Home > Best Coaching Advice

Best Coaching Advice


Some thoughts from PCA DevZone:

Sometimes it only takes a few words of advice to inspire great leadership or change the way you look at something. The advice we get from our coaches, teachers, mentors and peers can stay with us a lifetime.

This month we want to know what is the best coaching advice you’ve ever received?  Something that has stuck with you through the years and still resonates today.

Positive Coaching Alliance has collected hundreds of quotes from athletes, coaches, business leaders, authors and philosophers. Here are a few quotes to get you thinking about some words of wisdom that have meant something to you…

“The more positive you can be with your players the better they’re going to play.” (Doc Rivers)

“My responsibility is leadership, and the minute I get negative, that is going to have an influence on my team.” (Don Shula)

“A coach’s job is to change the hearts, minds, and actions of those he leads in a positive manner.” (George Raveling)

“Leadership, like coaching, is fighting for the hearts and souls of men and getting them to believe in you.” (Eddie Robinson)

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Coach Responses

What is the Best Coaching Advice You’ve Ever Received?

Share your tips and best practices!

Bert Zonneveld – Soccer – Rockwood – 59 years

“…’You only get out of a practice what you put into it!’ and ‘Manage yourself so others don’t have to’.”

Rebecca Brown – Equestrian – Cobourg – 10+ years

“…Best coaching advice I received is to not get tunnel vision when learning. What I mean by that is be open to new ideas on how to do something eg some skills taught by Natural Horsemanship, Centered Riding instructors can be integrated into your lesson plans without being “labeled”. This applys to life also and has opened the opportunity to advance my development as a person/mentor/coach and to share it with my students.”

Brenda Robson – Equestrian – Lowbanks – 10+ years

“…Best advice – give them time to think, don’t micro manage.”

Robert Sargant – Sprint Canoe/Kayak – Burlington – 10+ years

“…Keep your instruction brief and to the point. Brevity is much more effective than long winded explanations.”

Coach Darren – Soccer – Surrey, BC – 9 years

“…Last year I attended a baseball clinic that was put on by a group travelling around the province. The clinic occurred before the start of the season. The organizer called the parents in. He told us that youth quit team sports around 14 years old. He suggested the number one reason that youth quit team sports is the ride home. Their parents criticizing what they did in the game. I read once that after the game we should say three things to our child. Did you have fun today? Did you get to use any of the skills you learned at practice? What would you like to eat?”

Angela Desjardins – Ringette – London – 5 years

“…There’s an indirect correlation between the volume of words uttered and impact of the message (less yelling, more 1:1 talking!).”

Carole Binsky – Swimming – Collingwood – 2 years

“…Encourage GOOD self talk and say something good every ten seconds.”

Joe Benedetti – Fastpitch Softball – Hamilton – 20+ years

“…Gil Read, Olympic Team Leader – Women’s Fastpitch, would often remind us that the best thing he ever did was insist that the team plan six pool parties to build team and family unity and camaraderie. You read that right – 6. He truly understood the importance of that crucial F – Friendship”

Kathy Crawford – Gymnastics – London – 10+ years

“…Best thing my Head Coach did for me, was to encouraged me to take my athletes to other gyms for training. By doing this, it not only helped my athletes but it validated that my coaching was on point J By taking my team off site I received the encouragement to further my coaching certification so that I could take my own athletes to the National Level and NOT have to send them to someone else”

Fawn Mulholland – Soccer – Ottawa – 4 years

“…You do not have to be the source of all knowledge. You do not have to dominate conversation. You do not have to control all aspects of game day to be successful. Empower the players and watch them thrive.”

Nancy Leo – Race Walker – North York – 13 years

“…I was an athlete before I began coaching. As an athlete, I was driven, committed and self motivated to succeed. I assumed all athletes shared and operated under the same philosophy. I was surprised to discover that some athletes need external motivation. Some work best in a group rather than train on their own as i did and preferred. Some needed constant encouragement. Some seemed not to care all that much. I think I was trying to make them all fit into one mould, my mould. I would get frustrated that they were not like me, until my former coach who became my mentor coach told me,” You can’t want it more than they do.”. I realized the truth of that and changed my methods to be more centered on what each individual athlete needed. Coaches should be selfless, giving their athletes what they need, when they need it. I’m now a stress free coach and having more fun.”

Aaron Wade – Volleyball – Ottawa – 7 years

“…A few pieces of advice that I recycle each season …

1. You cannot want it more than our players, they must decide to be the best possible version of themselves [We can become quite passionate about our level of effort and performance as coaches. This advice put me back on the path where responsibility and accountability are transferred to the player]

2. I don’t care who beats us, just as long as it is not us! [I received this advice as a player and use it each season as a coach. It is important to understand the difference between getting beaten and losing.]

3. We are in an EFFORT based program where a relentless effort to reach your optimal performance level is required to play, stay and be successful here.”

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Home > Mindset is Everything

Mindset is Everything


Some thoughts from Mike Shaw, co-founder of HeadStartPro Performance Training.

We’ve all heard it before; Mindset is Everything.

Everyone knows or has likely heard that “hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.” Mindset involves focus, beliefs, vision, drive, goal setting, hard work, discipline, motivation, accountability, attitude, culture, etc. etc. Did I say HARD WORK?

Case in point, Tom Brady didn’t become the best NFL quarterback of all time, with six Super Bowl wins under his belt, by taking it easy. When he joined the New England Patriots roster at the turn of the millennium, he was consistently the first guy in the gym before any of his new teammates, every morning. His mindset, coupled with actions and vision, influenced the team’s culture and collective work ethic. But not everyone is a Tom Brady. In fact, nobody but Tom Brady is Tom Brady.

So, what can we do?

As coaches, how do we set our teams up to succeed and achieve their potential more consistently, like Brady?

Well, we all have ‘mental game’ to some degree, and we’re all good at coaching sport-specific skills. Working on things like attitude, effort, discipline, and work ethic is something almost all coaches do, but we can take it one step further. Have you ever heard of the ideal performance state of mind or the ‘flow state’?

In sports, we commonly refer to performances in the flow state as being in ‘the zone.’ Brady, like most champions, plays in this ‘zone’ time and time again.

Let’s talk about flow.       

Flow is the state of mind where everything just ‘clicks,’ and you perform your best. Your sense of time fades away. Hours can pass in the blink of an eye, or sometimes it feels like everything happens in slow motion. You can lose your sense of self in these moments, or it can feel like you’ve never been more aware. It’s hard to remember what happens when you’re in ‘the zone,’ or how you got there, but you do remember it was fun!

Achieving flow looks different for different people. It’s a complex task involving the right stimulus, the right skills, the right challenge, unique neurochemistry, and a complex environment.

So, getting young athletes to hit the optimal state of flow sounds simple right?

It’s not that simple, or is it?

Teaching athletes to self-regulate and manage internal distractions can help them achieve a sort of ‘flow baseline,’ where they are better prepared to hit the peak performance zone. Recognizing the physical and mental states that compromise their mindset is critically important. When we succeed at this task, athletes will make fewer costly mistakes—the ones that create a downward spiral in terms of self-confidence—and we’ll even prevent injuries in the process. We’ll build them up to be the great performers they can all be.

If you see an athlete or teammate, who’s mad, what do you tell them? Calm down? Pay attention? Or “GET YOUR HEAD IN THE GAME!” – And how’s that working out for you?

If you see an athlete who looks exhausted, what do you do to reignite their spark?

What about if someone looks like they’re ‘coasting’ on autopilot?

Getting athletes to regulate their mental states on their own is the ticket.

Using distracting mental states as triggers to remind athletes to keep their heads in the game and control their mindset will help them achieve peak performances more reliably. All the hard work athletes put into honing their skills will NOT be in vain.

When athletes learn the techniques to manage their mindset, we see a boost in self-confidence, we see a massive boost in team performance, and oh yeah, with increased focus comes fewer injuries. Athlete health and longevity is affected too.

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Coach Responses

What are you doing to help your athletes shift their mindset?

Share your tips and best practices!

Malcolm Sutherland – Ice Hockey – Thunder Bay – 20+ years

“…As coaches and athletes, we often want to see results quickly. It has been my experience that mental training must also match age and stage, just as our physical training and exposure to competition. Starting with simple exercises that build awareness and an athlete’s ability to “attend” to affect as a result of events is a useful start. Once an athlete is building awareness, identifying positive behaviours and practices through recognition and reward type programs can be very effective. I have used “positive charting” where players who demonstrate positive behaviours, meet team norms i.e., sportsmanship and use psychological techniques like “reframing”, “breathing and focusing methods” and others like a “mistake ritual” are identified by an assistant coach and then during a team meeting are recognized for this skill.”

Arshid Naseri – Dragon Boat and Canoe – Iran – 10 years

“…Individual differences are very important in this regard. Some people are inherently more focused and more prone to perform championships, and some people are also more likely to be subject to environmental stress and stress, which I think the family and the environment in which the individual has grown is very influential.”

Alanna Gray – Hockey – Ottawa – 6 years

“Practice under pressure is what I preach. We re-create scenarios in game-like situations in practices or house league play, that may replicate a possible scenario in game play. I heard this from Jayna Hefford who said that to prepare for an Olympics, the women’s team played against men’s teams in shootouts at over 60 different games leading up to the Olympics. And in that Olympics, lo and behold, the US and Canada went to a shootout. Now all they had to do was remember that they knew what to do. They had practised this over and over, and it lead them to a Gold. They trusted the process, believed in their hard work and came out on top…”

Suzie Mcneil – Baseball – Toronto – 11 years

“When I hear “get your head in the game”, I am reminded of the Toronto Blue Jays and the recent demotion of their second baseman. He has clearly gotten out of the zone and cannot make the routine play, also known as the “Yips.” This example comes to mind because of what the manager said to him after. He said “We want you back up here, you are our guy, we believe in you”. While of course the spotlight is much greater at the major league level, I am reminded that we as coaches need to not just criticize but remind our athletes how much we believe in them and their spot is waiting for them when they return…”

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Home > Leadership Mindset

Leadership Mindset


Leadership is a way of thinking. It begins in the head of each player with a desire to achieve and a willingness to take responsibility. Every member of a playing squad has a purposeful role to play and therefore a responsibility to him- or herself, the team and the coaches […].

Player leadership can emerge in differing forms:

  • An inspirational leader – a talent who inspires the team
  • A core group of players determined to succeed
  • An emotional leader – a player who can capture the feelings of the team
  • The social connector leader – a ‘mother hen’ figure
  • Pop-up leadership – a player nearest to the situation taking charge

When the layers are peeled back to analyze a great team, many of these elements will appear.

Being a Model Leader as Coach

The leadership characteristics and style of the coach create the conditions that allow player leadership to emerge. How the coach looks, what she or he says and how she or he acts send powerful messages to the players. The coach must be secure enough to allow space for player leadership to emerge and not be threatened by it. It could be said that coaches get the player-leaders they deserve!

Through intelligent use of power, authority, personality and presence, the coach is able to create a tight yet loose environment. A framework of control is established that includes a small number of non-negotiables (tight) yet enough negotiable (loose) aspects remain to allow player-leaders to shape large parts of the process. This move to increased player ownership is an important part of coaching the modern team.

The coach must always set the standard by personal behaviour, being confident and optimistic, seeing challenges not problems and focusing on what the team can do, not what they cannot do. Communication is especially important. Coaches must ask great questions and listen at least as much as they speak.

From One Goal: The Mindset of Winning Soccer Teams by Bill Beswick.

Copyright © 2016 by Human Kinetics Publishers, Inc. Excerpted by permission of Human Kinetics, Champaign, IL. Available to order from Human Kinetics Canada at www.HumanKinetics.com or by calling 1-800-465-7301.

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Coach Responses

What is your Leadership Style? How do you model great leadership for your athletes and teams?

Share your tips and best practices!

Roxanne Curtis – Women’s Field Lacrosse – Whitby – 30 years

“……Player ownership is critical to a growth mindset for the members of your team. I have utilised the strategy of making player’s responsible for set up and start of practices – as a lacrosse coach, we always require a bucket of lacrosse balls, the net key and nets to be moved to field – everyone has a role, if not done….practice can’t happen. I get great buy-in from my players. Captains are responsible for dynamic warm up and with guidance, they get the ball warm up going. Giving players some input into naming drills or set plays also creates buy-in and enthusiasm for practice.”

David Willie Oduro – Basketball – Toronto

“…I let the leaders of the team known to the individual. I make athletes be themselves and unique and not try to create to someone they are not. Everyone leads different. As long it is effective I give them a lot of freedom to grow with guidance. Sometimes I need to steer the wheel so they don’t go off track.”

Lisa Burton – Figure Skating – Northern Ontario – 30+ years

“…After many years of coaching – 30+, seeing the same coaches in my discipline training their athletes and watching the results. Some good but most average. I got to thinking. Why are these athletes not progressing? So I changed my outlook. Trained as if I was still in the sport, changed my eating and sleeping habits. Now that I am feeling better and have a better perspective of what it would take I have passed onto the athletes.

I am constantly learning from seminars, talking to coaches who are “There” now and what they have done. Talking to the elite athletes, watching their training and how they are improving or not with what they are doing. Coaching is a science. My leadership is to show the athletes that if they want to succeed they too have to take responsibility for their success and failures and as a team define the right equation for that athlete or team for that one moment. Either Provincials or the Olympics the training for that one moment and the importance to that athlete is the same. “LEAD BY EXAMPLE” IS MY STYLE.”

Christina W – Swimming – Hamilton

“……finding strengths and going with it. Everyone has something to offer and new ideas are welcomed and appreciated. It helps connect the team of athletes in feeling a sense of belonging when they have opportunities to express their strengths.”

Joe Benedetti – Fast-Pitch Softball – Hamilton – 30+ years

“…If we as coaches can remember that our job is to help the athletes and the teams get to where they have told us they want to go – that will help set the right climate of who actually is “driving the bus.” Surely there will be times when the coaches and athletes will take turns leading, following, or simply getting out of the way of others who are at that time leading. In the NCCP Coaching and Leading Effectively module the point is strongly made that “anyone can lead from anywhere” and we all are capable of achieving “extraordinary results” give the right conditions. It takes a confident and secure coach to truly develop a servant leadership style to help athletes become the leaders of the future”

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Home > What’s Your Why?

What’s Your Why?


Some thoughts from Coaching Better Every Season by Wade Gilbert

Most coaching books start with a discussion of the importance of creating a coaching philosophy and follow up with a section on creating goals. But to define a coaching philosophy and set goals, you must first understand and express why you coach and what principles will guide how you coach.

A coaching purpose defines why you do what you do; it is your fundamental reason for being (a coach). Your purpose also represents your motivations for coaching. Coaches by nature are competitive and driven to succeed. This attribute combined with outside pressure from others to win can easily cause coaches to lose sight of their true purpose. A traumatic life moment is often the trigger that causes a coach to pause and reflect on the why. For three-time national college football champion coach Urban Meyer, a combination of dealing with serious health issues and listening to his daughter speak at a public ceremony caused him to realize how absent he had become from her life. For renowned high school football coach Joe Erhmann, the moment came while attending his brother’s funeral. In his deeply personal account of how he discovered his coaching purpose, Coach Erhmann explains how he came to identify his true purpose as a coach: “‘My Why’: I coach to help boys become men of empathy and integrity who will lead, be responsible, and change the world for good.”

Whereas clarity of coaching purpose serves as a beacon for navigating the choppy waters of coaching, core values are the expectations and standards that coaches and their athletes use to hold each other accountable and build a culture of excellence. Some coaches such as Hall of Fame professional basketball coach Pat Riley describe a team’s core values as a covenant or agreement that holds teams together. Successful coaches ensure that the program core values are clearly aligned with their coaching purpose.

One of the most successful coaches of the 21st century is professional football coach Bill Belichick. His coaching purpose was formed early in life, perhaps even as young as 6 years old when he eagerly helped his father, a college football coach at the time, analyze game film. His coaching purpose is rooted deeply in the pursuit of excellence and a love of football. The single core value that has long served as the guiding principle for all the teams he has coached is summed up in the simple mantra “Do your job!” Unwavering commitment to this core value is demonstrated through relentless preparation, incredible attention to details, a team-first attitude, and an intense work ethic.

You will know you have found your coaching purpose when your purpose is inseparable from who you are as a person. For example, all-time winningest college baseball coach Augie Garrido once said, “I coach baseball to its core because it is in my core.” Your purpose and core values, then, serve as a window into your coaching soul – the essence or embodiment of who you are as a coach and why you coach.

The most effective coaches are acutely sensitive to this basic concept. In fact, 11-time professional basketball championship coach Phil Jackson includes the word soul in the title of his best-selling book about how to coach championship teams. Coach Jackson explains that his purpose and core values are grounded in his deeply held concern for connecting with athletes and creating what might be considered an enlightened basketball environment – one in which he helps athletes find personal meaning in the sport experience.

A coaching purpose and core values do not need to be validated by others. A purpose and values are right if they are personally meaningful and inspirational. Together, your purpose and core values make up what is sometimes referred to as your core ideology – your enduring character and identity as a coach. Your core ideology as a coach matters because it gives meaning to your work and has the power to ignite passion and sustain the long-term commitment required to become an effective coach.

Copyright © 2017 by Human Kinetics Publishers, Inc. Excerpted by permission of Human Kinetics, Champaign, IL. Available to order from Human Kinetics Canada at www.humankinetics.com or by calling 1-800-465-7301.

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Coach Responses

Why do you coach?

What is your core ideology?

How does your coaching purpose align with your program’s core values?

Share your tips and best practices!

Coach Maria – Soccer – Vaughan – 8 Years

“…I coach to inspire! I want my athletes to leave my session or match feeling inspired to develop and push themselves when they come next time. My core ideology is self-reflection after any coach moment. I take the time after a match or session to reflect in my car over what went well and what I can do next time. My coaching purpose aligns with my programs core values because I want to inspire female athletes to fall in the love with the game like I have and continue to do every time I step on to that field…”

Coach Dalls – Rugby – Toronto – 6 Years

“…I don’t make strong girls for rugby, I use rugby to make strong girls. Strength can be defined many different ways, but is almost always a positive. Young girls are constantly bombarded by expectations to be, to act, to feel, to react a certain way. Whether this is defined by culture, the media, their peers or history. One of the most powerful modes for change is a strong woman. I believe physical strength translates to emotional and mental strength because it takes the last 2 to create the first one. Strength to stand up to bullies. Strength to say no to unwanted advancements. Strength to speak your opinion. Strength to go after a job. Strength to get up after you failed a thousand times. Strength to keep moving forward when all you feel is pain. I coach rugby because the lessons I teach my girls are for life. My core values are Respect, Humility, Fun, Integrity, Trust, Camaraderie. These come before winning. These are why the best players will not start if they do not align themselves with my philosophy. These are why, my girls know that whether it’s rugby related, school related or personal life related, their well being, health, safety and happiness are my number 1 concern. I coach to create a generation of fierce women, in every sense of the word…”

Coach Kevin – Athletics – Oakville

“…I believe a Coach is also responsible for educating their athletes and giving them the tools and resources that will best serve their goals while continually educating themselves with any resources available. My philosophy is to create training plans and workouts that help any Athlete become more versatile and adaptable for any situation so they are prepared for their big race and any thing that could happen. I also also actively promote injury prevention, recovery and that any athlete need only do the least amount of work to get the best results where running or biking one more Mile won’t do anything to better their fitness. This help my coaching purpose align with the LTAD model, Sport for Life values and Having Fun and accomplishing your goals! Being a coach keeps me involved in the sports I love while also being able to educate and help others accomplish their goals…”

Coach Neale – Rugby, Alpine Ski – Ottawa – 25 Years

“…Asking yourself “why?” is a vital step to solidify your coaching philosophy. Why are you there? Why are your athletes there? Why do parents choose your program to develop their children? Seeking out answers to these questions and being open to have those answers adapt over time will help you to develop your own set of core values to underpin your coaching philosophy. My coaching philosophy, boiled down to it’s most simple terms, is “to render myself obsolete.” This does not mean I do not want to coach. This is not meant to be self-deprecating or trite. Quite the opposite. I strive to have participants take risks. I strive to create an environment where athletes can try, fail, and try again. I strive to develop an environment for learning, an environment for questioning, and an environment for reflecting. I strive to encourage athletes to take ownership for their learning, their development, and their success. The athletes themselves define their own success. I am their to support, guide, and encourage. Ultimately as a coach, my goal is to have the athlete succeed on their own. My coaching journey is a work in progress. It always will be…”

Coach Dan – Rugby, Wrestling, Nordic Ski – 25 Years

“…I have been an educator for nearly 25 years. Coaching has always just been an element of being being a teacher for me. Its what my teachers did it is what I thought was part of the job when I contemplated joining the profession. Within my main sport/rugby I have tried to be a student of the game and the longer i did this the more realized I have so much more to learn. The one thing i can impart is that athletes or students who like being around each other will find success in some form. Team building in both individual and team sport will make a program stronger and more rewarding. Happy coaching!…”

Coach Susannah – Curling – Ajax – 23 Years

“…I coach competitive and non-competitive curling. I work with U21 youths for competition and anyone that wants to curl. The reason I coach is I love curling and I want to enable as many people to enjoy it as possible. I coach youth competitive teams because I enjoy watching them grow as a curler and a person. Besides the technical skills, it is very important to me to teach them to be fair, courteous, respectful and generous. It is a joy to watch them become excellent curlers and human beings…”

Coach Amanda – Basketball – Markham – 15 Years

“…I coach because I want to give back. Basketball was a huge part of my life growing up and I contribute it to making me the person I am now . I believe in the values that team sports instill in people help them in their every day lives as well as their business lives and if I can help create the for people from a young age that is amazing. My core ideology is centred around helping others. I believe in helping give people the tools they need to succeed, this even flowed into my business motto which is Setting You Up For Success! I am fortunate to be involved in programs that align relatively well with my purpose and their core values, however, at the end of the day many programs are a business and they do look at that side of things first whereas my first priority is the athletes. However overall I feel that the programs I am involved in value the athletes and realize that their long term development and their psycho-social well being are important as well and they try to promote developing the whole person not just the basketball player…”

Coach Gord – Cross Country Skiing – Collingwood – 45 Years

“…I coach as a “thank you” to the coaches I had growing up. They kept me on the right path, mentored me in my chosen profession (physical education teacher) and showed me the positive effects of an authoritative adult in a young person’s life…”

Coach Dale – Basketball – Waterloo – 12 Years

“…I coach because of the love and passion I have for the game of basketball. I want to share my enthusiasm and knowledge of the game and help others to embrace the sport – it also keeps me involved in a game I love even though injury and age have slowed me down as a player…”

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Home > Coaching Para Athletes

Coaching Para Athletes


What are some of the ways you encourage your athletes to be unconquerable?
How do you contribute to increasing the support and awareness of adaptive sports?

Many people believe that coaching a person with a disability is more difficult than coaching a person who is able-bodied. In fact, coaching a person with a disability is the same as coaching a person who is able-bodied. It takes knowledge and passion for sport, along with an understanding of someone’s capabilities and knowing how to help them achieve a goal that they’ve set out to accomplish. As para sport and the awareness of inclusion continue to grow there becomes a greater need for coaching at all levels.

With the Para Pan Am Games held in Toronto last year, the Rio Paralympics finishing last month and now the Invictus Games for ill and injured service members and veterans coming to Toronto in September of next year, the continued exposure of the impact sport has had on our para-athletes continues to increase.

Adaptive sport competitions, like those listed above, showcase the mental strength, and physical preparation of para-athletes. These games also provide future para-athletes with something to strive for while improving their quality of life. As coaches, it is our duty to mentor and push these individuals with the same passion as any other athlete we coach.

  1. 1. Understand the Person

Just like any other athlete, learning who they are as a person will help you figure out how they need to be coached. Are they interested in the competitive or recreational stream? What are their goals? Do they believe in themselves? Understand how they obtained their disability, was it something they born with it or did they acquire it later in life? This will help determine other factors, whether mental or physical that may be hindering their progression. Knowing your athlete as a whole person shows them that you truly care.

For some great examples of coaches who have demonstrated this, check out the 2016 Ontario Coaching Excellence Awards Winners videos here.

  1. 2. Educate Yourself

Every athlete’s disability is different and it’s important for you to understand how they will develop within their sport. The Long-Term Athlete Development: Athletes with a Disability model has very similar stages as the non-disabled athletes. The two exceptions to this model are that the ages and rate of progress may vary due to their disability, and that there are an additional 2 stages to the model: The Awareness stage (having those born with or acquire the disability be aware of the sport) and the First Contact/ Recruitment stage (creating a positive environment to retain these athletes in the sport). Developing a better understanding of their disability will assist in planning practices and setting realistic goals, especially for early specialization sports. You don’t want to begin teaching them more complex skills when their fundamental movement skills have not yet been mastered.

  1. 3. Expose them to other Athletes

Encourage your athletes to volunteer at the numerous major games that are held each year around Ontario. Getting involved not only gives them a chance to give back to their sport or to a great cause, but it also provides them with the opportunity to see and sometimes meet athletes at a higher competitive level to re-instill the idea that they can make it as well. Share monthly stories about athletes they can relate to who have faced difficulties and overcame them with hard work, dedication and patience. It becomes especially useful for those “I give up” moments. Additionally, take the time to go out and watch major games as a group. This will further foster the coach-athlete relationship and even generate more awareness for other sports.

**Whether you’re a first time coach looking to help out and get involved in your community or an experienced coach looking to help elite athletes reach the Paralympic podium, ParaSport Ontario has a spot for you. For more information follow this link.

**Want to see a list of sports that will be at the 2017 Canada Games? Click for more information.

**To see how the Invictus Games has impacted those who have served for our country click here.

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Coach Responses

How do you develop your para-athletes?

What are some of the ways you encourage them to be unconquerable? How do you contribute to increasing the support and awareness of adaptive sports?

Share your tips and best practices!

Coach Michael – Swimming – Oshawa – 4 Years 

“…I have found that keeping open lines of communication with both the athlete and their parents (depending on the age of the athlete) provides the best possible outcomes. When I first started coaching para-athletes I wasn’t always sure what kind of support they needed. After working with my swimmers for a number of years I’ve learned that asking them what they need is best. Being open to learning new things and modifying your current coaching tactics can go a long way to making an athlete feel empowered and appreciated both in and out of the pool…”

Coach Katie – Basketball – Toronto – 6 Years

“…In my experience with para-athletes, they want to be worked just as hard as able-bodied athletes. By encouraging them to work at their best, they prove to themselves that they can work just as hard as their counterparts. Once the basic skills are in place and the athlete is working to go harder, faster, stronger it’s easy to forget they are different at all. I like to maintain the basic principles of respect, dignity and trust with all my athletes- para or able-bodied…”

Coach Lucy – Athletics – Toronto – 11 Years

“…We as coaches see the differences, but kids just want to be kids. They want to play the same games, do the same drills and race just like everyone else. If they think they can do it, why do we doubt or hinder them? Is it a doubt within ourselves? We as coaches have a duty to be inclusive, adaptable and push the limits for our athletes. Parents of para-athlete want the same treatment we give everyone else. So next time do not doubt them or create something special for them. Let them be who they are. Let them show you what they can do…”

Coach Gord – Hockey – Ottawa – 9 Years

“…Working with para-athletes has made me a better coach. We often get into grooves of doing and saying the same things, but working with para-athletes provides you with the opportunity to re-develop old ideas and challenge you to be better. These athletes are some of the most dedicated and hard-working individuals I have ever worked with, and their “differences” only make me a better coach for everyone, able-bodied and para-athletes…”

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Home > Fun Goals

Fun Goals

Coach Responses

What goals do you set with your team that don’t involve a number of wins?

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Coach   Rebecca Tolen  –  Soccer – Rainy River – 10 Years

“After some pre-season discussion on what the team needed to do to take our game to the next level, our soccer team made it a goal to become known for our short passing game.

We really wanted to get away from the kick and chase game. The girls worked really hard on consistently setting up the triangles, work on overlapping, using support, their first touch and communication.

By taking the time to set a goal, breaking down what is needed to reach the goal, we were successful. Success was not based on wins but how many times we were able to maintain control of the ball while we moved downfield.

The team chose their goals, picked skills needed to achieve the goal and set up drills to support that learning. While I may have chosen differently, by letting them take the lead, they took ownership of their learning.”

Coach Amanda Miles  – Basketball – Markham – 10+ years

“We always have a performance goal, what do they want to improve as a player. We also have a team goal, what do you want our team to have achieved by the end of the year (sometimes it is learning a specific play or other times it is developing a specific skill such as executing fast-break passes 90% of the time).”

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Home > Athletes at a Transition Point

Athletes at a Transition Point

Coach Responses

When your athletes reach a transition point, what type of guidance or advice do you give them?

Share your tips and best practices!

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Coach Terry Radchenko – Track and Field – Toronto

“There are numerous keys to success including proper nutrition, sleep, consistency in training, recovery and believing in yourself …just to name a few.

When transitioning, I believe communication moves to the top of that list. An athlete and a new coach will have to get to know each other quickly and the best way to do this is to talk. Both the coach and athlete should ask a lot of questions and ensure that they are truthful with their answers.

What expectations does each of you have from the other? What are your short and long term goals? What type of mileage have you done in the past? How have you built this mileage? Have you had any injuries? When and how did they occur and how did you recover from them? Recent blood test results? What have been some of your favourite and least favourite workouts? What was your typical pre-race session? Hopefully, this type of communication will be ongoing in your new relationship.

How have you been sleeping? What are your stress levels like? Did you eat enough today? Do you feel like you’re coming down with something? Any little nagging injuries? In cases like these, less is often more but if your coach doesn’t have all the necessary information they won’t be able to provide the best development plan for you.

A coach is there to help and guide you. The more information they have the better chance they have of helping you continue to progress, reach your goals and find out what you are truly capable of.”

Coach Amanda Miles – Basketball – Markham – 10+ years

“Transitioning is tricky but it is important not to tell them what to do but give them options and let them and their families make the decisions for what is best for them.

Every family has different situations so you can’t say do x or y or z but if you show them the options and tell them what to focus on when evaluating those options.”

Coach Trinette Goarley – Figure Skating – Barrie

“I always suggest other avenues in a sport which satisfies their interests the most. Getting involved as a volunteer, professional, community helps keep perspective on what made them fall in love with the sport in the first place.”

Coach Sean Ferguson – Swimming – Region of Waterloo – 18 years

“Transitions can have a forward or backward type of movement and, as a coach, I am consciously aware of that regarding this topic when coaching & discussing with my athletes.

*I’m assuming that the question is directly looking at athlete advancement, but I felt it was important to acknowledge that ‘transitions’ can be up or down.

So with that, my mentorship & advice to athletes who are in an upward transition stage is to be aware of your surroundings and remember the reason for why you are participating in sport (write down both intrinsic and extrinsic motivations the athlete expresses); for me, having fun is a must, and should always be at the top of one’s list and if it’s not then the discussion needs to be more in-depth.

I would also caution the athlete on things such as athletic ‘burn out’ and/or jumping in too quickly when she/he transitions and doing ‘status quo’ rather than listening to mind & body and how it’s reacting to the transition.

So take the time to create attainable short term goals with the athlete, parent(s) of the athlete, and their other transitioning coach or coaches (take the team approach to all of this) to ensure that the athlete is not pressured to meet someone else’s demand/goals which may be highly unachievable and/or unattainable; a slow gradual transition would also be ideal, but not always accessible.

So hopefully if everyone involved takes a gentler, communicable, and more community approach to transition, the athlete will accomplish and may even exceed, her/his set goals.

Oh and a long term goal that every coach should be encouraging whether the athlete is in transition or not is the development of lifelong enjoyment of sport & active lifestyles; our governing sports & recreational bodies are trying to encourage this healthy attitude, and coaches need to not only be consciously aware of our present environment, but we also need to look into our future. And, by encouraging the benefits of healthy lifestyles through sport, it should help improve society which in turn will lessen certain maladies that seem to constantly be discussed regarding the youth of today.”

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Home > Regulating Athletes’ Emotions

Regulating Athletes’ Emotions


Some thoughts from By: Dr. Katherine Tamminen & Courtney Braun – University of Toronto

Emotions can have a large influence on athlete performance. A talented, hardworking athlete may perform very well or very poorly, depending on whether they are experiencing frustration, anxiety, happiness, or excitement before and during competition. One of the main areas of research within the Sport and Performance Psychology lab at the University of Toronto is to explore how athletes regulate their emotions and deal with stress in sport. In particular, we are interested in understanding how individuals interact and help one another regulate their emotions and deal with stress. We are now starting to learn more about the ways that coaches influence their athletes’ emotions and performance. While coaches have a number of responsibilities, it is clear that the ways in which coaches interact and respond to their athletes may affect the athlete’s emotions and their confidence to perform well in the competition.

There are a variety of strategies and approaches that coaches might use to try and increase the positive emotions or decrease the negative emotions of their athletes. One model for classifying emotion regulation strategies was developed by James Gross and it has increasingly been used to explore athletes’ emotion regulation in sport. While there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ emotion regulation strategy for all situations, there are common ways that coaches may help their athletes to regulate their emotions.

Situation selection and situation modification consist of designing, choosing, or modifying a situation/event with the purpose of changing the emotions that your athlete may experience.

Example: You have an athlete consistently failing with a task in a workout and is experiencing frustration as a result. As a coach, you may select to scratch some of the more difficult drills at the end of a training session to avoid creating feelings of anger or sadness among your athletes. You may also modify the task to have the athlete experience success in order to ease frustration and elicit more positive emotions.

Attention deployment refers to efforts to direct your athlete’s attention toward or away from a stressful situation, to change the emotions they are experiencing.

Example: An athlete is anxious prior to competition. You begin chatting with the athlete about his/her personal life (e.g., school, family, work, etc.)  to distract the athlete from the competition and reduce feelings of anxiety. Some coaches may use games or puzzles for their athletes to complete in order to distract them from the upcoming competition.

Cognitive change involves changing an athlete’s interpretation of a situation/event in order to change the emotions arising from that situation.

Example: An athlete is disappointed and frustrated with his/her training progress prior to competition. As a coach you may help the athlete think differently about it by putting things into perspective (e.g., telling the athlete that this single performance does not define him/her as an athlete) and/or rationalizing the athlete’s progress (e.g., we are in the middle of hard training); by changing the way the athlete thinks about the situation, you can help to reduce their disappointment and help them prepare for the upcoming competition.

Response modulation consists of strategies to increase or decrease an athlete’s emotional response to a situation/event.

Example: An athlete is happy following a fantastic performance. You congratulate high five, and/or hug the athlete to elicit even more happiness and excitement.

While different emotion regulation strategies will work for different athletes in different situations, it is important for coaches and athletes to maintain open and active communication to understand what works best for both the coach and the athlete. Although the research is still ongoing, we are learning that coaches do have an influence on the types of emotions that athletes experience in training and in competition.

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Coach Responses

What are some strategies you use to regulate athletes’ emotions?

Do you find that your own emotions have an influence on your athletes in training and competition?

Do you regulate your own emotions when you are around your athletes?

Share your tips and best practices!

Coach Joe – Hamilton – Softball – 30+ Years

“…Emotional control and emotional intelligence are huge factors in determining the success

We often talk about the Chinese proverb: ” If you can count to three the sea will calm”, to help the athletes understand the value of keeping one’s composure.

As a coach we must be aware of how expressive and emotional we are in general and how that changes when the competition gets a bit heated, and how our athletes react to what we do and say in both a positive and negative way.

I have heard of coaches who give their athletes permission and actually encourage them to go right up to them during competition and let them know” ” Hey coach, remember when we talked about staying in control at all times, well I think you might be losing it “

So the message is we all want to do well, we all care, … sometimes we care too much and are at risk of letting our emotions get the better of us. Regardless of what happens in a competition remember … if we can count to 3 ….”

Coach Alice – Sudbury – Basketball – 9 Years

“…I use visualization as a tool to get players mentally accustomed to competition scenarios. I encourage players to set small individual goals for each competition, so they are able to feel a sense of accomplishment, regardless of the results of the game. We discuss relative successes and weaknesses, and develop comprehensible plans to achieve goals…”

Coach Chris – Burlington – Basketball – 15 Years

“…Always stress the positives. Players can lose confidence very quickly and then they will make more mistakes because they are hesitant. I will always try to talk to a girl after she has been substituted out of a game and give her something positive to think about while she is on the bench so that she does not dwell on the negative. One of our players got pulled after she made a really bad pass. As she came to the bench I pulled her aside and complimented her on a couple of strong rebounds she made and some nice defensive plays she had made. After that, we talked about the past she made (which she was able to laugh at) and what she needs to try and do in the future. I have never coached an athlete who tries to make a mistake and most of my players understand when they have done something wrong. By focusing on the positive things a player does they can learn more effectively when they make a mistake because there is no criticism. Also, I always try to get my athletes to focus on the future. You cannot dwell on a bad play or something you did wrong, learn from it and move on. If you can point out opportunities where players can learn from what they did and apply it in a future event, the players stay more positive and will compete until the end. Finally, I want my team to be focused on what they have to do and not to let distractions affect them. I try hard to keep an even keel emotionally and not get too excited or upset if there is a bad call by the referee or a bad play. This way I remain focused on the task and the players hopefully will do the same…”

Coach John – Windsor – Baseball & Basketball – 48+ Years

“…It is wise to be sure that the training you are doing is age-appropriate and to ensure a degree of success is to proceed one step at a time and being sure that each athlete is ready for the next step before you proceed … baseball is a game of failure when one realizes that the best hitters fail 70 % of the time( major leaguers included). We learn from our mistakes which themselves are not failures, but an opportunity to learn. Coaching is explaining., demonstrating, observing and correcting. which covers the spectrum of learning styles. It is also important to remind players that concentration and effort are the keys to success: Nothing trumps preparation and hard work by both player and coach. Each athlete has the potential for achievement which will only be realized with the maximum effort on their part. It is not how good one thinks he or she is but rather how willing one is to work to achieve the level of talent they were born with.

Strive to be the best you can be and do not let anybody outwork you. One should be able to look in the mirror and say I did the best I could at each practice and game be they, player or coach.

I believe that players often will assume the attitude and the behaviour of the coach. Success is the result of 4 things: attitude, passion, work ethic and commitment to what you do…”

Coach Heather – Milton – Lawnbowling – 10 Years

“…Allow the athlete the right to feel awkward, frustrated and deficient while developing. Without these emotions, they will not progress or improve. Yes, if the task is too difficult they will feel frustrated so yes modify to meet their abilities but only temporarily. If they are to progress they must experience that frustration and then experience the thrill when they do succeed and nail that tough exercise. It all depends on the athlete’s goals and aspirations and drive…”

Coach Chad – Niagara – Hockey – 8 Years

“…First and foremost, if we as coaches cant keep our own emotions in check, how can we help our athletes? Not only is it what we say to manage the emotions of our athletes, but our own emotions during training and competition. Each of the common strategies I use on myself as a coach. By changing the way the athlete thinks about the situation, you can help to change your own thinking of a situation…”

Coach Paul – Mississauga – Fastpitch – 26 Years

“… I find that anticipating times when athletes’ emotions may off help. Exam times are very stressful, also lead-ups to major events, such as key games, championships, etc. Sometimes just a couple of encouraging words does the trick, other times it is more of a one-on-one conversation that is needed. Whatever is required, it is important not to become frustrated with the athlete…”

Coach Sean – Waterloo – 20 Years

I have used a combination of the above-mentioned tools, and I think we (as coaches) can give athletes tools that they can understand how to approach things in life, and how they can cope with their pos/neg and in-between emotions, which should create a more balanced life and sport environment. This more balanced approach, where both coach/athlete share in the emotional environment/growth experience, can be done by working through tools such as:

  • using colour codes (and giving colour to their emotions/feelings)
  • working through personality tests w the athlete – learning who they are
  • developing critical thinking skills w the athlete (using the De Bono Groups ‘hats’)
  • using things such as “emoji’s” for the athlete to display their emotions in a different manner than verbally/physically
  • having them write their thoughts & feelings down in a journal which hopefully gives them pause & insight
  • tapping into their interests/hobbies and uniquely incorporating that into their sports environment (music or art, for example)
  • allow them to lead and own an activity (mentoring)
  • etc.
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Home > Nutrition for Rec Sport

Nutrition for Rec Sport

Coach Responses

What advice do you give your athletes about  Nutrition when coaching at a community, club or rec level?

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Coach Joe Leighton – Gymnastics – Toronto – 35 years

“Try not to go into detail. I encourage to drink water and to stay away from sugar.”

Coach Sean Ferguson – Swimming – Region of Waterloo – 17 years

“Sports Nutrition can be a very hard thing for anyone to navigate and understand.

So as a coach, I feel it’s important to inform my athletes of healthy alternatives to what is out there on store shelves; I don’t have all the answers or knowledge but if I stay up to date on current research, pay attention to the ingredients/nutritional labels of products, proactively seek out nutritional seminars & professionals, incorporate guest speakers for the athletes, and to take the marketing trends as just that…trends (trends are not sustainable, but healthy choices are), I feel I am better equipped to help my athletes.

Too often, you can attend any community/club/recreation level practice or competition, and you will see children & youth chugging down products such as Gatorade, Powerade, Red Bull, Vitamin Water, Chocolate Milk etc. often because these products are packaged in bulk and/or on sale at the grocery store (which is more about convenience than anything), or these products are directly marketed to children/youth by showing their idols consuming the product in commercials and at events. These sponsored products are often filled heavily with sugar/sugar substitutes that are not needed and can be counterproductive; most don’t provide much if any, athletic performance.”

Coach Guy Tapah – Soccer – Ontario

“I advise my athletes to eat healthy before a game. If it is on their day off they can do what they wish but as long as they are game ready coming the next day.

My coaching staff teaches our players about the nutritional side of sports, but it is their job to listen and follow what we are saying. We can’t make sure that every single player is eating healthy before a match and in general. Therefore, we give them and their parents a 1 hour session at the beginning of the season on what we expect from our team and this is something we cover.”

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Home > Overcoming Setbacks/Injury

Overcoming Setbacks/Injury

Coach Responses

As a coach, how do you help your athletes through a setback (injury or performance)?

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Coach Leilani Torres – Synchronized Swimming – Puerto Rico – 19 Years

“Usually when they are injured there is nothing you can’t really do, just rehabilitation and patience. So  I would engage them in the training process, get their opinion on exercises, the view of the athlete is pretty helpful sometimes for coaches on deck.

This distracts them, keeps them engaged in the training, motivates them to help their team and it has been my best tool since the first time I put it to test.”

Coach  Joe  Benedetti – Softball – Hamilton

“Sometimes after a very disappointing performance, an athlete will need time  “to protect ego” We spend a great deal of time building up our athlete’s confidence, we want them to feel prepared, expecting to do well, but in reality, that does not always happen.

Some athletes may need the time to get over the shock of poor performance, they may need time alone and to even sleep on it. Usually, within 12 hours maximum, a strong athlete will “face it” and begin to accept the result.

This is where the hard training on mental toughness, resiliency, the knowledge of all the D’s – Drive, Determination, Dedication, Devotion, and Desire will come to the surface to support the athlete…”

Coach Bruce Parker – Australian Football – Toronto – 10 Years

“Injury management is key to getting playback to performing. Limiting the amount of work done in practice to prevent aggravation of the injury.

Recognize and acknowledge that the player may want to do more to come back quicker but adhere to the plan laid out and agreed upon by you, the player and the medical team. Keep then motivated by including them in the drills in an assistant coach type role.”

Coach  Amanda Miles – Basketball – Markham

“Setbacks I find are 70% mental and 30% putting the work in to get back to peak performance level. I like to help my players by setting goals and using visualization through injuries, the goal for the day/week/month. Small attainable feats show progress but don’t overseers the injury. Depending on what the injury is I often use it to help develop their weaker side (if it is a right-hand injury work on the left, if it is a right ankle, work on balancing on the left side). Another thing for injuries is keeping the player involved, giving them stats or responsibilities within the team so they don’t feel like they are being shut out.

For performance setbacks, I like to use visualization as well as keeping them upbeat and smiling. If they had a bad game trying to help them shake it off and move on or make the corrections they need without being too harsh in the criticisms. Waiting a week and then focusing on it I find helps sometimes too when they aren’t as frustrated with the performance they had at the time they can often see how to fix it themselves.”

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Home > Resolving Conflicts

Resolving Conflicts

Coach Responses

Although the coach often sets the agenda for a team or athlete, they aren’t the only ones with a say.

As a coach, what has worked for you when resolving conflicts with parents and family?

Share your tips and best practices!

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Coach Chris C. – Basketball/ Volleyball – Burlington – 15 Years

“The best way I solve parent conflicts is to avoid them. By this I mean by setting the expectations very clearly at the beginning of the season. No matter the sport, the usual conflicts involve playing time. At the beginning of the season be very clear about how you will be dividing up playing time and stick to those guidelines. Just because a game is important in the standings does not mean you change your substitution patterns or how you play your players. If you have a plan, communicate that plan, and stick to it you can eliminate a lot (unfortunately not all) of your parent conflicts.

Communication is the key to resolving conflicts properly so that things do not get blown out of proportion. You can use a web site to communicate your goals and expectations so that parents can access them when needed. If you have clear goals communicated then you can refer back to them when a conflict occurs.

Also, remember to take your time responding to a complaint. As coaches, our first reaction is often’ ” how dare they say that, look at the time I put in”. If you take a moment to remove the emotion of the situation and look at the root of the complaint or problem then maybe you can come to some resolution. Finally, build support within the coaching community as it can help, not to solve the conflict, but to lessen the impact it can have on you.

My experience has taught me that if you can demonstrate you have the player’s best interest at heart and not some hidden agenda or your own ego as motivating factors parents will generally recognize this and let you, coach.”

Coach Mike D. – Soccer – Ottawa – 3 Years

“Being open and transparent with regards to my coaching decisions and style is important when it comes to resolving conflicts with parents and family. Then when/if a conflict occurs I have clear facts and reasoning to use when addressing the issue. Sometimes it can be difficult to separate personal problems from conflict, but keeping it about the facts often helps.”

Coach Sean Ferguson ChPC, RGP – Swimming – Region of Waterloo – 17 Years

“Communication, communication, communication; it can’t be stressed enough. Often, whether the conflict is our mistake or not as the coach, we are put into a mediator role and need to have the right tools at our fingertips to deal with situations (good and bad).

One way that I have approached conflict in the past is to:

  1. Listen
  2. Digest the situation
  3. Ask questions to further understand the conflict
  4. Digest again
  5. Propose solutions to the problem & ask the other party/parties involved on their ideas for a solution that benefits all (coach, athlete, parent, club/sport, etc).
  6. Agree on a common ground to move forward
  7. Implement that common ground
  8. Check-in with the other party to make sure everyone is still on the same page going forward
  9. Reflect (make notes, ponder how to avoid/curb this type of conflict, learn/grow from the conflict, etc).”

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Home > Managing Holiday Breaks

Managing Holiday Breaks

Coach Responses

Practice rhythm and routine, week in and week out can build consistency. Often, however, it gets interrupted.

As a coach, how do you handle holiday breaks?

Share your tips and best practices!

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Coach Lindsay Matthews – Ice Hockey – Toronto – 5 Years

“Opportunity. The Christmas break is conveniently located mid-season for ice hockey which creates a nice natural division of the season into two. If you are having a good start to the season, it can be framed as a well-deserved break. If you are having a bad start to the season, it can be a good break to forget what is in the past and start fresh with the second part of the season. It is important to have a few good practices before the first game after the break to make sure the players can get used to the tempo again.”

Coach Sean Ferguson ChPC, RGP – Swimming – Region of Waterloo – 17 Years

“When I was an elite athlete, the sport of swimming didn’t allow for many ‘breaks’ – the season is very long and extremely demanding. The longest break in the season was usually the two weeks in summer prior to the start of the next season.

Even over Christmas break, we were required to train, and train harder and more often…I guess for so-called… opportunity? (this even occurred one year over the Xmas break when the pool heater broke the first day of training and no one was able to come in and fix it; coach made us swim). As a coach myself, I can see many coaches wanting their athletes to continue to train, be in a specific routine over holidays, and to maintain their physical fitness.

However, with my professional background in sports and recreation, and working with children and youth my whole career, I would say that we all need breaks.

Breaks allow young bodies and minds to relax, grow, and recharge. It also allows the coach to reflect and move forward in a positive direction without a certain amount of pressure or stress; often we as coaches forget that we are overworked (go…go….go type of mindset) and don’t often ourselves, get the breaks that we need to spend with family and friends, or just time to take a professional development course without the pressure of cramming in a crash course.”

Coach Amanda Miles – Basketball – Markham – 10 Years

“I find holiday breaks are an opportunity for athletes to get together off the court and build their team bonding. Have a dinner or get together away from the practice. In terms of rhythm and routine, sometimes it is good to get away for a week and refocus your mind and come back fresh and ready to work hard after. Especially if the athletes are feeling overwhelmed or frustrated this gives them time to regroup and refocus.”

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