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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Creating change for better performance: Distinguishing between fixed & growth mindsets

Change happens on a cellular level. The gist is this: we all get hooked on hormones. For example, if you are used to being stressed all the time, your cells not only adjust to the high levels of cortisol (that’s the “stress hormone”) in your system, but you actually begin to like it, and then need it.

In short: you get “addicted”.

Ever feel weird while or shortly after relaxing, after experiencing a lot of stress? It’s because you’re on withdrawal; your downtime has literally become your rehab.

The same thing happens when you workout a lot: you get used to working out, your body produces and gets used to “consuming” dopamine and serotonin, and then proceeds to whine about not having those hormones when the workouts stop.

Personally, I've always had a hard time taking a real vacation (to the complaints of my wife). Going from high stress/high stimulation environment to peace and quiet was unsettling.

I was programmed for stress...

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How to play when there’s nothing left to play for

Thanks to Coach Julia Tamai from UCSB Softball for the inspiration for this article.

Have you ever experienced that moment when it’s obvious that this season just isn't going down in the record books? When it’s become clear you aren't going to win a championship, or make the playoffs, or even win that often?

Let’s be honest. That moment... It sucks.

And, yet, it’s the reality for so many teams. After all, there is only one team that ends their season with a win in the playoffs. ONE TEAM!

So, listen up. I have some advice for the majority of you out there when it comes to making the most of this kind of shattering discouragement.

Being number one on the wrong list

In my senior year of college, my team was terrible. What made it even worse was that my previous three years playing at the school had been a dream: We’d won multiple conference championships, attended the NCAA tournament every year, ranked as high as #3 in the country... then, all of a...

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Mindfulness for kids: Coaching kids in safety and fun

In case you didn’t know, yesterday, April 26th, was Safe Kids Day 2015. It’s a special day dedicated to celebrating children and keeping them safe. We at Positive Performance like kids and we like staying safe. Truly, it’s a win-win. :)

As a new dad, I’m especially aware of how my growing child interacts with the world and how that world, with its array of dangers, interacts back. While I’m in no position to tell you about seat belts (“Yes”!) or where to store prescription medications (“Top shelf, please!”), I do have something to say when it comes to staying safe during physical activities.

But, before we start getting into the how to’s, we first need to understand what mindfulness is.


Mind-ful-ness, noun:  a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.

According to Mind+Sport Institute,...

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Love yourself beautiful: Raising the self-esteem of athletic women

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Women are assaulted every day with the definition of what our culture deems “beautiful”. Thick or thin, curvy or flat, pale or tanned, tall or short, dressed this way or that, it seems the requirements for being beautiful morph alongside seasonal fashion.

Women participating in competitive sport have yet another obligation: to be a tough competitor while also maintaining this social expectation of feminine beauty.

“How are athletic women supposed to love and appreciate themselves while adhering to these “beauty” requirements?”

The answer: by redefining beauty altogether.

The skinny on skinny.

First off, by “skinny” I don’t mean “slender”, I mean the BMIs shown off by the likes of ultra-slim runway models, of whom many are left to wonder, “Are you sure you don’t want fries with that?” I want to make it clear that this article is NOT skinny bashing. I’m not...

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Empowered by mental training, volleyball setter regains her starting position

Being a volleyball setter isn't an easy job. Junior Jordan Timmer, a member of George Washington University's volleyball team in Washington, D.C., learned that the hard way.

Compared often to the quarterback of a football team, the setter's skill and toughness is key to a team's overall success. That's why when Timmer realized her skills were slipping last season -- and when she eventually lost her setter position -- she made a move to improve, entering into a lottery for mental training from one of the best volleyball setters out there: Olympian Courtney Thompson, who also works with Positive Performance as a Mental Training Coach.

Timmer knew it was time to boost her performance, empower her mind, and put her team back in the place they wanted to be: the winner's circle.

And she did. After training over the summer with Courtney, her team "is off to its best start since the 2011-12 season."

 [Tweet "I'm earning my place with mental training from...

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The truth about positive self-talk

There’s a lot out there about positivity and the importance of having a positive mindset: talking to yourself positively, talking to your kids positively, even talking to your pets positively. (Groan... Yes, it’s a thing!)

All this positivity can be a bit much.

And that’s saying a lot, especially coming from someone like me who’s a big believer in the power of the glass-is-half-full mentality. The complication with positivity is that it can be hard to distinguish what is actually helpful and what is just, well, fluff.

That’s why I want to talk specifically about self-talk. Because, self-talk serves as the basis for so many things in our lives: our beliefs, our outlook, our confidence, how we interact with others, and much, much more. But I don’t just want to talk about self-talk alone, I also want to dive into the research behind it to make sure this isn’t just another ‘positive self-talk is great’ article. Yay!


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Are you missing this opportunity?

Take a moment to consider a couple all-too-common situations you probably see as a coach:

Situation One: You have an athlete that played terribly in a closely lost match. She is completely inconsolable afterwards, loses confidence immediately, and, despite her many contributions, cannot think of one positive play she participated in all game. She sulks out of the gym, tears welling up in her eyes. You have no idea how long or how badly this will affect her and the team, but it doesn’t look good.

Not only are you worried about her confidence, but you also feel like your hands are tied with helping her improve. There are some clear adjustments she could make, there are some specific drills that would help her improve, and watching film, while incredibly helpful, is more like a pipe dream. She’d probably start crying again.

And so another game, another opportunity for your athlete to improve is lost.

Situation Two: You have an athlete that played great in a game your team...

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Recruiting athletes - What college coaches are really looking for

This article was originally posted on ESPNW.com  



College coaches want to see recruits who are mentally tough. Recruiting athletes who can handle disappointment and frustration, who compete fearlessly. They don't care if you make a mistake, but they do care how you react to that mistake. They watch closely to see who can deal with negative feedback from a coach or a referee. They watch how a player reacts to pressure during the final minutes -- her play selection, decision making and leadership -- more than whether they make or miss a last-second shot, serve or pitch. They pay attention to how a player treats her teammates in the midst of adversity. They see who plays to win, even when they lose.

With the first of the recruiting periods on the horizon, I thought I'd dedicate this column to what college coaches will be looking for in gyms, pools, and fields across the country this summer.

I called up a few of my Division I coaching friends to ask them...

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Earn winning: Why competition success starts in practice

While practices inevitably vary across sports, levels, and seasons, most practices include at least some conditioning exercises. And, while you can debate the merits of certain drills and certain philosophies, most coaches and athletes agree that cardio has some place in their practice plan. Therefore, cardio conditioning is a great universal experience for us to look at and study. For argument’s sake, let’s examine wind sprints, a common conditioning drill in athletic practice.

“Why do we run wind sprints?”

I ask this question of young athletes all the time. Their answers are what you would probably expect and usually fall into one of two categories:

  • Punishment: “Our coach is mad at us,” or “We got in trouble.”
  • Conditioning: “So we get don’t get so tired during games.”

So, wind sprints are either punishment (reactive) or conditioning (preventative)? What a terrible message we are giving to young people about...

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