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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  



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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Coaches’ Guide: 3 Steps to addressing athlete nutrition and eating disorders

As mentioned in our previous article on highlighting National Nutrition Month, nutrition isn't just about the food we do or don’t eat. It’s about that and how we treat our bodies overall to achieve optimal health, including but not limited to exercise, sleep, and mental health.

Eating disorders and disordered eating (when there are signs of an eating problem without adherence to a specific disorder) span three of these four categories – food, exercise, mental health – and so deserve our undivided attention. Add to that the occurrence of eating problems in athletics and you’ve got a coaching game changer.

According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), about 33% of male athletes in weight-class and aesthetic sports are affected by an eating disorder, whereas estimates of almost double that (62%) have been predicted for women participating in those same sports.

That’s a minimum of 1/3 of athletes in weight-class and...

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Coaches’ guide: How to spot athletes with eating disorders

March is National Nutrition Month. It’s a month for stepping back and contemplating how we eat, what we eat, and our overall health in general. According to the official website, “[the Nutrition Month] campaign focuses attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits.”

Coaches know proper nutrition is of utmost importance to both themselves and their athletes. But the dark side of nutrition isn’t only in the excess fats, sugars, and alcohol that we (try to) stay away from. Some of the greatest nutritional dangers are those not talked about; the psychological and mental problems associated with food.

As you go about your time as a coach, one thing you should be very aware of and constantly on the lookout for is:

Eating disorders

While athletes in certain sports such as figure skating, gymnastics, swimming, or ballet are at a far greater predisposition to developing eating disorders,...

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Jim Clem: Character traits & 6 pieces of advice for winning pitchers

We’ve talked about understanding yourself as a pitcher. We’ve talked about the things that can hold you back from achieving peak performance as a pitcher.

Now, we’re going to talk about character. Specifically, the character traits of winning pitchers, and six rules to follow to excel both on and off the mound.

Character traits of successful pitchers

In truth, if you were listening closely, our past articles featuring pitching coach Jim Clem already mentioned the winning character traits. (Surprise!) Admittedly, they’re not very specifically pointed out during the interview and were woven into the fiber of the entire conversation, so might have been tough to pick out.

Don't worry: we'll give you a hand by pulling a quote from directly from the interview:

…the personality characteristics of successful pitchers I think are determined to be physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually balanced, and have a really great competitive nature...
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