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You're in for a Rude Awakening! Uncomfortable Behaviors Surrounding Learning and Growth

Mindset Made Simple Tip #161 – Watch or listen HERE. (Worksheet included below)

I have had an amazing week. From spending a few days on the campus of Portland State University with the women’s basketball staff and team to kicking off my Fundamentals of Coaching course at Ursuline College to working with a few of my high school and college athletes and finally capping off the week with a trip to Michigan to kick off a year-long program with 60 Michigan Finesse Fastpitch teams, I have learned a ton in the last 7 days!

My biggest lessons learned?

#1. The things we talk about in these Tips and the work we all do with our teams on the mental side of the game if VITAL to their success.

#2. BEHAVIOR IS A CHOICE…not a skill set…and the behaviors our athletes choose matter to their success!

Before I spoke to the group yesterday, two of Northwestern University's softball athletes talked about their experience and shared insights with high school kids in attendance. They teed up my presentation perfectly by talking about the mental challenges that are inherent in playing at the college level. They said nothing about physical talent (we know they have it or they wouldn’t be there). They talked about playing for the team, dealing with failure and success and what it takes to make it at that level…nothing technical or tactical! They talked about the behaviors they have chosen to date that have led to success.

After they spoke, Brian Chidester of College Bound Jocks talked about his daughter, USA Olympian Amanda Chidester. He, too, talked about what made her great …and he didn’t mention her power or physical skills.

All these conversations were based on how these champions choose to behave, regardless of their most recent success or failure!

As we kick off a new school year, everyone in your program is in for some sort of rude awakening.

You know it…you’ve seen it year after year.

They don’t. But they are about to find out!

As my dad, a former high school track coach who had athletes move on to college, Olympic and professional competition, always said, “No matter what we do, we can never fully prepare our kids for the college level. Our training, our schedule and our intensity can never match it.”

And as you and I prepare our teams (you can be one of my team, too…let’s talk about how) set the stage to help those we lead to be their best, let’s consider this…

We are going to see all types of behavior this week…fear, excitement, competitiveness, meekness, weakness, toughness, excuses, hustle, quitting, excelling…the list is only as long as the behaviors we can exhibit!

And no matter what we exhibit….behavior is a conscious choice…and it has nothing to do with our physical skills!

Although behavior is not all about our skill set, the behaviors that will be affected by being sore, tired, uncomfortable, homesick, stressed, under pressure to start right away…will have a direct effect on performance!

As leaders and coaches, we often view behavior as something that can be improved through skill development and practice. While it's true that skills play a crucial role in performance, the driving force behind behavior is rooted in choices. Dr. James Prochaska, a renowned psychologist, aptly puts it: "Change is a process of choice, not a skill set."

And we are asking for big changes.

Problem? We don’t like change so much!

This notion challenges the traditional perspective of behavior being purely a matter of mastering techniques. Instead, it highlights the pivotal role of conscious decision-making in shaping actions. By acknowledging that behavior is driven by choices, we open the door to a deeper level of personal accountability for our performance and our growth.

The point?

Our behaviors determine our destiny, not the physical skills that got us recruited!!

As our athletes run into the discomfort of new systems and challenges, we can help them manage it by reminding them that not mastering a new skill or level (yet) does not affect their ability to communicate, hustle, collaborate, scan the environment for information or build relationships…these are behaviors!

Transformational learning, which is happening on campuses all around the country this week, is rarely a comfortable journey…and discomfort often alters behavior, usually not for the better.

Think about it: When athletes strive to improve their performance, they're not merely learning new techniques; they're altering their beliefs about what's possible and pushing past mental and physical barriers. This process of challenging established notions and stepping out of comfort zones is inherently uncomfortable.

Yet, this discomfort is a sign of growth in action.

It’s growth mindset time for all of us. The question is, how can we remind our athletes that this mindset is all about embracing challenges and viewing them as opportunities?

As leaders and coaches we can help nurture a mindset that welcomes discomfort as a sign of progress...even though we are causing the discomfort in their minds :). When athletes recognize that pushing their limits and changing their behavior is uncomfortable but ultimately rewarding, they become more resilient and adaptable.

But getting them to this point takes some work!

While our athletes are on the struggle bus, getting them to see opportunity in the struggle goes against their nature and innate negativity bias. But we can circumvent these tendencies by using a few simple tools!

  1. Use THIS After Practice Review that asks students to review what is going well, what they would like to change and why they are grateful for this opportunity. Here they can think about how their behaviors affected their performance.

  2. Have them turn a piece of paper sideways and write down on the top of the paper, write one thing that is hard or causing them stress right now.

  • Next have them answer “What is the purpose of this drill, skill, event? What will it help me accomplish?

  • Then draw an arrow down and write the answer. Then have them answer what it will lead to and answer it below another arrow.

  • Then ask, how will working through that skill or drill get them closer to the player they want to be? This helps them tie the things that are causing them discomfort to the larger picture and can help them stay motivated to push through and past their current beliefs.

3. No time for those? Simply ask them to start an Evidence Journal. No matter what the

outcome was today, what were three things they did that made them better as a teammate or players?

Keeping the growth that is taking place in the struggle in mind will help them keep discomfort in perspective and influence the way they look at and respond to what comes next.

Ultimately, our skill set is only as good as our choices and behaviors. If we are defeated by discomfort, our skill sets won’t grow. If we embrace discomfort, challenge our beliefs and limits, and foster growth mindsets within ourselves, our skill set will expand and we will learn to perform at a higher level!

As leaders and coaches, we have the unique opportunity to influence the collective behavior and mindset of our athletes. By instilling the understanding that behavior, and ultimately our performance, stems from choices, we lay the foundation for a culture of ownership, accountability, and continuous improvement.

As author and psychologist Dr. Jim Loehr says "The human spirit is the most powerful and resilient force on earth, and our choices are the ultimate expression of that spirit."

It’s time for our athletes to face their rude awakening with powerful and productive behaviors!

Here is to mastering our behavior…and the moments!


P.S. Hire me to work with your team for one day or all year. Let’s put together a mental training plan that works for your team. Shoot me an email at and let’s get started before 2023-24 program pricing increase begin!

Julie Jones

Mental Performance Coach

SSB Performance • 234-206-0946

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