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Simple Steps to Change

Updated: Dec 22, 2020

I hope this finds you enjoying beautiful weather like we have been enjoying here in Akron! It feels like summer…but we know that drastic change is on the way!

So…since change is on the way AND since I am doing a webinar on Thursday for our Institute for Women, Wellness and Work at Ursuline College called “Thriving in a Pandemic: Simple Actions for Immediate Change, let’s take a look at change today!

I will be offering the webinar for coaches on Monday, November 30 at 12:00 EST. Check your inbox for more information soon!

Now…to change…and not change in the weather.

As coaches, we are change agents. Think about how much change we affect and/or expect from our athletes. We bring them to a new home, a new system, a new role, a new culture, new teammate, with new responsibilities. All of this (and more) forces them to change and build new habits…not all of them good, unfortunately.

As they encounter all this change, their brains are automatically slamming on the breaks. Remember, our brains are not fond of change…and too much change puts us automatically on the path of familiarity or least resistance…not what is needed or best!

Think back to when you first started coaching and you tried to change everything you saw that needed adjustments in the first day of practice…or when your young assistant felt the urge to do this?

What did you learn?

I am pretty sure you learned that trying to change a bunch of things at once put your athletes over the edge…and lead to very little change… and an unhappy athlete!

We know this to be true when working with skill related things, but we rarely talk about how change overload affects the likelihood of change.

Well…research shows that we need to employ our skill related change methods in helping our athletes build habits – skill related or other – that will stick and lead them toward better performance.

BJ Fogg, author of Tiny Habits clearly believes in Coach Wooden’s famous quote that “little things make big things happen.” He recommends that ALL new habits start SO SMALL that they can be completed in 60 seconds or less.

What good does a new habit that takes less than 60 seconds do?

It keeps our brain from slamming on the breaks. It helps us improve little step by little step and it helps us gain momentum…moving from potential energy to kinetic energy…and we all know how mportant movement is in sport and in life!

He contends that if we start so small…like setting out our yoga mat even if we don’t take the time to do yoga, eventually we will do what we intend to do…and continue to build toward more lofty intentions.

If we sleep in our workout t-shirt (which I do) and set our shorts, socks and shoes in the bathroom to put on right after we brush our teeth, we may as well walk down the steps to the treadmill…heck, we are half way there! And it’s just weird to walk around the house in your running shoes all day 😊!

We also need to have our athletes attach their new habit to an existing habit.

So, if we follow Fogg’s theory, we need to help our athletes decide what they need to change or what habits will help them improve their performance. They can write out a list and then choose something small that can be done in 60 seconds or less to get them going…and something they can connect it to!

Here is the method – When I….. I will….

I want to eat less for breakfast…which has been an issue for me in the past! So, when I pour my cereal….I will put the milk away immediately… so I don’t pour myself another overflowing bowl and eat 800 calories for breakfast.

Or when I get to the practice facility…I will walk immediately into the training room (this is the first step in getting to the training room to heat my hamstrings before practice…but I normally sit and talk with my teammates until it is too late).

When I walk downstairs, I will set out my yoga mat. Or I will put on my workout clothes RIGHT AFTER I brush my teeth.

These things seem so simple…but we must start SMALL. Maybe you don’t have time to start small when it comes to practice related stuff, but if we want to help our athletes change their habits, we have to help them make things as obvious, easy and appealing as possible.

Why? Because no one really likes to change…and we get sidetracked so easily that we have to have a simple plan if we want to accomplish any type of change.

You get the idea…simple is key…we will talk more about keeping it simple next week…but think simple to start!

One more thing. Fogg suggests that this is VITALLY important to our CELEBRATE our success. This is the part of the habit loop that gets overlooked because we feel silly celebrating something so simple!

He says the total process is - When I…..I will…then I’ll…CELEBRATE.

Seriously, celebrate laying out your yoga mat…or doing 2 push ups every time you go to the refrigerator, walking into the training room, etc.

This means I have to give myself a fist pump when I put the milk in the fridge! Yes…way to go piggy! 😊

When it comes to habits…simple is best…attaching it to something we already do is important…and celebrating is vital…it rewires our brain to continue to do things that make us feel good! (Our bodies like that kinds of stuff!).

What 60 second habit can you start that will turn your potential energy into kinetic energy? I am sure you can find something! I’ll be fist pumping tomorrow at my refrigerator…what will you be doing? 😊

Be well!



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