My high school baseball coach once praised me behind closed doors but criticized me in front of my teammates. I think he had it backward, but I wasn’t mentally tough at the time. He served as a huge external motivator to prove him wrong later in life.

My junior varsity soccer coach taught me the most. He would run us for miles and miles and throw in sprints along the way. We had a massive hill that we would run. The day before games, whoever we were playing, we had to sprint 50 yards while shouting out each letter of the team! North Hagerstown was a tough one. He taught me that it was a privilege to train.

Coaches are the most important person in today’s society. It doesn’t matter if you have a poor coach either. All coaches teach us something, either how to do things, or how not to do things.

Top 10 things I’ve learned from coaches

  1. You are paid to read-

I read about 15 books one year and felt pretty good. Except, when Tim Roberts told me that he read 93 books that year, he added why, “You are PAID to read.” The knowledge is out there, but it’s a coach’s job to sift through everything and communicate the main thing, whatever the main thing is.

  1. Create an environment that you are missed if you are not there-

Lou Holtz was a genius. He knew that the best place to work was determined by the environment that we created. I was a professor at a University and was no longer living my passion of working with teams and athletes. My work and attitude suffered. I had to leave because I couldn’t foster an environment where I wanted to be. Maybe some people missed me, but the school didn’t stop, and I didn’t get too many calls begging for me to come back.

  1. Listen-

The first time I met head coach Chuck Pagano was at the NFL combine. I introduced myself and told him my profession. What he did next was amazing. He asked me a question. “Hey, what’s the one thing you stress to your athletes?” I answered it well I thought, but what struck me as odd is why he asked me a question. Head NFL coaches usually don’t do that. But that is exactly how he got to where he is. He listens. Asking questions is the best straw to stir the drink of listening.

  1. Sit in front- 

Hall Of Fame baseball coaches Tommy Pharr and Tim Corbin seemed to race to see who got the closest seat at any conference session. That’s all the proof I needed.

  1. It doesn’t matter what you know- 

What matters more is what they learn. Can you communicate it and keep it simple? Great coaches master the simple. As Coach Herb Sendek said  “Simplicity is the room I want to live in.”

  1. Themes instead of absolutes-

They always seem to stress that what we do is not as important as how we do it. We want to trust our constituents to do what they do; take risks, play free, and utilize their strengths. The best coaches have principles in place, but allow freedom to work within a framework. They make adjustments and aren’t married to only one style.

  1. You’ll get fired-

There are two types of coaches, those that have been fired and those that will be fired. I was fired twice after two of my athletes had career changing wins. I thought I would have been fired after they lost. But after they won, they actually didn’t need me anymore. My job is to build capacity, not dependency. There is only a handful of coaches in any sport that haven’t been fired at some point.

  1. Be the coach you always wanted-

Everyone is a coach and we are always communicating. A coach is someone that takes you somewhere you want to go.

  1. Thank the coach- 

Coaches Mark James and Brian Satterfield end practice the same way, they shake each player’s hand. Simple, yet powerful. No matter the type of practice or outcome of a game, the ending is the same. It was created as a way to put a type of positive closure on a poor day, a way to END it positively.

  1. A better you makes a better us- 

And a better us makes a better you. We need to root for those around us to get better. Too often we look at others as competition and a threat, rather than an opportunity to improve. Frankly, it’s the only way to improve.



Dr. Rob Bell is a Sport Psychology Coach. His company DRB & associates is based in Indianapolis.  Some clients have included: University of Notre Dame, Marriott, and Walgreens. Check out the most recent book on Mental Toughness- Don’t Should on Your Kid: Build Their Mental Toughness   

prevent the big meltdown

Max Faulkner Star-Telegram

3 ways to prevent the big meltdown

I took a few steps to my right at second base to field a simple ground ball. I dropped it… Run scored, game over! 

I then proceeded to punch the brick wall of the dugout before getting on the bus, I probably broke it (my hand, not the wall), I don’t remember. All I know is that I now wouldn’t play the next game. There’s always two types of pain…

Here’s how to prevent the big meltdown.

Mistakes happen, errors and failure are a painful part of the game. But, what happens next is still most important. The next play or the next day. Read our article on  What happens when we experience the BIG LOSS? 

The University of Northern Iowa suffered the worst meltdown I’ve ever seen. Up 12 points vs. Texas A & M with 44 seconds remaining to reach the sweet 16. They were a good team!!

The Texas Rangers had an epic meltdown in Game 5 of the series with 3 consecutive infield errors soon followed by a 3-run homer. I felt bad for Elvis Andrus.

The Bartman incident in 2003 with the Cubs, led to a meltdown by Alou, followed by a walk, followed by a base hit, then a crucial error by shortstop Gonzalez.

Boise State lost to Nevada in 2010, by missing a 26 yard FG in regulation, then missed a 29 FG in OT.

Meltdowns are like a huge wave crashing into the shore.  One mistake leads to another. There is a science behind the collection of mistakes. Catastrophe theory.

To prevent the big meltdown is that the one mistake and the adrenaline and anxiety tip past the point of return.

Then there becomes an extreme drop off in performance, hence, catastrophe. These meltdowns occur in bigger moments because of the importance of the situation increase, so does the overall anxiety level. Mistakes earlier in competition can be let go of easier because there’s still a lot of game to be played.

Here are three ways to prevent The Big Meltdown

Use the Time-Out

Once the error happens later in the game, use the time-out! Coaches can ease the tension and uptightness by making the transition from problematic to relaxed. Rallying the troops means to assemble everyone and bring order. The time-out allows this to happen. Too often, this gets overlooked.

During the time-out, reinforce the belief and poise in the players and team. Have them own the awareness that it’s not about the setback, it’s about the comeback. So what? Next play.

Remove the emotion

During stressful and emotional situations, we revert to how we trained!  If we have practiced remaining calm, breathing, refocusing, then we will implement these skills when they are needed. These skills are the best at removing the emotional situation and focusing on making the next play. Mental Toughness prevents the big meltdown. To keep your head when others are losing theirs.

Listen to the cock-pit recording as Captain Sullenberger experienced the depth of emotions when his plane struck the gaggle of birds shortly after take-off in New York. He remained calm as a Hindu cow because his training allowed him to re-focus on the task at hand, successfully landing the full plane with no power in the most populated area in the entire world.

Have a Plan

Short-term, process goals create focus.

Long-range, outcome-based goals create stress.  

Prevent the big meltdown by applying this…After a mistake, using the time out, and removing the emotion: what’s our plan? Short-term goals like make a stop, get an out, knock it down, throw a good pass, aggressive serve, etc. What’s the immediate goal?

Larry Bird stealing the in-bound pass or Reggie Miller scoring 8 points in nine seconds both had an immediate focus on the goal, make a play! 

Dr. Rob Bell is a Sport Psychology Coach. His company DRB & associates is based in Indianapolis.  Some clients have included: University of Notre Dame, Marriott, and Walgreens. Check out the most recent books on Mental Toughness-