Three questions to ask your team heading into championship season

written by Erica Quam

As a coach, getting ready for championship season can be stressful. The pressure is on and the stakes are high. You and your athletes are under a higher amount of stress.

What can you do to keep your team (and yourself) grounded as you strive for peak performance? Here are three questions to ask along with a simple tool for each to give your athletes tangible steps they can take to remain calm, stay positive, and be at their best.

QUESTION ONE: WHO DO YOU WANT TO BECOME AS A RESULT OF THE GOALS YOU HAVE SET?

Whatever your goals are for championship weekend it is valuable to know your why behind those goals. If you value the journey and the lessons you learn as you work towards your goals you will experience a greater sense of fulfillment in the end. 

It's great to have goals. Goals help you identify specific things to work on to improve. Focusing more on character skills and less on results can help reduce stress and give your athletes an internal feeling to work towards vs. an external outcome.

TOOL: Have them choose one word they can focus on that embodies who they will become as a result of their goals. 

QUESTION TWO: HOW CAN YOU KEEP YOUR INNER COACH POSITIVE?

Athletes have a lot of negative self talk going on in their heads - especially when the pressure is on. If things on the team become challenging and difficult, people can react in either a positive way or a negative way. Since you can't control others around you, how can you stay more in control of yourself?

What you say to yourself during these stressful times is significant. Have your athletes practice reframing their negative self talk. Encourage them to choose a message and the tone that will be most helpful for them to hear to perform at their best. That's their 'inner coach'.

TOOL: Have them write down their negative self talk on a piece of paper. Next, have them imagine they are listening to one of their teammates say those things to themselves. On the other side of the paper, write the message and the tone they could tell their teammate to use instead - that is more positive. That's the message and tone they can choose for themselves. 

QUESTION THREE: WHAT WILL YOU DO TO BE A POSITIVE PERSON FOR THE TEAM?

So many times athletes freeze, get stuck, and overwhelmed because of the high stress, pressure, and anxiety associated with peak performance. Help your athletes to broaden their perspective. Instead of focusing on that stressful atmosphere and all the little details of what they have to "get right", help them come up with actionable steps they can take to make a positive impact on the team.

TOOL: Have your athletes choose one character skill they want to work on would help them make a positive contribution to the team. Next, have them write down three specific actions they are willing to take to embody that skill.

Note: It may help to give them a list to choose from: appreciative, trustworthy, resilient, loyal, caring, humble, honest, encouraging, respectful, unselfish, patient, or supportive. If they think of other skills they can add those to the list.

There are a lot of outside factors that determine how a team performs during championship weekends. Help your athletes 'control the control-ables' and have tools they can tap into to be at their best.

What do you do with your team when the pressure is on? Share it in the comments below.