greatest football coach’s run their programs, check out – The Football Coach’s Gameplan for Leadership

Player Post-Game Self Evaluations Improve Performance

Coaches and athletes must deal with the fact all games end with a team’s performance falling (more or less) into one of the following categories: 1) Won and played well. 2) Won but played poorly. 3) Lost and played well. 4) Lost and played poorly. Given the above four conditions, is there a constructive method when de-briefing a team so players will utilize the just-ended contest as a learning experience?

The following is an excerpt from the book Championship Performance Coaching Volume 2: 101 Practical, Proven Sports Psychology and Team Building Strategies to Win More This Season.

Athletes will be prone to openly demonstrate anger and disappointment following a game when their team plays poorly. These exaggerated postmortems are non-constructive, expressed with negative emotion and mostly inaccurate. They distort the coach and players’ perceptions of what actually took place on the court or field. Fueled by negative emotion, the coach may also inaccurately attribute the team’s poor play or loss to factors, after careful analysis, had a minimal impact on the team’s performance.

Immediately following a game, especially after a poor team performance, coaches should address psychological needs, e.g. leaving alone those who prefer to be left alone, reassuring those who need confidence boosted, and ensuring no one gets “too down” or sullen. Denigrating personal remarks made to specific team members add to the inaccurate self-assessment of factors responsible for a poor performance. Even more important, it leads players to attribute their poor performance to factors far removed from the “reality of the situation.”

In setting up an effective post game debriefing program, coaches usually have two common objectives across all sports: 1. Improve individual performance. 2. Utilize the just completed game as a tool to prepare for the next contest.

Recommendation: Have players fill out an evaluation form a few hours following a game to rate how they performed. You can tailor this form to criteria of your choosing. A meeting can be held the following day to discuss the player’s performance with the coach. At this meeting the coach can modify individual performance attributions and interact with the players in a positive and rational manner as sufficient time has elapsed to be objective.

For example, if the player is inaccurately self-critical, by utilizing the checklist coaches can objectively evaluate performance and place the negative aspects in proper context. Video review can be used here for supporting the positive. The coach can also give the team a written analysis, which stresses positive execution, while constructively stating areas that need to be improved.

The next day’s meeting, with one to one consultation, video review, and written analysis by both coaches and athletes will be 100% more effective than any post-game session immediately following a contest.

For hundreds more winning ideas on team building, motivation and mental game excellence, check out Championship Performance Coaching.

4 Keys to Tiger Woods Greatness

What a comeback for Tiger Woods. In one of the more remarkable golf success stories of all-time, Woods won his fifth Masters title after an 11-year break between major wins.

Here are 4 keys to Woods greatness: 1) The Mental Golf Game Taught from the Start. Tiger’s late father Earl had a psychology degree from Kansas State University and worked on the mental game from a young age. Earl would create distractions to teach Tiger to remain focused. When Tiger was in the middle of his back-swing, Earl would jiggle some coins in his pocket or cough loudly.

“I actually started to ask him to do it. As a teen, I was playing against guys who hit the ball longer and were better than I was. The only way for me to get better was to get tougher. I figured I could challenge them on the mental level, be tougher and out think them,” Tiger recalled.

As young as age 14, Woods started working with a sports psychologist who taught him techniques for relaxation, visualization and mental focus. While other kids his age were watching television, Woods was watching motivational tapes and was doing mental drills to improve his focus.

2) Adaptability and Confidence to Change. Woods ability to stay focused, flexible and calm under pressure is one of his keys to success: His ability to adapt is one of his greatest strengths and he also hasn’t been afraid to mess with success. Twice during his career, Woods has re-worked his swing, something many lesser golfers wouldn’t dare try.

“People wondered why I made swing changes. You make changes to get better. I know have more shots than I’ve had which allows me to attack the course,” he said.

Woods has a keen understanding of swing mechanics and how to fix them: “You aren’t always going to have your best stuff. No one is going to help you inside the ropes to figure it out. You have to be ready to adjust.”

3) Self-motivated. According to Nike’s Phil Knight, “Tiger’s greatest weapon is his brain. You will not out-think Tiger. He studies. He learns. He’s always asking more questions. He still believes there is more for him to achieve.”

“I love winning and I hate losing,” Woods says. “That’s how my father was. My mother was even more fiery than my dad. That’s the kind of house I grew up in. You never backed down.”

Those who have been around Tiger have seen his legendary competitiveness – whether it’s playing cards, table tennis, or scuba diving – he always comes up with a challenge to make himself better.

4) Fitness fanatic. Woods training schedule involves hours of lifting weights, running or biking, along with practice on the driving range. Tiger is still 185 pounds of lean muscle, with a build ideally suited for a smooth, powerful swing that includes a big shoulder turn and a limited turn of the hips. Woods sparked a fitness revival in golf years ago in his prime, but few still out-work Tiger in the gym. That same cut physique was on display at the Masters Tournament. Now that he is older, he does more physical therapy and massage to help compensate for lingering back issues.

To get your golfers psychologically ready to compete at the highest level, check out Good to Great Golf, the only mental game golf book targeted to high school and college golfers.

4 Quick Team Building Ideas

These ideas build team harmony, reduce tension and foster a positive atmosphere during the season.

  1. Mark off significant progress when certain goals are met with “mini-celebrations”. For example, throw a pizza party when the team increases assist to turnover margin for a certain amount of games in a row. Don’t necessarily make the celebration tied to number of victories.

  2. Post a large blank sheet of paper with headings such as “Favorite Movie or Musical Performer” and “One Unique Aspect about Myself” in the locker room and let players fill out the list. They’ll learn more about one another and have fun in the process. This helps break up the tension in the middle of the season.

  3. Surprise players sporadically with a special treat – and make sure they don’t expect it. A good time to do this is when they have met a marker you set, but they weren’t aware of.

Example: Make running drills optional.

  1. Use a dartboard to offer bonuses. If a player earns the privilege (by going the extra mile in practice or making an unselfish play in a game) give them a throw at the dartboard. On the board have different “prizes” that can be distributed.

Prize examples: • Movie pass. • Gum or treat. • Pizza or restaurant coupon. • Donate to the charity of the athlete’s choice.

For hundreds more great super practical winning ideas, visit Championship Performance Coaching, the new volume book series to help your team achieve their dream season.

7 Coaching Tips to Help Athletes Manage Competition Pressure

In the following excerpt from the book Championship Performance Coaching Volume 2: 200+ Practical, Proven Sports Psychology and Team Building Strategies to Win More this Season use these 7 coaching tips to help your players control pressure situations.

  1. Coach the process, not the outcome. When an athlete focuses on the importance of the game, winning and losing, or anything to do with the outcome of the performance, he/she is in big trouble. This focus distracts the athlete from a performance focus, tightens them up physically and insures that play will be tight and tentative. Get your athletes to focus on specifically what they have to do to win, not on winning.
  2. Teach an awareness of the stress/performance curve. If you can help your athletes understand the relationship between their level of nervousness and how well they perform you will have taken a major step towards helping them to better handle pressure. If an athlete can “read” their nervousness pre performance and can tell the difference between “good” and “bad” nervous, then they will be in a better position to be able to do something about their arousal level before it’s too late.
  3. Reframe adversity. Teach your athletes how to use whatever adversity comes their way to boost confidence rather than erode it. Teach reframing in practice. Help your players see that poor weather conditions, bad calls by the officials, unsportsmanlike play, fatigue, etc, can work for them. There is always an advantage in a disadvantage. Train your players to find it.
  4. Use simulation daily. Practice does not make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect. It’s the quality of your practices that is ultimately responsible for how much your athletes get from practice time and how well they handle highly pressured situations.

Integrate competitive elements into your practices to help your athletes better adjust to the actual pressure of game day. The more your practices resemble competitions, the less chance your athletes will have of falling apart under pressure. If your athletes have trouble with bad calls, certain playing conditions, being down early, etc., simulate these elements as closely as possible in your practices.

  1. Create a “go-for-it” atmosphere. In practice create an atmosphere of “nothing to lose” or “free to fail.” When athletes are not concerned about making mistakes they perform their best. If your players are worrying about messing up they will be distracted enough and tight enough to indeed mess up.

Encourage your players to let their mistakes go immediately and to focus on what they want to have happen, not what they are afraid will happen. Reward mistakes when and athlete has truly gone for it, when they have given a winning effort.

Athletes should avoid saying things like, “I played well so therefore I’m a winner.” or “I was awful and therefore I suck as a person.” You set the tone for this in how you interact to your athletes. If an athlete’s ego is on the line every time he or she competes, they will play ‘tight’ with a lot to lose. This will cause them get stressed out and play poorly.

  1. Challenge your athletes, don’t threaten them. When an athlete or team is threatened with consequences should they not perform well, they will consistently fall apart when the game is on the line. Threats only serve to distract the athlete from the task at hand and get them to worry about the consequences for failure.  The goal is increased self-confidence.

Focusing on the “what ifs” of losing is the last thing you want your athletes to do before and during an important game. Instead, challenge them. Give them the message, which is implicit in any challenge that you think that they can do it, that you believe in them. Athletes will most frequently rise to your challenges and respond poorly or inconsistently to your threats.

  1. Focus your players for peak performance under pressure. Most stress related performance problems are a direct result of faulty concentration. The athlete that gets easily psyched out or intimidated does so because he or she is focusing on the wrong things, i.e., the actual or imagined prowess of the other player or team.

Help your athletes concentrate on specifically what they have to do to play well. Teach them to “control their eyes and ears,” to only look at, or listen to things that keep them composed and performing the best.

Excerpted from the book Championship Performance Coaching Volume 2: 200+ Practical, Proven Sports Psychology and Team Building Strategies to Win More this Season

14 Tips for Leading Generation Z Athletes

  • The following 14 principles for leading Post-Millenials or Generation Z are directed to the work-place, but many of the same concepts apply to athletic teams as well.  This was our number one blog post for high schools in 2018 and was excerpted from the book : Championship Performance Coaching Volume 1: Legendary Coaching Wisdom on Leadership, Motivation, and Practice Plans to Achieve Your Dream Season.
  • Give them freedom with their schedule. Even limited freedom to vote when they practice will help build team trust and motivation.
  • 2. Create a family environment. Work, family and social are all intertwined, so make sure the work environment is experiential and family oriented. Everything is connected.  Clemson’s Dabo Swinney has done a great job with this and national championships have followed.
  • 3. Cause is important. Make social justice and other charitable work part of the “normal.” Causes and opportunities to give back are important.
  • 4. Embrace social media. It’s here to stay.  They are more tech savvy than any other generation ever. Technology is the norm. XBOX, iPhones, laptops, iPads are just normal. If you want a response, text first, then call. Or send a message via Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.
  • 5. Lead each person uniquely. Customize your approach.
  • 6. All about the larger win, not the personal small gain. Young leaders in general have an abundance mentality instead of scarcity mentality.
  • 7. Partnering and collaboration are important. Not interested in drawing lines. Collaboration is the new currency.
  • 8. Not about working for a personality. They are not interested in laboring long hours to build a temporal kingdom for one person. But will work their guts out for a cause and vision bigger than themselves.
  • 9. Deeply desire mentoring, learning and discipleship. Many older leaders think millenials aren’t interested in generational wisdom transfer. Not true at all. Younger leaders are hungry for mentoring and discipleship; so build it into your organizational environment.
  • 10. Coach them and encourage them. They want to gain wisdom through experience. Come alongside them don’t just tell them what to do.
  • 11. Create opportunities for quality time- individually and corporately. They want to be led by example, and not just by words.
  • 12. Hold them accountable. They want to be held accountable by measuring where they stand and giving them constant feedback.
  • 13. Recognize their values, not just their strengths. It’s more than just the playing skills he or she brings to the team. Don’t use them without truly knowing them.
  • 14. Set up a system that creates stability. Have clear expectations with the freedom to succeed. Provide stability on the emotional and organizational side.
  • Get hundreds more great ways to lead your student-athletes with the two volume book series “Championship Performance Coaching.”

Saints Plan to Recover from Losses

Losing is a bitter pill to swallow, no matter the circumstance. And as Lou Holtz once said, “You can’t let one loss beat you twice.” So how do teams turn the page?

The New Orleans Saints have a team policy called “the 24- hour rule.”

After a close loss earlier this season, the Saints called upon their 24-hour rule that gives them time to sort through the emotions of an agonizing loss and process what happened in the game.

Saints’ quarterback Drew Brees talked about how the team moved on from the loss in order to prepare for the next game. Brees said, “We let that one go, you have to. Usually it’s a 24-hour rule. That one would have to be let go by Monday afternoon because the preparation begins on the next game.”

The 24-hour rule is like a transitional period between the last game and getting ready for the next one. The 24-hour rule recognizes that there will be some negative emotion after a loss that needs to be dealt with, but also provides a well defined starting point when preparations for the next game must begin. The 24-hour rule helps the team focus on the next step rather than staying stuck in the past.

When you enact the 24-hour rule, you will have more time to prepare for the next game with a renewed focus.

Take one day after the game finishes. If you win, you can celebrate the victory for the length of that time period.  If you lost the game, it’s understandable to feel sad or angry, but athletes need to work through those feelings because at the 24-hour and one second point, they need to focus and prepare for the next game.

Within that 24 hour period, ask your players to do a quick self-review and specifically ask them what one area of their game they could work on to improve their chances of winning the next context.

Then it’s time to work on coaching strategies. What game plan gives you the best chance to be successful for the next game?

Excerpted from the book: The Football Coach’s Game Plan for Leadership. Get over 100 more great ideas to make your team better from the greatest minds in coaching.

Pete Carroll’s Big Game Motivation Mistake

ATLANTA, GA – OCTOBER 27: Head coach Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks reacts following the Seattle Seahawks win over the Atlanta Falcons 27-20 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on October 27, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

Football coach Pete Carroll says he learned one of his most important lessons about coaching college football and motivation in his first season with Southern Cal, in his first big rivalry game.

The 2001 Trojans were reeling — 2-4 and headed to South Bend to face Notre Dame and try for some redemption.

Carroll built up the game all week to his players. This game is special, he said. This is the time for your best effort. Turned out to be the time for the Trojans to fall flat on their faces, losing 27-16.

“Classic mistake,” Carroll says of his approach to that game. “I knew I screwed it up. I knew I blew it. I could tell during the week, but I went with it. I just had to learn.

“It’s more fun probably to talk up these kinds of old historic ‘this and that’s.’ But it doesn’t serve the preparation of the athletes and the coaches. You don’t need that.”

That lesson helped Carroll build the winningest era in USC football history.

Big games. Special games. Time to pump up the troops for a special effort?

“We don’t need extra incentives,” he says. “If you understand that every game is a championship game and you’re going to give everything you possibly can in the preparation and participation of that game, then when would you ever decide when to (go all out) and when not to?

That’s the whole point. It’s the same philosophy that goes through everything that we do in football. When are you going to decide that a play is more important than another play? When do I need to go full speed? When do I need to try my best? So you get out of that mentality. You don’t allow for that kind of thinking in any phase. We’re real hard about any indications of that being displayed by our guys. That’s why we practice so fast and so hard every single day, every day of the year.”

Excerpted from the book: “The Football Coach’s Game Plan for Leadership.” Get 100 more winning ideas like this one to improve performance now.


Deal with the Unruly Sports Parent

Consider the following scene. It wasn’t the best game your team ever played. And before you can turn to them to try to smooth over the loss, you are confronted with an irate, in your face, father (or occasionally a mother). In language too salty for a marine drill sergeant, you are given a tongue lashing on everything from your @#%^*& lack of ability as a coach to why his superstar child is not playing the right position, receiving enough playing time, etc. While your insides are rattling with angry emotions, you catch the faces of the kids on your team whose jaws have dropped open.

While such confrontations are hopefully rare, they do occur and they do need to be addressed when they happen. These situations can be handled in several ways.

First, if the parental behavior is repetitive or consistent, the governing sport association needs to intervene according to their procedures. Don’t hesitate to pursue this before things get even more out of hand.

Secondly, as an AD/coach, you need to muster all your self-control capabilities so to react rationally and not emotionally to the parent. Taking time to cool off before any response is essential. “Stepping back” and analyzing the situation (What is this all about?) from the distance creates more calm. Talk to yourself in calming ways or use physical self-relaxation techniques to defuse your emotion. Then approach the parent again about the concerns may be productive and you might even get an apology.

Finally, the situation should be addressed with the team. Having a team meeting as soon as possible (but after you have calmed down) is important. Hold the meeting where there is some quiet and privacy. Don’t try to punish or isolate the player for the parent’s bad behavior.

It is useful to begin the meeting by acknowledging the emotions that were raised by the fuss (“I was pretty surprised and upset by what happened. I wonder if any of you are feeling the same way?”) Without naming the parent or making other references to him or her, discuss with the team that people get upset sometimes and act inappropriately. Ask for input from the team for alternate ways to handle problems and perhaps even role play their responses or suggestions. After the meeting, privately assure the player of the irate parent that you are not upset with him/her and that they are still a valued part of the team. Try to use the incident as an opportunity for coaching the team in some important life skills.

Examples: Here are some potential situations with parents of athletes you may have had to deal with and some response suggestions. In most circumstances, the player should not be present at any of these discussions. These issues are between the parent and coach and should be conducted in private.

You can’t coach worth a crap. Why are you running this system? Acknowledge what the parent is saying. Let them know you heard them. You might say, “Yes, that approach could work in certain situations” or “that’s a great suggestion. Maybe we’ll implement it later.”

As the coach, you needs to add the explanation for why they are the system they are. Reply with: “With the type of competition we play, your suggestion doesn’t fit in with the overall scheme. Or you could say, “that’s not a play or strategy that we have worked on. Maybe that’s something we should add to the playbook in the future (assuming the suggestion has at least some merit).

My kid is better than John Doe or Jill Smith. Why isn’t my kid playing more? Acknowledge the strengths and positive attributes of the kid. Tell why you think the player ahead of their son or daughter makes a more significant contribution. Follow up by saying what future plans you have for their kid and reiterate the good points that he or she brings to the table.

We’ve had it with you coach. Either X,Y, or Z happens or my kid will transfer to another school. First, if the parent is really that upset, acknowledge their anger and ask to meet with them privately at a later. Offer a specific time and place. Wait several days after a game. At the start of the meeting, let the parent vent. See if there is anything valid they are saying and address it. If they are way off base, help them see where are incorrect in their thinking. If they have anything meaningful to say, reply with: “I’ll take that under consideration.

At some point, if they refuse to calm down or threaten to transfer, you should calmly say, “If that’s your choice, and you feel that is best for your son or daughter, I’ll go along with that.”

The parent’s kid may not fit into the program anymore anyway, so them leaving may be best for all concerned. But if they parent is simply being difficult, let them know it is their decision and say, “I’d hate to lose X. Let’s try to work through this.” The goal is for the parent to think you sincerely don’t want to lose their kid.

Blog contributed by Michael Askew, Ph.D.

 For the best in leadership, team building and motivational books for coaches and athletes, visit Championship Performance.