Gregg Swanson is a mental strength coach helping athletes achieve peak performance. He is the creator of the Mental Strength Coach Certification. Gregg’s formal training as a Certified Mental Strength Coach is from the International Coach Academy. He is also certified from NESTA (The National Exercise & Sports Trainers Association) as a Mental Skills Coach and Life Strategies Coach. You can request a complimentary e-book “When is Mental Strength Coaching Useful” by going to: http://bit.ly/1crzmZ1
How do you define “success?”
First, success is unique for each individual. Second, we cannot be told what our success is.
In sports this can be very difficult, because success is perceived to be all about winning. I would define success as the consistent progress towards a worthwhile goal.
In this definition, success is a journey, not a destination.
In sports this would be the athlete performing their skill, position, technique as best as they possibly can, then figure out how to improve on it.
In sport most athletes look at winning as success, forgetting that it’s their performance that determines the results.
When the athlete achieves peak performers, this is success and the results will take care of themselves.
What are some of the biggest obstacles to achieving real and lasting mental strength?
As funny as this sounds, the biggest obstacle is the individual themselves. Most coaches and athletes have heard about mental strength and mental toughness. They think that just because they’ve heard of it or have read an article about it they know it.
This is delusional and creates a closed mindset. When they mind is closed there is no room for learning.
The next obstacle is the mental strength training is look at as a quick fix. This is so far from reality. Mental strength training, just like physical strength training, takes time and practice. The good thing that it really doesn’t take any additional time.
Mental strength training can and should be included in physical training.
The last big obstacle is that many coaches and athletes think mental strength training is only used when there’s a problem.
You can look at mental strength training as preventive maintenance. Athletes who perform mental strength training have fewer issues, problems and more “success” than athletes who don’t perform mental strength training.
How can the mental strength earned through playing sports translate into the rest of a young adult’s life?
Great question! This is one of the many benefits of mental strength training, it flows into all areas of life.
This is especially important for young adults as they go out into the “real world.” They will face many challenging situations, i.e. new job, getting married, moving, death, setbacks, etc. And it will be the mental strength training that will set them apart from those that don’t have it (mental strength).
Mental strength is not a sport skill, it’s a life skill. It will help the young adult face any life challenge head-on knowing that “this too shall pass” and taking action to ensure the best possible outcome.
Have you noticed that there is a certain age/occurrence after which athletes get started on the path to self-confidence issues? If so, why do you think this is?
We need to first define self-confidence. Many think that self-confidence is knowing you’ll win. This is not the case. Self-confidence is knowing that no matter the situation, you’ll be handle whatever comes along. It’s doesn’t mean you’ll always win.
This is the “programing” that happens at young age by well-meaning coaches and parents. They put so much empathize on winning that if the child doesn’t win their confidence begins to diminish.
I’m not say winning isn’t important, after all that’s why we play the game. What I am saying goes back to the definition of success. When the athlete can make continuous improvements in their performance, their confidence will improve.
This self-directed sense of self-confidence, in my experience, usually happens in the late teens, as the athletes begins to think of life after High School. When they will be surrounded with strangers and facing the unknown.
At this point they will either start mental strength training on their own, or they’ll hope they’ll have “good luck.”
Why do you think some athletes are able to shake off a loss fairly easily while others, even incredibly successful players, can be crippled with doubt?
In my experience it’s mainly the perspective of the athlete. The one who bounces back sees the “loss” as a learning, that it, there is something to be gained from this results, and he/she looks for that learning. Then they begin to put in place a plan for improvement. They don’t take the loss personally.
The athlete who allows the loss to affect him/her in a negative way usually takes the loss personally and sees it as a reflection of how they are as a player and person.
When the athlete can see the loss as simply feedback of the performance, that it’s just a result, they’ll be better able to review the match objectively and find the things they did well (and do more of them) and the things that need enhancement.
Any tips for athletes that get extra-nervous right before stepping on the field?
Funny, this questions coincides with the question “What are some of the biggest obstacles to achieving real and lasting mental strength?
You see, if an athlete hasn’t been practicing their mental strength BEFORE the match, there really is little they can do right before.
This question is similar to asking if an athletes has a flaw in their technique what can they do right before the match to fix it.
Mental strength training is not a short term fix to be used only when something comes up. It’s is a training that needs to be integrated into the athletes training and practice.
Now, having said all that, the one thing an athlete can do is 7-11 breathing. No, this doesn’t mean running to the local convenience store, 7-11 breathing is inhaling to a count of 7 and exhaling to count of 11.
When we exhale we engaged our parasympathetic nervous system which helps us relax. So, the exhale needs to be longer than the inhale. 7-11 is an easy number to remember.
What kind of impact do parents and coaches have a young athlete’s mental strength?
They are the key element in a young athlete’s mindset and mental strength. They are the support structure that can either build up a young athlete’s confidence or tear it down.
Young athlete’s look to their parents and coaches for guidance, direction and approval. When a coach and parent understands how to provide feedback that enhances a young athletes mental strength that can make all the difference in the world.
That is one on the main reasons I developed my Mental Strength Coach Certification, to help athletic coaches, trainers and parents understand the fundamentals of mental strength and how to apply them.
You’ve written three books about mental strength. What are some of the key takeaways from your books?
The key aspects in the books apply to life and the field, and they are:
Act as if you are 100% responsible for ALL your results. There no blaming, complaining or justifying, this is a victim mentality. When we act as if we are responsible for our results, how we respond to them and the power to change them, we have the put ourselves at cause for our lives.
Focus on what you can control. So often we focus on all the things we can’t control, i.e. the appointments, the ref’s, the condition of the field, who’s watching, etc. When we focus on what we can control, i.e. our thoughts, emotions and performance (behavior) we then being responsible for our results.
What you focus on you get more of, this focus includes what you say and what you think. So, if an athletes has a conversation about how bad their coach is, the player will only see the “bad” aspects of the coach. If an athlete says that they’re not good at a specific area of their sport, they will tend to do poor in that area.
And the last major theme, which is the most important one, use the TFAR model. This states that thoughts lead to feelings and feeling lead in action and action produces results. So, if you think a “I can’t” thought, you will create the “I can’t” emotions and the actions that follow will “I can’t” (tentative) and the results will be “you didn’t.”