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Effective Strategies for Dealing with Coaching Burnout

Published August 21, 2014

By Ryan Hedstrom
Manchester College

Coaching is one of those professions where passion for the job is a key ingredient. However, over time the ups and downs of the season can make us question that passion. While this is normal, fluctuations in these feelings can manifest into the larger problem of coaching burnout.

What is Burnout?

Burnout is a general term that relates to the following symptoms:

  • Physical and mental fatigue
  • Lack of connection to job or responsibilities
  • Diminished sense of job importance
  • Feelings of low success in tasks
  • Lack of passion for job

Some people typically exhibit only a few of these symptoms of burnout. While we all experience ups and downs during a season, the difference with burnout is that the symptoms build until there is an overwhelming sense of being an ineffective coach. It is important to recognize these symptoms of burnout and find strategies to effectively manage the situation.

Strategies for Fighting Coaching Burnout

  1. Monitor Yourself: Listen to your body and your emotions. If you are feeling overtired or fatigued, know that you need to find some time to relax or recharge. Also, if you are noticing that your emotions are uncharacteristic (snapping at others, mood swings) recognize that this could be a sign of burnout.
  2. Take a Break: While this may seem like an impossible task sometimes, it is vital! As a coach, taking short breaks from the office, a half-day away from work is essential for one’s well-being. Offseason time spent with family and friends is important in helping you renew for the next year.
  3. Stay Connected with Your Support: Make sure, especially during the heart of the season, that you stay in touch with those individuals that support you. Take ashort break and call a mentor, loved one, or friend. Staying connected with individuals, both in and out of your sport, can help fight against symptoms of coaching burnout.
  4. Plan Ahead: One of the triggers of burnout is constantly dealing with unknown or changing situations. One must plan ahead in order to deal with symptoms of burnout. For example, making sure the hotel you are staying in has breakfast or a fitness center to keep you physically ready. Another example would be to plan out delegating tasks to assistant coaches or team captains. Planning ahead in regards to how to stay your best, both physically and emotionally, is essential in fighting coaching burnout.
  5. Stay Involved: Getting involved in your local and national coaching organizations can help you to fight off burnout. It seems counterintuitive to suggest doing more for dealing with burnout, but it really does help! Common symptoms of burnout are feeling disconnected and uninspired with your job. By attending coaching clinics you will learn new techniques and tips to reinvigorate your coaching tactics. You will also network with individuals who are dealing with similar issues and frustrations which may assist in fighting off feelings of isolation and detachment.


Remember to take time to monitor yourself and keep connected and involved. The key to dealing with burnout is to identify how you experience these symptoms and what
strategies work for you!


Published in: Coaches

How to Choose a Sport Psychology Consultant

Published August 21, 2014


Each sport psychology consultant possesses a specific set of skills that defines the scope of his or her competencies. Thus, when choosing a consultant, it is important for athletes, coaches/parents and athletic administrators to consider the following guidelines:

1. Identify the types of sport psychology services you wish to receive.

Are you looking for someone who can develop a performance psychology program and assist athletes during the injury rehabilitation process? Are you looking for someone to help athletes with drug and alcohol abuse problems or eating disorders? The answers to questions like these and others dealing with the types of services you are looking for will help you decide what type of sport psychology consultant to interview and the competencies that person should have.

2. Determine whether a prospective consultant has the appropriate training and possesses the necessary competencies (i.e., skill sets) to deliver those services.

Professional competencies also include the amount and type of experience the consultant has had in working with athletes. Taken together (i.e., academic training, skill set, and applied experience), a consultant’s competencies will usually lie along a continuum that runs from Performance Psychology to Clinical Consulting. In general, consultants trained in the sport sciences that possess skills sets and applied experiences in mental training with athletes will have competencies that put them closer to the Performance Psychology end of the continuum. Those trained and licensed in psychology with applied experience providing assistance with problems like drug and alcohol abuse, eating disorders, and anger management will generally possess competencies that place them closer to the Clinical Consulting end of the continuum. In some cases, professionals with academic training in one area will obtain additional training or supervised applied experiences in the other, enabling them to provide a wider variety of services for athletes. (For more on training see section below.)

3. Require supporting documentation of a prospective consultant’s credentials before making a final decision.

Check with colleagues who have employed the consultant as well as with some coaches and athletes who have worked with him or her. Ask people whose opinion you respect and who will be honest with you to tell you about their experience with the consultant—just like you would if you were looking for a good doctor or dentist. If you are interested in hiring a performance enhancement specialist, look for AASP Certification or USOC Registry membership. If you intend to hire a licensed psychologist, obtain verification that the person is licensed (or in the process of obtaining a license) to practice in your state. Any clinical or counseling psychologist who describes him or herself as a sport psychologist should have specific training in sport psychology. If you are looking for an individual with a particular competency (e.g., treatment of eating disorders) find out what coursework, training, and/or certification the prospective consultant has had or currently possesses that indicates competence in that area.

Training Models in Sport Psychology

Training in applied sport psychology varies considerably from individual to individual and from academic program to academic program. Professionals who provide sport psychology services generally take one of two academic routes to obtain their credentials:

  • The sport science route (through physical education or kinesiology programs)
  • The psychology route (through clinical or counseling psychology programs)

The route one chooses will determine not only the emphasis of that individual’s training but very likely the types and levels of consulting he or she can offer.

The sport science route follows a physical education/kinesiology-based track of coursework and practicum experiences, which normally include sport psychology, exercise physiology, motor learning, sport sociology, and direct contact with athletes in performance situations. While individuals who choose this option often take a number of traditional psychology courses during their programs of study, they do not usually become licensed psychologists. Sport-science trained professionals are qualified to conduct mental skills training with athletes in a variety of areas of performance psychology—such as goal setting, motivation, focus and concentration, energy management, confidence building, as well as life skills. Many hold positions as professors of sport psychology and some have had prior experience as competitive athletes and coaches.

The psychology route includes standard psychology coursework— such as counseling, psychological evaluation, psychopathology, therapy techniques, as well as clinical or counseling internship experiences. Individuals who choose this route most often become licensed psychologists. Each state has its own licensure requirements, and professionals must meet those requirements before practicing in that state. Licensed psychologists provide clinical or counseling assistance for individuals in areas such as depression, grief or loss, life management, and dysfunctional behaviors such as alcoholism, drug abuse, anger management, and eating disorders. Many clinical and counseling psychologists hold positions in private practice and serve a broad range of clientele as well as athletes.

Visit “Find A Certified Consultant” on the AASP Website

The Certified Consultant Finder on the Association for Applied Sport Psychology website was designed to assist people in locating an AASP Certified Consultant to address their needs. The AASP members listed in the directory have met the professional criteria set by AASP. The Certified Consultant Review Committee evaluated and approved their credentials, coursework and consulting experiences in sport and exercise psychology. The Finder allows you to search for a Certified Consultant by geographic location.

The Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP) promotes the ethical practice, science and advocacy of sport and exercise psychology. Founded in 1986, AASP is an international, multidisciplinary, professional organization that offers certification to qualified professionals in the field of sport and exercise psychology. With more than 1500 members in 39 countries, AASP is a worldwide leader, sharing research and resources with the public via its website,

Published in: Parents & Youth Sport, Consulting, Athletes, Coaches

Could I Be Hazing? A Definition and Positive Initiation Ideas

Published August 14, 2014

By Sarah Carson
James Madison University

Is it wrong to want to uphold your team’s longstanding team traditions? Is it bad to want to develop team unity? Is it terrible to want your new teammates to grow an understanding of what it means to be a member of your squad? The answer to all of these questions is ‘of course not.’

Where teams can go astray is when they use hazing as a way to initiate new members into their group. Instead of achieving the objectives listed above, hazing can often lead to outcomes that range from a divided team, to trouble with the school and legal system, to serious injury and death.

Luckily, there are many other activities you can do to bring new members into your team and develop a sense of camaraderie and pride. Plus, establishing these more positive team traditions are more likely to lead to benefits both on and off the field.

How Do I Know It Is Hazing?
Hazing is described as:

…any activity expected of someone joining a group that humiliates, degrades, abuses or endangers, regardless of the person’s willingness to participate (Hoover & Pollard, 1999, p. 4)

So, the key components of hazing are:

  • it is an activity that inducts new members into a group or team
  • it makes new group members feel embarrassed, in danger or harmed
  • it is still considered hazing, even if a new group member fully participates

Many well-meaning upper-classmen involved in hazing incidents judge whether an activity is hazing based on their own definitions or feelings about an initiation. Although you may consider dressing up in a costume and singing your fight song in the school cafeteria to be fun, it is more important for you to think about how your new teammates perceive the event. And while you may have taken pride in sporting your new shaved head as a rookie, one of your new teammates may consider this initiation practice highly embarrassing and degrading.

Some other activities that can be considered hazing are:

  • being yelled or cursed at
  • getting a team tattoo or piercing
  • being a personal servant to an upperclassman
  • sleep, food or hygiene deprivation
  • eating/drinking disgusting foods (Hoover & Pollard, 1999)

Another common misunderstanding is that hazing new team members is okay if the rookies agree to participate. In reality, an act is still considered hazing even if a person is not physically forced to cooperate. Rookies may participate even when they are scared and in a great deal of pain because they:

  • do not want to disappoint or anger their teammates
  • want to prove their worth to the team, even if it brings them harm
  • are afraid the hazing may get worse if they resist
  • believe that resisting could get them kicked off the team
  • do not realize they have a choice (Allan & Madden, 2008)

Sometimes it is clear that an activity is considered hazing, but athletes think it is okay to carry them out on their teams because they went through the experience when they were rookies (Edelman, 2004). This ‘survivor mentality’ not only perpetuates harmful hazing practices, but can also escalate the severity of the hazing if the hazers feel they must out-do the initiation rites of previous years.

Why Not Haze?
If hazing has been a tradition on your team it can be difficult to stop, but it is important to understand that it can have some very serious consequences. First, hazing can lead to serious physical (e.g., broken bones and alcohol poisoning) and psychological (e.g., suicidal thoughts) harm. Many of these negative results come about accidentally, so it is important to avoid potentially risky situations altogether.

Other considerations are:

  • hazing can divide a team - hazing has been linked to lower levels of team unity instead of the increased closeness it is meant to create (Van Raalte, Cornelius, Linder & Britton, 2007)
    • e.g., some athletes who have been hazed have reported anger and wanting revenge, quitting a team, or transferring to a different school
  • 44 states have anti-hazing laws – hazing may result in suspension or dismissal from one’s team/school, but may also be considered a felony and lead to a fine or imprisonment (

What Are Some Alternatives?
Fortunately, you have lots to choose from when considering positive traditions you could start on your teams that establish team roles, strengthen unity and pride, and help new members appreciate what it means to be a member of your team. We suggest you consider some of the following activities to do what hazing cannot:

  • have an event (e.g., dinner, scavenger hunt, team trivia) where teammates get to know each other and the team’s history
  • pass a symbolic team ‘torch’ to new members (e.g., ball, scrapbook, etc.)
  • have an upper-under-classmen buddy program
  • plan a team community service project or team enhancement project (e.g., beautify our field)
  • have a team pride day where all members participate
  • plan an event with another team and their new members (e.g., dinner or sport contest)
  • develop a team mission that all members contribute to and sign

An important lesson can be learned from the men’s volleyball team at the University of St. Thomas who were suspended for a season due to hazing that occurred at a party that did not seem out of the ordinary on the night of October 23rd, 2010. Tragically, instead of bringing the team closer together, the combination of taunting and degrading the rookies and excessive drinking lost this team more than the privilege to play the sport they love. It also lost them one of their new teammates. All in all, sport should be about the thrill of competition, pride in developing and executing your skills, and the joy of team camaraderie. In order to help your team live out these goals to the fullest, bonding your team is an essential step, and how you choose to build this bond is key. Make a smart and informed choice, make a choice that unites all teammates, and choose to eliminate hazing.

Allan, E.J. & Madden, M. (2008, March 11). Hazing in view: College students at risk.
            Initial findings from the national study of student hazing. Retrieved from

Edelman, M. (2004). Addressing the high school hazing problem: Why lawmakers need
            to impose a duty to act on schools. Pace Law Review, 25(1), 15-47.

Hoover, N. & Pollard, N. (1999, August 30). Initiation rites and athletics: A national
            survey of NCAA sports teams. Retrieved from

Van Raalte, J.L., Cornelius, A.E., Linder, D.E. & Britton, B.W. (2007). The relationship
            between hazing and team cohesion. Journal of Sport Behavior, 30(4), 491-507. (2010). State anti-hazing laws. Retrieved from

Published in: Athletes

Procrastination and Student-Athletes

Published August 14, 2014

By Nicki Moore
University of Oklahoma

What is procrastination?

  1. says it is, “to put off till another day or time; defer; delay.”
  2. As a student-athlete, you have many responsibilities, so it may be tempting to “put off” a few things.
  3. If you find yourself avoiding or delaying doing something, you may be procrastinating, and it is probably hurting your performance.

How do you beat the habit of procrastination?

  1. As with any change that you want to make in your life, it is important to first examine “why change?” That is, for what reasons are you personally interested in changing?
  2. To facilitate this understanding, it can be helpful to make a 2 lists:
    1. Why I want to change
    2. Why I don’t really want to change

It might look something like this:  
Change I’m considering:“I want to reduce my procrastination on writing assignments.”  

Why I want to change Why I don’t really want to change
I could produce higher quality work I prefer to do other things
I would like to be less-stressed It will take a lot of discipline & hard work
I’d get better grades, which helps my team I get good enough grades
I would be more confident in my writing I like the freedom to do it however I want
With the time I’d save, I could do a lot of other things that are more fun I’m kind of proud that I can procrastinate and get away with it

What do you gain by using this method?

  1. By writing down your reasons, you start to build motivation to change the unwanted behavior, or you begin to realize that you’re not committed to change after all. Either way it goes, it’s better than “riding the fence” and pretending like you want to change!
  2. Once you decide that you do, in fact, want to change a behavior, and you have a good sense of why you want to change, then it’s time to figure out what the smallest unit of change might be that you could successfully achieve.

Back to our procrastination example, let’s say that you have three different writing assignments on your plate.

  1. The smallest unit of change for that might be coming up with an action statement such as, “Today, I will write 1-3 points that I wish to make in this paper.”
  2. That’s it (assuming you have a little bit of time)!
  3. Now, if you happen to get on a roll after writing your three points, go for it, but if you don’t, simply put it away and be glad that you took some action!
  4. Before you put it away, however, it would be a good idea to decide on your next “small unit of action.”

Remember that significant behavioral change doesn’t happen overnight.

  1. Change takes time and solid, consistent repetitions.
  2. Think of it like building muscles... it takes day after day of going to the weight room, building up a little at a time. It takes eating right, getting good rest, and it takes a solid commitment to change your fitness level.
  3. Behavioral changes also take time, commitment, and consistent action.
  4. That said, there is no better time to start than today!
  5. It’s up to you to do it, but please remember that you have people in your life who can help. Don’t be afraid to call upon them for encouragement.  

Published in: Athletes

Overcoming Performance Errors with Resilience

Published August 14, 2014

By Gloria B. Solomon
California State University at Sacramento

A common occurrence that all athletes encounter is performance errors. All athletes make mistakes; it is a natural part of learning to be competent at any activity. Since mistakes are normal, it is beneficial to help athletes accept that errors will occur in sport. A unique approach to dealing with performance errors is presented by Halden-Brown (2003). In her book, she addresses the normalcy of making mistakes in sport and how coaches can use these errors to train athletes both physically and mentally. I propose that teaching athletes about resilience will facilitate their ability to accept mistakes and use these errors as a catalyst for optimizing performance.

In a book on mental training in softball, the authors delineate five principles of performance excellence (Solomon & Becker, 2004). While set in the context of fastpitch softball, these principles can easily be applied to any competitive setting. The fifth principle, Resilience, is the key to overcoming performance errors. Simply stated, resilience is the ability to remain composed, confident, and consistent in the face of errors. A resilient athlete is one who can let go of errors and return to the present; s/he uses the error as an opportunity to learn and improve. The athlete who is not resilient will dwell on the mistake, be unable to stay in the present, and his/her performance will be inconsistent.

Solomon and Becker (2004) created a four-step process which athletes can use to deal with performance errors. The sequence is as follows.

A = Acknowledge the error and the frustration it has caused
R = Review the play and determine how and why the error occurred
S = Strategize a plan to make the necessary corrections for the future
E = Execute and prepare for the next play

The ability to overcome performance errors is a skill that any athlete can learn. Teaching athletes this sequence will give them a tool for managing the emotional response which comes with making mistakes and help them to get their ARSE in gear!

Halden-Brown, S. (2003). Mistakes worth making: How to turn sports errors into athletic excellence.Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.  

Solomon, G., & Becker, A. (2004). Focused for fastpitch: 80 drills to play and stay sharp. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics

Published in: Athletes