Dr. Anne Shadle Resources

 High-Performance Coaching
(4/9/2019)
 
   

High-Performance Coaching


Beyond the Diamond
By Dr. Anne Shadle


In this article, we will examine high-performance coaching. From here, we will look at specific coaching behaviors and how they affect performance. Today, we see the word “coaching” being used in many different fields. Whether you are a coach in sport, business or even in a leadership role, the word “coach” describes a way of interacting with people. Coaching is a specific type of behavior. Many leaders use coaching-type behaviors. We see these behaviors in leadership models such as transformational leadership theory (Wagstaff, Arthur, Hardy, 2017). The purpose of this article is to look deeper into specific high-performance coaching behaviors and how these coaching behaviors affect performance.

First, let’s look at the definition of COACHING and then HIGH-PERFORMANCE COACHING:

COACHING -> Leaders attempts to improve performance by facilitating the acquisition of new knowledge, skills, and competencies.

I have highlighted the words that I think are most important for us to examine for the purpose of this article. Please read through the entire definition and then take a second to reflect on the words highlighted. If we take the first definition of coaching, the keywords highlighted are knowledge, skills, and competencies. If you remember from the ABC’s of Self-Determination Theory, this theory says that the key elements needed in a person’s life to nurture intrinsic motivation are autonomy, belonging and competence. These elements lay the foundation for intrinsic motivation leading to a self-determined individual. The C within the ABC’s of Self-Determination Theory is competence when developing knowledge and skill.



• HIGH-PERFORMANCE COACHING -> A systematic application of collaborative, individualized, solution-focused psychological practices by leaders to enhance individual, group, or organizational performance. It is intended to support individuals in better regulating and directing their intrapersonal and interpersonal resources to attain goals and help individuals to maximize strengths through self-directed learning. (Wagstaff, Arthur, Hardy, 2017)

The words of importance highlighted here are: systematic application, enhance performance, support individuals, attain goals, help individuals, maximize strengths, self-directed learning. Out of these words, support, goals, help and self-directed learning are keywords/skills for our attention. These words speak to the A and B of the ABC’s within Self-Determination Theory which is the need for (A) - autonomy (goals, self-directed learning) and a sense of (B) - belonging (support individuals, help individuals).

In the field of psychology, we are interested in creating theories and frameworks from knowledge acquired that help us better understand and predict behavior. Keeping the Self-Determination Theory’s framework in mind, let’s next look into specific coaching behaviors.

Regardless of the employment area, the literature on all high-performance coaches has similar behaviors. Those behaviors are: observing and performance analysis, ask effective questions, facilitate goal setting, provide developmental feedback and motivational feedback (Wagstaff, Arthur, Hardy, 2017). These specific behaviors have been proven in research to offer psychometrically sound, brief, and easy ways to measure high-performance coaching behavior. This framework was developed through the workplace, leadership, and sport coaching literature (Wagstaff, Arthur, Hardy, 2017). What are these specific behaviors?

1. Observing and Performance Analysis
1. Plays close attention to what the athlete does
2. Carefully observes athlete’s skills
3. Carefully watches athlete doing the skills and drills
4. Analyzes athlete’s performance

Observation as a coaching behavior key. Try stepping back and taking a researcher’s eye to practice. Training as a researcher, one of my assignments in graduate school was to go into an environment that we were familiar with and sit back and observe. This allowed us to see the familiar environment through a different lens and from a different perspective. I challenge you to do the same. Step back, slow down and intentionally watch interactions and skills being practiced. What do you observe? Be specific on what you observe. Write down what you observe and think. Later allow yourself time to process what you have observed as it relates to performance analysis.

2. Effective Questioning
1. Encourages athlete to think about how they can improve performance
2. Encourages athlete to question the way they do things
3. Encourages athlete to make suggestions on how they think they can improve performance
4. Asks the athlete’s opinion on how they can improve performance

My graduate school professor would often remind us that, “It is twice as hard to LISTEN as it is to talk. This is why we have two ears and only one mouth.” Take the time to ask the right questions and then being PATIENT enough for the reply. PATIENCE can be very challenging yet extremely important and effective in helping our athletes perform. Coaches need to create space for their athletes to answer questions. Great teams I have been part of, have done this at team events, dinners and on bus rides when practice times did not allow for the time and attention needed. Effective questioning allows the athlete to understand and digest what they are learning. Effective questioning allows the development of a key piece of autonomy (ownership). Two challenges: 1. Think about a specific athlete and create a list of questions that get at helping them perform better. 2. Create a question list that addresses the four items listed above.

3. Goal Setting
1. Monitors athlete’s progress toward goals
2. Helps athlete set short-term goals
3. Helps athlete identify targets for attaining goals
4. Helps athlete set long-term goals
5. Provides support to an athlete to help attain goals

Coaches, hopefully, are usually pretty good at goal setting. They have meetings with their athletes at the beginning of the season, meetings (individual/team) throughout the season and reflection/summary/team input at the end of the season as well as setting goals for the off-season. I would encourage you to continue to improve on the five areas listed above. Continue to talk to your athletes about the process of success. Continue to build the vision for them on where we are going and how each individual in practice and training is responsible for helping us get closer to the end goal.

4. Developmental Feedback
1. Makes sure athlete understands what they need to do to improve
2. Gives athlete advice on how to improve their skills
3. Offers advice on what the athlete needs to do to improve
4. Shows the athlete how to improve their skills

Feedback is critical information that helps individuals understand how they are performing and what changes, if any, need to be made. Coaches have a lot of different ways in which they give feedback. Coaches employ different tools to give that feedback. Key factors for feedback are the development of skills and strategies that align with your athlete’s and team’s goals. Developmental feedback provides athletes with direction, builds self-awareness, allows for self- reflection, and performance improvement. In the organizational psychology literature, it has been found that developmental feedback is aligned with intrinsic motivation which enhances learning and improvement. What this is saying is that developmental feedback helps build intrinsic motivation in your athletes which helps them be more engaged in the learning and focused on improvement.

5. Motivational Feedback

1. Tells athlete when they do a particularly good job
2. Sees that the athlete is rewarded for good performance
3. Expresses appreciation when an athlete performs well
4. Gives athlete credit where credit is due
(The five topics listed above were adapted from Wagstaff, Arthur, Hardy, 2017).

There is a lot of research that highlights the importance of positive feedback and/or behavior that is reinforced or rewarded by the coach. Motivational feedback recognizes when the athlete performs well or does something well in training or competition. Providing genuine positive feedback about an athlete’s development and progress help coaches recognize improvement, build autonomy, and competence within their athletes. Coaching research shows that these autonomy-supported environments have been related to self-determination, persistence, and motivation. Autonomy-supportive coaching behaviors are important in helping our athletes perform and succeed (Wagstaff, Arthur, Hardy, 2017).

In closing, the purpose of this article was to look deeper into specific high-performance coaching behaviors and how those coaching behaviors affect performance. These behaviors are: Observing and Performance Analysis, Ask Effective Questions, Facilitate Goal Setting, Provide Developmental Feedback and Motivational Feedback (Wagstaff, Arthur, Hardy, 2017).

References:

Wagstaff, C., Arthur, C., Hardy, L. (2017). The development and initial validation of a measure of
coaching behaviors in a sample of army recruits. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 30: 341-357, 2018.

Deci, E.L. (1975). Intrinsic motivation. New York: Plenum.

Deci, E.L. & Ryan, R.M. (2008). Self-determination theory: A macrotheory of human motivation, development, and health. Canadian Psychology, 49 (3), 182-185. Doi:10.1037/a0012801


Dr. Anne Shadle, Ph.D., is a contributor to the USA Baseball Sport Development Blog, is a certified consultant in Sport Psychology CC-AASP and is a member of the United States Olympic Committee’s Sport Psychology registry. She also serves on the Athlete Advisory Committee for USA Track and Field (USATF) and currently is the President-appointed committee chair for Psychological Services for USATF. She is heavily involved with coaching education and certification for the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) and USATF. Shadle received her Bachelor of Science in Education and Human Sciences from the University of Nebraska, where she also ran track and field. She was a two-time National Champion in the mile and 1500 meter distances before going on to run professionally for Reebok and compete in the 2008 Olympic Trials.


 The Individuality of Coaching
(1/9/2019)
 
   

The Individuality of Coaching


Beyond the Diamond
By Dr. Anne Shadle


As someone who loves psychology and finds the intricacies of human interaction fascinating, it is easy to see why I would be drawn to the topic of the individuality of coaching. Most of us would agree that the psychology of each person is quite fascinating. We might also agree that understanding the unique psychology and communication needed in coaching someone would prove to be important in helping our athletes achieve their fullest potential.

Each of our personalities, along with life experiences and the environment in which we live and learn plays a huge part in how we socialize, communicate and interact with others. The ability to relate to others is a key topic in effective communication and coaching.

- How do effective coaches build relationships and trust with their athletes?

- What are some keys to effective communication?

- How does effective communication help us to teach sport skills and evaluate progress in performance?

3 Keys to Effective Communication
• Cues
• Feedback
• Personal Coaching style

In the world of athletics, one of the most important sport skills is the mental ability to focus one’s attention. Previous research in the field of sport psychology has shown that successful athletes have honed their ability to use visual, verbal and kinesthetic cues to intentionally focus their attention. When distracted or not focused on the task at hand, these athletes also use visual, verbal and kinesthetic cues to refocus their attention. Research conducted with Olympic Medals winners indicates that cue systems were most successful when the cues had been established and used by the coach and the athlete in the weeks and months leading up to the Olympic finals (McGuire, Shadle, Zuleger, & Low, 2014). Both coaches and athletes reported that this type of communication was one of the factors that significantly helped the coach-athlete duo to win an Olympic Medal.

As expected, the actual cues a coach uses with athletes depends on both the coach and athlete and their preferences. It is important to understand the individual’s learning style and tailor your cues to that style. Listed below are some of the benefits, of using cues systems, for athletes as well as for coaches.

Cues from the coach help the athletes to:
1. Focus their attention on specifically what the coach considers to be most important in that exact moment – i.e., cues connect the coach with the athlete and are able to provide immediate guidance and attention to the athlete. Cues tell the athlete what they need to do, how to do it, and when to do it.

2. Immediate feedback, learning, and direction - these cues are especially important during practice because they tell the athlete about their progress. Loaded with information, these cues enable the athlete to make decisions about where to focus their time and effort; e.g., on perfecting technique, or developing strength or how to improve footwork/stance.

3. Feel supported psychologically - cues can give the athlete energy, reassurances, inspiration and have a calming effect.

Cues help the coaches to:
1. Direct the athlete’s focus and attention. By using a cue system coaches can provide specific feedback to athletes during practice as well as during competition in a very efficient and precise manner (Keep cue language short and to the point. Can you say it in 3 words vs. 10?) When a coach needs to communicate with an athlete and time is limited, such as in the heat of competition, a cues system can be especially valuable.

2. Immediate feedback, learning, and direction- these cues are especially important during practice because they enable coaches to teach athletes exactly what to do “next” or when they find themselves in a specific situation. Thus, cues help coaches process the information through their eyes, digest it and then teach athletes what to do next.

3. Provide psychological support to athletes and to maintain own emotional balance and mental fortitude - cues help the coach manage their own energy and composure while also helping to support the energy and composure of their athlete(s).

Effective ways to establish and use cues:
Use results from the individual communication style and preferences inventory to create a mutually acceptable plan for improving the efficacy of communication between the coach and the athletes.

How to give cues:
Cue from the ground up: verb body part direction
(Example: Lift your elbow up).

Feedback:
We know for an athlete to learn a skill, the skill must first be performed and programmed into their body’s motor learning. Skill is defined as, “the capability to bring about some desired end result with maximum certainty and minimum time and energy,” (Schmidt and Lee, 2014). A few of the different components involved in the process of learning and performing a skill are the perceptual or sensory processes, along with decision making, and finally the movement. Taking the time to explain why you are doing something and connecting it to the end goal for the athlete helps to strengthen not only trust with the athlete but also understanding the learning that is occurring.

When giving feedback, it might feel like you are saying the same thing over and over. This is part of the learning process. When you teach, you often repeat the same thing, but it helps to vary how you say the same thing until the athlete gets it. This is when you know a cue works. A cue that works for one athlete might not make sense to another and vice versa. The great John Wooden has a book entitled, You Haven’t Taught Until They Have Learned: John Wooden’s Teaching Principles and Practices. This is a great book to further dive in and learn more about the individuality of coaching individuals as well as a team.

How much feedback is too much?
It has been found with a group of elite Olympic athletes that one correction was enough for the athlete when learning a new skill. Coaches must prioritize, from their own coaching style, what is most important. This will help guide which corrections are most important and need to be made first. Some athletes can handle two corrections but for most one correction was enough when learning a new skill. Once the athlete has mastered and made the first correction, you can move on to another.

The issue we often see is that coaches give too much information with their feedback which can often overwhelm the athlete (it is also too much information for the brain to process-thus why the athlete feels overwhelmed). It is best to take it slow when coaching/teaching new skills or correcting/breaking bad habits. Some athletes will adapt and learn quicker, others are less flexible and thus take more time to learn new skills. This is where the psychology of the individual comes into play and understanding how your athlete learns and the style in which they best absorb the information being communicated.

One final note: I would caution learning a new skill or changing the way an athlete does something too close to championship competitions. We want the athlete to feel confident going into major competitions. If this is a new skill you are working on and it is early in the season, I would say go ahead and work at that new skill. Be sure to communicate that information and the learning process to your athlete. For example, “I know we are working on this new batting stance. I want you to stick with this during the next game.”


Dr. Anne Shadle, Ph.D., is a contributor to the USA Baseball Sport Development Blog, is a certified consultant in Sport Psychology CC-AASP and is a member of the United States Olympic Committee’s Sport Psychology registry. She also serves on the Athlete Advisory Committee for USA Track and Field (USATF) and currently is the President-appointed committee chair for Psychological Services for USATF. She is heavily involved with coaching education and certification for the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) and USATF. Shadle received her Bachelor of Science in Education and Human Sciences from the University of Nebraska, where she also ran track and field. She was a two-time National Champion in the mile and 1500 meter distances before going on to run professionally for Reebok and compete in the 2008 Olympic Trials.


 Mental Preparation
(8/14/2018)
 
   

Mental Preparation


Beyond the Diamond
By Dr. Anne Shadle


This article is about getting mentally prepared or getting your mind right. Mental preparation is important for many reasons. We will look at two mental skills, Focus for Practice and Focus for Improvement through the eyes of the Coach/Sports Leaders, the Athlete and the Parents. Mental preparation helps us dial in our focus, manage our energy, increase our mental strength, stay in the moment with the task at hand and deal with frustration and fatigue among many daily challenges. As we’ve discussed in the past, mental preparation is a product of athlete, age and experience. It’s the responsibility of Coaches/Sports Leaders and parents to help athletes develop mental skills.

Basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is credited with saying, “Your mind is what makes everything else work.” The mind and body are much stronger when used together than either is standing alone. So how do we get the mind and body ready to work together and improve our performance?

We would all agree on the importance of a physical warm-up. Warm-up allows the muscles and nervous system to begin to fire and prepare for work. Blood flows to our tendons and ligaments to prepare for the forces the muscles will create, and our endocrine systems secretes hormones, which aid in optimal performance. Coaches/Sports Leaders intentionally chose each item in the physical warm-up routine to accomplish the task of physically preparing the body for performance.

Get your mind right

Like our physical warm-up, our mental warm-up routine must be specific and purposeful.

Coaches - Begin by stating the Goals for today’s practice. Practice Goals should be intentional and purposeful.

Parents- Why is my child playing baseball? How can I connect to my child through baseball?

Athlete- How can I improve myself and help a teammate today? What are the Practice Goals that move me towards the ultimate dream goal? The best way to begin is with a smile and an optimistic attitude.

Focus-Preparation

For Coaches/Sport Leaders, Parents, Athletes - Prepare for practice. Preparation may be as simple as taking five minutes to wind down after a hectic day and focus on why I coach baseball, or why my child plays baseball. Have I taught the skills necessary ‘to be ready’ for practice? It may be as simple as: Does my child have all of their equipment ready?

Coach- What are the practice goals today? How will I demonstrate my joy in teaching these young people about life through the game of baseball? (Remember the Intentional-Purposeful-Engineered Sport Environment).

Parents- How will I connect today to my child in a positive and optimistic way through baseball? How can I support the Coach/Sport Leaders and my child’s teammates today? (Remember the Intentional-Purposeful-Engineered Sport Environment).

Athlete- How can I put baseball first for the next two hours? How can I be a good teammate? What skills will Coach have us working on today? What do I need help with? How can I help my coach?

Focus-Improvement

Coach/Sport Leaders/Parents/Athletes - Show up at practice with a positive attitude and have enthusiasm. Be mentally prepared to recognize improvement in yourself and your teammates. Make spotting improvement a habit and part of your baseball culture. Focus on teaching the relationship between hard work, patience and improvement.

Coach/Sport Leaders/Parents/Athletes - See improvement. As you see yourself improving at practice, you will absolutely see improvement in your hitting, running, fielding, catching, strength and power. You will perform better. Nothing succeeds like success. Improving success is where you focus.

Focus Practice and Focus Improvement are just two areas of mental preparation. Getting your mind ready to play is a skill for Coaches/Sport Leaders, Parents and Athletes. We all have our roles to play in supporting each other. Mental and physical routines are important, and we need to consistently use these routines. Focus helps us block out distractions and stay with the task at hand. As our mental skills improve, so does our ability to stay calm and composed under pressure.

The formula for Success = Ability x Preparation x Effort x Will (Mental and Physical)


Dr. Anne Shadle, Ph.D., is a contributor to the USA Baseball Sport Development Blog, is a certified consultant in Sport Psychology CC-AASP and is a member of the United States Olympic Committee’s Sport Psychology registry. She also serves on the Athlete Advisory Committee for USA Track and Field (USATF) and currently is the President-appointed committee chair for Psychological Services for USATF. She is heavily involved with coaching education and certification for the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) and USATF. Shadle received her Bachelor of Science in Education and Human Sciences from the University of Nebraska, where she also ran track and field. She was a two-time National Champion in the mile and 1500 meter distances before going on to run professionally for Reebok and compete in the 2008 Olympic Trials.


 What Can We Learn from Baseball?
(8/14/2018)
 
   

What Can We Learn from Baseball?


Beyond the Diamond
By Dr. Anne Shadle


The sport world, and baseball in particular, is filled with incredible, exciting moments. These sport moments bring interest, excitement and fun to many who play the game, coach the game or simply enjoy watching their child play the game. Yet, there is a need for all of us (coaches, parents, sport leaders) to examine the changes needed in our sport system to build a better sport model so that more kids play the game of baseball and have great sport experiences.

The coach and the parent play a central role in the sport experience. Kids learn about baseball and often have their first baseball experience shaped by their first coach (who might also be their parent). For some, this is a great sport experience, leaving the young athlete wanting to come back for more and feeling excited about the next practice. For others, that first experience may be the opposite. Having a negative first experience can cause the young athlete to not want to participate and, at worst, not want to try again, which is something every parent fear. The research on sport is clear: the number one reason why kids begin playing sport is because it is FUN! The number one reason why kids drop out of sport is because it is no longer fun.

It is USA Baseball’s mission to provide a positive and impactful sport experience at every level of the game. It is our mission to have competent, caring coaches who mold and shape our young people into leaders. It is essential that coaches provide a great sport experience that allows our young people to grow into happy, healthy and successful individuals – the same experience every parent wishes for their young athlete.

Coaching Philosophy. Coach/Parent, it is important that you build and write your own Coaching/Parenting Philosophy. It is equally important that parents understand their child’s coach’s sport philosophy. To do this, we start at the beginning. You have already answered the question. What do you value? Hopefully in your coaching/parent statement you have already answered some questions. Here are a few more to help guide your writing:

• At the end of the day, after practice, what are the things that matter to you?

• What will really matter in five, 10, 15 and 20 years?

• What really matters about this year’s baseball experience?

• What are your coaching goals and objectives for today/this season/this year?

• What impact do you want to have on the lives of the athlete’s you coach?

• Who has been the biggest influence on your life, both as a parent and as a coach? Why?

• What would be at least one guiding principle of your life that you would like to see transferred through to your children or team?

• Is there a mantra or quote you live by?

What are the goals and purpose of baseball?

To continue with building your Coaching/Parent Philosophy, take a look at your list of what you value. Now, looking at that list, and the list below, what are the goals and purpose of baseball? What can we learn from baseball and what can we teach our young athletes about life through baseball? Take some time to reflect on your own experiences. Think about all of the things that you have learned from sport. What would you like to teach your athletes? Here are some things you might have missed. Choose and rank your top 5:

• Work Ethic

• Respect

• Confidence

• Responsibility

• Excellence

• Education

• Focus/Concentration

• Interaction with others

• Self-Discipline

• Self-Discovery

• Health/Fitness Wellness

• Leadership

• Competition

• Perseverance

• Optimism

• Mental Strength

• Dedication

• Character

• Integrity

• Sportsmanship

• Personal Growth

• Selflessness

• Teamwork

• Independence

• Interdependence

• Desire to improve

• Ethics

• Commitment (even when it’s hard)

• Determination

• Have fun! Meet new friends!

As coaches and as parents, it is our job to teach and model the process of success. That begins with building a strong foundation on the baseball field and in our homes. Each and every day we have the chance to teach our kids/athletes and talk to them about the items on your list. The things you talk about matter. The language you use, the way your give feedback and encouragement all have a direct impact on the young people you parent or coach. YOU MATTER! I will say that again…COACH, MOM, DAD, YOU MATTER!

Each year, 14 million kids are introduced to the game of baseball through their coach. The child’s experience with you as the coach or parent makes a difference in their life. You both have the power to change a child’s life. The little kids you coach grow up to be big kids. It is hard to believe, but Mike Trout was once a little kid in youth sports learning to play the game of baseball.


Dr. Anne Shadle, Ph.D., is a contributor to the USA Baseball Sport Development Blog, is a certified consultant in Sport Psychology CC-AASP and is a member of the United States Olympic Committee’s Sport Psychology registry. She also serves on the Athlete Advisory Committee for USA Track and Field (USATF) and currently is the President-appointed committee chair for Psychological Services for USATF. She is heavily involved with coaching education and certification for the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) and USATF. Shadle received her Bachelor of Science in Education and Human Sciences from the University of Nebraska, where she also ran track and field. She was a two-time National Champion in the mile and 1500 meter distances before going on to run professionally for Reebok and compete in the 2008 Olympic Trials.


 Engineering Your Sport Environment I
(8/14/2018)
 
   

Engineering Your Sport Environment


Beyond the Diamond
By Dr. Anne Shadle


Definition: Engineer - To Design and Build

Building the Foundation

What do athletes really need from us as parents, coaches and leaders in sport? They need a place to belong, a place to feel welcome and a place to develop themselves. To build that sport foundation, it is important that you frequently revisit your own personal values. From there, keep at the forefront of your mind the goals and purposes of sport as you move through the season. In previous blogs, we have talked about how to do this. Hopefully you have developed and shared your parenting/coaching philosophy with those around you. Remember that you want to impact the lives around you. What you model through your words, actions and behaviors and how you develop character within yourself as well as your children/athletes all matter. Remember, it starts with you, the parent/coach/sport leader.

Take a moment to think about all of the various sport environments you have been a part of or observed. You can even think about the various working environments you have experienced. As you reflect, some of those environments might bring a little sting to the memory, while others will bring joy. Simply put, these negative environments did not and do not allow individuals to become the very best that they can be. These negative environments are driven by control and jealously, with an “everyone out for themselves” mentality or even just a feeling that not all are welcome. CLEARLY, this is NOT the environment we want to create for our athletes. The goal is a positive, supportive, success-building environment. In these environments, individuals feel supported, cared about, and valued. Your input, thoughts, and ideas matter to the collective group.

Martin Seligman is a respected researcher, educator and author in the field of Positive Psychology. He has studied various environments within schools, businesses and the military developing positive training programs, but his work is also applicable to the sports environment. Seligman has identified certain elements within any environment that provide the opportunity for success and the ability to flourish. There are key items within any environment that breed success. In Martin Seligman’s book, Flourish (2011), he presents a working model for the development of healthy psychological wellbeing in individuals and environments with five measurable elements within the PERMA framework.

The elements present in the PERMA model are the foundational blocks for building a successful, positive, constructive baseball environment. The five elements are Positive emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning and Achievement.

Positive Emotion- A major focus of baseball should be built around experiences with positive emotion. Seligman would certainly support the idea that the pure joy that comes from playing the game of baseball, along with the satisfaction and excitement from learning new baseball skills that are important for the development of each athlete’s wellbeing. Activities, practices, games, conversations with parents, coaches, teammates and opponents should focus on positive emotions and positive energy. Positive emotions such as joy, hope, pride, love, happiness, gratitude, awe and excitement are all naturally found in any sport practice and most competitions as well. Our experiences with positive emotion come from the relationships we have and our engagement/interest in the game, as well as having meaning, being part of a team and achieving goals.

Engagement- Engagement comes naturally in baseball and from the skills that you learn. Being open to trying out new things and being coachable are all important components of engagement. In baseball, having a positive, connected focus allows us to become engaged and stay interested in the learning. For this to happen, the challenge has to be appropriate for the skill level. If the challenge is too easy, it will become hard for the athlete to stay engaged and focused. If the challenge is too difficult, it will also be hard to stay engaged and focused. The challenge must be developmentally and physically appropriate for the athlete. This helps to hold interest, attention and focus. In the previous article, we talked about planned, purposeful practice, which helps to hold interest, attention and focus of the athlete. The challenge for every coach and parent is to design planned, purposeful practice sessions that are physically, mentally and emotionally appropriate for the team and the individual. Remember: To engineer is to design and build.

Relationships- Any successful, legendary coach whom I have talked to has shared with me that the key to their success and the joy of coaching was the relationships that were built. Positive, supportive, caring relationships are key to building a foundation of success. I know we have all heard the line, “it takes a village to raise a child,” and the same is true for any successful athlete. No one gets to the top on their own. It is the relationships and friendships that are made by sport that keep athletes going through the ups and the downs of the baseball sport experience.

Meaning- Meaning can be difficult, yet also very easy because it belongs to the individual. The individual is part of the team and meaning comes from being a part of something bigger than you. It comes from sacrificing for the greater good of the group – for example, playing center field when you would rather be the shortstop. Meaning comes from being part of a family, being part of a team and even helping a teammate. Each athlete on the team has a different and important role for the team. Each role contributes to the success of the team as a whole. It is important to acknowledge and identify each athlete’s role and how they each contribute to the team’s success.

Achievement- Achievement comes from a sense of accomplishment. There are many ways in baseball to measure achievement, such as earning a scholarship, getting to start the game, learning to hit or throw a curve ball, raising your batting average or fielding percentage or meeting your own personal goals. When we achieve, our body is flooded with positive emotions such as joy, pride and satisfaction. We are then motivated to come back for more. Self-esteem is an internal concept, and it is developed from achievement.

When all five PERMA elements are present in a sport environment, we flourish. As parents, coaches and sport leaders we should be aware of our athletes’ personal wellbeing. The PERMA model helps us to understand, identify and create more experiences with positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning and achievement in our individual athletes as well as in our team environment.

Coaches/Parent Reflection Questions:

Seligman’s research suggests that when these five PERMA elements are present, individuals flourish. As a parent/coach, looking at your past or current season, how would you rate these five elements?

1. Positive Emotion: What is the feeling that you get when you are at a practice or at a game? What are some things that you have done to create positive emotion within your baseball environment?
2. Engagement: How do you plan and direct purposeful practice towards athlete and team development?
3. Relationships: What relationships are most important to you for individual and team success?
4. Meaning: What would make for a successful sport season?
5. Achievement: How do you celebrate and highlight individual and team success?


Dr. Anne Shadle, Ph.D., is a contributor to the USA Baseball Sport Development Blog, is a certified consultant in Sport Psychology CC-AASP and is a member of the United States Olympic Committee’s Sport Psychology registry. She also serves on the Athlete Advisory Committee for USA Track and Field (USATF) and currently is the President-appointed committee chair for Psychological Services for USATF. She is heavily involved with coaching education and certification for the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) and USATF. Shadle received her Bachelor of Science in Education and Human Sciences from the University of Nebraska, where she also ran track and field. She was a two-time National Champion in the mile and 1500 meter distances before going on to run professionally for Reebok and compete in the 2008 Olympic Trials.