Home > Practice Planning: Deep Dive

Practice Planning: Deep Dive

On Tuesday, February 11th join us from 7-8pm for a special 1-hour webinar about. Practice Planning: Deep Dive.

How well do you really plan? This webinar will get you thinking about your individual practice plans, goals, feedback, and coaches’ roles. Planning is often a deciding factor to how well you or your team progresses. Join Master Coach Developer Kathy Brook as she unpacks the practice plan.

This is a free webinar and participants will receive 1 PD Point on their Locker transcript.

Meet the Speaker:

Kathy Brook is a Master Coach Developer with the NCCP who has a Master’s of Physical Education. She has been delivering NCCP workshops and coaching for 20 years, and has supported the development of over 3000 coaches. Kathy is a Certified Professional Coach and is a mentor in the Change the Game program.

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Coach Responses

What are three practice planning tips you would share with a new coach?

Share your tips and best practices!

Darren – Soccer – Surrey – 9 Years

“…Don’t do the same drills for every practice. I have coached soccer for 9 years. Two years ago my son did baseball. I volunteered to be the third coach. The head coach did the same thing every practice, and wondered why the boys were getting bored and horsing around. He couldn’t handle it, quit, which gave me the opportunity to be the head coach. A spring season of head coach of baseball, ball hockey, and soccer. 8 sessions a week. I think it is mandatory to come to practice with a plan. However, even using TeamSnap where you think you know how many players are coming, sometimes things come up and you have less players than you think.

You just have to adjust on the fly. And when a drill is not working, change it up. Lastly, I see a lot of coaches spend a lot of time talking. I’ve been listening to a soccer coaching podcast where they talk about ball rolling time. Let’s minimize the long chats, minimize lines of players, let’s get them playing mini games.”

Al Samsa – Basketball – Mississauga – 35 Years

“…1. Have a water station. Somewhere away from parents if they attend practices like ours.

2. Have a plan including warm up, skills, X’s and O’s, and warm down.

3. Have fun. Competitions help spice it up.”

Barbara Cooper – Squash – Toronto – 50+ Years

“…Be flexible. Change the plan if it is not working.

Have more activities than you think you need.

Coach your athletes, don’t just execute your plan. Your plan is only the vehicle to more effectively coach your athletes.”

Malcolm Sutherland – Ice Hockey – Thunder Bay – 35 Years

“…Number one, do it!! Plan, re-plan, over-plan! Build and use library of resources as a go to reference including plans. “Each of us stands on the shoulders of the giants before us.”

Anchor to standards like your yearly plan, phased development model and long term and athlete development needs.

Adapt your objectives based on “constraints” and challenges considering the holistic needs of team and individuals.

Create a realistic practice plan using stretch type goals. Implement “comfort rituals” and fun activities including random, variable/open ended rehearsal into 25% of practice. Place cues and specific feedback and deliberately organize equipment, assistants and data capture including psycho-social/motivational increments. Evaluate, seek feedback and self-reflect.”

Glenn Gabriel – Curling – Toronto – 14 Years

“…1. It’s always better to “over plan” a little than not have enough drills/activities in your practice plan. Sometimes your athletes will run through your activities more quickly than you expect and will be standing around looking for something different or more challenging to do! Have something in your back pocket.

2. Think about ONE goal that you want to achieve at that particular practice. While a practice might be a combination of different types of activities (warm up/cool down, game play/scrimmage, skill development, mental training, etc.), try to focus on one overall goal for that practice. More than one goal will be confusing. And having no practice goal at all reflects the lack of an overall training plan.

3. Never forget to have FUN, no matter what age level you coach, but especially for the youngest kids in your sport! Some will argue that you can’t plan for fun, but if you don’t at least consider it in a practice plan (and think about what kind of activities are fun for the athletes), you’ll be missing out on a major motivating force for athletes AND coaches.

A fourth tip would be to always consider the safety and well-being of the athletes you coach.”

Jonathan – Swimming – London – 20+ Years

“…1) Always understand what the main purpose of each workout is, and how it contributes to your overall goals for the group.

2) Understand how long each part of your workout will take

3) Do skills near beginning of workout, and reinforce them by having kids apply them in their main set or part of workout”

Gord Staunton – 5 Pin Bowling – Midland – 30 Years

“…Have a meeting with your athletes and go over what you are doing during your practice. First I would run some warm up drills with the bowlers. This is very important to loosen up their muscles. Second, split up the group using 2 lanes and have one of the lanes do one task while the other group is practicing another task. Keep going back in and forth to keep both sides going and give them proper instructions . Thirdly, after completing the tasks you have set up to do during practice. Wind down and have a fun game and make it a friendly game to end your practice. I find it more constructive doing it this way so they can learn and have fun all at the same time during the practice.”

Joe Benedetti – Softball – Hamilton – 30+ Years

“…Plan more activities/drills than you think you need for the practice. Stop drills when your athletes STILL want to do them     (so you can use it later and they will be motivated to perform). Make the practice like the real thing so the real thing will be like the practice (simulations).

Paul McNamara – Athletics/Basketball – Guelph – 30+ Years

“…Have a measurable outcome that the athlete can articulate. Be flexible with the practice schedule/items to accommodate contingencies.  Get feedback from the athletes as to how they understand/experience success.”

Louie Gialedakis – Hockey – Woodbridge – 23 Years

“…#1-Send/give the practice plan to my athletes before the practice. #2-Measure the Goal. #3-Make sure the the entire staff be on the same page.”

“We use the Training Peaks online for athlete training schedules which is a great communication tool however, three important elements need to agreed upon.

1) Athletes agree to share motivation level and stress level for each training week.
2) A trust and open dialogue is part of the system
3) The bare minimum face to face contact per month is 1x/month which is fundamental to see how athletes are feeling, looking and communicating their training to coach.”

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Home > Mental Training

Mental Training


How important is Mental Training to your team’s success?

Most coaches agree that having a strong “mental game” is vitally important to team success. In pivotal moments of gameplay or competition, an athlete’s mindset is often the deciding factor between winning and losing. Nearly every drill, pattern, scrimmage, or practice contributes to an athlete’s mental game, but putting some effort into learning a few key mental training tools will help you achieve extraordinary results.

Acknowledging both the internal and external distractions affecting your athletes is a necessary first step. External distractions may vary depending on your sport. Spectators, officials, referees, competitors, teammates, changing venues, loud noises, and weather are all examples of external distractions. Internal distractions include an athlete’s state of mind, their thoughts (both positive and negative), worries, conflicts, and stresses, etc.

External distractions are usually quite obvious, so getting an athlete to refocus is straightforward; you do so by helping them control the way they react to the stimulus. By comparison, internal distractions cause more problems because it is less evident how to help an athlete cope or refocus.

So, what can you do to help your athletes manage internal distractions?

To answer this question, let’s focus on three distracting mental states that athletes find themselves in on a regular basis: rushing, frustration, and fatigue.

Rushing, frustration, and fatigue compromise an athlete’s ability to focus, increasing the risk of performance errors and injuries. When an athlete is in these states, it’s normal for them to think about why they are rushing, who or what is making them mad, or when they’ll get some rest. Athletes’ brains default to this pattern unless they’ve been trained not to. A technique called “Self-triggering” is an effective way to help athletes to change this pattern and perform at a higher level.

Rushing, frustration, and fatigue are active states, which produce physical triggers like the mild panic associated with rushing, elevated blood pressure experienced while frustrated, and yawns or muscle burn when fatigued. When you recognize or “trigger” on your state, the best option is always to slow down, calm down, or get some rest. However, in the fast-paced world of sports, these options are not always possible. So, the next best strategy is to remind yourself to keep your eyes and mind on task. That’s how self-triggering works; first recognize when you’re in a rush, frustrated or tired, then use the trigger as a prompt to keep your eyes and mind on task, and stay focused.

Try adding the Self-trigger technique to your mental training tools. To ensure you achieve results, motivate your athletes to use the technique on a regular basis to manage their internal and external distractions, boost self-confidence, and enhance their performance.

Author: Mike Shaw, co-founder of HeadStartPro Performance Training

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Coach Responses

What mental training tools have you used to help your teams/athletes stay focused on the task at hand?

Share your tips and best practices!

Malcolm Sutherland – Ice Hockey – Thunder Bay – 30 years

“…I believe coaching and leadership styles and the theory behind them has evolved. Most coaches flow between the three styles from “laid back” facilitator to autocratic “drill sergeant”. This contingency-based approach allows for external constraints such as time to be minimized and effective specific feedback and information shared. I feel the default should most often swing to the middle of the continuum, a democratic communication method.”

William Schluter – Baseball – York – 15 years

“…we use a code word within our team that only the players and staff know the meaning of. So when something happens like a missed ground ball or an error the players have each other backs signifying that it’s okay we got you, you got this and we believe in you. It really helps keep guys in check when something goes wrong.”

Ally Ladak – Soccer – Toronto – 7 years

“…The Art of Listening to one person at a time

Motivate Athletes to use the self-trigger Technique on a regular basis to manage their internal and external distractions, boost self-confidence and enhance their performance.

Keep your eyes open and mind on the task.

Slow down, calm down, or get some rest”

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Home > Complacency What Is It and Why Does It Matter?

Complacency What Is It and Why Does It Matter?


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

Complacency is like functioning on ‘autopilot.’ It’s a mental state that leads to mind-not-on-task, or lapses in focus and awareness. Athletes become complacent when they have done something so many times or for so long that they no longer think about the risk of error.

When an athlete starts playing a new sport or learns a new skill, complacency is generally low because their awareness is high. The stimulus of the new activity demands their focus. But as time goes on and skill development continues, athletes have a greater tendency to become complacent because they become more comfortable and confident. The problem is, when complacency is a factor, athletes are far more prone to making critical errors.

Now, saying that skill development creates more risk of error goes against the traditional view on physical competency. We think that athletes will make fewer mistakes when they put in more time developing sport-specific skills—which is right to a point, but there’s a caveat here. When athletes get too comfortable and start functioning on autopilot or in ‘La La Land,’ it puts them at risk of making more mind-not-on-task performance errors. We also see an increase in injuries due to complacency, too. Typically, the injuries caused by complacency are the “stupid” ones, that shouldn’t have happened in the first place.

So, how do we combat complacency? Or more accurately, how do we compensate for times athletes become complacent?

Let’s go back to skill development and habits. Your habits, or what you automatically do, will help compensate for times that you’ve become complacent. If you develop sport-specific skills to the point of “habit strength,” your actions will fall back on those performance-related habits.

If you have good performance-related habits like, moving your eyes first before you move or getting your eyes back on task quickly if you’ve been distracted, you’re much more likely to see plays break down sooner, and you’ll be able to react faster if you see a pass or a shot coming at you.

Working on a habit like looking for line-of-fire potential will also prevent costly injuries. For instance, coaching bantam minor hockey players who start body checking for the first time to work on the habits of: keeping your head up at all times (to avoid open ice hits) and to skate at the boards from an angle (to prevent being checked from behind) will help prevent concussions.

Auto-pilot can work in our favour.

As coaches, we want our athletes to achieve peak performances. To do this, we need them to release their mental state and shift from an energy-expensive conscious processing to the subconscious mental state where actions and awareness meet—aka “the zone.” To get them here more often and manage the downside of the subconscious (complacency), we can prepare them with strategic skill development and getting them to a level of “habit strength.” And here’s the kicker, whether or not they’re performing in the zone or La La Land, their habits compensate for any mind-not-on-task errors they might make or the injuries that could happen.

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Coach Responses

What strategies are you using to combat complacency?

Share your tips and best practices!

David Fletcher – Sailing – Toronto – 8 years

“…In Sailing, like all water sports, complacency can be a life or death issue. When you have been doing routine actions for years without issue it’s easy to forget the dangers those best practices are protecting you from. I’m reminded of an incident from the 2018 Volvo Ocean Race. During “dangerous” sea conditions everyone follows the rules to stay safe. But this time it was an easy sailing day, just about noon. Despite 20+ years of experience, and being 500+ miles off shore with no support, the sailor “Turned off” his brain, likely because it was so calm. The result was the most exciting 90 seconds of his life as a rogue wave bounced him overboard without a lifejacket or GPS beacon. The onboard camera man caught it all on film. – “

Craig Kelly – Soccer – Toronto – 3 years

“…One of the strategies I use is to have my team practice with different distractions that may come up during a game. I find that when my athletes are tired or distracted, that’s when they tend to go on “auto-pilot” and are at the biggest risk of making a mistake or even getting injured. By practicing for and anticipating different distractions, we come up with contingency plans that help the players stay in the moment on the field and perform to their highest potential.”

Mike Recine – Hockey – Richmond Hill – 5 years

“…Personally, I think that this topic of complacency is of high relevance and something every coach in every sport should consider educating themselves on further. As stated, complacency occurs subconsciously within athletes when they begin to excel in a given skill set, ultimately causing them to become too comfortable while performing certain movements, tasks etc. and essentially becoming less aware of what exactly they’re doing in that given moment. One of the most interesting points is how this term of complacency does not only apply to sport-specific scenarios but also, tasks, movements and skills that we use in our every day lives.

After constant repetition of any task in life, although not intentionally – the more we do it, the less we think about it. For these reasons, educating coaches on the topic of complacency can be extremely beneficial for their athletes on and off the field. The topic encourages coaches and athletes not to “go through the motions” while performing certain tasks which can lead to smarter thinking on the field, injury prevention and really anything in between. Ultimately, the topic is of high relevance especially within the coaching industry as well as a topic that should be recognized a bit more.”

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Home > Burnout



We all have a vague understanding of burnout, but should we advise our athletes to drop out, take a break, make some changes, or suck it up? Because burnout is a popular term, we need to carefully consider what is true and not true about burnout in youth athletes.

Burnout is a negative psychological and physical state in which young athletes feel tired, less able to perform well, and less interested in playing their sports. Three symptoms characterize burnout.

  • Physical and Emotional Exhaustion
    • The exhaustion associated with burnout involves the depletion of emotional and physical resources beyond the typical tiredness that comes and goes throughout a sports season.
  • Reduced Sport Accomplishment
    • A lack of performance success or inconsistent performance, or it can be more about the perception on the part of the athlete that he/she is not playing up to his/her potential.
  • Devaluation of Sport
    • The athlete doesn’t care as much about his/her sport. Athletes may say “I’m sick of doing this”; “I don’t care about playing anymore”; or “It’s just not fun anymore.” Another common symptom is questioning things – for example, “Why am I doing this?”

Several factors contribute to burnout in youth athletes:

Factors Related to Burnout in Youth Athletes

Overload Factors




Social Climate Factors

Pressure from parents

Negative coaching behaviours

Feeling trapped in sport participation

Lack of personal control

Personality Factors

Trait anxiety

Weak coping skills

Negative perfectionism

Obsessive passion

Unidimensional identity

Overload factors represent what people usually think about when they hear that someone is burned out. Overstress involves demand that exceeds athletes’ abilities to cope, such as when they are overloaded without adequate physical and mental recovery. Overtraining is the result of excessive training and inadequate recovery, which typically leads to decreased performance and psychological distress (Richardson, Andersen, & Morris, 2008). Some overload is needed to induce a training effect and improved performance, but too much overload without adequate recovery results in decreased performance (called staleness), exhaustion, decreased interest in training, and negative moods (burnout).

Social climate contributors to burnout are those negative aspects of the youth sports culture that are harmful to the psychological development and well-being of kids. These include pressure from parents to perform or achieve certain outcomes (e.g., winning, making the varsity team, gaining a college scholarship) and negative coaching behaviours, such as extreme controlling behaviours and developmentally inappropriate training and performance expectations.

Although the structure of youth sport and the behaviour of coaches and parents are critical in influencing burnout, several personality factors have been related to burnout in youth athletes. […] Youth sports athletes should protect themselves from burnout by engaging in different types of activities to define themselves in multidimensional ways.

Strategies to Help Athletes Avoid and Deal With Burnout

  1. Although definitiveness is lacking, it is thought that physical and emotional exhaustion serves as a first indicator of developing burnout in young athletes. Observing these symptoms should prompt coaches and parents to intervene immediately and work with the athlete to find the best strategy to ensure some rest, recovery, and mental rejuvenation.
  2. Identify athletes whose personalities or life situations predispose them to burnout, and make it a point to intervene with guidance and suggestions to help them achieve without crossing the line into harmful training behaviours.
  3. Anyone can help young athletes learn active coping skills. Better lifestyle management, healthier decisions, more rational perspectives on competition, and skill in identifying and pursuing personal mastery goals are all coping skills that can be learned by young athletes.
  4. Guide young people in adopting multiple areas of interest and achievement. Such variety and multidimensionality guard against burnout that occurs from a single-minded obsession gone awry.

From Best Practice for Youth Sport by Robin Vealey and Melissa Chase. 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

Did you ever experience burnout as a youth athlete?

Why do you think it happened? How did it affect your sports experience?

How can we as coaches reduce the possibility and impact of burnout in athletes?

Share your tips and best practices!

Jayden Vanneste – Ringette – Exeter – 4 years

“I have never experienced burnout as an athlete but I understand the many factors that can lead to burnout and which to reduce the possibility of an impact in the athletes I coach. I think it is important for athletes to rotate sports throughout the year. I do not encourage a young athlete to play one sport year-round. Rather, I believe it is more important to play multiple sports year-round. This gives their bodies a break from the stress of single sport play and exposes them to different coaches, teammates, expectations and rules, and sporting venues. Within a season I think it is important to have “rest days” or days in which the athletes are not playing their sport directly. I believe one to two practices and one to two games per week is significant and effective. On the days that athletes are not dedicating a couple of hours at the arena, I encourage them to go walking, running, or swimming. These activities use different discipline and muscle groups to help reduce the possibility of burnout. Also, engaging with athletes, being supportive of them not only as a sports coach but as a life mentor, and making the practices and games fun can help to reduce burnout.”

Sean Ferguson – Swimming – Waterloo – 21 years

“I believe that this burnout in sport is primarily an issue that comes from the top – down, as too often the PSO/NSOs are solely focused on podium/medal/trophy finishes (at least that is what is filtered down to coaches in my sport) and we need to get back to “sport” as the percent of athletes – even elite level athletes – that will make a career out of sport is extremely small. *sorry for the reality check, but it’s true, and we need to stop this Americanized obsession that everyone will be a ‘sports star’ and making millions of dollars.

Instead of PSO/NSOs focusing on training camps/centres where only a select few out of the thousands of sports participants in Ontario get to attend, we need to start creating a more balanced environment where there are opportunities for all competition levels and a more recreational approach where healthy active lifestyles are pushed; when we approach things that way, someone who competed when they were 14 is still excited to compete at 24, 54, and even 84 in their sport, or maybe they choose to pick up other sports along the way!

I think when we start to change the sports system in Canada to be truly Canadian and less Americanized, then we will see less burnout in our sports in general and we will create inclusive & diverse environments where people enjoy participating in the sport for their entire lives.

As someone who has dedicated a lot of time and effort to: develop/spread movements, creating policy & frameworks, working at the grass-roots level, etc., I can see how the PSO/NSOs (or sports system in general) just aren’t adhering to the prescribed research that many associated organizations & post-secondary institutions have done (such as LTAD, Sport4Life, The Framework for Recreation in Canada, TrueSport, PHE Canada, Parks & Recreation Ontario/High Five, OPHEA, York & Brock University, etc).

Maybe it will all change sooner than later with more discussions like this.”

Francois Belle-Isle – Track and Field – Hawkesbury – 31 years

“…To reduce burnout in athletes, I consider four pillars:

1) Variety and fun in training sessions.

2) Avoid overspecialization especially in youth.

3) Encourage participation in other sports.

4) The off-season is necessary, a 3 to 4-week break, where unstructured play occurs.”

Rebecca Brown – Equestrian – Coburg – 25 years

“…Yes As a youth I experienced burnout in Track & Field. I think at that time sports training wasn’t as well developed and understood as it is now. It makes me more aware now when I see my athletes in training that they are getting burned out. It makes me take a moment and pause and rethink the training program we are on.

I think as coaches we need to be aware all athletes are different, learn differently, train differently, peak differently. We need to modify programs with the standards to ensure we don’t have dropped out.”

Paul Bullock – Baseball – Collingwood – 40 years

“There are different types of “burnt out” I am just talking about the mental challenges faced by athletes.

…As coaches, it’s important to have long term goals but these milestones don’t come round too often and can dishearten young athletes. So it’s important to break the thing down into short more achievable chunks. Never stick on one aspect of their development keep the training varied and engaging.

In old athletes, it’s becoming more about developing the character of the type athlete than the skills and basic knowledge. What I mean by this is encouraging question, experiment, let them fail, and teach them to pick themselves up ( really important in team sports)

These couple of points keep kids mentally active and avoids mental burn out.”

Emmanuel – Soccer – Manassas – 5 years

“…coaches have the obligation of duty of care to the team at large. Conceive innovative ideas in building a stronger team spirit for great performance in creating a better atmosphere which is free and conducive for training and play. Determine short term and long term goals and ensure it’s implementation evaluation and monitoring. Ensure a close follow up for everyone and encourage those that do not meet up to the task with soft words. Promote effective and friendly collaboration among teammates and the coaches.”

Nick – soccer – Ajax – 8 years

“I did experience burn out when I was younger, and it actually led to me leaving the sport for 2 years. So thought this rejuvenated me, it’s a path I try to get my players to avoid. As a coach, I have seen this as well and I’ve tried to bring something different each year so that things never feel like a job, and there’s a good balance so as not to overload the kids with technical information and “work”.”

Raj – Judo – Ottawa – 10 years

“‘Burnout’ in judo can happen at any time, to anyone. It can happen to elite competitors and recreational players alike. In judo, however, the underlying focus is not on competition, but on using the sport to build better citizens, and encourage players to seek self-perfection. Judo’s founder, Jigoro Kano, was deeply suspicious of medal-chasing and preferred instead for judo to be viewed as a lifelong passion. Knowing this, how can we discuss the question at hand? When a judoka experiences mental, physical, or spiritual fatigue, we encourage them to take as long as they need in order to return to judo when they are ready. By focusing on long-term participation rather than short-term performance, we de-emphasize the idea that sports participation takes priority over human emotion. In judo, competition is available to age ranges of 5 to 80+, so there is no fear that the ability to compete will vanish.

This said the danger to elite competitors is that their self-life is rather short. This is our most vulnerable category. In any event, when we stress that judo is for life, and not just for today or tomorrow, and we emphasize the underlying philosophy of judo as a way to perfect the human condition, we lengthen the time horizon in which our athletes conceptualize participation in judo. In other words, when we think about judo as a lifelong sport, rather than a short-term competitive undertaking, we try to minimize the likelihood of burnout. I hope this insight into our coaching philosophy helps other coaches work with their athletes to use long-term athlete development (LTAD) as a tool to combat burnout. The world of sports benefits when people stay active and happy in their chosen sport.”

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Home > Flowing Through Stress

Flowing Through Stress


Some thoughts from the Pursuit of Excellence, Fifth Edition by Terry Orlick

Something is stressful only if you view it as stressful, accept it as stressful, and experience it as stressful. […] The best way to avoid feeling stressed in situations that previously resulted in you feeling stressed is to remind yourself that you are not required to be stressed in this situation. […] Focus on slow, relaxed breathing and remind yourself to relax as you breathe out in the lead-up time to your performance, test, game, or competition. Slow, relaxed breathing is always a good thing to focus on to relax or turn down the intensity in potentially stressful circumstances or contexts.

Changing channels is another effective way to reduce stress or regain control quickly on-site in performance contexts or other potentially stressful situations. Think of it as changing channels on your TV. If you are on a mental channel you don’t like or don’t want to be on at this time, a channel that is not helping you, simply press your thumb hard against your first or second finger and change channels mentally. As you press your thumb hard against your finger, think to yourself change channels, change channels from stressed to relaxed, from negative to positive, from distracted to fully connected. By choosing to make positive shifts in your focus, you can enhance your positive perspective; make your focus stronger, better, more consistent, or more complete; eliminate doubts or fears, and relax your breathing. […]

You can reduce unnecessary stress in your life by setting realistic performance goals, focusing fully on executing your task, and knowing in your heart and soul that you remain a good and valued person regardless of your performance outcome in any context on any given day. […]

Deciding to be positive and fully focused before you enter your performance context will help you make the positive changes you are seeking. […]

What are you saying to yourself right now about your capacity to improve your focus and make the positive changes you need to make to consistently perform to your capacity? This is a good place to start establishing and nurturing a powerful, positive, fully connected focus. Decide right now to move forward each day with a powerful, positive, and fully connected focus.

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

What techniques do you use with your teams and athletes to help them cope with the stress of competition and performance?

How do you help them focus on the task at hand instead of getting overwhelmed?

Share your tips and best practices!

Darryl Fitzgerald – Lawn Bowls – Waterloo – 7 years

“For my players, we often break an event or competition down into smaller parts – sets, games and/or days to view each as a small pocket of performance in a grander scheme. We try not to focus on the podium or the ultimate end goal as that can be the overwhelming part of the whole experience. If you play a bad game or have a bad day, we can handle it on a smaller scale and then move to the next one, if you have a great game or day we can look at what got that result and try to carry it over to the next one. If you keep looking at the big picture and see your name move up and down the standings, it can really play with your mental state and emotions. Focus on today and we will deal with tomorrow when it comes. Eventually, all the good and bad results will cumulate to the end goal, but we don’t need to focus on that lofty end goal all the time. It keeps things at a level and a size that is easy to handle and work with and often creates less stress and anxiety than looking at a whole week or month of competition.”

Deanna – Cross Country, Basketball – Brampton, Peel – 10 years

“…I am a big believer in mindfulness and visualization before a big event. Before a big game or race, I have my athletes place a finger on the finger, close their eyes and breathe 5 long, deep breaths. Once they are relaxed, I lead them through a visualization of their game or race, asking them to picture themselves at different points of the event. I keep everything positive and do it with them. It is amazing how much more relaxed they are when they start.”

Rebecca Brown – Equestrian – Cobourg – 30+ years

“…Over the years of preparing students for the show ring experience, I have learned many techniques. One of the best is breathing and visualization. Recently, like a Harmony Horsemanship Instructor Level 2 and Centered Riding Instructor Level 2, I incorporate ensuring not only the rider is relaxed but that the calm connection between horse and rider is paramount. If the bond is strong and the trust is there, confidence will follow.”

Brenda Lanois – Trampoline and Tumbling, Artistic Gymnastics – Saskatoon – 30ish years

“…We use a lot of visualization and breathing and we are constantly taking routines apart and working trouble sections. During training, when things are not going so well, the kids will sit with their eyes closed and visualize what they want their routine to look like. Then they go to the trampoline or double – mini and (hopefully) perform what they saw. If there is a section causing them issues we pull a 3 or 4 skill portion and work it until they are comfortable with it. During a competition they do the group warm-up, then have a good look at the equipment they will be bouncing and tumbling on and, and visualize themselves performing their routines. Sometimes I still get nervous for them but I try never to let them see that.”

David Willie Oduro  – Basketball – Toronto – 5 years

“…Make my players play dodgeball to take the stress off their mind and have some fun by getting away from basketball for a couple of minutes.”

Jen Powles – Basketball, Tennis – Cobourg – 30 years

“…Stress is heightened by not being able to be able to predict what’s going to happen in a situation or have control of a situation. As a coach, I try to replicate as much as possible what my athletes are going to experience in a game. This way they understand what their choices are in a variety of situations in advance of a competition. The drills they do are presented in a context (eg. it’s the last two minutes of the game and the have to preserve a lead or they’re losing by a few points, using a shot clock, bringing in spectators), so they get more comfortable with the stress associated with these situations. I also try to figure out which of my athletes love the stress of performing and those who aren’t ready for it yet. Not everyone is going to be at the same place mentally at the same time. Communication is key!”

Pierre Laframboise – Gymnastics – Kingston

“…I would also recommend applying the ‘Dare’ technique as explained by greater and author Barry McDonagh. You can give an athlete this as yet another tool to diffuse the pre-performance feelings recognizing anxious feelings as normal, accept them, then run toward them by allowing an embracing the nervous energy that the body is preparing for flight or action as opposed to being frightened. That a certain amount of nervousness for a moment causes the body to produce more cortisol and adrenaline, readying the muscles for action, then use this energy to engage. “

Sean Douglas – Basketball – Brampton, Peel Region – 8 years

“…I constantly remind my players that it’s a long season and 1 win or loss will not make or break the season. I also help them to alleviate the stress of performance by stressing 100% effort when production is lacking on any given day. If you’re not scoring points you can do other things to help your team succeed.”

Gillian Ross Erasmi – Equestrian – Burlington – 28 years

“…As we all know a great deal of the stress we put on ourselves (as coaches/athletes/people) is due to uncertainty and the desire to do well. In equestrian sport, your partner or “teammate” is a 1200 lb animal with his/her own ideas and emotions. I have riders work through a system of visualization in practice where they think what they want, feel what they need to do and what the horse should feel like in an ideal situation then put it into action or “ride it”. Whether test on the flat or over fences it is important to know what could go wrong and how to work with that and make corrections as we go. We work through this in practice also. Pre-competition visualization includes the “perfect” ride but it also includes possible areas of difficulty and the adjustments the rider can make to get back on track quickly. This works well in our sport as it gives the rider confidence that they can handle it when things aren’t perfect.”

Christina – Swimming – Hamilton – 5 years

“…I get my athletes to practise yoga and mediation. It calms the mind and allows you to think clearly of what is ahead and I’ve noticed that it decreases them getting overwhelmed with the stress of competition”

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Home > Focus and Injury Prevention

Focus and Injury Prevention


Some thoughts from Hunter Visser, co-founder of HeadStartPro Performance Training

How does focus influence injury prevention?

Have you ever wondered how an athlete could get injured doing something they’ve done “a thousand times?” Of course, some injuries are the result of poor technique, lack of experience, other players, and faulty equipment, but what about the injuries that occur when an athlete knows what they are doing?

When we begin learning a new sport, activity or task, our awareness is generally high, especially if there is risk involved. For instance, think about your first time driving. Where were your hands? They were probably gripped tightly around the steering wheel. Where was your mind? You were probably excited, nervous, maybe even a bit scared. One thing’s for sure; you probably weren’t focused on anything other than driving. How long did it take before you became complacent and your mind began to wonder? A month? A week?

Learning to jump, kick, shoot, throw, or catch without thinking is essential for any athlete. The repetition builds muscle memory and allows athletes to perform fluidly. However, as an athlete improves their technical skills, they also become more complacent. The problem is when an athlete becomes complacent their focus is compromised, exposing them to a much higher risk of injury. Fortunately, there are strategies athletes can use to combat complacency.

Looking at Others to Fight Complacency

It is easier to recognize complacency in other people than it is to recognize it in ourselves. By learning to look for complacency in others, we can use their mental state (complacency) as a trigger to bring our minds back to the moment. When adopted in a team setting, athletes and coaches can use this technique to look out for each other by giving teammates verbal cues like “mind on task” when they see their teammate getting complacent. With practice, this ‘look at others’ technique can help athletes improve focus, control the moment, and fight complacency.

Working on Habits to Compensate for Complacency

When the mind goes off task, our eyes work as our final defence against injury. However, most of us haven’t put much conscious effort into our visual habits since we were told as children to “look both ways before crossing the street.” When an athlete works on the habit of moving their eyes first before they move, it improves their chances of getting a reflex action. Working on visual habits (like moving your eyes first before moving) will help athletes compensate for complacency by keeping them visually aware and physically responsive even if their mind has drifted off.

Motivating Athletes to Prevent Injuries

Ironically, most people are not overly motivated to improve their personal safety skills unless they have recently been injured. If we hope to help our athletes prevent complacent injuries we need to find a way to motivate them. As you can probably imagine, complacency is not just a safety issue; it is also the root cause of most major performance errors (own goal, passing to the wrong player, celebrating too early, etc.). Fortunately, we can motivate athletes to improve their focus to enhance performance and in turn, prevent costly injuries.

Author: Hunter Visser, co-founder of HeadStartPro Performance Training

For more information and training visit HeadStartPro Performance Training. Achieve Peak Performance More Reliably. 

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Coach Responses

How do you help prevent your athletes from becoming complacent?

What strategies are you using to motivate your athletes to enhance focus and prevent injuries?

Share your tips and best practices!

Al Samsa – Basketball – Halton – 30+ years

“…Complacency can be combated. Regular individual and team competitions help spice things up. Most athletes hate losing! In games following a meaningful schedule with teams of similar ilk will keep the competitive juices flowing.

Re preventing injuries, this is much tougher. We recently had our star player connect with another player’s knee while diving for a loose ball. There were only 20 seconds left in the game! It resulted in her second concussion of the year, though mild. I can’t think of a way that could have been prevented. Players are taught to go after loose balls and gamers do. In a subsequent fun scrimmage with another team, I instructed our players to play hard but not do anything like dive for loose balls. Understanding the situation at the moment helps identify the level of engagement.”

Paul Yanuziello – Karate – Markham – 10 years

“…warm up exercises with verbal cues to aid in correct movements

  • visualization when doing basic techniques, always see the opponent
  • reinforcement of mindfulness techniques
  • mind moves body
  • space awareness – avoidance techniques”

Joe Benedetti – Fastpitch-Softball Semi-retired  – Hamilton – 25+ years

“I am going to take a different approach to this question. From time to time coaches find themselves coaching an athlete on their team who is “over-aggressive” on the field of play. This athlete causes injuries to your opponents. Most of the time the referees do not penalize your player – making the judgement that there was no ill-intent or malicious nature to the play. But YOU know, and you find yourself saying ” Jill got another one”. Some coaches choose not to make an intervention in these cases – as they know this athlete “keeps the other team on their guard” and gives your team a competitive advantage. I would hope that we as coaches agree that we have to have a talk with our athletes to help them understand they are crossing the line. Really it is in their best interest as well, because eventually, this type of behaviour leads to suspensions and often an injury to themselves. Those who live by the sword, die by the sword as the saying goes”

Barry Grubman  – Tennis  – Toronto – 18 years

“We always remind our athletes that being healthy is more important than the correct technique. We are always warming up and cooling down before and after practice. Once a week we work on the basic techniques for 30 minutes so athletes are less likely of being complacent on the court. We simulate gameplay during these drills so athletes have fun at the same time. Since they are competitive players, they think they know the basics but you can always improve on these techniques. This will intern keep their mind on a task which will keep them focused and keep them on the court!”

Pierre Laframboise – Gymnastics – Kingston – 45 years

“I am back coaching after being off for 1 1/2 years due to illness. Part of my recovery was adding a light cardio warm-up, stretching and yoga back into my fitness regime. I remind my self of this when coaching athletes. Consistently having these activities between, before and after a practice, game or competition helps to reduce the risk of injury. There is also a psychological benefit in terms of preparing the mind for movement, focus, alertness, giving the athlete confidence, and clarity of thought, allowing the athlete to move purposefully and mindfully.”

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Home > Tryouts



Some thoughts from the Positive Coaching Alliance:

The typical local youth sports organization, such as a Little League Baseball or Softball charter, holds tryouts to help determine which players join which “house league” team. With some variations based on local traditions, league rules, and how many players are available to assign to teams, here are guidelines for conducting tryouts.

1. Consider the best way to refer to “tryouts.” Recognize that especially at younger ages, players may be nervous. Even the word “tryout” has overtones that may strike fear in the heart of a young athlete. Some leagues instead conduct a “skills assessment.” After all, if every player will be able to join one team or another, and nobody will be cut, why not ease fears?

2. Introduce the tryout procedures to all players and parents assembled at once. It will help put everyone’s mind at ease to know that league management is organized and has put forethought into the tryout process. Having everyone hear the same message reduces potential concerns of favouritism or other issues that can creep into the eventual player draft or other methods of assigning players to teams. While introducing the tryout procedure, use welcoming, encouraging language that helps relax players, so they can perform their best. For example, “Thank you all for turning out for Anytown Sports. I can see that we have a lot of eager young athletes, who are ready to perform their best and have a lot of fun. Our coaches and other volunteers are here to help, so don’t be shy about asking any questions along the way.”

3. Do your best to be perceived as treating the players equally. This might mean giving all of the players nametags (maybe even one for their front and one for their back!). Then do your best to refer to all players by name (not just the ones you know already). Some people prefer to have the players wear numbers during the tryouts, and if you go this route, make sure to refer to all of the players by their numbers, as players and parents will certainly notice if you are referring to some of the athletes by name (and others by number). Finally, do your best to have each athlete get about the same number of repetitions/playing time during the tryout.

4. Make the tryout procedure as simple as possible. While players and parents are still assembled, point to various stations where players’ skills will be assessed. Each station should be clearly labelled with numbered signs or colour-coding. So, the assembly leader might say: “If you are in the A group, start at station A. Coach John will demonstrate the skill we want to see, and when all of Group A is finished, Coach John will direct you to station B.”

5. Clearly explain the process that occurs at each station. Again, doing all you can to relax players, explain exactly what you want them to do. Give specific instruction in fundamentals of the skill you want to see demonstrated, and then explain how you want them to get back in line or move off to the side after completing their turn. It helps to run a demonstration using players of about the same age (maybe one year older) who already are familiar with how that station runs.

6. Reassemble to explain what’s next. When all players have completed all stations, reassemble players and parents, thank them again for participating, congratulate the players on their efforts, and let them all know what to expect next, such as a web site posting or phone call telling them of their team assignment.

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Coach Responses

How do you handle tryouts?

What are some best practices, tips and tricks you use to evaluate skills?

How do you make it comfortable for athletes and families through the stress of the tryouts?

Share your tips and best practices!

Coach – Swimming – Waterloo – 20 Years

“…Firstly, instead of specifying a day/time/place work with a softer approach, such as visiting the athlete on their playing field, or setting up multiple open houses, or have camps during the season that is open for anyone to sign up…Never make tryouts a do or die situation…

Secondly, always give the athletes the opportunity to come out for future sessions to engage with the team and build their skill set…

Thirdly, give outside opportunities to those athletes who do tryout; just because that athlete may not fit into your specific team this year, does not mean you cannot liaise with other clubs…

Fourthly, always look for the good. Try to focus on the good things that the athlete is doing and avoid dwelling on the negatives…”

Coach Kelly – Basketball – Ottawa – 10 Years

“…During a tryout I am often watching the players to see how they accept instruction and correction. I look to see how they appear to be handling the pressure of the tryout against the other more talented players…Most of all, when I work with coaches, they often ask me to engage particular athletes they are considering in a short conversation, where I question them about situations in their past that were challenging. This gives me a sense of how much more (or less) I will need to work with them during the season on how to turn adversity into challenging FUN…”

Coach Ray – Hockey – Mississauga – 6 Years

“…I always start out by playing a game, to break the ice…I like to ensure the athletes are in a more relaxed setting and I try to provide one on one feedback…I sit down with each athlete about what we are looking for, provide encouragement and feedback, and I ask questions to gain their perspective…”

Coach Jocelyn – Soccer – Oakville – 8 Years

“…I always sit down with the athlete and explain what it is that I am looking for. I let them know that making the team isn’t a sign of failure but an area of further development and improvement…Instead of using the word tryout, I call it a showcase, so they can show me what they are able to do. A showcase focuses more on themselves and what they can carry out as opposed to comparing themselves to others…”

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Home > Coaches and Concussion

Coaches and Concussion


Some thoughts from the Coaches Association of Canada

From a tackle to a trip, concussions can occur in any sport and sustained in a variety of different ways. Fortunately, with research and education coaches have more tools than ever before to address this critical issue in sport.  We know the important role you play as a coach, dealing with the safety and well-being of your athletes every day.

Important roles a coach can play when it comes to concussion in sport:

Education:  Concussion in sport is a complex issue, but there are key facts that everyone involved in sport should be knowledgeable of including the athletes, parents, and coaching staff.  Pre-season meetings that outline and inform individuals about concussions and how they will be addressed if they occur should be planned. The player code of conduct can also be used to confirm each athlete understands the issue.

Recognition:  Coaches are at every training session and competition and are often the individuals that will need to first recognize that an athlete has a concussion. There are several visible clues, signs, symptoms and/or errors in memory questions that can present. Coaches should know these and/or utilize a concussion recognition tool.

Management: Return to Learn and Return to Play guidelines exist for athletes that have suffered a concussion. Return to sport and activity should only occur after an athlete has completed the 6-step approach.  Coaches must often monitor and ensure athletes progress through the steps appropriately.

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Coach Responses

Have you dealt with a concussion(s) with your athlete(s)?

What have you done to educate, recognize and manage concussions as a coach? 

Share your tips and best practices!

Coach Brenda E. Robson – Equestrian – Lowbanks – 24 Years

“…As an equestrian coach I am using the information from the Making Head Way eLearning course as part of my daily activity, especially educating parents and riders. One incident at a local fair horse show, when a rider fell and left the scene with friends, only to finally seek assistance from EMS made the need for the 6-steps a top priority for the board of directors and show crew members. I am planning an educational evening within my circle of influence at the fair to better handle suspected cases of concussion and follow up procedures. I am so glad to have taken the mandatory* course!”

*Mandatory for Ontario Equestrian Federation Certified Coaches

Coach Isabelle W. – Ice Hockey – Ottawa – 10 years

“…As a coach of a high risk sport for concussion, it still surprises me how often the Return to Play guidelines are met with resistance from parents and players when a concussion is suspected. The issue is addressed in the pre-season meeting, but when a concussion happens it very often becomes a re-education process with that particular player/parent. Some strategies I use when players/parents are trying to push to return to play early include: resending the RTP protocol to the parent/player along with individualized steps that incorporates our upcoming schedule (games they will not be allowed to dress/play in, practice intensity, etc.); always communicating in tandem with my Head Trainer so no one feels it is a unilateral decision; and finally I use the support of other teams/coaches in my association to get additional practice sessions to help progress players through the steps when appropriate. Every time I have to sit a player due to a concussion it is tough, but keeping the bigger picture in mind (my athlete’s long term health) always helps strengthen my resolve.”

Coach Joe Benedetti – Softball – Hamilton

“My policy is very simple – “When in doubt, sit them out”

Whenever there is even a possible injury to the head, neck, or back – we must err on the side of caution. I have read too many stories where athletes have returned to play and sadly it has effected their career in the short and long term. Surely, after Sidney Crosby sat out for 14 months, we have all learned the lesson. He suffered a concussion and played another game a few days later.”

Coach Ann Phillips – Volleyball – Barrie – 2 Years

“…As a coach, I printed the concussion guidelines and included them in my first aid kit. I reviewed them with my Assistant Coaches. I also ensure that I have the full address of every location where we are playing. When one of my players experienced a concussion last year, I was able to quickly give EMS the exact school address.

While the 6 step approach is a very helpful tool, I would also add that it is critical that athlete’s seek the appropriate level of care based on the symptoms they are exhibiting. If there are lingering symptoms or post-concussion symptoms, athletes should seek out specialized concussion clinics. These clinics have Sports Med doctors that specialize in concussions and a team based approach with therapists that will help the player fully recover. Letting an athlete return to sport prematurely is the worst thing that you can as a coach. When my eldest suffered her 3rd concussion and my son his 4th, they took almost 5 months to be fully medically cleared. Don’t be afraid as a coach to recommend these types of clinics to your parents and speak up about concussions and their impact! Athletes that have had previous concussion history are significantly more likely to sustain more and have more lasting effects, especially when they are in a vulnerable recovery stage. Share your knowledge with your athletes, your assistants, your clubs and your parents and understand that there is no set recovery time – each athlete is different!”

Coach Jesse – Parasport – Toronto – 1 Year

“Knowing what I know now, as a former athlete suffering with daily symptoms of Long-Term Post-Concussion Syndrome, my best piece of advice is to remember what is at stake.

We can no longer have a “shake it off” culture, even when a championship or big win is on the line. A young athlete who can only think about getting back in the game cannot be expected to make the best decision for themselves in the moment. YOU are the adult and it is your duty to do what you can to protect them from harm.  If you even suspect one of your athletes has sustained a concussion, follow the Return to Play guidelines – your athlete will thank you for it down the road.”

CAO dedicates this issue of Coach2Coach in Support of Rowan’s Law http://rowanslaw.ca/

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Home > Competition 4: Focus

Competition 4: Focus

Coach Responses

What tips do you share with your athletes for maintaining Focus during competition?

Share your tips and best practices!

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Coach   Dave Burrows  – Lawn Bowling – Burlington – 40+ Years

“In Lawn Bowls, the focus is the number 1 factor for success. Bowls is not a sport that espouses higher, further, faster or stronger. However, it requires the concentration of a chess player, the flexibility of a gymnast, the “feel” of a table tennis player, and the endurance of a marathon runner. Consequently, I tell my athletes to sleep and eat well and strive to clear their heads of anything outside of delivering a smooth bowl to an exact spot.

Do not think of future or past successes or failures. Do not under or overestimate your opponent(s). Focus on this bowl, the one in your hand. After the bowl is delivered, remember that you are only as good as your next bowl! Above all, strive to be in a good frame of mind, eager to congratulate your opponent for their good shots. Be exceptionally kind to yourself. Concentrate fully on each bowl, take your time, and give it your all.

Win or lose, when you do all this, you will feel great about the sport, the effort, and yourself.”

Coach  James Geraghty  – Soccer – Toronto – 10 Years

“Focus on minute details during the game, eg. if their position is left midfield and not in possession, am I close enough to my left full-back, am I close to the left-center midfielder. Constant surveying of the field and positioning allows my players’ minds to stay activated and faster info processing when possession is won and they have a better idea of where teammates are and focus on opponents subsequently.”

Coach  Josh Nichol  – Volleyball – Toronto – 10 Years

“For our big competitions like Nationals and Ontario Championships, Volleyball Canada and the Ontario Volleyball Association do a great job showcasing our sport. Larger venues are used to allow for several age groups to compete at one time with vendors and scouts all attending the event.

For our athletes to maintain focus and peak performance we try to limit as many distractions as we can while we are competing. Our big competitions are 3 days long with either a morning wave or afternoon wave schedule. In our competition wave, we challenge ourselves to respect the team and always be focusing on the task and goals we set as a team before the event. One of the best ways we have found to do this is to establish a routine with the athletes, coaches and parents. We always meet in a change room before and after every match. Here we could discuss simple things like scheduling, team meals, rest, logistics etc and discuss more specific things like tactics for our next match or create time for visualization or focused breathing to help regain focus. I believe having a controlled space to relax and regain our focus really helped our athletes manage their emotions and expectations for the event while really focusing on what is in their control. After our matches and final meeting were done for the day the athletes then had free time before our departure time to go watch friends play, go shopping, walk around the venue etc. and really feel a part of the event. It’s important to have a balance during the larger events as long as the athletes can identify why we are here and when its time to compete.

For younger athletes it can be easy to give in to social or mental distractions, the challenge is having them identify when they are being pulled away from our individual and team goals and regain their focus back the competition.”

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Home > Competition 3: Recovery

Competition 3: Recovery

Coach Responses

How do you promote recovery and prevent injury/over-exertion in your athletes during competition?

Share your tips and best practices!

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Coach Trinette Goarley – Figure Skating – Barrie

“It is important to have wellness check-ups and physical assessments for athletes even when there aren’t injuries. We take our car in for an oil change and annual maintenance, our athletes need to do the same. It’s also so important that athletes stay well balanced and partake in other activities to keep balance.”

Coach Faiz Ahmed – Basketball – Markham

“I believe that injury reduction is largely about how we prepare our athletes to minimize risk. This is both in the long term, through injury reduction work and proper training and periodization, but also in the short term, through proper hydration, nutrition and sleep.

I like to leave as little to chance as possible. In the past, I had let warm-up and cool down be something the athletes do on their own. Now I engage and empower my players but stay actively involved so that they approach it with the same focus that they have for their sport. The goal of my warm-up is just that, to warm them up. Afterwards, I structure my cool-down as a reverse warm-up.

Finally, it is important that I know my athletes. Know who are the tough ones that will try to push past an injury. Know their medical history and conditions. Know who is trained and who is out of shape. With this information, I can look for signs of injury occurrence and risk. Then because I care for my athletes as people, not players, I am able to make decisions that are best for them.”

Coach Pierre Laframboise – Gymnastics and Trampoline – Kingston – 42 years

“Work as a team, with doctors, therapists, and for minors parents or guardians and last but not least the athlete needs to have a voice adult or minor. Alternate heat and ice, rest, use good quality therapeutic support devices, modify training regimens, equipment and apparatus. Review the recovery plan often with all stakeholders as the athlete’s condition improve or deteriorates. Be mindful of other injuries or strains that could result from the athlete trying to compensate for the injury. This can be seen when an athlete has pain in a healthy part of their body or is favouring an area that is not part of the original injury.

Athletes will not always tell you if they are hurting, but if you observe them carefully you can see differences in their gait when walking running or performing a move in their sport or even at rest during non-sport activities.”

Coach. Amanda Miles – Basketball – Markham – 10+ years

“During the competitive season and at tournaments, I stress hydration and rest. I make sure that my athletes are not out swimming at hotels or running around theme parks between games. During the season I get them to try to balance their basketball with their school and life so they are not overworking their muscles. Now I am working with grade 9 girls and the balance is difficult to get but I monitor them as well when they come into practice I look at their energy levels and attitudes where they are at and alter my practices accordingly as well so I don’t overwork them.”

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Home > Competition 2: Managing Stress

Competition 2: Managing Stress

Coach Responses

During the competition, how do you help your athletes manage stress and expectations?

Share your tips and best practices!

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Coach Norma Perez – Swimming – Ottawa

“First I asked them which events they would like to participate, so they do not feel extra stress swimming events they do not like to.

Second, we keep together during the whole meet, so all swimmers can cheer other team members while they are swimming.

Third, I always remind them to enjoy their event, that they are well prepared and now its time to enjoy. It is great to see their faces after they swim, they feel so proud of them, they did it!”

Coach Guy Tapah – Soccer – Ontario

“Many of my athletes that compete are ones that are physically and mentally prepared. During practices, we go over the physical but also the mental side to Soccer.

During competition there isn’t that much time to get down on yourself. So as a coach at the beginning of the season, we always have a bonding event to bring the players together. This will create an atmosphere of togetherness around the club, and during a competition, if one of the players is down on themselves their teammates will comfort them.

You must create this atmosphere around your team and club that winning certainly isn’t everything. If a team can come together and become best friends from the beginning of the season to the end, it will outweigh the result.”

Coach Barry Grubman – Tennis – Toronto – 15 years

“I try to work with my athletes in practice to manage their stress. We do many game-like situations so my athletes will feel comfortable when they are in a stressful situation. Another technique I use as a coach is that I tell my athletes to never look at the draw beforehand. Tennis is a sport where it is just you on the court against your opponent. By not knowing who you are going to be playing in the 1st round or even the finals, allows for my player’s to focus on their game before the tournament and not their opponents.

Finally, I sit down with my athletes every 6 months or so, and we write down a list of their goals and expectations. This is so that we have physical evidence of what the athlete would like to achieve in the next 6 months. Then we can go back to these expectations and review them after the 6 months have passed.”

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Home > Competition 1: Pre-competition Prep

Competition 1: Pre-competition Prep

Coach Responses

Pre Competition prep, what do you do to prepare in the week leading up to a competition?

Share your tips and best practices!

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Coach  Amanda Miles – Basketball – Markham

“Leading up to competition I do 3 things: The first is review what they already know, focus on the offence and defense and get in some repetition to try to build that muscle memory (I do not teach them new things in the week before a competition).

The second thing I do (usually the practice before the competition) is have fun. Work on fundamentals through games that they played as kids, ball tag, shooting competitions. Things to decrease the stress from the players and remind them why they play basketball.

The third is have them set a goal for that competition. Something attainable that will allow them to measure their progress. I make sure they create goals that are more challenging that during the last competition to push themselves.”

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

“I would do a lot of simulations of the competition and make it as real as possible for the swimmers. Exhibitions or training’s with the suits and make-up on. I would also do a team building exercise of trust to strengthen the swimmers connection to each other.”

Coach  Joe Benedetti – Softball – Hamilton

“A week before the competition, have a somewhat formal meeting to take a few minutes to remind your athletes of the importance of the upcoming event in your competition calendar. Provide as detailed a schedule and itinerary to help the athletes to start to visualize and mentally prepare how they will travel, compete and rest appropriately.

The 2 or 3 training sessions before the event should simulate, as closely as possible the skills and strategies the athletes will perform. Finally, anything can happen at a competition, and it usually does, so coaches should have a “no surprises” attitude in order to help the athletes manage and deal with any distractions that may adversely affect their performance.

A good policy is: “No Complaints – No Excuses”, so coaches should prepare and plan in as much detail as possible in order to do their job, that is to prepare their athletes to succeed.

Lastly, it is not always ALL about the competition, if there is time in between events, maybe the team, or individuals can plan a short trip, as a distraction and to take in some of the local sites…”

Coach Bruce Parker – Australian Football – Toronto – 10 Years

“Discuss the previous match, cover what didn’t work, no more than 3 points and how we can improve on it. Highlight 3 positives. Structure the practices to work on the 3 points needing work as discussed previously.”

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