Monthly ArchiveNovember 2014

Dealing with negative and self defeating emotions

William James: “The deepest craving of human nature is to be appreciated.”


Adapting to the difference between being a high school sports star to being a bench player in college requires a significant adjustment in attitude if you are to profit from your collegiate athletic and academic experience. Not getting into the game or the same positive attention as players the coaches have identified as top performers or missing the support of a parent or friend, can lead to stress, anxiety, and feelings of inadequacy, all of which can get in the way of your best performance on and off the field.


Fortunately, there are several simple ways of dealing with negative emotions.


  1. Adopt an “attitude of gratitude” by writing down at least one positive in your life each day, preferably as the first thing you do in the morning. Realize that what you have achieved as an athlete is a rare gift, rewarded by continued participation at the collegiate level. Also give thanks for the people who helped you develop your skills and also those who supported you in other ways. Use visualization to recreate mental images that extend and reinforce your positive feelings.   Commit to expressing gratitude in writing or orally at least once a day to someone in your circle to extend positive attitudes to another. Learn to be grateful for lessons learned, when you realized a positive outcome after learning a hard life’s lesson and appreciating your improved performance as a result.


View the following 2-minute video with inspirational text, music, and photographs on the importance of gratitude.



  1. Identify the conditions under which you feel stress. Feelings of stress are normal and often habitual, triggered by situations with similar characteristics. Make an effort to identify recurrent stress-producing situations, such as being yelled at by a coach or fellow player.   This will help prevent your emotions from escalating and allow you to choose a more rational reaction to your circumstances, one in line with your goals rather than expressing spontaneous emotions, which may lower others’ opinions of you as a committed team player. As an alternative, focus on the compliments you receive for effective plays and replay your best behavior in your mind as reinforcement.


Open the link below for a concise explanation of how flight or fight responses are both automatic and temporary.


  1. Use the 6-second rule to help strong emotions fade and rational thinking return. See the video on the link below. It shows that strong emotions typically last 6 seconds or less. Try counting to 600 by 100s, while taking a breath and exhaling slowly. These actions allow you think about how to react in terms of your goals instead of your emotions.


  1. Analyze your own and teammates’ behavior and do an honest and realistic self– Ask the following questions and rank yourself on a scale from best to worst in comparison to teammates.


  1. What do the top performers do to improve their competitive skills? What do the worst performers do?
  2. How do the players who have the best relationships with fellow players communicate with them? The worst?
  3. How do players who have the best relationships with coaches communicate with them? Behave in practice and in competitions? The worst?
  4. What can I learn from players with the best academic records?


  1. Commit to a self-improvement plan modeled on what you have observed about the players who get the most playing time and those who are most respected by coaches and fellow players. Just as the most dedicated players continue to fight for victory when losing a game, you need to continue to pursue your best interests even when discouraged. Find a fellow player to serve as an accountability and study partner who will let you know when you are fulfilling and failing to fulfill your improvement plans. This will encourage you to maintain a commitment to your plan.


  1. Talk to your coaches and counselors about your athletic and academic goals and plans. Your school recruited you because the coaches saw you as someone who could help their team succeed. Take advantage of their goodwill and experience by sharing your goals and asking what they believe you can do to achieve them. Agree to a plan of action and follow up by letting them know what you have been doing to implement the plan. They will appreciate and recognize your efforts.


Being selected to play on a collegiate team is a privilege that only a small percentage of high school athletes are given. When you are feeling down, take positive action. Keep a gratitude journal, define positive goals for your athletic and academic performance, and commit yourself to implementing plans to allow you to continuously improve on several fronts.   Appreciate small victories, taking positive credit for each step you take to achieve your competitive and academic goals.


Good listening skills: the nonverbal communication advantage

As athletes you are probably expected to do a lot of listening: to coaches, advisors, teachers, teammates, business mentors and others who want you to learn from their wisdom. When these people are speaking to you, they will be judging you based on whether they think you are taking them seriously. And that judgment will be strongly based on your listening skills, your nonverbal behavior while they are speaking.


To understand the impact listening skills can have on others’ opinion of you, draw some insight from your own experience.


  1. Recall a time when you thought you were sharing an important idea with someone and at some point realized your remarks were being ignored.
  2. What did you observe about the other person’s behavior that signaled they were not interested in what you were saying?
  3. How did that experience make you feel about yourself?
  4. About the other person?


What you may have found is that people are greatly affected by poor listening behaviors–that a person’s subsequent behavior in a conversation, their feelings about themselves and about the other person all are influenced by how they felt once they realized they were being ignored.


Fortunately, once you become conscious of what good listening looks like to speakers, it is easy to be perceived as a respectful listener. It only requires you to consciously monitor your behavior when others are speaking to you. This means establishing eye contact with the speaker 50-70% of the time; minimal encouragers, such as head nods and occasional relevant questions; a posture of involvement, such as leaning forward in an open position; and empathetic facial expressions.


You need also avoid behaviors that suggest you are not interested in the conversation, such as a lack of eye contact, frequent interruptions, answering a cell phone, exhibiting a “stone face,” or abruptly changing the subject.


The dilemma many athletes face is that positive listening behaviors may not come naturally. Developing good listening skills is not the same as having good hearing. Keeping a “stone face” to not show a reaction to an opponent’s score–or pain or discomfort suffered in a collision–has its place in a competition. Scanning the field for opportunities rather than looking at teammates with effective eye contact may become habits that prove valuable on the field while creating the appearance of rudeness and indifference to a speaker in a one-to-one conversation.


Fortunately, good listening skills are easy to identify and to put into practice with conscious effort. The effort is worth the reward as speakers have a gift for attentive listeners—their trust as well as well as assigning positive traits to the listener such as courteous, attentive, concerned, and respectful, all critical attributes of successful employees.


Henry David Thoreau said that the “greatest compliment ever paid me was when one asked me what I thought and attended to my answer.” Planning listening behaviors to meet a speaker’s highest criteria pays rich dividends to those who take the time to practice them.


Exercise: In a small group of fellow athletes, including members of both genders, record answers to the following six questions on a chart-pad and discuss their implications.


  1. What have you observed that lets you know someone is listening to you?


  1. How does it make you feel when you know someone is listening to you?


  1. What words have you used to describe people who have listened to you attentively?


  1. What have you observed that lets you know someone is ignoring you?


  1. How does it make you feel when you know someone is ignoring you?


  1. What words have you used to describe someone who has ignored you?



Who you are speaks so loudly, I do not hear what you say

As an athlete, your coach may praise you for getting down and dirty and sweating like a pig as a demonstration of commitment to athletic excellence. And you may be spending a lot of time dressed in athletic shorts, T-shirts, white socks, and sneakers, all appropriate for practice and casual conversation in the dorm—and all inappropriate for meetings with business professionals.

The famed American philosopher, Ralph Waldo Emerson, had deep insight into how first impressions deeply influence people’s reactions when he said Who you are speaks so loudly I do not hear what you say. That is, from the moment people first see you, they are making judgments that will shape how they react to you when you begin to speak.

Grooming and employment: In fact, 95% of the employers interviewed said a jobseeker’s personal appearance affected their opinion of that applicant’s suitability for the job and 91% said they believed dress and grooming reflected the applicant’s attitude towards the company.

So it is critical that you make a positive first impression by paying particular attention to how you present yourself to people who could influence your career positively.


What not to wear In particular, beware of imitating the styles of pro athletes or celebrities you might admire, including ostentatious jewelry, body piercings, large visible tattoos, 6-button suits, unusual hairstyles and make-up, loud colors, overtly sexual or faddish clothing, blue jeans, tank tops, and casual footwear, such as flip flops, sneakers, platform shoes, or shoes with 4-6” heels.


Open the link below to see some of the outfits athletes have worn that placed them on a top 10 list of bad taste.


Grooming Guidelines


Instead, use the grooming guidelines below as a way of making sure you meet the highest expectations of the professionals with whom you will be meeting.


  • Body: Cover tattoos, remove or conceal body jewelry and piercings
  • Perfume and cologne: Use light scents, very sparingly
  • Fingernails: Clean and trimmed.
  • Teeth: Freshly brushed
  • Breath: Clean, with no hint of tobacco, alcohol, coffee, or other strong odor. Throw out gum prior to a meeting. Avoid meals with onions and garlic.
  • Antiperspirant: Apply after showering the night before the meeting and again after showering the morning of the meeting for maximum protection


  • Jewelry: Limited and tasteful. It should not draw attention from your face. Appropriate jewelry would be a small band, such as a wedding, engagement, or school ring, and a professional watch. Women might wear a thin necklace or pendant, a single bracelet and small earrings that do not call attention to themselves. Avoid large, bright or gaudy jewelry or jewelry with a religious symbol.
  • Make-up: Women should wear light, natural looking make-up
  • Hair: Neatly combed and trimmed, recently cut and shaped.


  • Clothing: Neatly pressed that morning or the night before. Men’s pants should be long enough to touch the top of shoes. Male athletes should consider buying Italian cut suits if their chests are 8 inches or more larger than their waists for a proper fit. Men should wear long-sleeved shirts. Women should wear skirts or dresses that stop at or below the knee. Be sure to empty your pockets of change that could rattle or large items that would bulge from your pants.
  • Shoes, socks, belts and stockings: Should be relatively new, polished, and leather, and black, brown, or cordovan, with a matching belt and socks. Loafers are often viewed as inappropriate. Women should wear closed toes shoes, preferably with 1-2” heels. Men should wear socks that are calf length and women should wear stockings without runs.


When networking contacts observe that you took time to make yourself meet their highest standards for making a positive first impression, they will see you are a person who is taking them and the meeting seriously, a key step in gaining their trust and serious attention.


Following the checklist above before an important meeting will give you confidence that you will make a positive impression and will build your confidence for the interview.


  1. View the slideshow at the following link to see a corporate presentation on good grooming habits.

  1. When you attend a job fair, make a point of noticing how the interviewers and job candidates are dressed and groomed, noting both positive and negatives examples.


Be gracious to everyone you meet because you never know when you are entertaining an angel

The great civil rights leader, Whitney Young, said It is better to be prepared for an opportunity and not have one, than to have an opportunity and not be prepared for it. That is, you should strive to create a positive and lasting impression in every interaction you have, especially with those who may provide just the right insight to assist you in achieving a career goal. As the apostle Paul suggested: You should Be gracious to everyone you meet, because you never know when you are entertaining an angel.”


First impressions: A famous ad once cautioned, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. One of the first steps that athletes can take is to learn how to prepare for meetings–even those that are unexpected–is to look at themselves through the eyes of a business professional and to ask: How would the ideal student-athlete behave in this situation?


Two fundamental rules will help guide you: the golden rule and the platinum rule.


The golden rule: The golden states that you should treat others as you would want to be treated if you switched places with them.


For example, if someone were to invite you to share a meal at a restaurant, he or she might observe how you treat the server and other restaurant workers as an indicator of your character and as a predictor of how you might treat others on the job. So smiling and establishing eye contact with the restaurant staff, listening to the server attentively without interruption, and complimenting the service and the food would all suggest you would make a positive and agreeable co-worker.


The platinum rule: The platinum rule states that you should treat others as they would want to be treated.   This requires that you analyze the situation and predict what the other person might consider polite behavior. Seeing you as a healthy, physically fit athlete, for example, older or physically impaired people might expect you to open a door for them while younger, physically fit persons might not. Or you might demonstrate the high energy expected of athletes and politeness at the same time by acting to be the first person to reach a door, opening it for people coming in the opposite direction and continuing to hold it until your entire party passes through.


In essence, following the golden and platinum rules are excellent guides that will allow you to create the kinds of positive impressions that are key to people wanting to help you achieve your career goals.




  1. If your coach asked you to attend a meeting at which top alumni contributors were attending, what might they expect you to say about your school, your coach, and your team to meet their highest expectations of a student-athlete?


  1. How might you prepare for competition in a foreign country to show you respect the language and cultural traditions of your hosts?


Pursuing a 4-year career plan while in college, including classes, work, and leadership

In our many years of advising students athletes we have discovered the most successful job seekers have two things in common: they took charge of their careers during their college years by defining their employment goals and implementing strategies for achieving them, and they developed and nurtured an ambitious networking plan that helped them find the information they needed to compete successfully for available jobs.


In this blog, we outline a four-year career preparation program, with each successive year building on skills developed in the prior year.


Year One: Awareness: Self-assessment and self-understanding


You should begin making your career plan as soon as arrive on campus– as decisions you make your freshman year—such as the courses you select, connections you make, and skills you learn to help manage your time and relationships.


  • Fundamentals
    • Time Management, so you use your time in ways that meet your three most important priorities: to practice, complete coursework, and pursue career goals effectively
    • Hospitality Skills, including business etiquette, dress, grooming, personal qualities, listening, expressing appreciation, all critical to networking success.
  • Connections
    • Mentor: Find one or more alumni, preferably a former student-athlete, who have been successful in a field similar to your personal goals, such as business, government, nonprofit, education, sports management or arts & entertainment and gain insight into what led to their success, lessons learned, what classes they recommend you take, which extra curricular activities might be best for you and suggestions on additional mentors who might help you.
  • Resources
    • Visit your school’s Career Center and become aware of its resources, such as data on the relationship between majors and careers they support.
    • Self-Assessment: use the self-assessment tools available at your school’s career center, as they will help you clarify what careers might fit your interests and abilities.


Year Two: Branding, interviewing, and seeking summer work


During your sophomore year, you will be choosing a major and developing a brand identity, one which highlights your strengths, especially those reflected in your athletic accomplishments.. With this information you can promote that brand identity through social media—reflecting your strengths in writing, through PowerPoint slides, and in a branding video.


Promoting yourself: Creating a LinkedIn page that sells your brand

  • Create a file in which you keep a record of positive information about yourself, including statistics, praise from others, and outcomes related to your initiatives. This information will be used in your written, oral, and video career communication.
  • Write both 1 & 2 page resumes, and when to use each
  • Create a videotaped 90-second elevator pitch. Consider also creating one showing you playing your sport with a narration indicating what it tells potential employers about the personal qualities that drive your success
  • Use photos and text in PowerPoint slides of athletics, service, work, and school
  • Put it all together on a LinkedIn page
  • Edit your Facebook page to promote a positive image of yourself, including deleting images and text employees may find objectionable.

Finding the right summer job

  • Master job interviewing basics: the screening interview
  • Attend career fairs and meet the firms events with a specific plan as to how you will sell yourself.
  • Make your networking contacts aware of your job search objectives
  • Seek and evaluate summer work opportunities


Year Three: Building your credentials for co-ops and full time work


Many companies favor hiring students who have co-op or internship experience. And many offer full-time jobs upon graduation to those who interned with them the summer after their junior year.  So gaining a summer internship is essential to competing with non-athletes for the best jobs.


In addition, you need to learn to master answering behavior-based questions, the most frequently used approach to job interviewing. Successful athletes have a strong advantage in this area, as they can tells stories that demonstrate the qualities that lead to athletic success: conscientiousness, perseverance, self-regulation, optimism, goal setting, leadership, problem solving, counseling, diversity, listening, following instructions, and loyalty


  • Use networking to identify summer internships and co-ops
  • Attend on and off-campus job fairs and meet the firms events
  • Update resumes and online images, projects and achievements
  • Learn advanced job interviewing: behavior based interviewing
    • Mastering the CAR approach to behavior based interviewing
    • Telling memorable stories:
      • Creativity stories
      • Connection stories
      • Triumph stories


Year Four: Finding a full time job


If you are not offered a full-time job at the end of a summer internship, you should make finding one a major priority your senior year until you do. This will require you to continue networking with fellow athletes, mentors, alumni, relatives, friends, past co-workers, teachers, and fellow volunteers in organizations in which you have served.  Once you are made one or more offers, you need to learn three skills:  negotiation, managing money, and making a positive first day impression on the job


  • Evaluating and negotiating job offers
  • Learning how to manage money
  • Creating and sustaining a positive first impression on the job.


Benefits:  As you implement each year’s plan, you will learn skills that will build your self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-understanding.  And you will have vastly increased control over your career destiny, now and in the future.


Exercise: Take the career readiness inventory below.  Commit yourself to achieving each action early in your freshman year.


  1. I have begun a networking plan to gain insight from others about how to best pursue my career goals., including lists of fellow players, friends, neighbors, relatives, teachers, and club members whom I can contact for career advice and insight yes     no



  1. I have a professional wardrobe that I can wear to networking events, job fairs, meet the firms nights, and interviews with mentors and employers  yes     no


  1. I have edited my Facebook page so only positive information is included in it yes     no


  1. I have created a concise, positive voice mail greeting yes     no


  1. I am keeping a record of positive things that coaches, fellow players, employers, teachers, fellow students, and others have said about my performance. yes     no


  1. I am keeping a list of quantitative measures of my success, such as records set, game winning plays, championships won, awards won and the number that led to them, as well as quantitative measures of success in other endeavors such as time and money saved, money earned in an entrepreneurial activity, raises and bonuses received. yes     no


  1. I have developed a resume which I update regularly and which I have had a professional evaluate. yes     no


site with several relevant blogs  networking site  focuses on high school athletes