Aug 16, 2018
On a Positive Note

It’s no secret that athletes sometimes come into the weight room or practice excited and ready to work, but are the exact opposite as they approach the end of a session. In fact, many coaches probably experienced this in their own time as athletes. To help coaches counteract this change in attitude, Joshua Heidegger, CSCS, lays out some tips for ending a training session with a on a positive note in a blog for Volt Athletics.

First, Heidegger recommends adding a touch of competition to the lighten up the end of any practice such as a relay race. This doesn’t have to be something complicated, and doesn’t even have to have something to do with your specific sport. To make it more interesting, coaches can even create consequences for the losing athletes. If they do want it to be more meaningful, coaches can also use an idea that enforces a lesson from the day.

“We have even held a team-wide Rock-Paper-Scissors tournament to end a session!” writes Heidegger. “It doesn’t have to be physically demanding every time. Mix it up and keep them guessing. If your athletes are focused on the task at hand and competing, you’ve won.”

Another idea is to refrain from simply ending practice with a team cheer or even having athletes leave directly after the completion of a workout. Instead, Heidegger recommends taking some time to talk with them as a group, and using this time to reinforce the culture of your team. This also means talking about specifics that occurred during practice, whether it’s positive or something that your athletes need to work on. But don’t just talk at the athletes, as they can easily become distracted. Heidegger suggests having them answer a few questions or creating a conversation where each one can be engaged.

One way that Heidegger has made this conversation more meaningful and helped athletes remember what was discussed was creating a handout with a short book review, some recovery and nutrition tips, and a motivational quote. Athletes were then asked to memorize this quote and discuss the information at the end of their Monday session, and on Friday they would go over this information again.

“I used a handout because it made it easier for me to combine leadership development, recovery and nutrition education, and motivation into one tangible document,” writes Heidegger. “Whether it is a handout, scenarios, discussion questions, an inspiring story, or simply a recap of what went well and what needs work from that day’s session, use this strategy to help build and reinforce the desired culture you want on your team.”

Last, Heidegger suggests implementing a cool-down session. As with the competitions, this doesn’t have to be anything complicated. It can mean simply having your athletes take some time to be quiet and breathe. If you have the ability to do so, you can even include some visualization techniques. There are many applications that can be found for these types of activities on a coach’s or even an athletes smartphone.

“Ideas for a good cool-down are endless,” writes Heidegger. “It will depend on your space, time, and team. Are they mature enough to handle being quiet for a few minutes? If not, take them through a coach-led stretching routine, barefoot walking drills, or some foam rolling. Athletes, especially ones in a college setting, deal with all kinds of stressors, so implementing a good cool-down is a great way to get them to flip their switch into recovery mode.”

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