Posts Tagged ‘psychology’

b-w-team-huddledI’ve been a part of teams for over 35 years and I know that one of the most important parts of being on a team is showing up. Showing up for off-season lifting and pick-up games, showing up for practices, for film sessions, for team meals, and then for games. The thing is, there is more to it than just showing up… how you show up matters most.

I’ve had the privilege of showing up as a player on elite, winning teams, and I’ve had the challenge of showing up on teams that go winless for an entire season. There is a very real shift in psychology when the excitement and hope of a season fades into the frustrated reality that opponents are going to be tough and the work that lay ahead may not provide the results the team truly desires.

Players want to play and teams play games to win. Period. Putting forth exhausting effort to come up short time and again, starts to weigh on players and ultimately on teams. The psychology of an athlete and a team is challenged at the extremes. The players who experience consistent playing time and winning are challenged to stay focused and humble. The players on teams experiencing losses are challenged to see a point in working hard, they have to navigate personal, ugly emotions that come with sitting on the sideline or losing. They either give up trying or they use a lot of energy to determine ways to keep fighting and to help their teammates do the same. It is much harder to be a part of a team that is in defensive battle mode.

The hardest thing to keep in mind is that true winning (competing well each and every outing) is always possible. It’s a decision to show up well.

This is not an easy decision, however.

The team I am currently coaching is 2 and 9 and facing the back half of a season with the same opponents who have already beat up on us once. We are experiencing the hardest part of being in battle mode.

This is where the true character of these players and the heart of this team will be tested most.

There are countless ways the guys can decide to respond. Countless ways to show up….or not. I’m challenged to help them to dig in and to find value in competing well no matter their record. It’s for pride. It’s for building upon the groundwork we are laying. It’s for sharpening the character tools in their toolboxes as they prepare to go on to college, or jobs where what they’ve learned about competing well will matter.

We need to continue to show up well:

  • Show up early (or at the very least on time)
  • Show up ready (bring all gear necessary)
  • Show up positively (find the good in other players and the fun in the game)
  • Show up focused (leave other thoughts off the field and bring mental focus into the task at hand)
  • Show up ready to work hard (no matter what you are able to do in a day, do your best)
  • Show up ready to learn (see each day as an opportunity to grow as a person and as a team)

Showing up happens on an individual level, but it is layered with an awareness of what showing up means to the team as a whole.

I’d like to say, after all this time on teams, that I’ve perfected the showing up thing. I haven’t. I am equally challenged to show up well and I need reminders to stay the course too. It is a daily decision and I need to come back to the decision each morning because, for me, any time I have the opportunity to be part of  a team I have made the implicit agreement to show up well.


Meagan Frank is the author of the Choosing to Grow series, a national speaker, athlete, coach, and mother of three. A 1997 graduate of Colorado College, Meagan was a four-year starter and senior captain on the Division I women’s soccer team and lettered in Division III women’s basketball. She has coached recreational, high school, elite, and college-level teams for both boys and girls.

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Copyright 2016       Meagan Frank   Choosing to Grow



Winning feels good. Scoring goals, having a shutout, and performing well feels good. Losing hurts, as does poor performance or lack of production.  From the perspective of an athlete who has felt all of those emotions as a player, I still struggle with how to get rid of those feelings when I watch our children from the sideline. I don’t want to feel good or badly about how our kids play because I don’t think it’s the best way to parent. The only feeling I want to havefor them is love , so I have to practice processing and discarding any other emotion.

We cannot control the way we feel, and it takes a lot of practice to suppress the involuntary emotion so that it does not appear at the wrong times.

Let me tell you how I managed my emotions well this weekend… and how I did it poorly.

It was an interesting weekend in our house.  Two of our kids had tournaments.  One kid played awesome and her team won the tournament championship…the other kid is playing pretty average right now, and his team did well to get third place. What struck me most was my own struggle with emotional reactions to the parent chatter about our children.

When people would tell me, “Oh you must be so excited…she is playing so well right now” or “Congratulations, she did awesome!” I sit for a moment. Why are they congratulating me? I had nothing to do with it. I do respond, however. I don’t want to be that odd woman who turns silently and walks away, and I want to handle it in a way that reflects my parenting philosophy. I do better with positive emotions (who doesn’t) and it is relatively easy for me to respond well. I put the credit squarely on the shoulders of my hard-working kid. “Yeah, I’m so excited for her. She has worked hard this weekend.” or “Make sure to tell her that. She earned it.”

My daughter gets big hugs and smiles no matter what…I am aware that I give her the same kind of hug no matter how she has done.

I didn’t do as well with the more negative comments about her brother.  While walking out of one of my son’s games I heard this: “Skunked again huh?  He hasn’t got a goal yet? I bet that bugs him, huh?” I didn’t respond as well as I would have liked. It has been a rough year for our son, who has traditionally believed about himself that he is a goal-scoring forward.  He has been challenged to play defense for his team, and he is working hard to learn the position. He is trying to learn to add value when what he has known to offer before has been limited to offensive production.  It has been a challenge for all of us to watch him struggle to play the way he can.

So, my impatient response was, “No, he’s just ready to be done with defense.”

It’s not really what I wanted to say, and I did not give myself enough time to think it through.  What I wanted to say instead was, “He’s having fun playing, he enjoys his teammates, he works hard to protect the goalie, and I’m proud of him for trying so hard.”

I was able to compose myself enough before our ride home, and I was more positively present for our son.  I let him tell me about the game from his perspective…I listened to the ways he remembered being valuable.

“I stayed focused and didn’t sit with the girls before the game” he told me, “Did you see me kick the puck off the line? The goalie said I saved a goal.”

I had seen those things, but I had only “felt” the mistakes… the struggles.  I needed him to remind me about the privilege I have to be his parent.

I can’t help feeling the way I feel while watching our kids pour their hearts into something.  I am along with them for the experience, but I think it is really important that I don’t influence the feelings they deserve to have all on their own. My feelings are my feelings, and I never want my feelings about their performances to be the reason they feel any differently about themselves. The only feeling I want them to feel from me is love.

When we get in the habit of basking in the awesome feelings that come with positive performance, kids pick up on that…in contrast, they will absolutely know when we are disappointed or sad if their performance wasn’t good. It is a vicious cycle that works to convince kids that their worth is inextricably tied to whether they win or lose…score or not…play well or horribly.

Love doesn’t feel like that.


2012 copyright Meagan Frank                                      Choosing to Grow                   


Yelling Back

Posted: December 17, 2011 in Uncategorized
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If I’m going to honestly pursue personal growth through sport, I cannot ignore those nagging thoughts in my mind. The ones that wake me up at 3:30 in the morning. The ones that keep flashing themselves into my head, and I know they will not go away until I write them down.

So here I sit…trying to procrastinate even longer.  I don’t want to deal with some of the things that my recent book research has unearthed for me.  I don’t want to work through some obvious issues that I can feel trying to manifest themselves in my reactions and emotions.

I worry that what I need to address may upset people, and in the case that I inadvertantly offend someone… I am sorry.

I’m not entirely sure where this blogpost is going to go, but I want it to go someplace honest… and that is about all I can promise.

I have been the mother of a competing, athletic boy for six years.  I have only been the mother of competing, athletic girls for two. I feel like I’ve done pretty well with the boy…helping to coach him through the ups and downs of what it is to compete in youth sports.  I’ve been able to explain away bad parent behavior and he has honestly handled most of it pretty well. I am struggling much more with youth sports’ navigation for my girls.

Obviously, you say. You were a girl athlete.  Yes, that is why I struggle.  But it is with what I am struggling that gives me pause.

My issue has to do with the men and dads who are around my girls. Nothing too outrageous has happened, but my sensitivity is most certainly heightened, and I need to get a handle on my fears here, or it is going to paralyze me…and probably both the girls too.

I have an issue, and it is MY issue, with loud men involved with girls’ youth sports.

Here is probably why:

My very first sports memory is of my dad putting up a basketball hoop on our driveway. Actually almost all of my good memories with my dad involve athletic endeavors: running football patterns in the backyard, shooting baskets, catching a ball as I jumped off the diving board, learning to kick a field goal, or holding my breath for a length of the pool so I could go to Dairy Queen.

Many of my bad sports memories involve my dad too.

As I got older, and my dad’s alcoholism got worse, he was the dad who would show up on the sidelines belligerent and angry.  He would yell at refs or “encourage” through his frustrated tone. He was thrown off of soccer fields, out of wrestling and basketball gyms and there is likely a large part of me that has not sufficiently dealt with what that did to me.

He coached one of my basketball teams, and during the pre-game chalk talk his hands were shaking so badly (from withdrawal) that he couldn’t even write the x’s and o’s. Noone sounds quite as frustrated and irritated as an alcoholic in withdrawal. I know our team lost that game, and he very nearly got thrown out. We were an hour away from  home, and when we stopped for lunch, he went to the “bathroom” for about fifteen minutes. The two girls who were riding with us went to get in the car with me and we discovered four of six newly bought beers were gone. His shaking had stopped, but the girls and I shook in the backseat the entire way home.

There are other stories of embarassment, frustration and hurt connected to my dad and his presence in my sports life. It was the only common language we ever spoke. He yelled and I did everything I could to please him…to be good enough to earn his approval.

I hear him in the stands at our girls’ games. Not literally him, but the things he used to say, the frustrated tone he used to use. The hairs on my neck raise, and all I want to do is walk up to those dads…those coaches… and yell in their faces, “Do you have ANY idea how talking like this to your daughter is going to hurt her? She doesn’t want you to yell like that at her! She just wants you to cheer for her and tell her that she’s working hard.”

Given the fact that I cried while writing this, I can tell I’ve tapped into something that has needed my attention for far too long. I don’t want to lose it on a dad I barely know.  I want to see the learning opportunity for my girls and to stay objective enough to offer insight to them.

I am learning…I am growing…and I know all too well, that process is NEVER pain free.

Learn more about Meagan or her current book project at

copyright 2011  Meagan Frank      choosing to grow

It’s an honor to be asked to wear that captain’s band. I was fortunate enough to wear a number of captain’s bands in my playing days, but today’s post is not about those who wear the band, but rather those who don’t.

When I was a junior in high school, the competitive club soccer team, for whom I had always played, dissolved because the members of my team either quit or moved to other clubs.  I was left with a decision to make.

I was a captain without a team.

My younger sister played in the same club for the team a year younger than me and she was the captain for her team too.  I was offered a spot on that team, because I was young enough to be rostered with them, but accepting that role meant I lost my center-midfield position and my captainship.

For the next two years, my younger sister wore the captain’s band, and I did not.

I had chosen loyalty to my club and to a team over selfish interests, and I have NEVER regretted that decision. That team won a number of national tournaments, competed well with the best teams in the country, and produced some of the best team soccer I have ever had the opportunity to experience.

I was the oldest one on the team, and it mattered how I acted without that captain’s band.

What does true leadership really look like?

Leadership looks like the quiet consistent work ethic of my sister, and it looks like a clear commitment to support her by the older midfielder to her right.

I read a blogpost this morning and it laid out a number of important leadership principles.  I truly believe that these principles can be put into practice by not only the leadership in charge, but also those leaders who may not even be in positions of leadership.

Dan Rockwell produces poignant pieces, daily, about the trends and philosophies of corporate leadership in his blog: Leadership Freak. Today’s blog listed the six characteristics of a customer-centric leader.

I am going to adapt the gist of his points to apply them to teams and teammates.

A good captain (with or without the band):

1. Listens to and learns about her teammates.

2. Speaks about the goals of the team as well as the goals of his/her teammates instead of her own.

3. Offers the best of herself for those around her.

4. Understands the universal needs of the group and the needs of her teammates.

5. Serves other successfully and inspires them to follow

6. Leaders follow their followers.

A good team is a group of servant-leaders who put the goals of the group ahead of their own aspirations.

I wanted to be a part of a good team, even if that meant I had to humble myself to do it.

I tried to act like a captain even though I wasn’t one, and I challenge ALL leaders without the band to do the same thing.

Do enough people behave like captains without the band? Is it possible to lead gracefully from the shadows?

US and Canadian national teams shake hands after Canada wins the gold medal

Shaking hands with an opponent is supposed to be a sign of good sportsmanship.

I don’t agree. It’s not that you shake hands…it’s HOW you shake hands that matters.

After emotionally-charged soccer or basketball games, I always lined up with my teammates to go through the ritual post-game congratulations. The thing I’ve discovered…only the winning team ever really feels like doing this.

I have either witnessed, or been personally involved with, several incidents that were anything but sportsmanlike.  I’ve seen spitting, pushing, elbow jabs, aggressive high-fives and the high-five that was offered and then moved at the last second…psyche! I’ve heard completely inappropriate comments and I’ve seen all-out brawls.

A post-game handshake that escalated into a fight recently challenged my opinion on this subject.

Saturday night I was running our children from a hockey rink to a birthday party to a hockey rink and then home, and all the while I kept up via Livestats with the game for the college hockey team my husband helps coach.  UW-River Falls was playing the second of a two-game series against the defending national champions, St. Norbert College. Because River Falls had won the game Friday, 6-3, they had a chance for a weekend sweep.

When I got home, River Falls was losing 3-0 and I was sure my husband would be relieved with a split for the weekend. By the time I took our youngest to bed, the score was 4-0 in the third period. I read her a book and went back for one last check of the score…it was 4-2 with 9 minutes left in the game. I’ve watched enough hockey games to know that a 2-goal game is far from over… until the last buzzer sounds.

I ran downstairs with my computer, pulled up the radio broadcast of the game and listened, with our older two, as the Falcons came back to tie the game and then go up 5-4. It was somewhat unbelievable. SNC tied the game 5-5 and it remained tied through the overtime.

The broadcaster explained that there was understandably plenty of emotion for both teams at the end of the game.  Pushing, shoving, and emotional (colorful) commentary. It’s hard to imagine being a player on either end of that sporting contest without having an emotional opinion about what just happened.

The real problem arose when the teams lined up for the hand-shaking ceremony. Practically immediately, the players from both teams were involved in a fighting scrum. Coaches and the referees eventually broke things up and the players took their emotions to their respective locker rooms.

Should these two teams have been asked to go through a handshaking line when they had (only seconds earlier) been yelling and fighting with one another?

I initially had a real problem with this entire episode (a conversation that rose to its own escalation when my husband and I talked about it later).

“You HAVE to keep it together at the end of a game and it is good sportsmanship to tell your opponent good game,” I argued.

“There is no reason those guys should have been allowed to stay on the ice. Emotions were just running too high.,” my husband said.

So who’s right about this?  We tell parents who are emotionally charged after a game to wait 24-hours to talk to a coach.  Anger-management experts agree that your heart rate needs to be below 120 if you are to make reasonable decisions, so arguments when you are emotionally charged are useless conversations.  Can players who have just spent emotional, physical, and intellectual energy in a tight and emotional contest be expected to make rational decisions shaking hands?

There were plenty of commentaries about this very issue when two NFL coaches practically went to blows during an after-game handshake.

I know handshakes can happen without incident, but I was not in that rink…my husband was…those officials were.  They should have made a different call.

The national teams for Canada and the US were able to hold intense emotions at bay for the handshake of a lifetime, and after what was arguably one of the most emotioanally intense games I have ever seen. Athletes and teams should aspire toward the class that was displayed during that gold-medal game. There are times, however, when the decision to just walk away is not only appropriate,  it may be necessary.

Maybe there should be two options for the end-of-game handshake routine:

If the teams are in control enough to come to the middle, everyone from both teams should shake hands.

If the teams seem as though they will  only make a volatile situation worse…just send the captains.  It is much harder to dive into mob mentality when there are only a few representatives from each team, and you would expect your captains would represent the team and/or school with the integrity that a handshake should really be.

What do you think? Should we make teams take part in hand-shaking no matter what?

Jazzercise is a Sport

Posted: September 15, 2011 in Psychology, Uncategorized
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Yes. I have started jazzercise.

For those of you who knew me as a college athlete, or as a high school athlete, or as a ridiculously competitive kid…this may be hard to picture.

I admit, it was a little hard for me to visualize for myself, since my outward impression has been that those classes are for slow, old ladies. I have been to four classes, and I don’t believe that anymore.  I may be slower and older…but these classes are what you make of them. (I have been sore after every one:)

It kindof feels like I’m starting a twelve-step program and it takes concerted effort to enunciate the phrase, “Hi, my name is Meagan, and I am a jazzerciser.”

Sports have generally been about competition for me. Driving myself past pain, or injury or any opponent I might face. It was serious business.

Working out was like that for me for a long time too.  Long runs, intense lifting, and I would even find ways to compete with aerobics classmates to lift heavier weights and do more repetitions. I didn’t mind eyes watching me in a gym, so I could show off strength and agility. I loved the mirrors so I could be reminded that I am actually pretty coordinated.

My jazzercise classroom has no mirrors. There are no men…and thus no distraction and no competing for attention. (those of you who spend any time in a gym, know what I’m talking about)

I’m changing.

I have started to crave the exercise that fulfills so much more than a physical achievement, or identity affirmation.  I have accepted the limits of my body, and I know I can get stronger and more aerobically fit, but I will NEVER be in the kind of shape I remember being in when I was younger.

I’ve been in denial about that, and I started to realize I was never going to enjoy exercise again, if I kept getting angry about what my body can’t do anymore.

It’s a psychological hurdle I had not anticipated. As I’ve started this CTG:For the Sport of It project, I have laid out the many areas I want to explore. It is becoming apparent that, if I want to truly grow through this process, I am going to have to expose some of the uglier parts about my own personal psychology with sports.

My identity has been so wrapped up in sports, that it is going to take some time to dig through the reasons I’ve made the choices I have.  College sports were an achievement, and ultimately a way to pay for college. Commuting forty minutes to coach for a competitive club was a way I sought approval from a father-figure mentor. And accepting a college coaching position was about status and recognition…at first.

So here I am. Sandwiched between the crazy, competitive world of our kids’ sports while I navigate my own world as an athlete on the backside of my trip through.

My kids and I are experiencing sports on two distinct levels.

The first of 27 definitions of the word “sport” describes it as a “competitive athletic activity requiring skill and physical prowess”. Definition three, on the dictionary app on my phone–(high level source, I know!) says sport is a “diversion; recreation, or pleasant pasttime.”

I’ve never looked at sports from the third definition. I’ve been on the first definition my entire life, and if I wasn’t able to do the first one well, I didn’t want to do any sport at all.

I want to change my focus. I am not one-dimensional, and my experience with sports needs to be fuller and multi-dimensional too.

Do what I CAN do, right?

I just want to dance to good music, burn a few calories and have fun…that’s my sport these days.  What’s yours?