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What is one thing I can do as a coach to make everyone feel safe and accepted in my program?

We had the great pleasure to speak with Dr. Jenny Lind Withycombe about diversity among elite athletes.  Dr. Withycombe, has over 15 years experience within the field of athletics as an athlete, coach, consultant, sport psychologist, and diversity and inclusion educator. Most notably Dr. WIthycombe has worked with the NCAA, AMCC and the US Rowing team.

Dr. Withycombe often gets asked the question:

What is one thing I can do as a coach to make everyone feel safe and accepted in my program?

At Positive Performance Training, we believe strongly in self-reflection for athletes, coaches and even for teams. We also strongly believe in taking action to always be improving so we love Dr. Withycombe's answer to this question. She advises that the first step is to start out by thinking about what your program stands for. It isn’t a conversation about sexual orientation, it is about defining who you are as a team and what you stand for. Once you’ve defined the culture of your...

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What I learned from completely changing my jumpshot (and how it can help you)

Why fix what isn't broken?

Old habits aren’t necessarily bad habits...but they can turn into them down the road.

I remember having to completely change my jump shot in high school. I had started working with a new coach who told me point blank, "Your set shot might work now in high school, but it’s going to get thrown out of the gym in college."

It was time to get worse before I could get better.

And so began the slow process of completely changing and unlearning a skill I’d practiced for over 10 years and relearning it all over again. One might look back and minimize it; after all, learning something new at 16 years old doesn’t sound like that big of a deal.

But I remember the experience pretty clearly: the resistance, the emotional pain, and the pretty much constant frustration. After all, the idea of working really hard and getting worse at something is a tough pill to swallow, even for a 16 year-old.

It was made even more difficult because I was...

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What to do when an LGBT player comes out to you

We had the great pleasure to speak with Dr. Jenny Lind Withycombe about diversity among elite athletes.  Dr. Withycombe, has over 15 years experience within the field of athletics as an athlete, coach, consultant, sport psychologist, and diversity and inclusion educator. Most notably Dr. WIthycombe has worked with the NCAA, AMCC and the US Rowing team.

Dr. Withycombe often gets asked the question of: What do I do when an LGBT player comes out to me?

The #1 reason that students don’t come out to coaches and teams is the fear of discrimination. So if they start the discussion, Dr. Withycombe advises that coaches first first thank the athlete for feeling comfortable enough to come out to you. Reassure your player that this doesn’t affect how you feel about them and offer your support. Ask your player to tell you how you can support them, especially if they want to tell the team. The coming out process is very complex so it’s important to be a support...

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Breaking Bad (habits): 28-Day countdown for a better next season

The hit television series “Breaking Bad” is about a chemistry teacher who teams up with a former student to make and sell crystal meth. While the show is top-rated, I’m not so hot on the addictive substances and the violence that is connected with the bad habit of drug use.

Habit: is it just another word for addiction?

My thesaurus says ‘yes’ and, even though habits and additions obviously aren’t the same thing, they’re closely related.

This article explains how similarly our brain responds to habits and addictions; how a neurological connection is formed when a voluntary action is performed enough times to move it into the reflex category, therefore making that activity somewhat hardwired into our minds.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not trying to downplay the seriousness of drug use nor give habituation more attention than it deserves, but bad habits can still be very problematic in very real ways.

Even though the show’s title...

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How do I promote athlete diversity without sacrificing our team or school’s brand and reputation?

We had the great pleasure to speak with Dr. Jenny Lind Withycombe about athlete diversity.  Dr. Withycombe, has over 15 years experience within the field of athletics as an athlete, coach, consultant, sport psychologist, and diversity and inclusion educator. Most notably Dr. Withycombe has worked with the NCAA, AMCC and the US Rowing team.

Dr. Withycombe often gets asked the question of: How do I let my athletes be true to themselves? (Without sacrificing our team or school’s brand and reputation)

Dr. Withycombe believes coaches are sometimes stuck between a rock and hard place when it comes to expectations for student athletes. It’s a hard balance protecting the brand and performance of athletes but also allowing athletes to retain their individualism. Dr. Withycombe advises that you bring it back to respect. There has to be conformity within the team but make sure you press that this is about inclusion of all, regardless of gender, race and religion.

Studies...

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Homophobia Affects Athletic Performance of LGBTQIA+ Athletes

We had the great pleasure to speak with Dr. Jenny Lind Withycombe about diversity among elite athletes.  Dr. Withycombe, has over 15 years experience within the field of athletics as an athlete, coach, consultant, sport psychologist, and diversity and inclusion educator. Most notably, Dr. WIthycombe has worked with the NCAA, AMCC and the US Rowing team.

Dr. Withycombe often gets asked the question of: 

How does homophobia affect performance?

Dr. Withycombe has found that a lot of coaches think of diversity as more of a social issue versus an individual issue. For sports teams, that is the wrong way to look at it. She suggests thinking about it like this: If you feel unaccepted by your team you’re always going to be expending energy hiding yourself. It’s a lot of work to hide something from your teammates. That is going to impact the performance of the athlete.

The big issue facing athletic programs isn’t that they are predominantly homophobic, it is...

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Party or practice: 3 Ways to prevent off-season temptations

Around this time of year I get a lot of questions from student athletes struggling with off-season temptations. You know them: parties, sleeping in, eating poorly…

Basically, anything that isn’t training.

So, in an effort to answer one question for many, I’m sharing in this article a genuine question asked very recently by one of Positive Performance’s swimmers and my corresponding answer.*


The big question

“Thank you for helping the team with mental training. Many of us, including myself, went all best times and I had the best season of swim career largely due to my improved mental attitude.

“However, now that its off-season, I’m struggling to stay focused in the pool. The lure of partying with friends is almost stronger than the desire to improve in the water.

“I'm just wondering how you think I should handle the situation? Is it wrong to go out at all or can I party with friends in moderation?

“What is your take on...

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How do I Reconcile my Personal Beliefs with my Responsibility and Commitment to my Team?

We had the great pleasure to speak with Dr. Jenny Lind Withycombe about diversity among elite athletes.  Dr. Withycombe has over 15 years experience within the field of athletics as an athlete, coach, consultant, sport psychologist, and diversity and inclusion educator. Most notably Dr. WIthycombe has worked with the NCAA, AMCC and the US Rowing team.

Dr. Withycombe often gets asked the question: How do I reconcile my personal beliefs with my responsibility and commitment to my team?

Sometimes, coaches struggle with diversity issues because they can’t reconcile a student-athlete's identity with their own beliefs (i.e. a coach who strongly disagrees with homosexuality based on their religious beliefs). Dr. Jenny Withycombe says you don't have to reconcile the two; if you root your program around respect, you don’t have to necessarily agree, but you need to respect the athlete. Use respect as the foundation of an inclusive program. That will create the best...

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Help me help you: 3 Ways coaches can reveal the truth behind mental training

One of the first things I tell the athletes I work with is this: I'm not here to fix you - there's nothing that needs to be fixed. I'm here to reveal more of you.

I tell them this because in the past so much of sports psychology has been rooted in psychology (duh), which is about pathology (i.e. fixing those of us that need help).


 What mental training IS NOT.

These days, thanks to people like Martin Seligman and the Positive Psychology movement, we realize that psychology isn’t just about fixing (though it can be). It’s about enhancing.

In a sentence:

Just because you don’t NEED help doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from it.

And yet, some athletes still believe in the stigma of the sports psychologist: that using sports psychology in their training somehow means they are weak and not self-reliant.

And that’s a confidence killer.

Take one of the top badminton players in the world who, by all accounts, failed miserably mentally in a recent...

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Losing to Win: 6 Sports stories that will change how you see your next loss

No one wants to hear about


Sports stories don’t end in loss.

Athletes like YOU have amazing stories of struggle and loss. Stories that make the greatest difference don’t always come from Olympians. Take, for instance, the story of the sophomore offensive tackle, Jonathan Meldrum, who battles depression and “remembers the scrimmage drill that had him considering suicide.”

That’s a REAL story that might help the 31% of undergrad students who suffer depression feel less alone and more hopeful.

And I know you have a story like that: one that can make a BIG difference to someone out there.

Likewise, you have amazing lessons you’ve learned from your experiences. If you can share those with each other (maybe not right after a loss, but after a time), you can help one another...

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