Dear Perfectionist Coaches,
I know there are so many emotions during all of the little moments throughout the competition season, and we have a standard of perfection. Helping everyone get their hair and makeup done, walking to the warm-up floor, and the most dreaded coaching moment at competitions… pushing the play button to start the music. (Why is that so terrifying?!? I don’t fully understand why, but I personally hate that moment. I can’t breathe, I can’t think, and my hand is usually shaking out of control so that actually hitting the button seems like an insurmountable feat). One reason pushing play is so hard? I want to be the perfect coach for my team.
Do you feel 100% confident the whole time you’re at a competition? If you’re human, your confidence probably waivers, and I’m here to tell you that’s ok and normal. We all have a lot of stressful moments as coaches, but we are usually so wrapped up in our team and making sure everything is perfect for them, that we don’t always take care of ourselves and our own mental state. The national finals for example are 4 days of emotional ups and downs, little sleep, physical exhaustion, team laughing fits, moments of sheer terror, and absolute joy. When you are going through all of those moments, it’s important to be aware of what you are thinking and telling yourself. Especially if you’re a perfectionist, your own self-talk is vitally important.
Self-talk is exactly what it sounds like. Anytime you have a thought, you are talking to yourself. Self-talk can be a major asset as a coach, or an awful hurdle to overcome. It’s vital that you are self-aware during the competition so take a minute to notice your thoughts…Is what I’m thinking right now really the best thing for me? Is this going to help me be the best coach I can be?
If you are walking back to the warm-up floor and you think, “Oh wow, this is scary, it’s happening,” you’re setting yourself up for a big challenge. I’m sure you’re an excellent coach and have a wonderfully positive smile on your face and everything is outwardly perfect… But if you allow yourself (yes allow yourself) to have a negative thought, you can take better care of yourself.
There is significant scientific evidence to support the devastating effects of negative self-talk. You start to label yourself rather than take an honest evaluation of negative behavior or a mistake. If something doesn’t go well during a performance, don’t label yourself a bad coach. You are not a bad person, maybe you made a mistake or there is something you would like to do differently, but an honest evaluation of negative behavior is supportive and allows for growth. Wallowing in negative self-talk destroys your confidence – and your team can tell.
I personally struggled with negative self-talk for years.
If I’m being honest, I still do, I’m just better at recognizing it now and turning it around. For example, when it was time for awards and the team was holding hands with their heads bowed, I was awful to myself. “I don’t think it’s going to happen. I didn’t do enough. I should have done X,Y, Z during practice this year. They deserve better, I’m so sorry girls.” All while we sit and wait those terrifying few minutes to hear what actually happened. Let alone what I would say to myself once we heard the results.
The Rabbit Hole of Perfection and Negative Self-Talk
Don’t let yourself go down a rabbit hole of negative self-talk. Of course, you can’t end it completely. We will always be hard on ourselves, we’re competitive passionate people. But you can recognize the negative thoughts and stop them before they go on too long or cut too deep. I finally learned to notice those scary negative feelings and purposely think of something else. A positive affirmation statement or simply reminding myself of the team motto that year would work wonders.
Affirmation statements are positive thoughts about yourself or statements about what you want, phrased as if you already have it. These statements should be believable and vivid. I encourage you to come up with a go-to affirmation statement that connects for you. If you can prepare now so that you have something already worked out, it will be much easier to use it and remember it when you’re in need.
For example, one year our team motto was P.A.C.T. which stood for Passion, Accomplishment, Character, and Trust. I struggled with negative self-talk a lot that year, but unlike my early coaching days, I knew how to stop those thoughts and no longer felt silly doing it. That year, when I caught myself saying something negative about what a terrible coach I was or what a horrible decision that was, it’s like a little light bulb would go on and I’d think, “Stop it, you’re better than this. P.A.C.T. P.A.C.T. P.A.C.T. P.A.C.T.” I would repeat it over and over until the negative thoughts had stopped. I was reminded that if I act out of passion with strong character, the accomplishments I want will come. I trust myself and my team.
You Are a Good Coach, Perfection is not the Goal
My point today is this: Remind yourself how capable you are when you are getting ready for a performance. Decide on an affirmation statement that is meaningful for you. You want the last thought in a string of self-talk to be positive and self-enhancing. “My heart is beating so fast. That’s OK, I’ve been here before, I know how to help my team stay calm and I truly believe in them. Just breath and smile, I’m a good coach.”
There are a lot of things out of your control at a large competition. The order of competition, the judges, the weather, everyone else’s mood… but you are in charge of your own thoughts. Be kind to yourself during a competition. If you take care of yourself with some simple positive self-talk, you will be that much stronger, and you can show up as the coach you want to be for your team.
I believe in you,