SportsSignup Interviews Craig Sigl, The Mental Toughness Trainer

2014-03-27T16:02:53+00:00 March 27th, 2014|Nutrition & Fitness|
Craig has personally worked with thousands of professional and amateur athletes on the mental side of their game.

He is an author and creator of 7 mental toughness programs sold in 28 countries and writes to over 16,000 athletes in his emails and on his blogs.

He has over 3000 clients worldwide from United Arab Emirates to Ireland and all over the United States using his programs and services.

He has been featured on NBC’s Evening Show on TV, written about in major newspapers, and interviewed on numerous radio programs.

– See more at: http://www.mentaltoughnesstrainer.com/craig-sigl/#sthash.XzmBnXYO.dpuf

Craig has personally worked with thousands of professional and amateur athletes on the mental side of their game.

He is an author and creator of 7 mental toughness programs sold in 28 countries and writes to over 16,000 athletes in his emails and on his blogs.

He has over 3000 clients worldwide from United Arab Emirates to Ireland and all over the United States using his programs and services.

He has been featured on NBC’s Evening Show on TV, written about in major newspapers, and interviewed on numerous radio programs.

– See more at: http://www.mentaltoughnesstrainer.com/craig-sigl/#sthash.XzmBnXYO.dpuf

Craig Sigl has personally worked with thousands of professional and amateur athletes on the Craig Siglmental side of their game. He is an author and creator of 7 mental toughness programs sold in 28 countries and writes to over 16,000 athletes in his emails and on his blogs. He has over 3000 clients worldwide from United Arab Emirates to Ireland and all over the United States using his programs and services. He has been featured on NBC’s Evening Show on TV, written about in major newspapers, and interviewed on numerous radio programs.

At what age/competition level should a youth athlete focus on building up their mental strength?

Any age!  I work with athletes as young as 8 years old in person and we have them even younger going through the Mental Toughness Academy along with their parents.  The key is to make the learning “age appropriate.”   I don’t teach the same way to an 8-year-old as I do to a college athlete but the lessons are generally centered around the same concepts:  Focus, Confidence, Determination & Resilience, especially under pressure. That’s my definition of Mental Toughness.

What kind of impact does a coach have on a youth athlete’s mental strength?

I am forever preaching to coaches about the tremendous impact they have on young athlete’s performance and more importantly, their lives outside of sports.  Many coaches vastly underestimate the power of being an authority figure and need to understand that the words they use are taken very seriously, especially by younger athletes.  Of course kids in their teens have a thicker skin than 10 year olds, but even so, I have helped countless athletes of ALL ages clear the interference patterns and fear that come from coach’s thoughtless comments.  Fear is the biggest block from any athlete achieving their mental strength and coaches must protect young athletes from creating it or they risk throwing away talent and harming their own success goals.

Any tips to help an athlete “get through” a season when they are stuck with a bad coach (overly critical, aggressive, demeaning, etc) so they don’t lose their confidence?

Yes. I often see athletes in this predicament.  The secret is in appreciating the fact that the difficult coach pushes you into seeking some help in building mental toughness and having the opportunity to practice it in real life.  I have run into many athletes who go through many years of “good” coaches and never develop that mental strength because they never really needed it.  And then, when the game is on the line or they finally do run into a tough coach, they fold from that type of pressure. Aggressive coaches are to be taken as a wake-up call that there are such people in the world and that we all have to deal with them.  When you get one, it’s time to get serious about developing your internal confidence to be able to thrive in such situations.  Additionally, really demeaning coaches give the athlete (and the parent) an opportunity to learn how to stand up for themselves and draw boundaries by calling them out through successive levels of authority in the organization starting with the coach.  Very valuable lessons for life can be acquired by working with a difficult coach.

What kind of impact can a serious injury have on a youth athlete’s confidence? How can they build their mental strength backup as well as their physical strength?

Wow, this is a very loaded question as I just finished creating an extensive video training to deal with conquering sports injuries.  The thing that parents and coaches need to understand about youth athletes getting injured is that this isn’t just an injury.  This is destruction to a young athlete’s identity as a person at a time when that is a primary objective of all kids.  The best thing you can do is to mitigate that destruction by making sure that the injured athlete stays connected to the sport or the team in some manner.  Coming back fast and strong mentally and physically from injury requires successful completion of a 3-phase process:  1. Acceptance 2. Physical Healing 3. Clearing the mental blocks.   

Why do you think some athletes can suffer defeat after defeat and never let it slow them down, while other players lose all confidence over one mistake?

I’m really impressed! These are some of the best questions I’ve ever been asked in an interview.  The true answer is that there are many variables BUT, the most common reason for this difference can be summed up in one word:  FEAR.   Particularly, fear of failure in all its forms.  I often teach that the difference between elite athletes and lesser athletes is that elite athletes want to win and they might even hate losing…but they aren’t afraid of losing.  Fear and Hate. That might seem like a subtle distinction but in reality, it is huge.  Think about this…  there’s only 2 types of fear that us humans experience.  1. Fear of physical harm to our body.  And 2. Fear of emotions.   That’s right, you read it right…emotions.  There’s nothing else to fear in life or sport.  I teach my athletes how to embrace all emotions (including the emotion of fear) because they are nothing more than chemical releases in the body causing a feeling.  And that feeling will always go away.  When you aren’t afraid of emotions and you learn to master them instead of running or hiding from them, then you truly become fearless.  Nobody can touch you.

Do female youth athletes and male youth athletes need different kinds of mental strength training? Do they respond better to different coaching tactics?

Another great question!  The answer is yes.  We need to understand that males and females have differing genetic tendencies passed down from our ancestors as part of our history of successfully dominating the earth.   Females place a much higher value on community and getting along with others on their team or anywhere in their sport.  Males tend to be more linear and object-oriented.  It should be quite obvious to any coach that females also tend to be more emotional as well.   Without explaining the anthropology of it all, but keeping that in mind, both sexes need the same mental toughness training but the APPROACH and motivations will be different.  The best coaches and trainers will utilize the athlete’s model of the world rather than their own in order to get the best results.  The best coaches and managers are the most flexible.

How can coaches and parents balance hard work and a good time on the field so young players don’t burnout?

Finally, an easy answer….   The answer to this question is simply:  ASK.  Young athletes are generally pretty transparent and will answer truthfully if they feel that they are not being judged by their answer.   If you convey to the athlete that whatever they say will be ok, then you can go by their answer and act accordingly.  I think that too many parents think they need to crack the whip over their young athlete.  I’m sorry to say but if your young athlete doesn’t want to train and work out, with few exceptions, there’s no amount of pressure that will get them to do the work necessary to be a top athlete. Ultimately, it always has to come from within the athlete.   Ask your young athlete how you can best support him or her in becoming their best.  Feel free to offer suggestions that you think might help and get their permission to remind them to follow through on your suggestions.  Forcing it all down their throat will only cause resentment and there are millions of stories of estranged parents and kids to prove this. It’s just not worth risking your relationship with your child.

What do you think we as a society can do to encourage kids to keep playing sports?

My quick answer is to do whatever you can to take the pressure off.  Kids are hard enough on themselves about judging their performances without the parents and coaches adding any more.  The best thing you can do for a young athlete is to give continuous messages that they are loved and accepted unconditionally regardless of performance.  You may think you do already do this but a young athlete will assign more meaning to a parent’s grimacing look after watching a strike out or a missed goal than some shallow words that mask the parent’s disappointment.    Comments such as:  “It was so awesome to see you out there giving your best” and “I love watching you play” and “I am so proud of you for going for that ball” are examples of praising effort rather than performance.  That’s how you avoid being judgmental and what a young athlete wants from supporters.

Craig Sigl’s work with youth athletes has been featured on NBC TV and ESPN. Get his free ebook: “The 10 Commandments For a Great Sports Parent” and also a free training and .mp3 guided visualization to help young athletes perform under pressure by visiting:  http://www.mentaltoughnesstrainer.com