Athletic Coaches: But first, start with you

You've seen those coffee mugs that say, "But first, coffee..."

The simple, humorous way to say, "Yeah I know there's a lot to do, but before anything a cup of Joe is absolutely required or else..."

Whether it's coffee, a workout, a huge jug of water, or some combination of all three, certain activities rev your engine to attack the day; i.e. your daily/transactional performance.

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You've heard of the concept of servant leadership. The notion that as a leader, which as a coach you are, you put the [development, mental, physical, emotional] needs of your team ahead of you.

I call BS. It makes sense, but it sends a dangerous message. Putting your team ahead of you minimizes your ability to perform at your peak.

It's like an overwhelmed mom who puts everyone else ahead of herself. Before she knows it she's so stressed out nothing gets done and the rest of the family is just standing around completely lost and paralyzed waiting for her to get everyone back on track. She can't do that until she gives herself some much needed attention.

You're the same way. If you're handing everything out to your staff and team to make sure they're good to go, you can't find your peak. And when you're not performing at your peak it influences everyone else around you and completely destroys what you set out to do in the first place. Get your team (no matter the position) to hit the top of their game.


That starts with you.

The first thing to optimize your own mental performance as an athletic coach...

Know yourself.  Build your self awareness.

  • What are your top motivators?
  • What is it for you that gets you out of bed and excited? 

There is something about the game and the experiences that gets you out of bed every single morning to be there for your athletes. Write them down. You may surprise yourself with what comes up. Giving yourself this powerful 10 minutes will help you understand what it is that gets you going, so that you can translate that as a part of your own plan. 

When you're doing things you love, your performance is optimal and easy.

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  • What are your values?
  • What are the core beliefs by which you lead your life?

Whether it's in the athletic arena or outside of it, there are certain things that you wholeheartedly believe, conscious or unconscious, that allow you to understand what's truly important for you.

Write them down. Put them somewhere you can see every single day. They are your North Star. You might even find there are some deep connections between what you value and what gets you motivated.

Third, and most important:

  • What are your triggers?
  • What are those things that get under your skin?
  • What are the things that make your blood boil?

Why are these most important? They're the first things that derail your performance. When you're angry, annoyed, and stressed, how easy is it to hit your stride? Inspire and motivate others? See where this is headed...

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Have you ever thought or even said to one of your athletes, "You are pushing my buttons!!"

Fun fact: they're not. You're allowing them to.

You are not going to get along with every athlete on your team, but you made a choice to have them there. You saw something in them, whether it was their skills or their talent that could be developed, you chose them. You have an opportunity and, quite honestly an obligation, to support them in getting to the next level. If something about them triggers you, you have an obligation to figure out what it is and find a way to manage and mitigate it. 

Nearly all triggers are unconscious, so unraveling what they are (next step is where they started, but more on that on another day) is a great place to start.


It will take some time to root through this for yourself. You may even find that values and motivators shift. But the simple act of starting to outline them puts you well on your way to figuring out what you can do to optimize your mental performance as an athletic coach.

You have absolutely everything you need to get there, but if you're struggling to get out of your own head and it's affecting your team, schedule a call. It's a free space to give yourself space.



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