By:Patrick J. Cohn, Ph.D.
Q & A about how to deal with an intimidating coach.
Question of the Month:
How do you deal with a young athlete who is intimidated by his coach? My son just made the varsity HS team. He's a great hitter, fielder, etc. All of a sudden, he cannot throw in front of the coach. He can throw when the coach is not around, but when the coach is watching his hand freezes up. This has happened two days in a row now. I think he's intimidated by the coach. How can he get rid of this problem?
Dr. Cohn’s Answer: This might be intimidation or it could be that your son wants to impress the new coach and teammates, or it could be something entirely different. If I had a chance to talk to your son, I would want to explore what he is thinking about when the coach is watching him throw such as “what are you most concerned with when the coach is watching you throw”? Or “what does it feel like when you have to throw in front of the coach.”
I do not think it is a confidence issue per se with your son. It sounds like he has the skills in baseball to play the game. Without talking to him further, I would say that he is too concerned with what the coach thinks about him in general. He may be trying to impress the coach, gain acceptance on the team, or is worried about losing a starting spot on the team. Another thing: some athletes worry about getting an earful from the coach after a mistake.
In any event, your son is too result-focused and worried about the outcome of the throw. In my opinion, he is freezing because he is trying too hard and over-controlling the throw. The fear he has about making a poor throw causes this over-control reaction. When this happens, he is forcing his throws and trying too hard to make it perfect. He is probably trying to AVOID a poor throw. The body loses it’s rhythm and timing and then the throw looks and feels awkward. Sometimes it gets so bad that he can’t release or begin the throw.
He needs to make two adjustments. The first is that he has to stop thinking about the consequences of a good or a bad throw (and who might be watching). This means focusing on the task and the ingredients of a good throw. The second adjustment he needs to make is to regain his natural timing and throw with freedom. Simply, he needs to try less and trust his natural ability. This means look at the target and throw without trying to make a perfect throw or avoid a bad throw. React to the target with trust it will go there.
About the Author
Dr. Patrick J. Cohn is a leading mental game coach who consults with professional and amatuer athletes. He is the author of Going Low, Peak Performance Golf, The Mental Game of Golf and The Mental Art of Putting. For more information call (888) 742-7225. Or sign up for free mental game tips newsletter at: www.peaksports.com.
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