Focused and Elevated
July 9, 2019
Insights from Lisa Mitzel

“I don’t understand why she can’t talk to her coach,” said a mother, concerned about her young gymnast. “I told my daughter if she’s afraid and not ready to do a skill, or worried she’ll get hurt--then talk to her coach.” But then her daughter’s eyes got real big and she fiercely shook her head, Noooo . No way. The daughter was adamant. And the mother, perplexed…

This competitive gymnast is like every athlete I’ve coached: tough, motivated, and talented, but seriously anxious. Regarding a struggle, the expectation at practice is to push through. Follow instructions, only say “yes.” They can’t talk to the coach. There’s too much pressure when everyone else is fine. To be different is humiliating. Coaches focus on making progress, there’s an urgent feel to practices (I know, I’ve done this). 

If an athlete has a problem, the last thing they want is to appear needy or weak. Plus, they’re afraid to get in trouble for saying they’re scared or hurt; they’ve seen it happen to teammates. Tense and panicky, an athlete sees no options, so she stresses out and clams up.
Positive, productive training occurs in Elevated Environments: This type of environment employs a comprehensive approach, and includes a reverence for the learning process. Yes. Reverence, “an attitude of deep respect tinged with awe.” Instead of habitual urgency, we slow down and embrace the challenges. Coaching skills are multi-dimensional and relational . When we care about athletes, we don’t mass-produce, we don’t treat them like talent on a stick, pumping them up with technique, drills, and conditioning. Instead, coaches pause when needed, plan for each athlete accordingly, and emphasize ethical and open communication. Listen and attend to the nuances of emotions, teach how to get through a struggle, and build confidence.

When you notice signs of an athlete struggling, check in with them, collaborate. Integrate  MENTAL GOALS:
  • slow down mind and body, get calm and practice patience
  • say and write the progression (biomechanics) of a drill or skill
  • feel the shape and proper body position physically and mentally
  • take five deep breaths, visualize a skill in slow motion, imagine success
  • recover from a fall with a good attitude, cheer for teammates

Deep learning begins when you listen, give them options, and encourage mental efforts. I’m not recommending you go easy on them; too much smiley-goodness is UN-inspiring. Use mature conversations with grit, direction, and smart decisions; a collective coach-athlete exchange will infuse responsibility for the athlete to shift gears and take on a new challenge they can handle. Ask them, “What do you think?” and say, “I’m here for you.” They’ll feel the energy from you and the freedom to speak and choose. Their spirit will be renewed and they’ll trust the process.

Train your staff, have reverence for the learning process, and facilitate communication with your athletes. They will be healthier, happier, train smarter, and rise higher.

For more education and ideas, read Focused and Inspired on positive psychology, communication, and safety.
Attend Lisa’s Talk in Kansas City at National Congress, Fri, August 9 at 8:30 am .
If you’re in the gymnastics world, it is my honor to present an interactive talk at this year’s USA Gymnastics National Congress, called, " Visualize, Visualize: The most powerful tool in the Universe." With an added twist, you will participate in exercises and learn how to practice s-l-o-w m-o-t-i-o-n imagery, which helps athletes learn precise positions, technique, and produce feelings of optimism and being in control. Come to my session and have fun! You can learn it, teach it, and see great results with your gymnasts! The steps are in both of my books, Focused and On Fire and Focused and Inspired . So be sure to get a copy, share with parents, and show your athletes!

To book Lisa for your event: OR email [email protected] .
Spotlight: Congrats to USWNT! 2019 FIFA World Cup Champions!

US Women’s National Soccer Team did it. Back-to-back World Champs! Against many odds and criticism, these women achieved the ultimate with team chemistry, guts, and bursting with confidence. They have a message bigger than themselves, which was the driving force to win: Equality. Equal pay, equal opportunity, respect and treat women the same as men. To make us all stronger and better in the world, girls and boys need these messages, too. Relate to your athletes, talk about it, don’t hesitate. The New Yorker stated these women athletes represent . They represent the United States of America. They are brave, and “they are unafraid to acknowledge their position.” True freedom for athletes is expression of inner desire, say what you believe.

Inspiring Gifts

Focused and On Fire and Focused and Inspired make thoughtful and purposeful gifts for Athletes, Coaches and Parents. We have a Special Offer for the "Lisa Mitzel Pack" of BOTH books for only $35! No promo code needed when ordering online (publisher's website) at:
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Focused and Inspired is dedicated to every athlete who has ever been hurt by the misuse of power in sports, and especially dedicated to the athlete-survivors of sexual abuse, who are still healing, and who spoke up and shared their stories. You are so brave! Thank you for helping others to speak up and begin to heal.
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