Episode 52 – Five Messages

Your Sports Resource

Join me and Matt as we step into the fascinating world of coaching with our latest episode, “FIVE MESSAGES.” If you’re a coach looking to elevate your game and unlock the hidden potential of your athletes, this episode is a goldmine of wisdom and inspiration!

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00:00:03 Introduction

This is the Your Sports Resource podcast, where each week you’ll learn actionable strategies that you can implement so the operations of your club support your coaching staff and the direction of your organization. We are committed to excellence in youth sports leadership. Let’s get started.


00:00:25 – Renata

Hello, and welcome to the Your Sports Resource podcast. My name is Renata, I am the CEO and founder of Your Sports Resource and I’m joined today with Matt, who is a consultant with the organization. And we are going to talk about a post that I saw on LinkedIn that might be a bit challenging for us, Matt, but I’m looking forward to going through it. Are you?


00:00:55 – Matt

Yeah, sounds like fun. Let’s do it.


00:00:56 – Renata

All right. So, I read a post from Dan Abrahams. He is a sports psychologist in the UK. And I really have been following him a lot and I love his messaging. I’ve even been adding it to our newsletter, and I found out that some of those posts in those newsletters are being added to know Super Elite, WhatsApp groups that are with the coaches, us, swimming coaches


But at any rate, there was something that he posted that I just felt like was something that would be worth us talking about, that the coaches could think about. And he called it his five messages for coaches.


And I just kind of want to go through each message and let’s talk about what that might mean from a coach’s perspective. And we could probably even relate it to on the operation side. But this is really kind of focused on the coach swimmer, maybe even the coach parent side. Okay.


All right, so the first one, and I’m just going to read you what he wrote and then we’ll just talk about it. So, it says, coaches, try not to confuse goal setting theory and achievement goal theory. Goal setting theory equals setting outcome performance and process goals for short-, mid-, and long-term motivation and game development.


Achievement goal theory equals setting optimal objectives for game day. So how I interpreted that, and I’d love to get your thoughts, Matt, is know, maybe not focusing so much on the big outcomes, but those small micro achievements. He says game day, we could say it meets or we could even say it practices. You know, achievement theory, that just kind of gets you walking towards that big goal.


00:03:04 – Matt

Yeah. Yeah, and I think in swimming you do this all the time if you have a steady flow of meets coming up. So, you’re setting your goal for maybe five, six months down the road and you maybe have kind of a benchmark in there at mid-season, but you’ve got all these kinds of meets in between and that’s kind of where all the little things are happening to ultimately help you reach that goal.


So, it could be right as simple as, hey, it’s the first meet of the year and we’ve been working on dolphin kicking, so let’s just make sure everybody’s going, whatever. If we’re saying three or four or five, whatever, however many kicks we’re doing in practice off the wall, let’s race with those.


Right? And that’s one of those little steps that’s going to help kind of keep building you. So, I think this is super relevant because we do this nonstop at swimming.


00:03:54 – Renata

I think what’s important, though, is that I think coaches think that way. I don’t know. Now, listen, I’ve never been a coach, so I don’t know. But do coaches actually have the right conversations with athletes and even the parents, swimmers, and the parents about those small micro achievements?


Because I wonder if I just look at the people that I work with, right, when they set their own goals for themselves, they only see that one that’s like a year down the road. They don’t think about those.


You know. Yeah, okay. It may be hard for you to get to X, but you still need to go through A, B, and C in order to get to X. You know. So, I wonder, do coaches do a good job at talking about those micro-movements between to their swimmers and their parents?


00:04:42 – Matt

Hopefully, but probably not. Right? And I think partially where it gets lost is you get so used to saying it in practice and then it’s like, hey, we’re going to try to do this in the meet. You kind of forget to really touch base back with them and say, like, hey, this is a real important stepping stone for what we want to do later in the year.

00:05:02 Speaker 2

So, I do think the athletes probably hear it pretty frequently. I think it’s probably a good idea as you’re going into meets, to actually then talk specifically about, hey, this is what’s happening at this meet. This is what we’re really specifically looking for.


This is why from the parents’ end, it’s hard, right? But it’s a good idea, right? It is a really solid idea to set that expectation for those parents to say, hey, when you come to the meet, here’s what you should be looking for.


So, you know it’s like, hey, if you see, you know, we’re telling the kids we want 5 dolphin kicks. I’m gonna go right back to that example and just keep reusing it off the wall. And then you see your kid do it. That’s when, you know, hey, after the meet. Hey, good job, you know, great job.


We saw you dolphin kicking off the wall. Right. And that’s a good way for the parents then to provide that real positive feedback to their kid and kind of stay engaged with what they’re doing. But yeah, I think that’s a little tougher as far as that communication is probably not happening as much.


00:06:01 – Renata

Maybe we should just tell the swimmers to tell your parents what the micro goals are. All right. Point 2. He says, thinking, emoting, and behaving influence and integrate with each other.


Now, that’s actually a quote from Albert Ellis, who is another psychologist. So, what Dan says is a useful way for coaches to observe their players is to do so with an appreciation that their internal and external are constantly communicating.


00:06:39 – Matt

Yeah, that’s a tough one.


00:06:40 – Renata

Yeah, that one’s a little bit of a stretch. I was kind of like we could look at that as simple as my internal dialogue and the dialogue that I’m actually telling everybody else that external might be very different and that we have to understand that what we say out loud is also probably what you hear and internalize.


What do you think that he means by, even if we could talk about Albert’s, quote, thinking emoting, and behaving influence and integrate with each other?


00:07:18 – Matt

Well, it obviously is going to. Right. If you’re internally, this is the dialogue most of the time, that’s kind of what’s going to be shown in swimming. It’s definitely going to have an impact on what happens next. So, if you’re at a swim meet and in your first event, you walk out and you touch the wall and it’s, I’m not happy with that.


And now we’re all upset. It’s like, okay, well, now what’s the process? Well, I got to go cool down and then get ready for that next race, which could be in 45 minutes. Now, what we don’t want is them going back and sitting there for 45 minutes, kind of going over all these negative thoughts.


What we want them to do is refocus onto that next race. Interestingly, if a kid came out, so coaching with younger kids of their age group level, but even at the senior level, if they were really upset or sometimes, you’d even see tears, I used to just go right to the cooldown pool.


Just take five minutes during your cooldown, let it all out with your face in the water, go through it, and by the time you’re done with cool down, you get back out. Let’s come over and talk and let’s talk about what’s going to happen next rather than sit there and reflect on that poor performance.


Because if they kind of came across it, we kind of know where that one was at. Right. We’ll talk about what we need to fix on that one later. Let’s just get you focused on kind of what’s next.


00:08:48 – Renata

Yeah. So, leave it behind. We got to shake it off. But if you can’t do that, then that absolutely will, I don’t know, predict or put you in a situation where the negative is going to affect the next outcome.


00:09:06 – Matt

Yeah. Well, it’s interesting, too. My younger daughter is a show jumper, so she jumps horses and her trainer the other day, actually, during her training, because, I mean, they’re going through in the arena through the course, and it’s like you go over one jump, and then you’ve got to get ready for that next one.


And the circumstance there is, if you’re not ready, you may go flying. Right. And I heard her, and this is, I think, kind of great. During that competition or while she’s training and she’s in the middle of it, if you miss something or mess something up, it’s easy to kind of you can see the emotion come out.


And I heard her yell at her the other day, don’t dramatize your emotions. And I think that was part of it, too, of like, keep your mind focused on what has to happen, because what you just did is affecting that next thing. It could be a serious consequence.


That’s like getting tossed off a horse. So, it is staying present as well, I think, and letting that just kind of roll off you and kind of focus on what’s that next thing that has to happen is key.


00:10:12 – Renata

Yeah. Yeah. Oh, I love that example. That’s awesome. That’s great. All right let’s move to number 3. Number 3 is language and story, and images offer an interplay between the self and the environment.


Coaches can help players have words and phrases and inner pictures that help them interact with their challenging sporting environment with confidence, focus, joy, expression, effort, and energy. I really love, really love the inner picture.


I mean, I always find that if you can make it visual, especially as an advisor and a consultant. Right. If we can make it visual, it means something to people. I think the same thing for coaches. I mean, when I was growing up, we used to do those visualizations, like see yourself touching the wall first. Right.


See that time on the scoreboard, standing on the podium. Right. Not everything is about winning, but I think that those are the type of visual exercises that I think really can kind of set the pace and tone. And I think language and story, how you talk to yourself is just as important.


00:11:27 – Matt

Yeah, yeah, I mean I love Visualization. I mean, I used to do it as well. Sit there at night, kind of just close your eyes and kind of go through that. And I think it also does a couple of things. I think it does, too, if you can visualize, like, hey, this is what the setting especially if it’s somewhere you’ve been, right, where it’s like, I’ve been to this meet before.


I know what the pool looks like, I know what the stands, I know what the sound is going to be. The smell, it kind of keeps you in that headspace. You’re kind of calm when you’re at that competition then and then right then, it’s the internal messaging. Like, what are you telling yourself? You’re getting ready to step on the blocks.


We all know that. Right. In swimming, it’s just like all this stuff going on and all of sudden, a whistle blows, and you step up on the blocks and it’s like now you’re just in your own head. And so, what you’re telling yourself is going to have a huge impact.


00:12:20 – Renata

I think back to it. We just did an engagement with EGRA Waves, and we were using the example of encouraging kids to get out of their comfort zone and trying new events, and we were talking about the 200 fly.


So, I think that would be a great one, you know. You visualize if you’ve never done it before, the assumption is I’m going to die by the time I get to the last 25. I’m going to box on my shoulder. So, it’s kind of that thing.


But if you’re able to visualize, no, coach says to do this for the first 50 split. This for the second 50 split. Like, you already kind of, like, walk through that process. So again, I just love how he ties it together. That the language and the story and the images.


And I really wish I want to encourage coaches to speak kind of like that, especially when you’re trying to encourage a swimmer to get out of their comfort zone, to pull all those pieces together to make it real for you. I think that’s awesome.


00:13:22 – Matt

Sometimes that’s the biggest challenge, right. Just kind of getting them to kind of push past their own mindset of what they think it’s going to be.


00:13:29 – Renata

You never know, they may end up loving the 200 flyers.


00:13:34 – Matt

That’s how 200 flyers are born.


00:13:36 – Renata

All right. Number 4, Dan says, coaches, the key, the secret is to consider your principles of play and the logic of the game alongside mindset in conjunction with mindset, the game plan must be executed with attention, with intensity, and with intent. That’s how you high perform. That’s how you win. So, what do you think he means by that?


00:14:09 – Matt

Yeah, I’m trying to think of how do I relate that to swimming, right? Like, how is that game planning? And, I mean, obviously I feel like the only way I can bring that is more race planning. Like just understanding how am I attacking this?


And you just kind of were touching on that. But in that last example at the end where you got to have a plan, right? Yeah. And that’s the other thing were talking back to what we were first talking about is every meet that race plan may be different. Right.


I mean, if we’re six weeks in and our first meet is coming up, how I may attack that race may be different from when I’m six months in. Right. And I’ve got all this training behind me and maybe and some rest behind me. So just understanding, hey, this is what we’re trying to accomplish at this meet.


This is how we’re going to swim this race, where it’s at 200, we’re going to try to negative split them for this race or it’s, hey, it’s the time of year where I want you to go out hard and die, kind of see where you die and see what it feels like.


Right. And it has to be purposeful. Right. It has to be, because if you don’t know what that feels like, then it’s hard to come up with a race plan when you’re trying to kind of maximize performance.


00:15:27 – Renata

What about practices? Because I see if you’re a game plan, maybe it’s more explaining the game plan, I guess, as the swimmers get older right? Is to understand because sometimes you really may hate all the heavy aerobic and you’re tired and you’re exhausted right? That kind of thing.


And explaining the process of whatever that color chart is that everybody does their training towards maybe going through that as a game plan. Because you’re right, it’s kind of hard to have a game plan for meet because even though it’s a team sport, it’s also an individual sport, so it’s a little wonky as far as that’s concerned.


But I can understand how getting the points across or understanding the logic of how you move through the training from the start of the year to, I guess, to the first championship meet would probably make a lot of sense to the swimmers.


00:16:24 – Matt

Yeah, I like that because it is, I think, a valuable process to go through as far as talking through your athletes, hey, this is what it looks like. So, you know, for these weeks, this is the type of training you’re going to be kind of doing and what it’s going to kind of be like, and then we’re going to transition into this, and then we’re going to transition, so they know.


And again, as they get older, you’re right. They kind of start to understand what maybe September looks like compared to September and October compared to November and December, say. But walking them through that process and letting them understand that is also going to help their training.


I think they mentally prepare then to come in and understand what’s going to be required of them from day to day, week to week. So, I like that, too.


00:17:13 – Renata

All right let’s tackle the last one. Number 5 is the brain is a prediction machine. Prediction is mediated by experiences and expectations. It’s less about helping players expect a win. It’s more about helping players expect their process.


It’s about helping them expect to take charge of themselves and to expect the controllable. So, I guess what he’s saying there is that everything’s a process, and if you do the process, then the outcome will come through.


00:17:53 – Matt

I think we could take this, like, five different ways in somewhat. Right. I mean, swimming is the ultimate process. It’s kind of one of those where I feel like having conversations with a football or a soccer coach. It’s so hard sometimes to try to get them to understand where it’s like, yeah, we have a meet this weekend, but we don’t really care much about that meet as far as the necessary outcome.


Right. It’s like we’re working on this in training, and this is what we want them to do in the competition, but kind of win-lose whatever. It’s just a building block and it’s hard to get people to understand who aren’t swimming people.


00:18:32 – Renata

Yeah. Because it’s all about the number of wins and losses in their world. Right. So, it’s a little different.


00:18:39 – Matt

By us, it’s literally that process. We got to build on this, then we got to build on this skill, then we’ve got to start to. So, yeah I think that, again, just goes back to understanding what is required of me at this time.


Understanding that this is what success looks like for this period of time, knowing that I’m going to keep building upon this for that next thing and that next thing, and kind of keeping that mental mindset and keeping that positive in your head so you can continue to move forward and build on those things.


00:19:20 – Renata

It’s even like the example that you used earlier about, I just want you to go out fast and see where you die. Right. You get the experience from it and then you already have the mental understanding that you’re going to go out hard and yeah, I may die and I may be struggling that last 50, but this is where we get to learn. Right. I think that’s a great example.


00:19:43 – Matt

Personally, my biggest pet peeve was when you have those distant swimmers, and that last 50 is so fast. Now I get it. It’s Not like a Bobby finger or somebody who’s like.


00:19:51 – Renata

No, we were just happy to be done.


00:19:53 – Matt

I’m gonna go world record pace and then put this last 50. But it says people that you’re like, could you have picked that up maybe like 75 earlier where it could seem like you had a lot left there.


It is, though. It’s like, yeah. How do you know what it feels like if you haven’t done it? So maybe just give it a shot and put that in the memory so you kind of know. And the next time it’s like, I survived it. I got it. This is what I can do next time.


00:20:16 – Renata

Well, ultimately, all five of his points or what did he call them? Yeah, the five messages is that everything is not about just the angle. It’s about the process of getting there.


Obviously, you have to think about your end goal to figure out your process, and then also the challenges of what your brain says and what you do, and how you handle the outcomes is all part of the athlete being able to make it through those processes to get to the end goal.


00:20:54 – Matt

Yeah. This is great for coaches. It’s great for athletes. And you’re right. Parents, I mean, it’s just understanding what that process is good, but also understanding that, you know, your kids going out there, what that internal dialect is, is important. So, make sure that you’re understanding that your messaging needs to kind of be something that’s also going to help them, too.


00:21:16 – Renata

Yeah. All on the same page. It’s not about, oh, my four-year-old is the next Michael Phelps. No. How about we give him a chance to develop and have a mental picture of what that looks like for himself.


00:21:17 – Matt

Yep. Or every swim is not going to be the best time. It’s just some point, it’s just not.


00:21:34 – Renata

All right. Thanks, Matt. Really appreciate you having the discussion with us and guys in the audience. If you have topics that you would like for us to talk about or go over, please do let us know. You can reach us at info@yoursportsresource.com and on the website yoursportsresource.com, you can find tools and articles, and things that can help you not only from a coach’s perspective but also from an operations perspective. So please give the website a look. All right. Thank you for joining us today.