Coaching Tips for Slumping Athletes

Sports Psychology and Slump breaking expert Alan Goldberg offered these coaching tips when dealing with an athlete who might be in a performance slump.

When you have a player going through an extended period of poor play, what you say or how you react can have a big effect on how quickly the player gets back to “in the groove”. Here are suggested do and don’ts when faced with that situation.

  • Relate to their situation. Step inside their shoes and let them know you understand how it feels to struggle. Maybe mention how you or a teammate once got through a performance slump.

  • Rebuild fragile athlete confidence. The last thing slumping athletes need is to have coaches or teammates put them down. Help them believe that their performance problems are only temporary and that they’ll get through them.

  • Communicate clearly, directly, and often. Let the athletes know where they stand, how you feel about their struggle, and what they can do to get through it. If you bench them, help them understand why you’re doing it and what they need to do to get back in the game.

  • Help them deal constructively with negative actions from parents, fans, and the media. Remind them of the big picture to make sure they have the proper perspective when dealing with other people.

 Avoid the following: • Don’t remind the athlete how long he or she has been performing badly.

  • Don’t compare the athletes’ past great performances with their present poor ones (unless you’re using the past ones as a constructive model for the present).

  • Don’t label them with terms like “head case”, or “choker”.

  • Don’t give the athletes the silent treatment or ignore them.

  • Don’t overload the athletes’ attention on everything they’re doing wrong. Instead, help them focus on what they need to do right to improve… daily, weekly, monthly.

To get hundreds more great coaching tips for maximizing athletic performance, visit Championship Performance Coaching.



Urban Meyer’s On-Edge Teaching Style

Urban Meyer is all about finding the most efficient ways to educate his players about the intricacies of his high-powered offense. He has a teaching approach that is increasingly popular in academic circles, but still mostly unheard of in the world of football coaching: flipping the classroom.

In this excerpt from the book: The Football Coach’s Game Plan for Leadership, get powerful insights on coaching philosophy from Meyer and dozens more football legends on preparing to win.

In academics, flipped learning turns the traditional classroom-teaching model on its head, delivering lessons online outside of class and moving homework into the classroom via individual tutoring or activities.

In an effort to speed up the installation of his spread-option playbook – Meyer decided to abandon old-school chalkboard sessions. Instead, he devoted team meetings to hands-on exercises, such as walking through plays and doing situational drills.

Meyer doesn’t use the flipped classroom term to describe his approach, but outlined his belief in “on-edge” teaching, in which players are kept on the edge of their seats during team meetings by a barrage of impromptu quizzes and individual interactions designed to keep them engaged.

This approach is fundamentally the same as in flipped learning, which has become something of a buzzword in recent years as online video has become more widely available.

The theory behind it is that introducing student-athletes to new material through short video lectures or online slideshows outside of class time allows for the lower levels of thought work—gaining knowledge and comprehension—to be performed outside the classroom on their own schedule and at their own pace. Class time can then be repurposed into workshops where students can inquire about the material and interact with hands-on activities. These help accomplish the harder task of assimilating knowledge.

The whole idea is that if you can get players thinking about it and doing the mental work prior to being in the football facility, your time in the classroom will be that much more productive.

For Urban Meyer, that has meant ditching the time-honored method of installing an offense, in which players listen passively while coaches draw up plays during team meetings before heading back to their dorm rooms to memorize the assignments with their playbooks.

Now, instead of lecturing players on X’s and O’s, Ohio State coaches send them schemes and game plans via videos and interactive graphics that can be accessed on phones and iPads. Time at the facility is then devoted to walk-throughs and other interactive exercises. Kirk Barton, a graduate assistant at Ohio State, says meetings are used for situation-specific drilling. He might ask an offensive lineman to diagram a particular play against a particular defensive front, for instance, or draw up their responsibilities against a blitz. Barton says he also texts players outside of meetings to ensure they have the assignments nailed down.

Former player Johnathan Hankins said it isn’t uncommon for Meyer to interrupt meetings and pepper inexperienced players with questions to ensure they understood the playbook.

“When he came in, he would usually ask a freshman: ‘What do you got?’ ” said Hankins, adding that Meyer’s “on-edge” techniques ensured no one put their feet up during meetings. “You never knew what you were going to get from coach Meyer. That’s just how he is. He’s always keeping people on their toes.”

Read over 100 more great ideas on best preparing your team to compete at the highest level in the new book: The Football Coach’s Game Plan for Leadership.

Prepare Your Team to Face Inferior Competition

High school basketball coaching legend William Warren described how he got his team ready to face an an overmatched opponent.  It’s easy to fall into complacency and just ‘go through the motions.’

When you are playing a team who is clearly weaker, there are several motivational tactics to pursue. The message you want to convey to the starters is that, “Yes, we overmatch this opponent. The question is whether you will be on the court or field doing the winning or someone else on the team, while you watch from the bench most of the game.”

The other message you want to send is the similar: “If you aren’t ready, whether as a unit or individually, to storm the gates and tear down the walls, I’ll find someone who is and you can watch him/her/them get the playing time you should be getting.”

Another approach that helps raise team motivation in what otherwise might be a glorified scrimmage is to emphasize statistics and individual goals. (Note: This isn’t a stance you want to take very often, but it can be helpful in these types of contest).

These are opportunities to reach statistical milestones and pad the averages. Here is an example: Let’s say you are playing a basketball game in which your squad is heavily favored. You never want a team to think they can just “show up” and walk off the court with a victory.

Recommendation: In your pre-game talk, you can go around the room and talk to each starter:

  • “Rodrick, I’ve been telling people all year that you could get a triple double one of these days. Well tonight is your chance, because it won’t get any easier the rest of the season.”

  • “Sheldon, time is running out if you want to break that record for steals this season. They aren’t gonna hand you that record, you have to go out and earn it.”

  • “Alvin, you only had 3 or 4 rebounds the last 3 games, I’m looking for a season high tonight. Joe, if Alvin decides to take the night off, I’m moving you in to his spot to clean the boards.”

Describe a few individual goals you want the players to work on to get them up and ready for the inferior opposition. You can then promise playing time sufficient enough to accomplish these goals if they make an honest effort to achieve them.

Bonus: Your subs and bench players will also be receptive to this approach because it offers them a chance for more playing time should the starters not respond to the pre-game challenge.

Get hundreds more winning coaching insights in the book series Championship Performance Coaching.

4 Ways Golfers Can Avoid Choking

Note: The following blog is addressed to golfers directly.

Choking is a natural part of sport, golf especially. At the big moment, with our anxieties high our thinking mind, which we can control, usurps command of our swing from our non-thinking, instinctual side, which can’t be controlled. For skilled golfers, the fine tuned, rhythmic action of the swing is almost instinct. The plodding conscious mind can’t hope to keep up.

Sport psychologist Sian Beilock from the University of Chicago set up some experiments to see how golfers would handle pressure. In the first experiment, golfers were forced to putt quickly. Low handicap players performed better when they had time pressure to putt instead of taking their time at a pace of their own choosing. For high handicap players the opposite was true. Without a deeper, more ingrained skill set, they putted worse when they had to do so quickly. The takeaway for more highly skilled and experienced players was to question the old adage about slowing everything down when the pressure mounts.

Another study revealed a dramatic decrease in performance when they were asked to spend five minutes explaining their putting technique before taking a stroke. Similar studies reached the same conclusion: under pressure, the goal should be to disengage the conscious mind as much as possible. This is much easier said than done however.

Recommendation: Sport Psychologist Tom Dorsel suggests the following techniques to defend against choking. 1) Distract yourself by humming your favorite tune before putting or taking a shot. 2) Develop a rock solid pre-shot routine and never deviate from it. However, in the heat of battle late in a round, golfers don’t always stick to their plan, which lessens the impact of the routine. 3) When the heat is on, favor shots that are simple and straightforward, while avoiding those that require delicate skills. 4) The best way to fight off choking is to frequently put oneself in pressure practice situations that may cause you or your teammates to choke. After practicing under these conditions, record how you and your teammates reacted. Do a self-analysis. What helped you conquer the pressure in practice? What things did you or your teammates do that caused more pressure? For example did giving a fist bump after making a putt help or hurt performance on your next tee shot? What can I transfer from the practice situation that works best during live action?

To get dozens more practical mental game golf tips, visit

14 Tips to Lead Millennials

The following 14 principles for leading Millennials are directed to the work-place, but many of the same concepts apply to athletic teams as well.

Excerpted from the book Championship Performance Coaching Volume 1: Legendary Coaching Wisdom on Leadership, Motivation, and Practice Plans to Achieve Your Dream Season.

  1. 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.

  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.

Three Ways Nick Saban Gets the Most from His Players

7 time national title winning Alabama football coach Nick Saban is a big believer in the importance of the psychological aspects of athletic performance and coaching. He works with mental game coaches like Dr. Kevin Elko to maximize mental preparation. Here are three ways Saban uses the mental game to get the most from his players.

1) Knows How and When to Push Players Motivational Buttons.

Example: When Alabama lost to LSU a few years ago and got a chance at a rematch in the national title game Elko’s message was: “Remember how you felt right after you lost to LSU? Remember how you felt when you looked across the room at the other players with a broken heart? Now prepare and play this game so you don’t have to feel that way again.”

“I’ve learned a tremendous amount from guys like Kevin that has really helped me understand the best way to help manage guys psychologically so that they have a better chance of being successful,” Saban said.

2) Understands the Difference between Praise and Encouragement.

Encouragement is different from praise. If your kid comes home with a report card and it’s all A’s, this is praise: “Bobby, you got all A’s. That’s incredible.”

Here’s encouragement: “Bobby, I saw you doing the things that brought you these grades. I saw you working hard and doing all your homework assignments. I’m glad you like learning.’”

3) Knows How to Use Motivational Catch Phrases.

Phrases are a big part of Alabama’s football culture and players catch them like touchdown passes. Many will write some of the more popular ones down.

One of Coach Saban’s favorites and one he repeats often is Benjamin Franklin’s phrase, “Pain instructs.”  The more detailed quote is as follows: “There are two types of pain in life.   There is the pain of discipline and the pain of disappointment.  If you can handle the pain of discipline, you won’t have to deal with the pain of disappointment.”

Another popular one is “Dead Soldiers Fighting.”

“We get completely caught into a step-by-step of winning the game, and there’s a phrase we got into,” Elko said. “There were a bunch of these soldiers, and they kept on winning these battles. People said to these soldiers, ‘How do you keep on winning?’ They said, ‘We’re dead soldiers fighting. Once we quit worrying about winning and losing, we got lost in the fighting.’”

You can learn much more on what Nick Saban and America’s greatest football coaches do to get the most from their teams in the new book “The Football Coach’s Game for Leadership”.

7 Mistakes that Derail Successful Recruiting

When it comes to the bottom line on recruiting today’s top high school athletes, parallels can be drawn from the business side of selling. Losing sales, just like losing top recruits, can be very easy. You can learn from the following mistakes sales people make in the business world as compiled by sales guru Tom Hopkins.  This is an adapted list of his ‘Top 7 Sales Mistakes.’

Sales Mistake #1: Lack of confidence or excitement about the institution you represent. If you want athletes to listen to you and seriously consider your school, you have to come across as both enthusiastic and walk with confidence. People will buy from (or sign with) you based more on your conviction and enthusiasm for your product (school) than any other factor.

Sales Mistake #2: Talking too much. When you’re talking, you’re telling. When you ask questions to get clients (student-athletes) talking about their desires and wants, you’re selling.

Sales Mistake #3: Your vocabulary. Words create pictures in our minds. Certain words that are inherent to selling turn people off. For example, watch out for using the word “contract”.  We all know that contracts are legally binding documents and require legal efforts to get out of. Think about the words you use and replace any negative word-picture images with gentler, more positive ones that are less threatening.

Sales Mistake #4: Not investing time in building rapport. Good rapport builds trust. No one will want to make a purchase from (or sign with) someone they don’t like and trust.  Since calls and personal appearances are limited, use creative social media and text messaging to build relationships with recruits.  Old school hand written letters add a personal touch.

Sales Mistake #5: Lack of a qualification system. A certain percentage of the people you talk with won’t be good candidates for your program. Your challenge is to figure out who isn’t a good fit for your program early in the communication process. Come up with at least three or four “qualifying” questions, the answers to which will tell you if this is the kind of kid you want in your program – regardless of how talented he or she may be.

Sales Mistake #6: Not paying attention to details. If you skim over details or shortcut your presentation because you’ve done it so many times that you’re bored with it, you’ll lose sales. Remember: Every student athlete is new and each is trying to make up their minds on one of the most important early life decisions they will make.

Always show enthusiasm and be ready to answer any questions he or she may have.  Unless the recruit indicates that certain details you would normally cover aren’t of interest to them, make sure you get your best sales message across. This carries over to your communication in handwritten letters, email and cell phones and with other people you speak with – from high school coaches to friends and family members.

Sales Mistake #7: Not having standardized procedures for all assistant coaches to follow. This ties into paying attention to details. Have a standardized framework for coaches that allow them to maximize their strengths.  Invest some time and effort in laying out these procedures so they can be uniform and followed by current and future staff members.

Want to learn more about how America’s best coaches lead their programs? Check out Championship Performance Coaching.

21 Tips to Play Great at Tournament Time

Former UCLA golf coach Jackie Steinmann prepared her golfers with these 21 tips to play great at tournament time. Many of the principles transfer to athletes in other sports to achieve competitive excellence.

  1. Play the round in their mind the night before which gives them an extra practice round.

  2. Make a list of things that they do well and read them on the way to the event.

  3. Dance only to their music by listening to music that fits their swing. It’s a mistake to get into somebody else’s rhythm.

  4. Get to the course one-hour ahead of tee time leaving enough time for personal things so that there is no rushing.

  5. Leave all personal problems on the seat of the bus, car or plane. They will be there when they return.

  6. Warm up the body and the mind on the practice area. Do not allow them to work on mechanics or attempt to change their swing. The purpose is to discover how they are swinging for that day. Changes can be made after the round or after the tournament.

  7. Be sure they leave enough time to get the feel of the putting green. The important part here is to get the feeling for distance. This can be done by putting distance putts to the edge of the green taking out the element of the hole.

  8. Their attitude should be confident, peaceful and patient.

  9. They must commit to walking, talking and acting like a winner no matter what happens, right down to the body language. A good idea might be to think about their favorite golfer and act like they would act.

  10. Make a good yardage book during the practice round keeping a record of clubs hit to the different targets.

  11. Have a game plan and stick to it.

  12. Stay in the present. Forget the past and don’t worry about the future. The past they can’t do anything about and what they do now affects the future.

  13. Commit to giving every shot 100%. Do the best they can on each shot, one shot at a time.

  14. Anchor the good shots. Pause 3 to 5 seconds after making a great shot and remember exactly how it felt. This will put the shot into the athlete’s memory. When a similar shot is coming up they can “pull it up” in their memory before taking a swing.

  15. They must be positive about everything. Negativity will kill their game and getting serious will retard their imagination.

  16. Be totally target oriented for the entire round.

  17. They must stick to their pre-shot routine on EVERY shot.

  18. Play as if the course was their favorite course, favorite hole, favorite weather and favorite playing partners.

  19. Praise their partner’s good shots.

  20. Wave to or signal their teammates when they see them. It creates team spirit.

  21. After the round have them tell about the shot of the day or the hole of the day or the putt of the day. Give each person a turn.

Excerpted from the Championship Performance Coaches Journal.

4 Captain Mistakes/5 Key Responsibilities

You want your team captains to be like extensions of your football coaching on the field. But some players don’t always lead in a way that helps rise the play of everyone around them. Here are 4 mistakes that you should watch out for so your captains don’t make them.

1) Thinking they know everything. A good captain will ask a teammate for their input before trying to force anything on them.

2) Learn to differentiate between different and wrong. Two players may each get positive results, but they may arrive there using different approaches. If a team captain starts to make all others players “do it exactly like I do,” they will alienate rather than motivate their teammates.

3) Not taking time to get to know their teammates. If they don’t understand at least somewhat what drives their teammates, they will struggle in their role as captain.

4) Ignoring problems and not taking responsibility. If a captain sees a teammate who isn’t doing what they should be – on or off the field – and says or does nothing, they aren’t doing their job. Team leaders are responsible for everything that happens in their group. What other players do or fail to do reflects on the captain. They have to step up as a captain and confront issues as they arise.

Here are the top 5 team captain responsibilities: 1) Team Connections – Captains are responsible for connecting with their teammates on a daily basis to ensure all players feel like valued members of the team.

2) Locker Room Climate – Captains try to keep the locker room talk and banter productive and motivating – win or lose.

3) Practice Leader – Captains keep the practice environment productive, energetic and efficient.

4) Lead by Example and Vocal – Captains are the first ones expected to speak up during team meetings. They are the first to go during a drill. They are very familiar with the system and what the coach wants executed and they can effectively communicate that message with their teammates.

5) Challenge Teammates – Ensuring that teammates follow the competitive tone that they set.

Excerpted from the book: The Football Coaches Game Plan for Leadership. Pre-order now for release on November 3, 2017.