Top 12 Habits & Traits of Highly Recruited Athletes

Across America on any given weekend, in any given sport, tens of thousands of teen athletes are performing at showcase tournaments, camps or other special events in front of dozens of college and/or professional scouts and coaches designed to give them the opportunity to “be seen.” Every player (and their parents) hopes for a stellar game or games to standout in some way, shape or form from all the rest of the players. And while playing well is the ultimate goal during a showcase type event how to prepare for that day is the topic of this article.

If your athlete aspires to play ball in college (or professionally) and receive a partial or full athletic scholarship it is never too early to start having her/him focus on developing the kinds of habits and traits that top athletic recruits possess that both catch the eye of the scouts as well as allow them to play at a consistent peak level on game/match day.

Change your athlete's game forever with one click!

Here are the Top 12 Habits and Traits of Highly Recruited Athletes:

1. They Have a Great Work Ethic - These peak performers have a crazy work ethic, and are self-driven to get better each day. No one ever out-prepares them. They are constantly pushing themselves in training and practice to be their best. They are the ones flying all over the field/court, and when they make a mistake in practice they immediately ask for another rep. Every coach would love to have an entire roster of these kids!

2. They Love the Game - Their work ethic is propelled due to their love of the game. Playing the game brings these elite athletes joy; they love the way they feel on the field/court and even smile after a mistake. It's all good to them whenever they cross the white line and their love for the game is infectious!


The 12 Traits of a Champion Athlete & Team

CIF high school softball champions
Torrey Pines Falcons, 2012 C.I.F. Champions
Whenever I coach or watch nearly any sporting event I am reminded of just how slim the difference between winning and losing really is in athletics.

In most every game played between two fairly evenly matched teams or players success or failure will come down to just a hand full of plays, right? The team or athlete that makes the plays, executes the best wins don't they? If you follow any larger tournament bracket you will find that the deeper the bracket goes the closer and lower scoring the games all get. Why is that?

Teams and athletes that win consistently do certain things that teams and athletes who don't win consistently do not. This is true in every sport for it is always the little things that capture or cost victory.

Let's look closer at what defines a champion with specific traits that can be learned then duplicated by your athlete and their team.

Here are the 12 traits of a championship level athlete or team:

1. Attitude - Championship caliber teams have a swagger about them, an expectancy that they will play well. These type teams literally exude an energy of success. They have a "can do" attitude from the moment they get up in the morning!

Boost her sports confidence and her game day  performance level. Free audio lessons!

2. Confidence - Along with the champion's swagger comes extreme confidence; almost cocky but never arrogant. Regardless of the score these teams never stop competing as they are supremely confident they will prevail when the game is over. They trust themselves to make plays, and never hesitate for fear of making a mistake.


Sports Parents: Beware the "60 Minute Rule"

I give weekly mental skills team training to a travel softball organization with eight teams from
12u to 18u and each week I'm always curious to see the response I will get from each team on the various topics I cover. This week my overall topic was on Having a Plan. In other words preparing for success. I talked about having a "pre-game" plan, an "in-game" plan and a "post-game" plan.

Far and away the subject I received the most reaction from the over 100 girls I train is what I term "The 60 Minute Rule."  Now, in advance, I warn you to dismiss or ignore this rule at your and your athlete's own risk. Breaking this rule can drive a wedge between you and your athlete as well as negatively affect their game performance.

So, without further delay...let me disclose to you The 60 Minute Rule.

The 60 Minute Rule requires that as parents you refrain from speaking to you athlete about his/her game or games for at least 60 minutes after the game(s). As a softball parent myself I know how much you can't wait to dissect, evaluate, analyze, critique or judge your athlete's performance and that of her/his team. Some of you reading this are nothing but positive with your athlete and that is great. However more of you are likely coaches, ex-coaches, ex-athletes who may mean well...but still come off as negative to your athlete. In either case I suggest you follow The 60 Minute Rule.


Six Tips to Insure Sports Success

As a sports parent I know the challenges I face in wanting on the field success for my daughter. As adults we try to see the big picture and do all we can to help our kids avoid mistakes by giving them any edge we can to insure their success on the field or court.

We coach them from behind the backstop, sidelines or stands because we figure one little verbal tip from us will surely make the difference between success and failure.

If our daughter or son is a pitcher we bark mechanics reminders to them between pitches (maybe every pitch) hoping they'll be the strike and location machine they are in practice.

A friend of mine said to me this week that it's truly amazing how involved parents are today with their kids' sports, given that our parents hardly ever showed up to watch us play (to my mom...you are the glorious exception!). Heck, I rode my bike to little league practice and games. As a freshman high school I rode my bike to 6am basketball practice every day in the dark!


Coach vs. Parent: 10 Ways to Make it Work

Whether you are a parent or a coach reading this the volatile and sometimes hostel relationship between parent and coach has a dramatic impact on both players and team, usually to the detriment of both.

Having coached over 1,000 fastpitch softball game I have pretty much seen and heard it all, as a coach, parent and fan. As we all know...it gets ugly sometimes! The real question is why does it get ugly and how can parents and coaches get along better?

In competitive or travel sports parents always have a choice as to which team they place their daughter or son on; in high school or rec you're kind of stuck with whomever is coaching. In either scenario there are definite ways to make the relationship work...here they are:

1. Better Communication - Whether parent or coach the best way to resolve any issue or concern is with one-on-one communication. Take the initiative to approach the other party calmly with suggestions. Don't assume the coach or parent knows what you are thinking and that your point is "obvious" to him/her. Go to the source and work it out. As a coach I always appreciate a parent who takes the time to seek me out to address an issue. I want what is best for my team and each player, and if any parent can help towards that end I'm open to it.

2. Lower Expectations - In my experience many sports parents have astronomical expectations for both their athlete's and team's performance. As a coach I can tell you that most teams are a work in progress; particularly if they are a new team or a team jumping to the next age group. I recognize frustration occurs when players or teams don't perform well, but if your athlete is under 16, believe me, he or she has yet to master a very difficult game. Give it time.

3. More Patience - Which leads me to more patience! We expect a lot from our kids today and sometimes they have a difficult time handling everything we throw at them. Allow them some time to get better. No coach is a miracle worker. A good coach sees the big picture for his/her athletes and the team. Do wins and losses really matter at 10, 12 or 14? Look for the baby steps of progress. 


6 Keys to Great Game Day Decision Making

During last summer's Olympic games I heard commentator Brandi Chastain on television, during the U.S vs. Japan gold medal soccer match, talk about the importance of decision making and it struck me as just how critical a function that is for any athlete in any sport.

Chastain's reference to decision making pertained to possible fatigue among the United States players in playing their third match of the week. In a state of mental and physical fatigue decision making during a game can become less precise and, thus, lead to mistakes that can have monumental consequences on the outcome of a game.

The potential for poor decision making is even more likely with younger athletes who don't possess the experience or mental toughness to fight through fatigue (including adverse weather or playing conditions).

Game day decision making can also suffer under pressure of competition. Sport, by definition, requires performance. As such a younger athlete can succumb to anxiety before and during a game. This anxiety can look like fear of failure, which can lead to doubt and delay in making decisions.

Boost your athlete's sports confidence quick!

Or anxiety can look like the game speeding up inside an athlete's head, causing him or her to make decisions hastily. In either case "performance anxiety" can cause poor decision making which will lead to inconsistent performances, at best, and more likely disastrous performances.

Because most every sport requires precise execution of physical game mechanics and actions decision making on ball possession/transfer or hand/foot movements are critical. As it is said...timing is everything

high school volleyball game
So how can your athlete consistently make good decisions, even in the most stressful of game situations?


Game Day Thinking: Green Zone or Red Zone?

As one of my books is aptly titled, Think Right, Play Great!, your athlete's level of Game Day success can be quantified...even predicted...based their thoughts when he or she steps on the field or court.
I have broken down the quality of Game Day thoughts into three distinct "zones:" Green, Yellow or Red.

Green Zone Thinking
1. Consistently positive thinking.
2. Directed thinking (purpose and goal driven).
3. Highly focused and confident.
4. Decisive, energized.
5. "Can Do" attitude.
6. More easily bounces back from Game Day adversity.
7. High expectancy for success.
8. Consistent and sustainable high performance.

Is Your Athlete Motivated to Be the Best? Find Out.

Why does your athlete play the game?

Seems like a simple question, doesn't it? And yet my guess is that few teenaged athletes ever ask themselves that question today, yet they sweat and toil 10-12 months each year to master their sport with hopes of glory.

It all starts with an honest assessment of your athlete's motivation and desire  for playing their game. For without the proper motivation your athlete will not possess the burning desire necessary to do what it takes to elevate their game so he or she can dominate on game day and stand out from the crowd.

Your athlete's sport is likely a difficult game that will only get more competitive the older he or she gets.

As a coach it baffles me when kids have been taught to do something a certain way in practice again and again, yet come game day they completely forget how to do it. How can that be?

I have come to the realization that it all comes down to an athlete's motivation and desire. How bad do they want the success they work so hard for?


What Drives Success in Sports?

As parents and coaches we all want success for our kids and those we coach. Of course some days are better than others, aren't they? It is easy to marvel at and celebrate a player's or team's success after the fact but what is behind the success? In other words...what drives success on game day? 

Last weekend my 14u fastpitch softball team captured our tournament bracket to come home with medals and trophy. Like all successful tournaments Sunday's are long and generally stressful with many close games. Our Sunday was no different as we came from behind to win three straight games, including a 2-1 thriller in the final.

As happens so often a team gets on a roll and their level of play elevates. Look at most any tournament bracket and the deeper into the bracket you go the closer the games get. All of this would seem contrary to common sense as players battle fatigue with each additional game they play, often in less than ideal weather conditions.


The Confidence Cycle in Youth Sports

For most younger athletes their game day success, particularly during the most pivotal moments of the game, all comes down to their belief in their ability to succeed or fail. In other words do they have adequate self-confidence on the field or court or not?

My research on the subject of self-confidence for younger athletes (along with my own experiences as a game coach, mental performance expert and former collegiate athlete) has convinced me that self-confidence is not an accident. In fact I have concluded that self-confidence for any athlete is the product of a clearly defined "cause and effect" cycle that is quite predictable. Moreover this confidence cycle is a clear predictor of game day performance as well.

high school football game
For your athlete to achieve and maintain a high level of self-confidence, and thus a high level of game day performance they will need to be mindful of their own "confidence cycle."

So what is the "confidence cycle" that ultimately propels or sabotages game day performance?


How Emotions Can Destroy Game Day Performance

Let's face the facts...all the private lessons you can afford, and all the ground balls, batting cages swings, free throws or dribbling in the world won't matter a lick if your athlete folds under the pressures of the game.

I have seen countless players look fantastic in practice only to come unraveled during pivotal moments on game day. Why is that? There are certainly a number of contributing factors, all found between the ears. However, in today's post, I want to focus on how your athlete's emotional state can and will destroy their game day performance.

girls softball player losing her poiseIf you are a parent or a coach we all grapple with the weekly emotions of our teenage sons/daughters/players, don't we? Teenagers in general can be a handful, but add the stress, pressure and expectations of game day into the mix and these young athletes can quickly become their own worst enemies in a heartbeat!

The diagram below illustrates the impact your athlete's emotional state has on their performance. Your athlete has the choice of how he or she reacts to a "game event" by their "thoughts." Their thoughts (positive or negative) will trigger an emotional reaction. This emotional reaction will have a direct impact on the quality of their overall game day performance.


The Winning Formula for Your Athlete's Success

My team played our first tournament of the year last weekend. We held a practice Friday night to get some final swings in the cage and some infield practice. We looked great!

Unfortunately we didn't play nearly as well as I had hoped the first day of the tournament. The confidence and precision that was so evident in the field and in the cage a  mere 18 hours before vanished once my girls crossed the white lines. I turned to my assistant coach and wondered what happened between Friday night and Saturday morning?

I came to the conclusion that the challenges many of the girls faced were, predictably, between their ears. I knew they could make the plays. I knew they could crush the ball...they just didn't.

For any young athlete the pathway to consistent success can be a difficult one for sure. In mastering their sport there are sure to be plenty of bumps along the way. But, I believe, there is a formula, a secret path, to insure that your athlete will achieve consistent success on the field.

So here it is: (S = P +  E + A + F + A - J). If your athlete can successfully understand, then implement this formula her on the field success will have no boundaries!

high school baseball game

Preparation + Effort + Attitude + Focus + Adjustments - Judgment = Success

Preparation - John Wooden said, "Failing to prepare is preparing to fail." Preparation is an ongoing process, both physical and mental, that takes time. How much time does your athlete put into his or her preparation? Success is the result of massive preparation.

Effort - Like preparation effort is a choice. If your athlete is adequately prepared his or her self-confidence level should allow them to exert maximize effort. The first thing a coach or scout sees when evaluating a player is effort. The question they needs to always ask themselves is "can I do more?"

Attitude - Exceptional preparation and effort create a dynamic attitude that can propel your athlete through adversity and onto consistent peak performance. A great attitude is also contagious and can turn a good team into a great team!

Enjoy FREE Audio Lessons from the 


Focus - With preparation, effort and attitude comes the desire for success. A willingness to cultivate laser focus and concentrate on the task at hand is essential to the achievement of sustainable success. Mental focus is also a choice that ultimately separates the good plays from the poor ones and the good players from the great players.

Adjustments - The game requires that every player make adjustments in order to be successful. No matter your athlete's sport or position making the necessary adjustments is a conscious choice that requires attention to details. "ABL" - always be learning; it makes the adjustments that much easier to identify and make.

Judgment - This is the one component that needs to be subtracted from your athlete's formula for success.  Excessive self-judgment can erase much of the benefits created by the other components found in the success formula. Expecting perfection or not seeing mistakes as a learning opportunity can spiral your athlete's game downward in a hurry. In the absence of judgment self-confidence soars and so too will his or her performance.

Although the single biggest factor towards success is self-confidence I did not include it in the secret formula for success because I believe that self-confidence is a by product of exceptional preparation, superior effort, a great attitude, laser focus and making adjustments. A self-confident athlete is a relaxed athlete; able to perform at a peak level with little anxiety or fear.

This formula may look simple but it will require a lot of work for every element of the formula to become habit for your athlete. But the rewards will be well worth the effort I can assure you. If your athlete can truly embrace this formula he or she will remain head and shoulders above the competition and soar to the top of the recruiting list (provided they also master the physical side of their game).

Check out John Kelly's new ebook, Think It and Hit It: 12 Critical Mental Strategies to Improve Hitting. Just $3.97!

**Be sure to subscribe to our free weekly Winner's Edge Kid Tips (in the right column on this page), where you'll get fresh mental skills insights, strategies and tips on how your athlete can skyrocket game day performance.

Leadership Skills to Move Your Athlete to the Top

I had the opportunity recently to attend a seminar given by leadership guru John C. Maxwell. Maxwell has written dozens of best selling books on the subject of leadership, so do take the time to pick up his work and read this article carefully!

Make no mistake, leadership skills are vital for your athlete to cultivate and possess if they have a goal of playing at the next level. Travel, high school and college coaches alike always put athletes with strong leadership skills at the top of their list. Like everything else...leadership is a choice your athlete can and should make at whatever level he or she is capable of.

Here are 8 leadership tips to move your athlete to the top:

1. Leaders expect more from themselves and others. They never limit themselves or allow others to limit their success, their enthusiasm, their effort or attitude. They are always inspired to grow as people and athletes and expect the same from teammates. Leaders see more for their team and teammates and are relentless in their pursuit of success. As a  personal friend told me about his former teammate Michael Jordan, Jordan was always working amazingly hard to improve his teammates in every area of their game, during practice and games.

2. Leaders take the time to build relationships. They converse with teammates and coaches alike to build report and respect. Leaders are interested in their teammates thoughts, feelings and motivations. They understand the value of team chemistry and are the driving force to that end on their team. Leaders are charismatic individuals others take notice of.

3. Leaders are big picture thinkers. They recognize the game is a process that takes time to master. Leaders help their teammates to understand this truth and thus teammates look to the leader for support and direction in the most difficult game situations. Leaders play the game one play at a time, yet know exactly when to lead.

Drew Brees

4. Leaders are always observing. They are, not only, watching the game for ways to personally get better...but they are constantly aware of their teammates moods and performances, looking for opportunities to help their teammates and ultimately their team to succeed. Leaders listen and learn...always!

5. Leaders lead by example. They recognize that their teammates and coaches (and scouts) are watching their every move and, as such, they walk the talk. They have a stellar work ethic, they honor the game, they are aware of their body language and verbal language to keep their teammates on purpose. They are a solid and dependable role model for their team.

6. Leaders are highly respected. They earn this respect because they put into practice all the tips listed here. Respect allows leaders to influence their teammates. Their personal attitude and expectations for the team's attitude are embraced by teammates. In this way leaders can motivate their teammates to be better.

7. Leaders create buy in from teammates and coaches. They can effectuate both subtle and dramatic changes on their team because those around them buy in to them as a leader first. Once their teammates and coaches buy into their leadership stature their vision (or recommendations) for the team are easily followed. For example if a leader sees certain players or the team's effort or energy is down he or she can set the tone for improvement in these areas easily because their teammates respect them and what they say.

8. Leaders find a way to win. They have the power to lead their team to victory regardless of the circumstances or hurdles encountered along the way. Think Michael Jordan; think Joe Montana; think Drew Brees. Their teammates are inspired and motivated by their leadership skills and give more and do more than they thought they could do. Leaders raise the collective level of performance by their team by design.

If you or your athlete have not discussed their leadership role on his or her team you should. Leaders are highly coveted by top coaches at every level.

Remember, being a leader does not mean an athlete must be the best player or have the best statistics. Sports are filled with some very unlikely leaders, but leaders who can get the most from their teammates while playing a vital role in their team's success. Leaders also do not need to be loud. Some of the world's greatest leaders over time have been extremely quiet (think The Dali Lama, Phil Jackson, Tony LaRussa, Derek Jeter).

Leaders are not born, they are made through a combination of hard work (mastering both physical and mental skills) and a recognition of the opportunity leadership may provide for them and their team.

For more on leadership do read the many excellent books written by John Maxwell.