Cobb Atlanta All-Access Blog

4 Traits Needed for a Championship Team

4 Traits Needed for a Championship Team

By: Mike Herbert

Two decisions, above all others, await every coach. The first is who the program will recruit to play on the team. The second identifies which players will be selected to the starting lineup.

But these decisions have fallen on hard times recently. Coaches have become overly enamored with the athletic index of their players, choosing to embrace flash over discipline when forming a team. Any coach who understands the full picture of building a winning team knows that developing a player’s abilities on the mental side of the game is just as important as honing their physical skills.

When I say the “mental game,” I mean more than just comprehending game strategy. It may be something as simple as having a player understand the importance of offering a few words of support to a teammate who has just shanked a pass or hit a ball out. I call this a “rescue,” and it’s every bit as significant as a kill, block or ace.

To help you achieve this balanced culture with your team, I’ve compiled a list of 4 types of players you’ll need on your roster and listed key traits that you should cultivate in each of them.


  • Every great team has at least one player who everyone considers a “stud.”
  • This player is so accomplished that everyone in the gym knows that she/he can take over the match.
  • The mere presence of a stud gives your team a tremendous psychological edge.
  • Studs may be short on other attributes, but they are physically intimidating.
  • Preferably, this player will be a left-side hitter, but anyone can ascend to the role.
  • Studs will want the ball at critical moments.
  • They will always show up and never hide.
  • They will usually be the reason you win a close match.
  • They don’t mind carrying a heavy load. In fact, they take pride in it.
  • This is a difficult role to accept. It requires a player who possesses an enormous level of confidence that borders on cockiness.


  • Every great team is blessed with at least one all-out winner.
  • A winner never contemplates the possibility of losing.
  • No matter what the circumstances, no matter how far behind, no matter how much bad fortune has come their way, winners play every point as if they have a chance to win the match.
  • These players are courageous and take risks.
  • Their commitment to winning is infectious, and they often carry the emotional load for their team.
  • Preferably, this player is a setter, but anyone can take this role.
  • Key ingredient? An unshakeable belief that the team can win under any circumstances.
  • This player needs to be a great communicator who isn’t afraid to express feelings in front of teammates.
  • Winners make everyone around them feel good about themselves.
  • They also are positive and present themselves enthusiastically at all times.
  • This player must have enough “game time” to be credible.
  • Most important: they believe and they make others believe.


  • Most athletes aren’t sufficiently skilled to be studs or psychologically equipped to be winners.
  • Yet championship teams are heavily populated with players who fit neither role. Instead, they play a stabilizing role.
  • These are usually low-error players who are seldom the primary reason your team wins but never the reason it loses.
  • They are often referred to by coaches as role players. They set the stage so the studs and winners can function.
  • Stabilizers are motivated to be role players and work within the system.
  • They get along with everyone and are great teammates.
  • Expectations of them on the court are limited.
  • They keep everyone else on an even keel and are quick to snuff out brush fires.
  • They are consistent, reliable.
  • They assist team leaders in making sure teammates follow team guidelines.
  • Stabilizers are a good influence in locker room.
  • They have a mature perspective on life.


  • A championship team must have a leader.
  • Leaders are players who do the right thing and model championship behavior.
  • They use the right voice inflection, pick the right time to address a situation, know how to approach each teammate, know how to energize the team when it starts to sag and are in command of their emotions at all times.
  • Leaders know what buttons to push when the team needs to be rescued from going down the wrong path.
  • They accept the role of holding the team together and yelling when everyone seems to be in full retreat.
  • These players must command the respect of their teammates.
  • They have the courage to stand alone.
  • They are fearless in confronting teammates and situations needing attention.
  • They have a skilled liaison between players and coaches and know when to involve coaches.
  • Leaders can be a starter or a non-starter. This is a people-skill role, not necessarily tied to play.
  • This player initiates comebacks during competition and is fearless and charismatic.
  • This player has earned the right to lead.
  • The first person a leader has to lead is herself/himself.
  • Leaders know their teammates won’t listen if they don’t walk the walk.
  • Leaders realize that some people are going to respond and others will be a pain in the ass.
  • A leader should never give up on anyone.
  • They are not judgmental, and they show an equal loyalty to everyone.
  • The leader knows that some people will fight them every step of the way, but they also know that they have to take that player with them.
  • Leaders have to make uncomfortable decisions that will cause people to dislike them. Their job is not to be everyone’s friend.
  • Their job is to lead.



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5 Ideas to Develop Relentless Competitors

5 Ideas to Develop Relentless Competitors

By: Jeff Janssen

Tired of dealing with too many wimpy, soft, and entitled athletes who don't know what it means to compete?

Former UConn men's basketball coach Jim Calhoun once lamented after a frustrating loss, "I was embarrassed by the way we played, by the way we didn't compete. We did not compete the way we need to compete. Given the schedule we're playing, you need to compete every single night."

Have you too lost games and championships because your athletes didn't compete with the intensity and intelligence you needed them to?

Coaches are becoming increasingly frustrated and disheartened by the lack of competitiveness shown by too many of today's athletes. With the current culture of entitlement that has evolved and overtaken today's youth, many athletes seem to expect that starting positions and championships will simply be handed to them, rather than working hard and fighting for the very limited opportunities that are available.

As Indiana men's basketball coach Tom Crean says, "In our entitlement culture today, young athletes grow up assuming they deserve things without having to work or compete for them. Then, when they enter the competitive arena, and things don't go their way, they blame someone else for their shortcomings. Such players give a team no chance to succeed."

Taken from my new book How to Develop Relentless Competitors, here are five proven strategies used by legendary coaches Pat Summitt, Geno Auriemma, Anson Dorrance, Pete Carroll, and Roy Williams to transform your passive, soft, and entitled athletes into fierce, focused, and relentless Competitors.

1. Look for Competitors when recruiting and assembling your team.

Like any important intangible in the sports world (leadership, commitment, confidence, character, mental toughness, unselfishness), it is much easier to enhance and refine something that is already there than to try to create it from scratch. The best way to develop Competitors is to use it as a key criterion in your recruiting and selection process. Thus, be on the lookout for Competitors in your recruiting and tryouts. Purposely include highly competitive drills and see how the athletes respond to competitive situations. Of course you are looking for talent, but also be on the lookout for Competitors. Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat Summitt says, "I look for Competitors when I am recruiting. I look for players from winning programs because I know they've been in competitive situations, and they've won and they understand how to win."

2. Create your own Competitive Cauldron to continually challenge your athletes.

North Carolina women's soccer coach Anson Dorrance says, "In order to improve, to foster competitive drive, you must consistently push yourself to places that aren't so comfortable. That's how you learn to steel and toughen yourself, and to 'break' your opponent." Dorrance intentionally sets up a competitive culture with his team through his famous Competitive Cauldron, a practice environment where almost every drill is a competition.

UConn women's assistant basketball coach Shea Ralph notices the same demanding style in Geno Auriemma, "He is the ultimate competitor. He puts the pressure on kids every day. He stays on them and that helps instill the competitive attitude. Because they know they are not getting away with anything. There is pressure on them every day to give their best."

Are you positively pushing your players to test their limits? The most successful coaches are highly demanding of their athletes. You have to find the fine line between pushing them to achieve their potential, without breaking them. When they compete and surpass their previous expectations and barriers, they will have the confidence to compete in the future.


3. Make your practice drills competitive whenever possible.

Former USC football coach Pete Carroll emphasized competitiveness so much that he created "Competition Tuesday." Every Tuesday during the season the team would engage in competitive drills and scrimmages. The first team offense would compete against the first team defense. Players were also allowed to create "Matchups of the Day" where receivers would challenge cornerbacks and defensive lineman would challenge offensive tackles. The competitive environment ratcheted up the intensity of practices to a high level.

4. Track and post the results of your drills in practices and games.

There is something about tracking and posting the results of practices and competitions that really brings out the competitiveness in people. North Carolina men's basketball coach Roy Williams says that one of the pivotal moments in his life came when his third grade teacher wrote the names of the ten kids with the highest grades on the blackboard. Coach Williams says, "When I first saw that list, I was not on it. But when I saw that list and looked at it for six weeks, I made sure that the next six weeks my name was first on the list. And I made sure it stayed there the rest of the way."

Learning lessons from this early experience, Coach Williams and his staff still meticulously track the results of practices and games and post them to motivate the team.

Former Carolina player Tyler Hansbrough says, "To make practices more competitive, make everything a competition. Coach Williams is the ultimate competitor. He tracked the scores of everything we did. We had a white team vs. a blue team and everything we did was competitive.

5. Establish consequences for winning and losing drills and contests.

To continually remind your athletes that something is at stake, establish some kind of consequences for the winners and/or losers of your drills and contests. Assistant Tennessee women's basketball coach Dean Lockwood says, "After EVERY competitive drill or practice segment, we reward the drill winners and 'penalize' the drill losers. The penalty may be a set of sprints, push-ups, crunches or some physical exercise of which they are least fond. We never berate the losers (we may chide them good-naturedly) but our players simply know that after certain drills there will be 'winners and losers'. This sends a very clear message that practice life is much better and more enjoyable when you win all competitive segments."



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8 Ways to Become a Better Teammate

8 Ways to Become a Better Teammate


Basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar once said “One man can be a crucial ingredient to a team, but one man cannot make a team.” It’s important to take heed to his words. Teams are most successful when they join together to become more than a collection of individuals, but a unified group of athletes seeking one purpose: team success.

There are plenty of examples in the sports world of both good and bad teammates. The bad ones usually have some combination of laziness, selfishness, arrogance, and apathy. What exactly embodies a good teammate? What are the qualities and traits that make an athlete someone that their teammates not only enjoy being around, but also contribute to the success of the team? Here are 8 things you can do:

1)   LISTEN WELL: Be coachable, take constructive criticism from teammates

2)   BE ACCOUNTABLE: Admit mistakes and improve, take responsibility, never throw teammates under the bus

3)   HAVE A GOOD ATTITUDE: Focus on continually improving, have a positive outlook on the team and the season

4)   COMPLIMENT TEAMMATES: Makes a big deal out of the good play of teammates/make a small deal out of their mistakes

5)   BE FAMILY: Treat teammates like family on and off the court, be quick to forgive and love unconditionally

6)   WORK HARD: Be better today than you were yesterday, go the extra mile at practice

 7)   SHARE IN THE VISION: Unify personal goals with team goals, help teammates buy in to team goals and vision

 8)   SACRIFICE: Give up personal glory for team success, serve your teammates with humility



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5 Ways for Student-Athletes to Balance Academic and Athletic Demands

5 Ways for Students-Athletes to Balance academic and Athletic Demands

By: Chelsea Mottern


During my time as a collegiate volleyball coach one of the most common questions I got from recruits' parents was "Is it hard to balance athletics and academics?" My response was to ask if the student-athlete was currently struggling to balance athletics and academics. The answer was most often a hard "no".

Scientifically, it has been proven over and over again that physical activity leads to an increase in academic performance, testing scores, and mental acuity. The Center for Disease Control published a report showing the correlation between physical activity and a number of positive outcomes, including self-esteem, GPA, standardized testing scores, attentiveness, creativity and planning ability.

High school athletes are challenged with balancing competitive athletics, academics, and any other number of extracurricular activities, so why would college be any different? In fact, most student-athletes perform better academically during season than in the off-season. Why is that?

It's simple. In-season student-athletes don't have time to procrastinate. They are so used to being busy, on the go, on the way from school to practice or a tournament, that most have developed built-in scheduling techniques and time management skills that less involved students never need to develop.

If you're a student-athlete juggling school, athletics and extracurriculars, here are 5 ways to successfully balance those demands:

1. Get Organized!

Invest in a planner that works for you, and some highlighters. Block out all of your classes, practice times, and other commitments, and then build in some scheduled time each day for studying! I'm a big fan of color-coding your schedule-- blue for classes, red for volleyball, green for built-in studying time. This helps you plan ahead and prevent the "I'll do that later" mentality.

2. Keep an open line of communication with your coaches and professors. 

Coaches and professors are your biggest cheerleaders- they want you to succeed, and they want to provide you with the tools to succeed! Communicate early on with them about potential scheduling conflicts, and discuss working together to implement a system for keeping up with missed class notes and making up any missed labs or events.

3. Pick classes you are excited about. 

Oftentimes, student athletes try to schedule their classes around their athletic schedule, but I ALWAYS tell my athletes to remember that they are a student first, and then an athlete. Even when looking at colleges, I advise everyone to choose schools that they would be happy with even if the volleyball program shut down tomorrow. It is way easier to prioritize academics when you are taking courses you are interested in. Don't take a class you dread just because it fits in with your athletic schedule.

4. Study together! 
Work together with other student-athletes to form study groups, set up scheduled time to study, and form a support network of people going through similar experiences as you are.

5. Don't underestimate the power of a few minutes! 
Do you spend 20 minutes before practice heating your shoulder? Bring flash cards! Just because you don't have a three-hour block of time to study every day doesn't mean you can't find plenty of time throughout your day to squeeze in some studying.

Student-athletes have never been the kids to be able to come home right after school, watch tv, and wait a few hours before beginning their homework. They're always the ones to get home late and sit down to begin homework. 

So next time you have parents asking you if they think collegiate athletics will impede their children's academic performance, remind them to consider all the positive benefits that come with playing a sport!


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8 Reasons No One Cares You're Tired: Letter From an Olympian

8 Reasons No One Cares You're Tired: Letter From an Olympian

 Positive Performance Training

Original post



Most of us respond to fatigue by getting frustrated and feeling bad for ourselves. We let our fatigue take us out of our game and into a mindset that isn't helpful to us or our team.

Luckily, I have a few tips you can use to help get out of that destructive thought pattern and back to focusing on becoming the best athlete you can be. It may sound harsh, but here are:

8 Reasons no one cares you’re tired

#1: It’s not about you, so get over it.

The fact of the matter is you play a team game, even if it’s an individual sport, and as a teammate one of your jobs is to serve your team, to do whatever it takes to make the team better. Doing so requires selflessness and a commitment every single day you show up.

If you’re tired, if you’re sore, if you’re sick, you have to choose to not let that stop you and move past it. In that moment, it doesn’t matter how you ‘feel’ because it’s not about you; it’s about making the team the best it can be. In order to do that you have to show up every day with the intention of giving it everything you have.

Put the team ahead of your ‘feelings’ and get it done!

#2: All champions experience fatigue when pushing their limits. So feel it and embrace it… Fatigue means you’re on your way!

As athletes, we’re in a perpetual state of becoming. There is no finish line; even if you win the championship one year, your training for the next year will quickly follow. The only way to truly improve, learn, and take your game to the next level is to push the limits.

Pushing the limits can be physically, mentally, and/or emotionally tough, but that’s the beauty of sports! Pushing those limits on a daily basis is necessary in order to become the best version of you. It’s inevitable that in pursuit of your best YOU, you’re going to get tired, so change your attitude towards fatigue. When you feel tired and want to stay in bed—or just want to get through practice without giving it your all—remember that this is what you work for, this is what all champions feel when they’re trying to reach their full potential.

In short: embrace your fatigue. No one said success would be easy.

[Tweet "Embrace your fatigue. No one said success would be easy. @courtLthompson"]

#3: Your mind is incredibly powerful. Use it to help you!

You train the brain to perform just like you train your muscles. We’ve all had days where you feel more tired than usual and in that moment you have a choice: you can marinate in those negative thoughts (‘It’s too hard’, ‘There’s no way I can do this’, ‘I didn’t sleep at all’, ‘I’m not feeling my best’, et cetera) OR you can take a long, deep breath, reconnect with yourself, and get your mind right. You can choose to put your energy and your thoughts on something that will help you rather than something that will distract you.

You’re an athlete. Being tired is a part of that, so accept it and move on.  Choose to think about what you need to do to help the team in that moment.

#4: Your mission doesn't care if you’re tired.

The mission of your team doesn't hear anyone say they’re tired… and it doesn't go away. Either you move towards it or away from it with each day you train. So, when it gets hard, remember the mission and find inspiration wherever you can. For some people, this is accomplished by visualizing winning a championship every morning, or by listening to their favorite pump up song, or by watching a video of their favorite teams competing.

Find what works for you and use it. For me, I try to ‘empty the tank’ every day I compete. I want to go to bed at night knowing I did everything I could possibly do to help my team reach our mission.

Again, it’s not always easy (and it shouldn’t be), so on days when it’s hard to remember the end goal, take a few minutes to visualize that goal—see, taste, smell, hear, and feel what it would feel like to reach it. Then, get to work! Find inspiration wherever you can and do everything in your power to become your best until the mission is accomplished.

#5: We won’t always feel 100% in a game. Train yourself to be ready for those days.

It’s unrealistic to think that we’re going to feel awesome all the time. You might have a cold; you might have stayed up all night studying for finals; you might have had to get up early to finish reading that book for class. Whatever ‘it’ is, we’ve all been there!

The real competition in sports and in life is competing with yourself to bring your personal best, day in and day out. It is unrealistic to think we will perform feeling 100% all the time. On the days you’re feeling like you’re operating at about 80%,  you still need to compete to bring your best on that day. That’s all we can do.

If you spend time worrying about the fact that you’re not at 100%, those thoughts are just distracting you from maximizing what you do have, your 80%.

Therefore, work hard to bring YOUR BEST every single day. Try not to judge where that is, but rather keep fighting the good fight by working to bring your best one play at a time.

#6: Check that your behaviors are in line with your objectives.

The pursuit of becoming your best is hard. Again, no one said it would be easy. People often look at an athlete who wins a championship and think that getting there must have all been fun, happy, and maybe even comfortable. Get that out of your head. It’s not.

Trying to reach your full potential takes grit, determination, commitment, perspective, and resilience.  It may be easy to say that you want to be the best when everything is going well, but the real question is will your behavior be in line with those goals when it gets hard?

It’s hard when it’s 6 AM and you have to get up for weight training, or when it’s a Friday afternoon and you’d rather leave practice early than to get extra reps in on the skill you’ve been struggling with. It’s difficult when it’s already been a long day, but now you need to have a tough conversation with a teammate. Those are the real choices we have and make that determine how good we will become.

Don’t take the easy road. If you want to do something rare, you’re going to have to make choices that most people aren’t willing to make. That’s why winning feels so good when we’ve done it the right way.

Next time you’re tired and trying to decide what to do, ask yourself, “Are my behaviors in line with my objectives?”

#7: Mood follows action. Start little, and keep going.

We’re human. Some days we just wake up tired, annoyed, and distracted. Still, you don’t have to be subject to your mood every morning.

From the start of a rough day, act in line with your goals—make just one small step—and you’ll gather momentum and come to realize you’re actually in control of your mood and your day. Then take one more small step, then another, and another. At some point your ‘mood’ will change as you involve yourself in each step, each task. You’ll realize that being productive and working to help yourself is a fun and rewarding process.

#8: Remember: the pain of not going all out is much bigger than the pain of holding back.

Being a member of a team composed of people committed to becoming their best, and hopefully doing something special in the process, is an incredible thing.2 I’m fortunate to have been on teams that have won several championships; in high school, in the NCAA, and recently at the World Championships with Team USA. I’ve also lost my share of big games at every level. What I've learned is that at some point the high of winning and the sting of losing will wear off, and the real joy comes from knowing you exhausted every possibility to help your team reach its goals and whether or not you and your team were good teammates along the way.

Did you overcome failures together and push each other to work hard when it wasn’t easy? Did you enjoy the successes but continue to push each other to reach new limits?

These are the things that bring true satisfaction and fatigue is only one challenge of many along this road to success. When fatigue pops up, help each other through it because, in the end, it’s in overcoming the challenges that ultimately leads you to become the best you can be.

"Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing." - Teddy Roosevelt.




5 Ways to Ruin Your Child’s Season

5 Ways To Ruin Your Child’s Season

 The Art of Coaching Volleyball

Original post:


  By Peter Ogle

 Parents, even well-meaning moms or dads, can often do more harm than good while trying to help their children excel at sports. Here are 5 things you should never do when your son or daughter is playing on a youth sports team.


1. Continually tell them that the coach is deficient.

2. Say things to them throughout the season like, “Your coach is not seeing the real you,” referring to the fact that you are a better player/leader/assistant coach than they are giving you credit for.

3. Tell them that the coach is using them the wrong way – wrong position, wrong time, etc.

4.Take it upon yourself to teach skills in a way that is distinctly different than the way the coach is teaching them, or hire a private coach to work with your child without the knowledge and cooperation of the team’s coach.

5. Tell your child, “The coach doesn’t like you. It must be personal.”


When you do any or all of these things, here are the reactions you can expect from the kids:

  • They look for excuses for failure.
  • They don’t give the skills being taught a complete effort to determine if they will be beneficial.
  • They’re confused as to which directions to follow, causing hesitation in what they are doing in practices or competitions.
  • They defy the rules and routines of the coach, and it becomes a problem.

The end result:

  • The child never learns to take responsibility for actions and performance.
  • The child becomes frustrated because he/she isn’t committed enough mentally to fight through tough times.
  • The child experiences further frustration because he/she doesn’t have the confidence that comes from practiced repetitions.
  • The child has a poor team concept and focuses too much on himself/herself. This often alienates the child and has an adverse effect on teammates.

Peter Ogle is the head volleyball coach at both La Jolla Country Day School and Coast Volleyball Club in California. He is also a published author on parenting in youth athletics.



Playing Time


Playing Time, (PT). Those two very magical and powerful words that can bring you great joy or misery, that can leave you beaming or in tears. Playing Time can make or break your season, not to mention your athletic career. Every athlete wants PT, yet only a select few will actually consistently achieve it. Many players who do get it feel like they can never get enough of it. Playing Time is like that golden ticket in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. You’re willing to do almost anything to get it and when you do, your world is brightened with wondrous possibility and opportunity. Everything looks and feels terrific and you’re on top of the world. However, should you be unlucky enough to come up empty, to let that “golden ticket” slip through your fingers, suddenly everything in your life takes on a dark pall. You stop smiling and laughing. You lose your love for the sport. Your motivation to improve does a disappearing act. Your self-confidence flies south for the season. You stop caring about school and about life. You feel totally miserable, resentful and ripped off. It’s as if you’ve got this big, ugly and smelly, 2-ton troll sitting squarely on your shoulders weighing you down no matter where you go. In this issue of The Mental Toughness Newsletter we will examine the wonderful world of Playing Time and all the misery and heartache it brings to athletes and their parents, not to mention the coaches who dole it out.

ATHLETES’ LOCKER – “You know, I should be playing a whole lot more! - Harnessing the frustration of limited PT” 
PARENTS’ CORNER – “Dealing with a child who gets limited playing time” 
COACH’S OFFICE - “Handling your role players effectively” 
DR. G’S TEACHING TALES – “Maintain humility” 


“You know, I should be playing a whole lot more! – Harnessing the frustration of limited PT”

So how much playing time are you really getting? And, if you’re not getting enough, do you think that the situation is fair? Do you think the coach is giving PT to some of your less talented or less deserving teammates who you’re convinced should not be playing in front of you?

There is no more emotionally charged issue than this one in sports. At every level and in every sport, athletes continually struggle with the amount of time they spend watching the action instead of being in the action making it happen. It’s a truly rare athlete that is able to consistently and effectively handle the heartache, disappointment and frustration that goes along with getting limited playing time. However, if you can’t learn to cope with sitting on the bench, if you can’t learn to master the negative emotions and disruptive thoughts that are such a natural part of this humbling and frustrating experience, then you’ll be missing a valuable opportunity to grow and improve both as an athlete and a person.

Ask most athletes whether they think that they’re getting enough playing time and the answer will almost always be a resounding, “No Way!” As an athlete, as far as you’re concerned there is a grave injustice being done here that you find yourself miserably camped out on the bench collecting splinters while other, in your opinion, “less-worthy” teammates are taking your spot and getting all the limelight. How can you possibly explain this terrible wrong? The coach has to be either blind as a bat or perhaps totally incompetent to not see the obvious, that YOU are THE MAN and should be out there getting the job done. Or perhaps the coach is simply unfair and biased. He has favorites on the squad and no matter what you do to try to get his attention he will not take his eyes off of his small band of “special” players. However you want to explain this situation and the coach’s decisions, your predicament doesn’t change. You’re still stuck on the sidelines collecting cobwebs and a ton of resentment.

Let’s really take an honest and closer look at your situation. One of two things may be going on here. First, you may be absolutely right-on about the coach and his faulty assessment of you, i.e. you should be getting much more playing time because you are way better than the athletes he has playing in front of you. Or second, you’re way off base, don’t have a clear perspective of the situation here and you’re seriously overrating your skills. In either case however, how you choose to handle things will always be the same.

Before we discuss what you can do to effectively handle this situation, let’s briefly examine scenario number one: The coach isn’t playing you and he has no good reason to have you sitting on the bench. The guy may very well be biased and has several favorites that he plans on playing in front of you. He may be a terrible judge of athletic ability and talent. He may have a personality conflict with you. You may unconsciously remind him of that kid from high school or college who took the starting position away from him and now he’s unknowingly acting out his anger and frustration on YOU! The situation stinks and it’s totally unfair. Your teammates know it’s unfair. You know it’s unfair. The fans know it’s unfair. Heck, maybe even the assistant coach knows that there’s something wrong with this picture. However, fair or not doesn’t matter when it comes to some coaches and how they make their PT decisions. Like it or not, you’re still not getting to play!

Do you want to know what the really funny thing is about all of this playing time garbage? Despite the fact that you feel totally out of control and have absolutely no choice what-so-ever, (it’s the coaches game and, right or wrong, he/she gets to decide), you do ultimately have a lot of choices. First, you can choose to get motivated or de-motivated. You can use the situation as an impetus to work harder and do more or you can use it as an excuse to stop trying and a reason to give up. No question that if the coach is still not playing you even after you bust your butt in practice, even after you go hard and consistently out-play and out-work the starters, even after you follow all the team rules while the starters break them left and right, even after you perform magnificently the minute or two you manage to get in during “garbage time” at the very end of the game, then you have every justification in the world to conclude, “WHAT’S THE POINT?” and then stop trying.

OR, you can make up your mind that the emotional adversity that you’re faced with right now is a WONDERFUL OPPORTUNITY! That’s right! Sick as that may sound, you actually have an opportunity to get more motivated. You can use your frustration to work harder in the weight room, to go harder and faster during sprints, to stay later after practice and take another 100 free throws or 75 three-point shots. You can embrace the challenge of limited playing time by re-dedicating yourself to getting faster, stronger and better. In order to do this you must be able to “keep the bigger picture in mind.” The bigger picture is you and your sport in the long run, NOT just this particular season. Do you have plans to try to make the varsity, the starting line-up, to get a college scholarship or to just simply play at the next level? If you do, then you do not want to lose sight of this bigger picture. You may not be able to get the playing time this season that you want, but that does not mean that you can’t continue to work and progress towards that bigger goal.

So it’s your choice: Get more motivated or de-motivated?


Second, and related, you can choose to maintain a positive attitude in practice and at games or you can put on a cloak of negativity and “share” it with all those around you. You know the drill when you’re really unhappy because you feel like you’ve been given a raw deal. You can openly show your displeasure on the bench. You can let everyone on the court/field know that you’re not a happy camper. You can choose to act out your feelings of resentment and jealousy by emotionally punishing your teammates that are playing in front of you. You can pout on the bench and ignore the coach. You can turn into a real pessimist, glass-of-milk-half-empty person. You can complain about everything from practice drills to team rules. Or, you can “make lemonade” out of the “lemons” that you’ve been handed. You can work to be a beacon of positive attitude. You can keep your head up and continue to support the team, especially the players starting in front of you. You can model appropriate team behavior. You can maintain an open relationship with the coach doing everything in your power to help the team be successful. Trust me, being positive is not the easier choice to make in this situation. It is far easier to give in to your negativity, resentment and unhappiness. However, maintaining a positive attitude in the face of adversity, especially the hardship caused by limited to no playing time is the mark of a true champion.

So what it’s going to be, will you choose to be positive or negative?

Third, when it comes to choices, you have to seriously consider what you really want out of this season and the remainder of your athletic career. In other words, do you want to be right or do you want to get better as an athlete? Here’s what I mean by this. You may be getting a raw deal. Your coach may have blatant favorites and be unfair. You may be totally justified in feeling ripped off by him/her and the situation. In other words you may be right! However, dwelling on the fact that you’re right and the coach is wrong, bad, mean or unfair won’t do squat for your athletic career. It won’t make you better. It won’t get you stronger. It won’t improve your conditioning and it certainly won’t do anything for your mental toughness. And finally, if you’re planning to play for another coach at another level, being right will NOT help you adequately prepare for this transition. Simply put, dwelling on how wronged you’ve been and how right you are will only serve to weaken you as a player and as a person.

So, do you want to be right or do you want to get tougher and better as an athlete?

The cold hard facts of your situation are as follows: With this kind of coach, you are in no position to directlyaffect his or her decisions. As far as you’re concerned, your PT and the coach are HUGE UNCONTROLLABLES! You do NOT have any DIRECT control over the coach if indeed he or she is biased, crazy or just unfair. What you DO have direct control over is how you choose to react to this situation. You have control over whether you keep working hard. You have control over whether you get better or not. You have control over the supportive and positive manner with which you interact with your teammates. Want my advice? Stay focused on only these things that you CAN CONTROL!

Speaking of control, there’s one other point I’d like you to take with you. When you invest your energy into feeling angry, upset and ripped off by the coach, when you interpret your lack of PT to mean that the coach doesn’t “believe” in you, when you stop trying because “what’s the use?”, when you start questioning why you even bother to play this game that you once loved, then in essence what you are really doing is giving that coach complete control of and power over you. You are allowing his incompetence, favoritism or perhaps rational choices (Remember, just because you think you should be playing doesn’t always mean that you should. Sometimes the coach is right on in his assessment that you should be sitting on the bench and that others should be out there instead of you) to steal your love for the game, motivation and heart. Why would you want to give anyone this kind of power over you?

Keep in mind, the problem isn’t your lack of playing time. The problem is most often how you choose to react to the lack of PT!



“Dealing with a child who gets limited playing time”

I know that you probably know this, but being the Head and Chief Repeater for the Department of Redundancy Department I still feel the need to say it: Your kids don’t play sports for the pleasure of sitting on the bench. They didn’t join the team to be “reserve” players. There is nothing fun or enjoyable about being a “role player” or, in its less flattering form, a “scrub.” Sports are supposed to be about participation and participation means participating, not sitting on the bench twiddling your thumbs and watching while others participate. Unfortunately, as your child moves from the recreational up into the competitive ranks of her sport the rules dramatically change. No longer is just showing up and being on the team a good enough reason to guarantee that you’ll play at least part of the game. In the more competitive leagues, how much your child participates directly depends upon how talented, aggressive or skilled she is, or at least the coach’s perceptions of all these. When your child plays for a travel team, a select club or the high school squad, there is no certainty that she will get much, if any playing time. This is one of those oftentimes frustrating and always harsh realities of competitive sports. When winning is earmarked by the coach, organization or school as the primary goal, then the inclination of many coaches is to throw fairness and equal playing time out the window. In its stead, the coach will try and field the squad that he feels will have the best chance of winning. If in the process of this it means that one or more athletes rarely get to play in the games, then so be it. That’s the way the ball bounces as they say. Unfortunately, when this happens, young dreams get shattered, hearts get broken, motivation is squelched and the drop-out statistics of youth sports continues to remain healthy.

As a parent of a child-athlete, there is nothing more painful to watch than your unhappy child, sitting out yet one more game on the bench because the coach thinks that he/she is not good enough to play. It’s flat out excruciating to watch the coach go to the bench, time and time again and never choose your child for playing time. The only time he might ever see some action is during the last few minutes of the game, during what’s called “garbage time” when the outcome of the game has already been long decided. Recently I talked with a high school basketball player whose coach put him in for the very first time in 4 games and only for the last 47 seconds! I mean, why bother?! It’s often hard in these situations to figure out who gets more upset, the child-athlete or the parent.

As the parent of a bench warmer you may feel emotionally compelled to do something, anything to make things better for your child. Perhaps if you talk with the coach for just a few minutes you could help him see the wrongs of his ways. Maybe you could enlighten him a bit and help him see why his judgment is way off base when it comes to your son and this team. That’s it! You could convince him that not only is he near-sighted and slightly incompetent for not playing your child, but he’s also making a costly mistake. Doesn’t he even realize that if he only played your boy, the team would be so much more successful? This fact is so clear and obvious to you and your spouse. What’s his problem that he can’t see this!!? Is he obtuse or what? Then there are those times towards the end of those agonizing games when your thinking is not burdened by deep waves of thought and your emotions are in full control of your intellect. Your feelings are telling you loudly that what the coach really needs is for you to rush in there and rearrange his neurophysiology. Surely that would make things better for your son or daughter!

Much as it might feel better to verbally put the coach in his place or, if you’re a father and have the requisite amount of testosterone in your system, rearrange his outward anatomy, both you and I know that it will get you and your child nowhere fast. Having a bitter confrontation with the coach about your son or daughter’s playing time will only tend to make things worse, 98 out of 98 and one half times. Almost always, the “solution” to this problem does not lie with the coach as much as it does with you and your child’s responses to the situation.

Before I get into that, let’s briefly chat about the times (and they should be few and far between) that it may actually help a little to talk with the coach. Before you do though, you want to know what the coach’s policy on playing time is. Has he/she made it clear to all of the athletes and parents on the team at the beginning of the season? If you do decide to have this conversation with the coach, then you should probably only be doing so if your son or daughter is on the younger side, say roughly 11 and under. When your child is 12 and over, it gets trickier advocating for more PT. In these cases you should instead stay away from this issue entirely and instead encourage your child to have the talk with the coach him/herself.

Any conversation that you do have with the coach regarding playing time should always be done at the right time and in the right place. The right time and place are NEVER right beforeduring or just after a game. Trust me on this one: This kind of timing is a set up for total disaster. Instead pick a mutually arranged time and place when all the hearts involved in the conversation are beating at a resting pace and the emotions on the table are predominantly calm. Approach this conversation in a very respectful and curious manner rather than in an angry, aggressive or confrontational way that will immediately set off the coach’s defensive alarms and sirens. That is, help the coach understand your child’s frustrations at not playing, but then ask the coach what he/she thinks your son or daughter can do to improve, get better, etc. so as to possibly earn more playing time. Do not, under any circumstances start going through the coach’s starting line-up and try to get him to see how your son or daughter is so much better than the athlete he’s currently playing. Understand that even under the best of circumstances this is a very difficult conversation to have with any coach. Why? Because a lot of coaches will respond to these kinds of inquiries by hearing you criticizing or challenging their coaching decisions. Once the coach feels attacked the constructive part of your conversation is no over and forgotten.



The better tact to take with your child around playing time is to help her learn to master the role that she has been assigned on this team. The first step in doing this is to give her permission to not like this role. You can help her understand that being a support player is by far the most difficult position to play on any team. Be empathic. Let her vent. Let her know that it’s OK for her to be unhappy and frustrated. Let her know that her feelings are valid and absolutely natural under the circumstances.

However, once you’ve done that you want to try and help your daughter constructively channel her unhappiness and frustration in a way that will make her a mentally tougher and better athlete. Let her know that she does have a choice as to how she responds to her feelings. She can go with her feelings and quit the team if she wants to. She should understand though that this choice won’t get her what she ultimately wants, to be a better player and more PT. Her other choice is to rise to the challenge and try to improve as an athlete.

Towards this end you want to encourage her to talk to the coach and ask/him or her, “what do I need to do to get better so that I might get more playing time?” This is an important question because it implies to the coach that your child is motivated to do what it takes to improve. You then want to encourage your child to turn her frustration into hard work, all the while emphasizing that it’s her choice how she wants to respond to this very difficult situation. In the process you want to try and help your child see the bigger picture. That is, she may want to play this game for a number of years. She may have dreams to play in college. Help her see this season as an opportunity to take a giant step towards this goal. Reassure her that in all likelihood, she won’t always be the one who sits on the bench. Let her know that right now the situation is temporary and that with a lot of extra hard work she may eventually be able to move herself into a more active playing role. Let her know that this active role may not happen this year or even with this coach. She may have to wait for it. Convince her that even if she doesn’t get a lot of PT this season, all is not lost. Encourage her to hang onto her dreams and work even harder to make them happen. Perhaps she can use the motivation of eventually proving the coach wrong to fuel her extra workouts.

Keeping your role player happy during the season is a very difficult job indeed. Take the tact of helping your child make lemonade out of the lemons that he has been dealt. Don’t engage in “bitch sessions” with him about what a jerk the coach is for not playing him. Don’t put down your son’s teammates and talk about how he should be playing in front of them. Try to maintain your adult perspective, be supportive and use this emotionally trying time as a wonderful opportunity to teach your child how best to handle adversity and disappointment.




“Handling your role players effectively”

On his first recruiting visit out of state, Tim was promised the world by Coach M. “You’ll be the man, Tim my boy. I don’t have any players as good as you at point guard and I see you running our offense next year. I’ve seen you play, I know your game and I really believe that you are one of the major pieces that we’ve been missing in this program. You’re smart, aggressive, know how to handle the ball and have a damn good outside shot and I think we’d be a very good team with you here.”

So how would you as a high school senior respond to this kind of a sales pitch from a real- life college basketball coach? How would you feel if you kept getting similar sounding letters and phone calls from this coach? Naturally Tim was flattered and thrilled about all the attention he got and despite the fact that he was originally more interested in playing closer to home, he overcame his ambivalence and decided to leave his home state and go off to State to play for Coach M. His motivation was at an all time high over the summer as he trained his butt off to get ready to make a significant contribution his freshman year.

In the Fall he continued his hard work and spent as much time as he could on the courts or in the weight room when he wasn’t studying. Sure it was hard for him being so far from home and he missed his parents, but he knew the sacrifice was going to be well worth it. He couldn’t wait for the formal basketball season to start and when it did he threw himself heart and soul into the workouts. Pretty soon though, he realized that things weren’t all that he had expected them to be. First of all, he quickly discovered that he wasn’t the only point guard on the team. In fact, there were three upperclassmen already playing point or two-guard and the coach seemed to go to them much more than him. On some level that made sense to him being a freshman and all, but after Tim consistently outplayed all these guys in practice, the coach’s favoritism began to make less and less sense. He soon found out that each of these guys were home grown, local high school standouts that the coach had recruited heavily and really liked. Despite Tim outplaying them, Coach M usually had him on the second or third squads while these guys were shuttled in and out of the first team during scrimmages.

Despite all of this and his growing frustration, Tim tried to remain positive and remember what the coach had said to him during the recruiting trip and on the phone. He assumed that somehow, once the competitive season started the coach would see the obvious and come through on his recruiting promises. Unfortunately the reality of his situation in practice kept interfering. Sometimes he felt like he was invisible, as if the coach was totally ignoring him. Then there were those occasional side comments from the coach about how unfortunate it was that there were so many upperclassmen in front of him in his position as if this “fact” tied the coach’s hands making it impossible for him to play Tim. These comments made little sense to Tim, especially when you consider that Tim handled the ball much better than they did.

Tim found himself on the bench for the first game of the season and despite the fact that his team got blown out by 30 points it was where he remained the entire game. He was one of the only players on the team who didn’t get into the game. Tim got no minutes in the second or third games either and when he managed to muster up the courage to approach the coach about it one on one, Coach M had very little to say to him that was useful. The coach simply pointed out that Tim was a freshman and fourth on the depth chart in that position and that was truly unfortunate. Tim’s response was, “Coach, I just want to contribute. I know I can help the team,” to which the coach replied, “I know you can, son. I know you can.” But nothing changed and Tim became more and more discouraged and angry. He watched these other guys play poorly in games, make stupid decisions and hurt the team yet the coach did absolutely nothing to change things. His mounting frustration with the situation began to erode into his motivation and he began to question why he was working so hard every day since it really didn’t seem to make any difference.


In the fourth game, another bad loss, Coach M put Tim in with just 37 seconds left in the game! I mean, why bother at all? 37 SECONDS!!!!! This seemed like more of a slap in the face to the kid than anything else and it was as if this was the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back. After this game Tim started seriously thinking about getting out and transferring after freshman year. What was the point of him staying in a program where the coach’s word meant nothing and the man refused to even give him a reasonable chance. His frustration had now reached an all time high and he felt like the coach was playing head games with him. He couldn’t understand why the coach had even bothered putting him in for so short a period of time. He began to talk with his parents about his options for the next year, who he could contact and where he might go.

As a coach, can you see what’s wrong with this picture? Do you think this freshman is a little bit grandiose and uppity in believing that he should be playing more? Isn’t it reasonable for him to have to pay his dues on the bench for a year or so before he earns the privilege of playing time? Isn’t he being selfish just worrying about his playing time? Don’t you think the kid is being just a wee bit impatient and mentally weak in thinking about transferring after just four games of the season?

Well, you can think whatever you want about Tim, but in this case, the freshman is not the real problem, Coach M is. I think it’s more than reasonable for you as a coach to take all the time you think is necessary to have the young players on your squad mature. If this means they get almost no playing time their first year or more, so be it. That’s just life on any competitive team. You have to take time to prove yourself and earn your PT. Players need to learn this and adopt a team-centered, rather than a me-centered attitude. Just because things aren’t going your way right away is not grounds for you as an athlete to cut and run.

While all of this may be true, the real issue here is quite different. The way I see it, the main issue has to do with the coach’s word and integrity as a person. If the early part of the season is any indication, it appears that Coach M has sold Tim a real “lemon.” He sold the freshman on an illusion about what basketball at State would be like for him. Coach M made promises to the kid in order to get him to commit that he apparently had no intention of keeping. In plain English, the coach simply lied to him and his parents just to get him to come to the school. Is Coach M the first and only coach who’s ever done this? Please! I’m not living in a cave here. This kind of recruiting sham happens all the time. Unfortunately the coaches who do this with the sole purpose of getting a kid on their squad are morally corrupt and, in the long run are unknowingly shooting themselves in the foot.

As a coach you may have a lot of tools in your toolbox. You may have a wealth of playing and coaching experience and a depth of knowledge about your sport. You may have a winning record and the distinction of having had players from past teams go on and play at the next level, perhaps even at the pros. You may be an X’s and O’s genius. However, despite all that you’ve accomplished and may know, you are only as good as who you are as a person. In other words, your true effectiveness as a coach is always limited by your character, by how you conduct yourself in the process of coaching, by your integrity and honesty or lack thereof.

Far too many coaches mistakenly believe that what truly defines the pinnacle of the profession is outward success. If you consistently produce winning teams then you must be a coaching genius. To me, this belief that winning is everything encapsulates what is really wrong with sports today. Yes, winning is important in partially defining your success as a coach. However, how you go about winning is far more important. It’s your character and specifically how you interact with your athletes on a daily basis that I think truly defines greatness as a coach. It’s how you treat your athletes, what you say to them, how you say it and how you make them feel in the process of your daily coaching that becomes the real catalyst for creating success in your program.

If you win championships by being verbally and emotionally abusive to your players does that make you a good coach? In some peoples’ eyes it does! In your players eyes it just makes you an angry, selfish, insensitive jerk. If you get results by lying to your athletes, by being indirect with them and playing head games, does that earn you their respect? Maybe in your own mind you may think it does, but certainly not in your athletes’ minds. The bottom line is you will never be able to separate who you are as a coach from who you are as a person. How you conduct yourself as a person will either enhance your coaching ability or completely undermine it.

Let’s briefly examine this issue by looking at how Coach M dealt with Tim. So coach M was a salesman. When you’re a coach on a recruiting mission you have to be, and you’d better be a good one. However, the mark of a truly successful salesman is that he both believes in what he’s selling AND he is honest. Furthermore a very successful salesman always stands behind his product or your money back! He understands that sales are a service directed industry. That is, you are dealing with the public and people, not emotionless automatons. To sell anything and to be dishonest about your product and all that it can do is to be short-sighted and down-right stupid. If you are deliberately deceitful and sell someone a damaged bill of goods, then not only have you lost that customer for any future sales, but you’ve lost your good name and integrity. You can bet your butt that your disgruntled customer will quickly spread the word about the snake oil that he bought from that shyster. In the long run your dishonesty will come back to haunt you by badly hurting your business whatever it is. The bottom line is simple: Who you are and how you conduct yourself as a person will always speak much louder than whatever it is that you’re trying to sell.


Your honesty and integrity as a person and coach is everything. It’s a very precious commodity. Why would anyone want to play for you if you were basically untrustworthy? Why would anyone want to commit to your program if they couldn’t respect you as a professional or as a person? Doesn’t your word mean anything to you? How are you supposed to motivate young athletes when you’re dishonest and morally corrupt in this way? What kind of a role model are you providing for them?

Coach M told Tim that he would be “THE MAN” if he came to State. He promised him a starting position on the team because there were no other good players in his position. He lied to the boy just to get him to sign. Worse than that, he refused to deal with Tim honestly and directly once it became obvious that he wasn’t going to deliver on what he had promised. To me, this failure was adding insult to injury. The least he could have done was to keep this freshman in the loop by explaining to him that the situation had suddenly changed (assuming that it actually had and that this was not another manipulative ploy by the coach). Coach M didn’t even once apologize or try to emotionally keep his new player motivated! i.e. “Gee Tim, I’m really sorry about this setup. I know it’s not what I promised you but I want to work with you here and I’ll try to get you as much PT as possible. I don’t want you to leave and I meant what I said before. If you can stick it out here you can and will make a significant contribution to our team.” Coach M did none of this. Instead he occasionally made lame comments about how tough it must be to be fourth on the depth chart.

As a coach it’s often tough to keep your role players positive and motivated especially since a number of them might see very little playing time over the course of the season. If your role players don’t stay happy they can easily undermine your efforts and jeopardize the entire team’s success. If you can’t justify giving them PT then you had best give them something else of value. To keep them happy, motivated and working for the good of the team you need to consistently give them your respect, honesty and directness. Be up front with them. Don’t promise them the moon if you can’t deliver on it. If you tell a player that you’ll get her into a particular game and then you fail to do so, don’t just pretend that nothing ever happened. Talk to that player privately after the game and explain yourself. You could even try apologizing to her. Let your players know that you are a person of integrity and honesty, that you take responsibility for what you do and say, and that you truly care about them and their feelings. It’s when you start to regularly communicate these qualities that you become a truly great coach.



“Maintain Humility” (for coaches)

(The following is an excerpt from my dear friend and colleague, Jerry Lynch’s book, CREATIVE COACHING published by Human Kinetics)

Phil Jackson, former coach of the six-time world champion Chicago Bulls and current coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, has stated about his tremendous team success with the Bulls, “My record is more a team accomplishment than an individual one.” He’s not simply being humble for humility’s sake. He honestly, genuinely sees the total team effort; this is part of his character. Jackson refused to be flamboyant as he quietly carved his impressive position in the arena of NBA coaching. Few coaches would hesitate to admit that a coach is only as good as his team and that coaches couldn’t do their magic without the athletes that they work with. The humble, modest leader understands the interdependence between coach and athlete. It is a relationship of mutual fulfillment, in which both coach and athlete share a common goal and work together to attain it. Understanding this creates the real magic of interpersonal well-being. Both coach and athlete need to be able to recognize their mutual contributions on the road to greatness.

Humility and modesty are invaluable qualities to have while leading athletes. More than likely you have experienced pretense (your own or that of another coach) at some point in your career, only to learn how it can backfire. If you’ve also experienced the results of more humble leadership, in which a coach does good work, steps aside, and lets athletes experience the positive results, you understand the rewards of this approach.

Cindy Timchal has experienced the results of her humble leadership in working with athletes and staff to establish a women’s lacrosse dynasty at Maryland. Though she has amassed a 169-12 record, with seven national championships in 10 years, Cindy gives credit to her athletes, who commit to doing whatever it takes to be their best, who sacrifice and suffer to get the job done. They display a level of loyalty and respect possible only in an environment of sincere humility. Coach Timchal’s method of leading with humility is summed up in a poster on her office wall that states this: “…you will step aside and they will say ‘we did it ourselves.’”

Jo Paterno, Penn State football coach, believes that one of the many ways to keep humility in a program is to not put names on the back of jerseys. Though Joe is one of the winningest coaches of all time and a football legend, he does not seek out the limelight and does not want attention directed solely at the individuals on his team. The entire program – its mission, standards, and goals- is more important than any one player. Humility is not only part of Joe’s character but something that he instills in his players through his coaching.

Another example of humble leadership is exhibited by the former coach of the Indiana Pacers, Larry Bird. He realized that he didn’t have the experience that most head coaches do, so he delegated authority to his assistant coaches, whom he recognized as experts in their areas. In fact, during most timeouts, the assistants talked to the players more than Coach Bird did. However, he still had the players’ respect. He realized that this method was best for the team, and he didn’t try to call all the shots or let his ego get in the way.

Humble attitudes create loyalty and are the foundation of success

Many coaches seem to have a dire need to promote themselves, an insecurity in their own worth that can be exceedingly harmful to the well-being of athletes, teams, other coaches, and athletic programs. If you’re caught up in the process of self-promotion, it can become easy to overlook the needs of those you coach. You run the risk of being less effective in the work that you have been hired to do: looking out for the welfare of those under your charge.


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Why Every Athlete Should Do Yoga



Why Every Athlete Should Do Yoga

Heidi Kristoffer


Yoga is for everyone, athletes included. Yoga works on strength, flexibility, balance, agility, endurance, core, and overall strength, among other things. Any athlete could benefit hugely by adding yoga to her or his training regimen. Here’s more details on a few of the perks:

Strength: No amount of weight-lifting with free weights will give you the strength that consistently holding up your own body weight will.

Flexibility: Practicing yoga increases flexibility and ease of movement, therefore increasing range of motion. In particular, athletes in sports that require swinging action (tennis, golf, etc.) can benefit greatly. Flexibility in general also helps to prevent injury.

Balance: Balancing poses in yoga improve overall balance in everything you do, preventing falls and injury.  When you learn how to be soft and go with the flow, you can more easily bend and are less likely to break or fall over.

Endurance: The endurance that the ease of yoga gives you lends to endurance sports like running, triathlons, and Iron Mans. When you learn to tune into your body and mind, everything can be a meditation—sports included. Yoga also helps you learn how to pace yourself: slow and steady, in it for the long haul.

Core: Almost everything you do in yoga works on your core strength. Strong core equals a healthy back and a healthy body.

Stability: Yoga helps strengthen all of the little stabilizing muscles that people tend to miss in other physical workouts and are vital in protecting your joints and spine (among other things).

Recovery: Yoga also helps put athletes back together after injuries. Again: You’re tuning into your body and giving it the care it wants and needs. Yoga also elongates all of the muscles that athletes spend so long contracting, so it is a great counter-action.

Most importantly, yoga changes the way you think and approach everything in life: When you learn to move with ease and stop forcing things, you will prevent injuries and your body will open with your mind, increasing your flexibility all around.



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Get Your Roll On – What, Why, And How You Should Foam Roll

Get Your Roll On – What, Why, And How You Should Foam Roll

What Is Foam Rolling?

Foam rolling is a really common form of soft tissue work that’s cheap, simple, and effective, and it’s exactly what it sounds like.  Strategically rolling your body over a cylindrical piece of foam to create a desired effect.

There are numerous tools that you can use to do this type of work, such as a Tiger Tail or a lacrosse ball, but we find that the foam roller is a good place to start for most people.

Why Should I Foam Roll?

What is that desired effect mentioned above? To be honest, people use it for all different reasons, including, but not limited to:

  • Muscle relaxation
  • Increased blood flow to the area you’re rolling
  • Transitioning mentally from the rest of your day, to “work out mode”
  • It just plain feels good (for most people!)

foamroll-molly-pro-450x337A couple of important things to note:

1. If you or one of your clients are brand new to foam rolling, start with something a little less “invasive” than a traditional, firm foam roller.

Tiger Tail or a Stick might be a good idea, as you can control the pressure a lot better, or you can order a white foam roller, which is traditionally less dense and much softer than a black one.

2. If you or one of your clients are quite a bit overweight, you also might want to consider making the modifications listed above, as the more you weigh, the more pressure you’ll put on any given area, and the more “invasive” the foam rolling is to the body.

3. If you want to pinpoint an area, or roll out a “hard-to-roll” area like your pecs/chest or around your scapulae/shoulder blades, you might want to consider a tool like a lacrosse ball.

4. If you’re very stressed out or tense, your body might not “accept” the foam rolling very well.

It’s a good idea to spend two to three minutes (or more) doing some deep belly breathing and trying to relax your mind and body before you start rolling. If you know yourself, and know that you’ll never do this, at least take five to 10 deep breaths in and out through your nose. Shoot for a three to five second inhale, and an eight to 10 second exhale.

How Do I Foam Roll?

That’s a good question, and we show you exactly how we like to do it in this video:

Keep in mind that the more comfortable you get with foam rolling, the more likely you are to develop your own “foam rolling routine,” and that’s great! One of the most important (and least discussed) aspects of foam rolling is that you enjoy it, so you’re more likely to be consistent with it.


You’re welcome to foam roll your entire body if you have the time and desire, but if you don’t, choose the three to five areas of your body that feel more stiff, or that you’re trying to relax, and roll those.

For most people, here’s a good place to start:

  • Quads (front of the thighs)
  • Glutes (your booty)
  • Adductors (inner thigh/groin)
  • Pecs (chest)
  • Lats (underneath your armpit, along the side of your body)

Foam Rolling Tips:

1. The first rule(s) of foam rolling – it will feel awkward at first and you will fall off at some point! And that’s totally OK, and quite normal. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a person who is new to foam rolling, not roll off at least twice. It’s kind of like a rite of passage. Embrace it.

foamroll-molly-yes-no-450x3882. Pay attention to your body. It’s critical that you use some body awareness when starting to foam roll.

For example, foam rolling your quads is essentially doing a Plank, and you wouldn’t let your back sag in a Plank, right? So why do it when you roll?

You don’t have to be super rigid and tensing your muscles hard, of course (the goal is to relax, remember?) but being aware of your body position is quite important.

3. Take your time. You should use long, slow strokes, and spend a minimum of 30-60 seconds on each area (I’m going a bit faster for the sake of time on the video). You could roll longer of course, but if you’re being realistic, most people won’t do it if they have to spend more time than that.

4. Roll in multiple directions. As demonstrated in the video, depending on the muscle, you can not only roll up and down, but side to side as well. Play around with it and see what feels good to you.

What If It’s Painful?

We get this question a lot – “Is foam rolling supposed to hurt?”

This is a toughie – there are multiple schools of thought on this, with very different opinions. On one end of the spectrum, there is the thought that, if it hurts, you may be on a trigger point, and you should stay on that area for a while until the pain dissipates, and then move on to another area. On the other end of the spectrum, there is the camp that says, “STOP! Why would you want to put yourself in pain before you begin your workout?”

Because pain is such a tricky and misunderstood subject, keeping yourself out of pain as much as possible is a good thing. In addition, it’s likely that if you feel pain, your entire body is going to tense up, thus rendering the foam rolling relatively pointless.

Another things to consider (I snagged this gem from Joy Victoria at The Women’s Fitness Summit) is – what does pain mean to each person?

Because it means different things to different people, and there is a spectrum of pain, from mild discomfort to intense and unbearable, her barometer for measuring pain with her clients while foam rolling is, “Can you relax into it?” and I love this.

If you can “relax” into the pain, then it’s likely just mild discomfort and you can keep rolling.

Note: if you ever feel intense, sharp, shooting pain, stop immediately. You may have hit a nerve, and you do not want to stay on that area.

When Should I Foam Roll?

For most people, foam rolling before their workout (after a little breathing, to help them relax) is perfect. Other people enjoy foam rolling post-workout as well, and that’s fine, too. And finally, foam rolling on off days is perfect, as it can increase blood flow to the area and may help bolster recovery.

In my opinion, the best time to foam roll is…whenever you will do it consistently. Consistency is key for seeing long-term results.


A message from GGS…

In our Strongest You Coaching program, we help women just like you reach their health, physique, and mindset goals. Strongest You Coaching is about more than just training and nutrition. It’s about changing your self-talk and inner dialogue, learning to let fitness enhance your life instead of rule your life, and finally healing your relationship with food and your body, all with the help of your Girls Gone Strong Coach, and your fellow Strongest You Coaching group.

Original post:



5 Areas Sleep has the Greatest Impact on Athletic Performance

Elite Sports & Performance, Sleep Science & Technology

5 areas sleep has the greatest impact on athletic performance

Sep 23, 2015|by fatiguescience

“Fatigue makes cowards of us all.”

Original article:

— Vince Lombardi

The modern elite athlete knows that physical conditioning and good nutrition are critical in reaching peak athletic performance; however, sleep, while often overlooked, plays an equally important role. In recent years, it’s become clear that the quality and quantity of sleep obtained by elite athletes can be the edge between winning and losing on game-day.



 Five areas sleep has the greatest impact on athletic performance

1. Improved reaction times

Elite athletes can’t spare even fractions of a second to react to a play unfolding in front of them. Sleep deprivation is known to reduce reaction times significantly. Even a single all-nighter can reduce reaction times by more than 300%, not to mention recovering takes several days. Studies have shown even a surprisingly low level of fatigue can impair reaction times as much, if not more, than being legally drunk

It’s surprising to hear that “being awake for 22 hours straight can slow your reaction time more than four drinks can”.² Clearly, there are physiological differences between being intoxicated and being fatigued; however, if an athlete wouldn’t reasonably expect to have peak reaction times after putting back four beers, they can’t expect to perform their best on less than a full night’s sleep either.

Moderate sleep deprivation produces impairments in cognitive and motor performance equivalent to legally prescribed levels of alcohol intoxication
Williamson A, Feyer A. (2000)

How awake are you?
Hardvard Medical


2. Reduced injury rates, improved overall health

A University of California study concluded that injury rates in youth athletes increased during games that followed a night of sleep fewer that 6 hours Another study looking at injury rates in high school athletes found that sleep hours was the strongest predictor of injuries, even more so than the hours of practice.²

Why is this the case? As we explored in the first point, fatigue affects reaction time. A tired athlete is slower to react to a potential hit on the ice, the field, or the court. Secondly, fatigue affects the body’s immune system, making players more susceptible to illness. Thirdly, shorter sleep periods don’t provide the body with sufficient time to regenerate cells and repair from the abuse of workouts, games, and daily activities. Over time, game-earned injuries, health issues, and the inability to fully recover can wear on an athlete and contribute to more time spent on the sidelines.

“If you told an athlete you had a treatment that would reduce the chemicals associated with stress, that would naturally increase human growth hormone, that enhances recovery rate, that improves performance, they would all do it. Sleep does all of those things.”

— Casey Smith, Head Athletic Trainer, Dallas Mavericks


Sports-related injuries in youth athletes: is overscheduling a risk factor?
Luke A, et al. (2011)

Chronic lack of sleep is associated with increased sports injuries in adolescent athletes
Milewski MD, et al. (2014)

How sleep deprivation decays the mind and body
The Atlantic


3. Longer playing careers

Beyond acute injuries, one recent study on MLB players has shown fatigue can shorten the playing careers (and therefore income) of professional athletes. “We were shocked by how linear the relationship was,” said the principal investigator W. Christopher Winter, MD, medical director of the Martha Jefferson Hospital Sleep Medicine Center in Charlottesville, Va. “It is a great reminder that sleepiness impairs performance. From a sports perspective, this is incredibly important. What this study shows is that we can use the science of sleep to predict sports performance”.¹

Studies link fatigue and sleep to Major League Baseball (MLB) performance and career longevity
Winter C. MD


4. Better accuracy, faster sprint times

Sleep is crucial to the body’s physiological, biochemical, and cognitive restoration. Cheri Mah, a researcher at Stanford, conducted a sleep-extension study with the university’s men’s basketball team. After maintaining a normal sleep schedule for 4 weeks to establish a baseline, players from the team went through a 7-week sleep extension period. Over this time, the players obtained as much nighttime sleep as possible, with 10 hours being the goal. The results:

“Measures of athletic performance specific to basketball were recorded after every practice including a timed sprint and shooting accuracy. Subjects demonstrated a faster timed sprint following sleep extension. Shooting accuracy improved, with free throw percentage increasing by 9% and 3-point field goal percentage increasing by 9.2%. Improvements in specific measures of basketball performance after sleep extension indicate that optimal sleep is likely beneficial in reaching peak athletic performance. ”

Similar performance improvements after sleep extension have been seen in tennis players, swimmers, weightlifters, and more.

The effects of sleep extension on the athletic performance of collegiate basketball players
Mah C, et al. (2011)

Ongoing study continues to show that extra sleep improves athletic performance
Mah C, et al. (2008)

The effect of partial sleep deprivation on weight-lifting performance
Reilly T, Piercy M. (1994)


5. Fewer mental errors

Sleep loss impairs judgement. Studies have shown motivation, focus, memory, and learning to be impaired by shortened sleep. Without sleep, the brain struggles to consolidate memory and absorb new knowledge. “Past studies have shown that sleep loss impairs the frontal lobe of the brain and has negative effects on decision-making such as sensitivity to risk-taking, moral reasoning and inhibitions”.¹

On the field, one study has shown that MLB players show decreased ‘plate discipline’ as the season progresses.² Meaning the number of times a batter swings at a ball outside of the strike-zone increases. While common logic would predict that plate discipline would improve over the season – as players had more practice and at-bats – the opposite was shown to be true. MLB players consistently showed better judgement at the beginning of the season than at the end. The suspected cause? Mental fatigue during an arduous 162 game season.

“A team that recognizes this trend and takes steps to slow or reverse it – by enacting fatigue-mitigating strategies, especially in the middle and late season, for example – can gain a large competitive advantage over their opponent.”

— Scott Kutscher, M.D., Principal Investigator


The sleep crisis and the science of slumber

Final thoughts

For all of us, sleep is an important component of maintaining optimum health. For elite athletes, however, sleep becomes a crucial pillar of success. Reaction times and motor function, motivation, focus, stress regulation, muscle recovery, sprint performance, muscle glycogen, glucose metabolism, memory and learning, injury risk, illness rates, unwanted weight gain…. sleep (or lack thereof) plays a part in all of these things. And sleep, as more and more athletes are learning, has a big impact on performance, wins, and losses.

“We’re teaching our players: Sleep is a weapon.”

— Sam Ramsden, Dir. of Player Health and Performance, Seattle Seahawks