Does Being Positive Mean I Have to be Nice?

One of my favorite coaches of all time was the hardest on me.

Isn’t that true for most of us?

She was the one that sat me down and told me my freshman year that I wasn’t cutting it, I looked distracted in workouts and needed to step it up.

She was the one that sat me down and had the real talk real talk of making sure I wasn’t getting too boy crazy in college and keeping my eye on the ball so to speak.

She was the one that would look me straight in the eye and tell me to get my mind right and start competing.

I would have run through a freaking brick wall for this woman. I still will. (It’s Katie Abrahamson-Henderson at UCF by the way). I knew in my soul that she believed in me. I knew that she pushed me hard BECAUSE she cared. And when she was hard on me or disappointed, it hurt, but it motivated me to push to another level.  

I love her to my core but not because she was NICE all the time; her positivity was in holding me to a high standard. 

I tell this because one of my Mindset Coach Insiders asked me this week:

Lindsey, how do I balance staying positive while also telling my athletes to get their head out of their asses?

GREAT question Nikki.

Let me be clear: I am a big proponent of (in the right situation) telling athletes to get their head out of their asses. I DO NOT believe that being positive is staying fully calm in every moment, letting the present just BE, and reminding your athletes of cupcakes and butterflies and after practice snacks. (Even my 4 year old hears about effort standards; sprinkled in with talks of snacks and unicorns of course because who doesn’t love halftime orange slices?)

No, being positive is so much deeper than that. Being positive means:

  • Having STANDARDS that you care about enough to keep up.
  • Reminding the people you are influencing of what they are capable of.
  • Letting go of your own ego in the process and recognizing the big picture.
  • Seeing a future and working towards it.

It does NOT mean being nice. 

The real crux of the issue is this. Ask yourself “Am I telling them to get their head out of their asses for THEM or for ME?”

I think that’s the whole thing. Because people KNOW your intention and it matters. Sure, you may have the sensitive kid that does not respond well to any type of yelling or raised voice and you have to know that about your kid. But I do not think that being positive means that a blanket rule applies saying you cannot be passionate, driven, disappointed, frustrated, and yes even emotional about how much you want them to improve. It just matters if it’s about YOU or if it’s about THEM.

I will add a caveat though; I also don’t think the raised emotions can be ALL the time. I think each person and each team is different but I believe that having high standards should be consistent and emotional responses need to be more rare as they lose their impact when it’s your standard communication style. Telling them to get their head out of their asses is a fine message, but if it’s all the time, it’s not going to mean much except negativity.

Ready to start training the mental game?

Get your FREE copy of the Coaches Cheat Sheet: Top 7 Ways to Develop Tough, Focused, Resilient Athletes!  


The Coaches Cheat Sheet uses visualization, positive self-talk, breathing, and mindfulness to help coaches get their athletes’ head in the game once and for all

This is simple enough to be a great starting point for coaches who want to begin mental training their team, and robust enough to be a great addition to any existing mental training program. 



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