Friday

7 Tournament/Showcase Tips She Needs to Get Recruited!

As a sports parent and coach I understand the vital importance of an athlete maximizing her opportunities during a showcase, camp or tournament in an effort to get recruited. Below are 7 surefire tips for how your athlete can stand out from the crowd to improve her chances to get recruited: 

1. As a parent or coach do your best to SUPPORT her all week. She may feel intense pressure to perform, particularly if certain college coaches she has invited to watch her actually show up! Help her to keep it all in perspective and refrain from getting down on her or ADDING to her pressurized world.

2. I saw a sign tonight in one of the men's College World Series dugouts that read "Will Over Skill." Remind her that her effort will be as or more important than her talent this week. Lots of kids have talent, but acts of effort and willpower absolutely leave a lasting impression on college coaches. 

3. Energy is key to college coaches. Being loud, running on and off the field (yes, even after an out as a hitter), picking up a teammate's bat, can really get the attention of any college coach.  High energy on the field and in the dugout shows a love for the game. Coaches will gladly take 20 of those kids!

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4. Body language is critical! College coaches played the game (softball or baseball), and they  know no one is perfect. Believe it or not these coaches are more interested in seeing how an athlete responds after failure or game adversity, and slumping shoulders, or visible anger or frustration are quick ways to get crossed off the recruiting list.

5. Because everyone makes mistakes your athlete MUST have a SHORT MEMORY. A mistake in the field, poor at bat or rough inning in the circle will only define her performance if she lets it. Live for the opportunity of the next pitch, at bat or game!

6. Versatility. Most college coaches like versatility in an athlete. If your athlete plays two positions be sure her profile page, skills video and game participation shows it. As an example a catcher that also can play the outfield, or a pitcher that can play the outfield/infield and HIT are extremely valuable commodities. A slapper that can slap, bunt, power slap and hit away is EXTRA valuable. If she's got it, show it!

7. Show off your strengths...like CRAZY! I always remind my catchers to show off their arm at showcases...all the time. No one cares (or should care) who wins showcase games, so whatever her strengths are show them off on defense, hitting, pitching and base running. Pitchers throw inside and show all your pitches. As a hitter stretch that single into a double. Who cares if you got thrown out. The college coaches watching only see her speed and hustle!
I hope you and your athlete will take these valuable tips to heart and I wish you the best in the recruiting process! And remember, despite the "investment" you are making in hotels, gas, air and food, it's still just a game...enjoy the experiences because one day she won't be playing any longer. What in the heck will you do with your weekends then?

Thanks for reading!  --John Kelly

Saturday

Will Her 2016 Be Better Than 2015? Find Out Here

The New Year always offers opportunity for hope, a new beginning, a blank slate. We set one or several "resolutions" for change in one or many areas of our life. However, for most of us the new year will look a lot like the old year simply because we refuse to make the adjustments necessary in our lives to affect real change. Whether weight loss, career or relationships doing the hard work to create change means stepping outside of comfort zones and being willing to risk to receive the reward.

How does this translate for your athlete or team in 2016?

The first step in evaluating where your athlete or team is on January 2 is an honest assessment of the growth achieved in 2015. In what areas did she/they get better? In what areas did they not? How can we identify where to go from here?

In the business world you can perform a S.W.O.T. analysis. A what??

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S.W.O.T. stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. As a parent or coach write down your athlete's strengths and her weaknesses. Review those with her, then develop a weekly and monthly plan for her/them to work on making their strengths deeper and their weaknesses a strength. I would encourage the development of both macro (long term) goals and micro (short term) goals. And write them down! If goals are not written down and reviewed often they have no power for change.

In terms of opportunities, they are always present, but only if your athlete/team puts themselves in a position to take advantage of the opportunities through solid physical and mental preparation.

Threats are also always present. Threats could look like competition from another player or team (and keep in mind that if your goal is to get your athlete recruited that there are plenty of other players competing with her for the same scholarship). Or as I always say, "If you are not getting better you are getting worse." A threat could be losing a starting spot or being cut from the team. A real threat can be your (as parents) cutting off the money for softball if your athlete doesn't give the effort.

Speaking of that the next way to insure 2016 is a better year, and she makes the solid commitment to doing the things necessary to further her game mastery is to rediscover why she plays the game? If your athlete is playing for you she will ultimately burn out, or become indignant. She must find the motivation internally. Maybe she plays because:

1. She loves the game (always the best!)
2. She loves her teammates
3. She really wants to play in college
4. She loves the competition
5. She feels good about herself when she works hard and achieves a desired result
6. Mom and Dad make me play (always the worst)

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Whatever the reason help her to reconnect with it. This will help her to push through fatigue and the "I don't want to do it" moments.

Back to comfort zones. As an athlete trying to master a very difficult game it is incumbent on her to push through those scary and uncomfortable moments when doubt, fear or uncertainty rear their ugly heads inside her mind. Growth always has a price to it. She needs to learn to be comfortable while being uncomfortable; to push through the fear and do it anyway. For your athlete to reach her fullest softball potential she will need to constantly challenge herself and be okay failing a little along the way. No risk...no reward!

Finally having a better 2016 looks like expecting it! For any human, and particularly an adolescent athlete, our dominant thoughts end up winning. Either we think the thing we desire is achievable or we think it is not. In other words, we get what we expect, so why not think the best; why not expect success? Directing our thoughts is the ultimate personal responsibility...the ultimate human super power. Help your athlete to take charge of her thoughts, keep her on track working daily on her goals
and watch her game soar in 2016.

Thanks for reading and my best wishes for a great 2016 for you and your family and team!


Friday

The Championship Formula

After watching another exciting NCAA softball championship season it got me to thinking what exactly determines champions; meaning what separates them from everyone else?

Championship games are always thrilling spectacles because of the endless unknown variables and the pure drama of personal heroics. Or as ABC Wide World of Sports said, "The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat." There is a winner and a loser; the victor and the vanquished.

Two weeks ago I experienced a championship game of my own as my high school team was shooting for the school's first California section Division 1 softball championship in 16 years (the equivalent of our state championship). We started five freshmen and were playing against a senior heavy team that would be playing in their fourth section championship game in a row and were defending champions. But I liked our chances!

Winning a local, regional or national championship at any level of competition is incredibly special and takes a number of clearly defined ingredients to propel any team to play their best when it matters most.

My team...yes we won 2-1, after falling behind 1-0 in the top of the 6th. We were frustrated with our inability to hit after we crushed the ball in our 10-3 semi-final win. However, big time players step up with the game and season in the balance. Winning a championship, in the end, is far more mental than physical. Three of our mentally toughest players (one senior and two juniors) led our way back with two clutch two out hits to go ahead and ultimately close out the 2-1 championship victory.

Champions...the result of a lot of  hard work and dedication!
But our C.I.F. championship was no accident; it was the product of design, hard work and a formula every champion must follow.

So what, specifically, are the ingredients that make up this championship formula?

1. A culture of success. Champions cultivate a culture of hard work, extreme camaraderie, a "do whatever it takes" I've got your back, never settle for less than your best attitude.  I call this the "Champion's Mindset."

2. Maintain "Big Picture" thinking. Meaning as a coach, player or parent doesn't freak out about every error or loss. Champions are made and as with game mastery sometimes athletes and teams must take a step or two backwards in order to grow and mature. Your lineup at the start of the year may not resemble your lineup at the end. Allow players to develop as your team matures. As a coach understand that your team is always a masterpiece in progress.

3. Playing fearless. Champions never play with fear! Champions trust their abilities because they ultra prepare for their ultimate success. Fear = Doubt + Hesitation...a guaranteed formula for failure or, at best, mediocrity on the diamond. Playing fearless means being unafraid of making mistakes; focusing on their effort and the process of mastery instead of simply the black and white results.

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4.  Keep the pressure on! Champions are always on the attack. They keep the pressure on their opponent all the time in every facet of the game. Why? Champions believe they are always the better team and make you play their game at their pace on their terms. Champions force their opponent outside of their comfort zone which leads to mistakes, errors in judgment and doubt (see #3 above).

5. Focus on the details...all of them. Champions know that the consistent and successful execution of small tasks will eventually lead them to the winner's circle. These small, but crucial, tasks include focusing relentlessly of the mental details of the game: looking for any strategic edge they can gain as a player or team to increase their probability for game day success.

6. Have a plan. The focus on details in #5 really looks like an intense commitment to Herculean preparation. I believe the harder practice and training is for any athlete or team the easier the actual competition will become. All preparation, whether physical or mental, should have a definite purpose, best achieved by the development and execution of a detailed plan.


7. Playing in rhythm. All champions level athletes and teams play with a clearly visible rhythm that allows their immense talent to flow without mental or physical resistance. This rhythm is what propels certain athletes to reach almost unimaginable heights of athletic dominance in the biggest games (think Michael Jordan, LeBron James). Playing in rhythm brings any athlete's and team's joy for playing the game bubbling to the surface. In this mindset the game is fun, easy and far simpler to succeed at.

8. Expectancy. Champions play with an unquestionable expectation for good on game day. This expectancy for success, for greatness is the direct and cumulative results of every other key ingredient of the championship formula in this post. It is an undeniable, rock-solid confidence earned through hard work and prior successes. This is why it is said that "champions are made not born." This expectant mindset for success means that no victory is out of reach, no challenge too daunting, no goal too steep.

So whether you are a coach, parent or athlete follow these eight key ingredients and your team will skyrocket the odds in their favor to become champions. It's the same formula I used for my championship high school team pictured above.

Remember, there are no shortcuts to success, but success can be achieved with a proactive plan properly executed one step at a time, one day at a time, one pitch at a time!

Thanks for reading!

John Michael Kelly
SportsConfidenceCoach@gmail.com
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Check out my best selling books and Audio Programs:

How She Thinks is How She Plays
Loving the Game
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Saturday

The Secret Step to Building a Confident Player and Team

Every coach wants to get the most out of his or her players in an effort to give his or her team the best opportunity for success on the field of play.  And every coach knows that consistent performance is absolutely necessary for a player and team to win, particularly in the close games against the best competition.  These points are a given.

So here are a couple of questions for you, “What makes the most successful teams successful?  What is their secret ingredient for consistent performance and execution?”  Here are two more critical questions for you…”Do you ever get frustrated when your player(s) or team fails to execute during a game? And what is the root cause of the breakdown in execution?”

The answers to these questions are all inter-related in a crystal clear cause and effect relationship and will be covered in detail in this article so read on.

To get the most out of your players and to build a confident, competent and happy group of players requires that you as coach become an excellent communicator.  Your players look to you for direction as to how to play the game mechanically as well as how to play the game mentally; which includes the why of the game; why the game works the way it does and why you want them to do the things you ask them to do.  As a coach when you combine the elements of how and why into your teachings you begin to build a solid foundation of competence and confidence.

The question that I posed earlier as to “what makes the most successful teams successful?” is certainly a combination of factors: talent, coaching, team chemistry, luck and more.  However at the root of any team’s success is confidence and the ability to play with 100% effort and 100% focus all of the time.  I firmly believe that champions are made, not born and I have personally experienced that on my teams in the most amazing ways!  But, again, in order to get your players to perform their best game in and game out you, as coach, must instill within each of your players the mental “trigger” of belief and confidence.


It is widely believed in sports psychology circles that confidence is the essential foundation for any athlete to possess in order to perform to his or her optimal level.  Without a solid base of confidence a player’s performance is likely to be inconsistent; a roller coaster ride of ups and downs.  This is particularly true with youth athletes where high levels of expectations can make a young athlete’s confidence fleeting and fragile.  As a coach it is your responsibility to understand the dynamics between the physical and mental/emotional aspects of the game and how they affect each of your players specifically in the following areas:

  • How they deal with perceived failure
  • Their individual level of expectation for performance
  • Their overall enjoyment of the game
  • Team morale and relationships between players and coaches
  • Each player’s mental preparation for each game or at bat
  • How you as a coach react to their mistakes and “failures”
  • How your players’ parents react to their child’s performance
To me, as a coach, the most important elements of building confident and competent athletes are:

  1. The expectation level you set for the team and each player for their performance and, 
  1. Your response to the mistakes and failures of your players during the game.
On my teams I have developed a coaching philosophy that has done wonders to keep my players confident and happy, as well as minimize the individual and collective downtime experienced after a “mistake” or “failure.”  On my teams we never stress the importance of any single mistake or failure.   We don’t even really focus on the score.  It’s what I call Effort Over Outcome coaching.  You see if you as a coach or parent micro-manage every mistake your child makes during a game you are going to live in a world of constant frustration.  And, believe me; your frustration makes the game a whole lot less fun for you and your child.  

The last thing your child needs to hear from the stands or right after the game is their parent’s critique of their performance; it’s just totally counter productive because your child will shut down to it, or worse, it will act to affect their game negatively.  Children have an innate desire to please their parents, particularly daughters and their fathers, so be very careful as parent and coach to monitor excessive intrusion by parents, especially during the game.
           
So, more to the point, what specifically is my Effort Over Outcome coaching philosophy?  Well I cover that and 21 Mental Performance Killers in my book, HowShe Thinks is How She Plays, but I’ll share the foundation of the philosophy here and why it is so vital in producing the confident and competent athletes you so desire.

We live in a society obsessed with results and outcome and judgment over such.  Nowhere is that more empirically present than in the sports of baseball and softball where statistics and one-on-one battles are interwoven into the fabric of an otherwise team game.  Early in my coaching career I can admit to being a coach that put far more emphasis on outcome.  I wanted to win and that is how I kept score.  I would critique every mistake and would become visibly frustrated often.  As you can imagine my players quickly picked up on my energy and began to play tight after a mistake (either in the field or a less than stellar at bat), and it only led to the dreaded snowball effect when one error would lead to four or five and one strikeout would lead to a half dozen.  

The sad thing was I had some pretty talented teams that never won consistently.  Why?  I believe it was because I, as a coach, and we, as a team, were far too focused on outcome.  We rarely came back once we were behind and we lost countless games in which we led.  The worst effect of this style of coaching was a lot of tears from my players.

Fortunately I had an epiphany and discovered a different coaching path that has made all the difference in the world to my players and my teams!  About two years ago we started letting go of mistakes and scores and outcomes in general.  I know that may sound crazy in a game that is built around stats and scores, but keep reading!  Instead we focused on each girl’s and the team’s effort.  We only had three goals: give 100% physical effort on each play, give 100% mental focus on each play, and most importantly have fun playing the game.  We told the girls that if you do these three things during each game the results (outcome) would take care of themselves.

Think of it like cause and effect.  If the cause is effort and focus and fun the effect will likely be a good one.  And even the close losses are easier bounce back from because we gave our all and had fun.  The end result was far fewer physical and mental errors, higher quality at bats, much quicker bounce back from mistakes (so no snowball effect) and…many more wins; now imagine that.  And the really cool thing is that my players began to play with soaring confidence because they weren’t afraid of being scolded for every mistake and we truly started playing in the moment instead of fearing a future failure or lamenting a past failure.  And their mental focus enabled them to become more competent players.  

Finally, all the tears I used to get during and after the games turned in to smiles. So you too can build a team of confident and competent athletes ready to win and have a whole lot of fun doing it!  

Thanks for reading!  --John Michael Kelly

Check out my latest book, Loving the Game, here!