Coaches are performers

Coaches are Performers too!

I’ve been saying in my last post, success relies on the value you create for yourself and for others.

No successful person has had success on their own and that’s way coaches are so important! They enhance your value by enhancing their  value.

And this brought me to what I’ve wanted to share with you today. I’ve recently received a wonderful message from an fellow college. She asked me if I could help share and make her work known. Her name is Paula Mazur and she is an aspiring Sports Psychologist who wrote a wonderful piece called “ Stress-Less Coaching! Understanding and Tackling Coaching Stress”.

Here you have some extracted ideas to see and follow.  If you want to read the entire article, witch I recommend, you can click on the link.

“When discussing stress within elite performance settings, we automatically consider high performance athletes, and athletes’ support teams are overlooked.

Specifically, the complexity of elite coaching environments is loosely explored with regard to stress and well-being. Yet, coaches work in the same environments, and often with added pressure. Coaches are performers too!

“Winning can, obviously, mask a lot of things. … But we all spend a lot of time away from family. We all spend a lot of time in the office. There are moments for all of us where you wonder is this all worth it.”

– Dan Leibovitz, College and NBA Basketball Coach (1996-2013)

Coaches are performers

“As a coach, I felt I couldn’t offer what I should offer. That made things too difficult for me. It was specifically my problem. I couldn’t do it. I kept suffering from stress. I was the one who needed to take the decisions. Everybody’s looking at you. ‘What, when, who, how and where?’”

– Marco Van Basten, Football Manager (2004-2014)

Clearly, the topic of stress among coaches has been neglected. One in every three coaches leaves the profession due to stress they experience. Notably, coaches are not introduced to stress management strategies. Hence, research in this domain has to be made readily available to coaches and managers.

Throughout this blog, I aim to reach coaches and organizations, to raise awareness about the experience of stress and provide strategies to combat the negative effects associated with it.

The Sport Science of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Competitive Stress

If you’re an athlete, you’ve most likely felt the pressure that comes from competitive stress, because the indisputable essence of sport is competition.

The whole social and pedagogical activity in the service of sport has as a major objective the moment of “confirmation of efficiency” in the competition. Everyone knows that in most situations the competition has the gift of ambitioning the competitors.

The phenomenon is of a social psychological nature and it is a opportunity to bring people together and constructing relationships, based on similar beliefs and experiences.

But from the athlete side, the stress factors involved are huge and needed to be consider in order to understand the whole experience.

Both requirements, external and objective, as well internal, like self-exigencies (aspirations, desire to excel, achieve a great performance, gain) form a complex stressful experience, that puts the entire psycho-behavioral system in a state of tension, mobilization of energy resources and defense.

Sport Performance, especially high professional performance in sport, it is by definition a stressful activity, because of the work put in training – by duration and intensity, by the amount of sacrifices they impose on the athlete; contests – through the high emotional level and motivational, individual and social engagement, plus social relationships – that sport generates.

All of this produces muscular tension, strain, mental tension, claiming physical and mental efforts of adjustment and balance. Unlike training, the competition has a very high emotional load that leads the psycho-behavioral system to a limit.

I will recall here a minimal list of stressors, that determine performance and the state of mind of an athlete:

  • External requests: cold, to warm, timezone differences;

  •  Internal solicitation: enormous efforts of muscle movement ;

  • Psychological intellectual- emotional- requests: decisions in uncertainty and crisis of time, reactions to failure or success, maximum voluntary effort;

  • Psychosocial solicitation: criticism from leadership and press, or family and close friends, spectators’ appreciation;

  • Regulatory restrictions.

All these factors are reflected in the athlete psychic system , either at the level of full awareness or subconscious, by determining the adaptive and defense responses that a good organized scientific training will focus on for effective competitive conduct. The challenging situations of the competition can be intense or less intense and in relation to the athlete’s mental capacity, with his competitive experience and the level of aspiration. However, they are generating psychic tensions, mostly expressed in the emotional, but with an echo over the whole psychic system.

Fatigue also has an important role in determining the capacity of effort especial for adolescents. Research has shown that athletes’ fatigue is manifested by: feeling tired; there is a sign of reducing the ability to understand the more abstract problems, limiting the possibilities of generalization, comparison, performing summation, association, memorization; disturbances of attention.

The emergence of these difficulties creates an imbalance between the difficulty of the task to be fulfilled and the voluntary effort required for it, which leads to the overestimation of the interested functions and necessitates the restructuring of the mechanisms of adaptation to the effort. This restructuring has as a consequence a series of subjective and objective psychological phenomena: feelings of personal insufficiency, depression, irritability, restlessness, apathy, changing school behavior, restless sleep.

In conditions of fatigue, the functional capacity of the visual, auditory, kinestezic-motor and cutaneous analyzers is reduced, which makes the reactions to the stimuli that interest these analyzers have a longer latency period.

The most important causes of fatigue are:

  • the intensity and duration of the effort;

  •  reduced recreation in sleep pattern;

  • prolonged extra scholar activities;

  • reduced sleep ;

  • poor health status;

  • inadequate working conditions and family life;

  • over-learning.

The stress tolerance depends to a large extent to some particularities of our nervous system (strength, balance and mobility of the cortical processes), and the temperamental peculiarities. Researchers believe that stress resistance depends on a certain complex of psychophysiological factors. Horn (1992) asserts that a combination of anxiety, impulsivity and increased emotional reactivity can lead to a high probability of distress reactions. Other studies have highlighted that the intensity of emotional stress in prestart situations is correlated with the need for success or the tendency to avoid failure.

Interesting is that sometimes last-minute mobilization, when there is nothing to lose, all physical, technical and psychological resources strike back, in a last effort, and the athlete, or team win an unexpected success.

This ONE THING  mobilization is more valuable than anything in that moment.

Feel free to comment your thoughts!


The published material is the author’s opinion and meets the accepted scientific standards at the time of publication, but science is constantly changing and therefore can not guarantee that the information is complete, current, or error-free; the material is not and does not substitute for medical and psychological consultation; so use this material for information only and not for self-diagnosis or self-treatment – if you have any doubts about your health – contact your doctor and psychologist.
*For other questions – ask the author.
*The material presented may be further modified.




Did You See Losers?


Losers is an 2019 docu-series by director/executive producer Mickey Duzyj and starring Michael Bentt, Surya Bonaly and Mauro Prosperi, interviewing athletes that have experienced defeats as well as friends, family and reporters, and turned those losses into positive experiences

Highly #recommend this #Netflix show about #sports #psychology ! 🔥🔥🔥

Resilience, or “mental toughness,” is a key psychological aspect of sport. The ability to bounce back from a poor performance or a detrimental mistake is crucial to an athlete’s success. As much as athletes hate to admit it, failure is a part of the game.

I recommend 3 of my favorite books on resilience.

I’ve been interested in resilience since 2016. I wanted to learn more about how people recover from setbacks and major changes in identity.

I started by thinking about athletes recovering from major losses, enduring injury, or facing retirement. This was partly fueled by my own participation in athletics (competing in Brazilian jiu-jitsu last year, coping with chronic aches) and as a spectator (the mental or psychological preparation or fallout in Rhonda Rousey’s loss to Holly Holm, Rose Namajuna’s self-management which helped her dethrone Joanna Jędrzejczyk, Megan Rapinoe’s sense of self-driven purpose).

Jim Afremow, The Champion's Mind: How Great Athletes Think, Train, and Thrive.

Full length article here 👉 via Resilience through Sports Psychology, Heartbreak, and Mindfulness — R+D

Performance Psychology

Performance Psychology Domain

When listening to coaches and athletes share their thoughts following competition, it appears that there is increasing acceptance that the psychological domain plays a central role in determining the nature of performance.

There is an abundance of commonly used phrases that individuals employ when attributing failure to their on-field performance including (but by no means limited to); “it’s the top two inches that count”, “we just didn’t show up”, “we played scared”, “our minds were elsewhere”, and the dreaded… “we choked”.  These types of comments are indicative of an individual, and collective, belief that our preparation, focus, and ability to manage our arousal and anxiety  levels in ‘the moment’ will be influential in shaping the quality of our performance.

Being involved in, and observing, competitive sport, it does not seem however, that the majority of athletes and coaches spend a proportionate amount of time deliberately practicing these skills.

So why is there such reluctance to address psychological elements of performance, or commit time to developing strong mental skills?  There are various determining factors that will influence an individual’s likelihood of deliberately addressing psychological skills with their athletes and herein these will be considered.

The belief that mental skills cannot be taught (or do not need to be taught)

Whilst some are holding on to the belief that elite athletes are 100% born, or have been provided with gifts from a higher power, the majority of people subscribe to the belief that elite athletes (while perhaps have been fortunate enough to inherit good genes) have in reality worked extremely hard, and had significant support and guidance to reach the pinnacle of the athletic pyramid.

This typically includes, whether consciously pursued or manifesting as a result of a particular coaching style or philosophy, significant dedication to developing robust mental skills that will allow athletes to perform as desired.

Of course some athletes naturally have an unwavering confidence, providing the unique self-belief which enables them to perform under immense pressure, while also (importantly) avoiding complacency, but unfortunately this is the exception, not the rule.

Most athletes that progress to the highest echelon of a particular sport will do so as a result of a collective (athlete and coach) commitment to developing both the physical and mental elements that encompass performance.

Remedial approach

As mentioned above, the acknowledgement of sport psychology is becoming increasingly prevalent; however, many still take a remedial approach to addressing mental skills which involves considering psychological issues if they arise.

Although this is better than not addressing them at all, why not take a more active and developmental stance, embracing the practice of mental skills to gain an edge over competition, as well as work towards preventing issues from arising? To utilise a very primitive analogy; we generally encourage athletes to drink before they experience thirst.  Also, as with dehydration, once issues do emerge, they can be fairly difficult to resolve, so remember, prevention is always easier than restoration.

Limited time and resources

One of the more common rationales for not implementing mental skills into regular practice is the limited time (either perceived or real) that coaches have with their athletes.  This is at times perplexing however, due to the concurrent belief that it is ‘whoever turns up (mentally) on the day’ that will likely be successful.

The aim of this article is not to suggest that mental skills are more important than addressing physical elements, but it is unrealistic to think that just because an athlete can perform a certain skill in a low pressure environment, that they will naturally inherit the mental skills that are necessary to enable them to perform to the same level consistently under pressure.

Reflect on your approach regularly and assess what opportunities you are providing your athletes to practice performing in situations similar to those that will confront them in competition.  Also, think about what skills your athletes are developing to cope with pressure, setbacks, success, adversity, etc. as these are all inevitable in competitive sport.

Unsure of how, and when, to teach mental skills

Another reason we are still seeing a reluctance to teach mental skills is a ubiquitous unfamiliarity with exactly how to address mental skills.  Coaches often use instructions such as “stay positive” or “you need to focus” which are often acknowledged with a confused look on the athlete’s face.  If an athlete has just made a few errors, how does one go about staying positive?

Sport psychologists and mental skills trainers are regularly approached by coaches asking how often mental skills should be addressed; once a week, once a fortnight, or at the beginning of the season?  The answer to this is EVERYDAY.  Mental skills should be made part of everyday practice.

Developing effective strategies to cope with pressure, maintain focus, avoid distractions, and perform physically under stress requires systematic and deliberate practice, just like physical skills.

It is important to note, however, this does not mean that you need to break halfway through each training session to sit around a dry erase board and talk about feelings.  It may just mean before a particular drill, that you instruct your athlete to focus solely on arm movement, and then afterwards asking him/her to reflect on the technique.

By providing this instruction, and then a follow-up question, you have helped the athlete focus on a controllable element (which should help skill acquisition and avoid outcome thinking), as well as promoting reflective thinking (likely developing analytical skills) and heightening engagement.

Sport psychology continues to gain momentum, predominantly as a result of high-profile athletes attributing success to a synthesis of physical and mental skills, and is moving closer towards receiving the deliberate attention that nutrition, strength and conditioning and biomechanics (rightfully) enjoy.

We are beginning to see greater use of the various skills and strategies that can enhance performance and wellbeing in competitive sport, and similar to the aforementioned fields, in time, sport psychology will become a mainstream field with the majority of coaches and athletes addressing this area as a critical part of preparation and performance.

Sport Coach And Mental Training

Sport Coach And The Mental Training

Let me start this article with a few observations about sport coaching and mental training. First, I believe that great sport coaches are also great intuitive psychologists.

They may not have the fancy degrees, but through experience and self-education (and sometimes formal education), capable coaches develop a deep understanding of the importance of the mind in sport and develop ways to train the minds of their athletes to prepare them to perform their best and achieve their competitive goals.

Some studies have been made and the results showed that 99, 9% of sport coaches believe in the impact that the mind can have on sport performance. There is no doubt in my mind they do what they can to nurture the mental development of their athletes as much as they can.

Despite this interest in mental side of sport, the problem has been that even the best coaches struggle to offer their athletes the kinds of opportunities to develop themselves mentally as they do in the other areas that influence performance. A major goal of mine is to find ways to help coaches provide substantive mental training to their athletes.

Other scenario is that youth sport programs struggle to provide their athletes with mental training that matches the sophistication and quality of their conditioning and on-field training. Some programs bring in sport psychologists or mental trainers periodically to fill in this gap, but can you imagine having athletes do conditioning or on-snow training only once in a while? Of course not. Though there is some value to having occasional exposure to mental training, the benefits are obviously limited. As I noted in a previous article, effective athlete development programs, whether for conditioning, technique/tactics, or mental, require them to be comprehensive, structured, and consistent.

To their credit, some youth sport programs around the U.S. and other parts of the world have hired part-time or full-time mental trainers, but the challenges are many including finding qualified people with experience in and a real understanding of sport and, of course, budgetary limitations.

I have found four primary reasons why sport coaches don’t do mental training the way they would like with their athletes.


Few Resources to Learn From

As we all know, gaining knowledge by trial and error isn’t a very effective or efficient way to learn anything. Coaches certainly wouldn’t use this approach with conditioning or technical work. Yet, that is the way most sport coaches learn about mental training. There have simply not been any structured