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Winter Madness
by Alan Goldberg, Ed.D.

How To Maintain Your Sanity And Coaching Effectiveness going Meet to meet without Sleeping, Eating or Thinking

When I was teaching tennis professionally my peak season was the summer. during this wondrous time of the year while others based in the water and sun, I logged some 1 hours a day, 7 hours a week on the court and then spent an additional 2 hours each night talking on the phone with unhappy and oftentimes unreasonable parents who wanted me to help their sons or daughters make it to Wimbledon. It didn't take too many weeks of this craziness before I found myself practically hallucinating on the court, totally ineffective as a coach and plagued by repetitive nightmares, (I found myself teaching tennis in my dreams, all night long! As you find yourself in the rniddle of a similarly intense coaching time of going almost non-stop, meet to meet to rneet, I would like to offer you sorne helpful words of advice that may prevent you from leaving your sport the way I did and becoming a sport psychologist. Actually, my hope is that these suggestions may not only help you keep your sanity and energy during this stressful time, but also help you maintain your effectiveness as a coach. My suggestions are based on the principles of peak performance which are visible in the diving of anyone in the middle of a great meet. By following the 5 principles listed below you can maximize the chances that your divers will have the best meets possible and that you as a coach will still be coherent and happy when it's all over.

Keep It Fun - Peak performances for both coaches and divers happen BECAUSE you are having fun. If you are waiting for your diver to win first, before you will let yourself have fun, you've got it backwards! Having funwill keep you and your athletes relaxed and loose and make the likelihood of their having a great performance morreal. Burnout for athletes and coaches is a direct result of being too serious about the performance. Keep things light. Use humor. Make it fun for yourself and your divers and you'll find yourself with more energy and functioning as a better coach.

Focus on Process Not Outcome - For your divers to their best, they have to keep their concentration in tHere & Now of the dive and not on the outcome, (i.e) scoplace, winning or losing, getting hurt, etc.. Performance problems are a direct result of a faulty focus concentration and a violation of the Here & Now rule for peak performance. The diver has to make sure that he/she stays mentally in the right time zone, the Now and the right mental place, the Here. A focus on the past, (a miss, injury, failed dive, etc.), the future, or the wrong place, (the crowd, judges, other divers, etc.} is almost always problematic and will insure a poor performance. The best advice a diver can get from you as a coach is to "dive one die at a time mentally as if you're in a vacuum". Now as a coach, this principle applies to you in terms of taking one meet at a time and staying focused on the process of your divers' performances and not on the outcomes. If you're focused on the last meet, on the need to have a diver win this one or the next one, then you will be inadvertently setting you and your divers up for trouble. Further, your outcome focus will begin to stress you out. Along these lines, if you coach both a girls and boys team make sure that you practice staying mentally in the HERE! Sometimes it's hard to be with the girls' team at a meet and have to leave the boys home. However, if you're spending time feeling guilty about this abandonment you are not in the right mental place and will be less effective with the team that you are with.

Stay Relaxed Mentally and Physically- Peak performances do NOT happen when you or your athletes are uptight. Anything you can do for yourself and your divers to keep you both loose and relaxed will not only make them perform better, but it will insure that you live longer. Some quick strategies here: A Use humor; B} Keep your perspective-Make the meets less important, (Regardless of how important the meet actually is, you have to get your divers to not focus on that. If you have one great diver and you are communicating to them that everything's riding on them, watch out! This will only tighten them up physically and insure a poor performance; C) Use Distraction,'Dissociation. Sometimes one of the best strategies to use to help athletes deal with stress is to distract them from its' source and get them to focus on something neutral and relaxing, (music, movies, etc.. This may be a great strategy for you to use on yourself during this time by trying to steal some time away from the stress of the meets; 4} Physically workout. There's no question that one of the best ways of combating stress, anxiety and boredom is to physically workout. The more stress you're under the more critical it is for you to make time to "constructively sweat" and get your head back on straight.

Be Free to Fail and Make Mistakes - Perhaps the best strategy to tighten up a diver and create a perpetual balker is to inculcate in them a tremendous fear of messing up. The athlete who is afraid to fail or screw up is the athlete who performs stiffly and poorly. When unconcerned with failing or making mistakes, your divers learn faster and perform better. You also have to keep this attitude for yourself in relation to your divers' performances at these upcoming meets . Now don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that you have to love it when they lose or fail. What I am saying is that you must learn to let go of these when they do happen and be sure that you keep things in their proper perspective.

Trust and Let It Happen at Meets - A diver in the middle of a peak performance is on automatic. They are trusting that the dives are there and then relaxing and letting them happen, effortlessly and easily. A diver who gets into over thinking and trying to force or make the dive happen is a crash in the making. As you know, meets are not times to work on your dives and improve your level of skill. The proper attitude is that meets are times to relax and let it all happen. Meets are "party" time. Your ability to communicate this attitude to your divers is critical for their performance and absolutely necessary to keep your stress at a manageable level.

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