Mental Management: Navigating the highs and lows
By Greg Bach
One of the most prolific scorers in the rich history of Syracuse basketball uncovered a valuable mindset early in his development that enabled him to traverse the highs and lows of games and perform at his best.
It’s a focal point that he shares with young athletes these days.
And one certainly worth sharing with your players, too.
“What I actually teach my kids is to stay even keeled,” says Stephen Thompson, who scored nearly 2,000 points during a spectacular career at Syracuse and who these days is an assistant coach at Oregon State. “We don’t celebrate too much if we hit six or seven threes in a row and we don’t go over the top thinking that’s the greatest thing ever because you’ve practiced, you’ve trained, and you know you are capable of doing that.”
Plus, when players operate with that mindset it makes it easier to handle those games where adversity strikes and shots refuse to find the bottom of the net.
“On the other end if you miss six or seven straight we don’t get too low either,” Thompson says. “If you continue to believe in your fundamentals and the work you have put in, eventually you will succeed in overcoming a bad night. I realized at an early age that there are going to be ups and downs, so you don’t want to be too high and you don’t ever want to get too low.”
BONDING AND BUILDING
We hear it all the time, but the ability of coaches to bond with players and genuinely show that they care about them as individuals really does matter.
Thompson experienced those connections throughout his youth and teen years, and is thankful for those influences that shaped and molded his development not only as an athlete, but as an individual, too.
“Even before high school I was blessed to have coaches who believed in me, kept pushing me, invested time in me, wanted to know me and wanted to see me develop into a great young man,” he says. “I was fortunate to have people like this in my life at a very young age.”
Those influences carried over throughout his high-flying days for Syracuse, where he averaged double figures all three seasons he started.
“When that player knows that his coach and his teammates and the people in his life believe in him then the sky is the limit,” says Thompson, who was named to Syracuse’s All-Century Team. “But not only as a player, but in all aspects of that kid’s life. Also, when the kid believes that even if he doesn’t perform the coach still feels the same way about him it makes his confidence shoot up even higher.”
And when that happens young athletes have a chance to rise to great heights.
Just like Stephen Thompson.
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During these unprecedented times coaches still play an all-important role in their young athletes’ lives. Use these tips from well-known psychologist Dr. Peter Scales to stay connected, involved and help players be ready once seasons resume.