Team Building on the Curling Sheet

In Mental Training, Sports by Coach Brock

With the last bonspiel of the curling season upon us, I wanted to discuss the evolution and improvement of Team Gushue over the past two seasons. While they ultimately fell short of their two major goals in 2018 – representing Canada at the Winter Olympics and repeating as World Champions – Brad Gushue’s rink achieved a level of consistency that only one other team (Niklas Edin) can match at the moment. Taking the next step to become two-time Canadian champions and frequent winners on the professional circuit required the Newfoundland curlers to address several areas of improvement off the ice. …

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Mental Training with Virtue & Moir

In Mental Training, Sports by Coach Brock

As coaches, we become myopic, scrutinizing every last detail of our own sport and ignoring, dismissing or perhaps even ridiculing other disciplines. On the surface, the attitude seems rooted in rationality. After all, how can a sport decided by judges be comparable to one which determines the winner based on points scored in a given time? Yet we should take a look around and see what is going on in the neighbouring pitch, rink or dojang. Improvement knows no boundaries. Firstly, we wouldn’t be coaches if we did not seek to fuse the objective with the subjective. Secondly, some of …

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Reduce Mental Errors

In Mental Training by Coach Brock

In the bottom of the fourth inning, Josh Donaldson hits a fly ball to Anthony Gose in right-centre field. Gose catches the ball but fogets the number of outs and does not throw the ball back to the infield promptly. Ryan Goins tags and scores from second base. The mental error provided the Blue Jays with an extra run and demonstrated how players, teammates and coaches can work together to stay focused. Players: Goins knows that he will tag up on a fly ball and notices correctly that the ball will not go over Gose’s head so he returns to …

Motivational Rocks

In Mental Training by Coach Brock

Toronto’s two main coaches appear to be using the same motivational playbook lately.  Last year, Dwane Casey arranged for a 1,300 pound boulder to be placed in the Raptors dressing room, in order to reinforce the team’s “Pound the Rock” motto. During off-season renovations, Randy Carlyle decided to install a slab of limestone, which weighs over five thousand pounds, to demonstrate that the organization is “Rock Solid.” Although Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment often tolerates the status quo, they were not apparently not satisfied with the Thornhill quarry that provided last year’s stone, purchasing the from a location in Wiarton …

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

In Mental Training by Coach Brock

Coaching young players, it is important to look on the bright side of things. Focus on what might happen in the future, rather than what didn’t happen or what went wrong. Emphasize what the team can start doing now do improve later, not what they can’t do or must do. Maintaining the balance between a positive team culture and an expectation of high standards tests a coach’s ability but it can pay dividends down the road. The regular season is not a final exam but a homework assignment to prepare for the end of the year. As long as the …

Why Are You Here?

In Mental Training by Coach Brock

Players frequently try out for teams, working as hard as they can to make a school team or a regional select squad. What is the point of this exercise? Certainly, youth are enabled to meet their fitness, belonging, and esteem needs. Some might even achieve their self-actualization goals. To satisfy all of these requirements, athletes must possess a deeper motivation. Everyone must ask themselves: what do I want for myself today, this week, and this month? What do I want for myself in the long-term? Once that vision is established, one should ask themselves how they will get there. What …

Stream of Consciousness, Part VII

In Mental Training by Coach Brock

Maintaining Focus: On Wednesday night, Roy Halladay demonstrated the elite focus (and pitching ability) which has made him one of the top pitchers in baseball. Many times, an athlete who has experienced a lengthy career before reaching the postseason makes a mountain out of a molehill and becomes overwhelmed by the occasion. The solution for most athletes is to treat the playoff game like any other but it appears that Halladay was able to take eleven years of frustration and convert it into positive energy. Halladay’s focus was even more intense and as a result, he was able to pitch …

Sisyphus and Starbucks

In Mental Training by Coach Brock

According to a Starbucks’ cup that I read recently (The Way I See It #76): “The irony of commitment is that it’s deeply liberating — in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around a rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life.” On the subject of the Greek myth of Sisyphus, Albert Camus wrote: “Je laisse Sisyphe au bas de la montagne! On retrouve toujours son fardeau. Mais Sisyphe enseigne la fidélité …

What I Hope to Learn this Summer, Part III

In Mental Training by Coach Brock

The new Roger Federer – the one who makes mistakes, occasionally fails, and realizes his limitations – is much more interesting than the old one. Last year’s Wimbledon between Federer and Nadal featured superior tennis but this year’s match between Federer and Andy Roddick was equally as tense. To complete the French Open-Wimbledon double, Federer needed to honestly re-evaluate his game in order to improve it. At Roland Garros, his improved ability to slide on the baseline was paired with a new drop shot; at the All England Club he was forced to serve impeccably and persevere as his best …

What I Hope to Learn this Summer, Part I

In Mental Training by Coach Brock

I hope to improve my ability to deal with people and egos, to better motivate student-athletes and demonstrate more empathic leadership. I recently read Competitive Fire by Michael Clarkson and learnt many facts that I hope to apply in the coming year. We often discuss how it seems that teenagers have a “fight or flight” mentality but there is a scientific basis to the argument. Under pressure, the brain releases hormones, such as adrenaline or noradrenaline, that can cause aggressiveness, increase feelings of fear, and inspire the body to perform faster, higher, or stronger. All people, including athletes, need to …

Fate Helps Those Who Help Themselves

In Mental Training by Coach Brock

Smokey the Bear persistently preached that “only you can prevent forest fires.” He understood that he could preach until he was blue in the fur about fire safety but he could only succeed if everyone did their part. A coach can make speeches, review game tape, prepare scouting reports, or employ coaching gimmicks but the team can only succeed if every player on the court contributes. After a Toronto High School Senior Boys Basketball championship game, a West Hill player was heard to remark that the game was “easy.” One teammate concurred but another remarked that “wait, we lost.” Some …

Perspective

In Mental Training by Coach Brock

Pressure basketball has succeeded at almost every level (we all remember Rick Pitino’s failed transition to the Association in 1997) for a number of good reasons. Dialing up the intensity increases the sport’s difficulty and certain teams play much better at faster tempos, for starters. Naturally, teams troubled by pressure can always practice. Talent is the single biggest factor for winning games (the reason Pitino’s Celtics floundered was because they did not win the 1997 lotttery) and passing, dribbling, cutting, and other skills can always be improved. Scoring also reverses the pressure by curtailing the opponent’s fast break; scoring is …

Exogenous Events

In Mental Training by Coach Brock

Like all the exogenous events inspire the price of crude to surge, bandits raiding a village and seizing the barley crop should drive the cost of the commodity to new highs. Amid the death and destruction, farmers face financial ruin and decide to take action by hiring a number of samurai to protect them. Showcasing innovative cinematography and a tremendous score, Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai illustrates the significance of trust and teamwork and the importance of brains over brawn. Initially, tensions prevent the ronin and the town’s residents from working together well. Nobody wishes to risk their life to save …

Sport=Art

In Mental Training by Coach Brock

When you play sports, you are the work of art. The show is ongoing; there is always another chance to perform. You can always improve what you have to offer. Play sports for fun but take advantage of the opportunity to set new personal bests. Push yourselves and push your team-mates to get better. Don’t set low expectations; don’t expect to finish last. I was an athletics banquet and “at least we didn’t finish last” was a refrain. Anyone can do better than last. I could take up any sport tomorrow and finish last (or better). If it were my …