But fascinating to me was that when I was doing something that I really loved, I didn't have to be cajoled or forced into practice or into working harder or focusing more. The love of the activity seemed to me to be enough.
Garret Kramer, the author of Stillpower - Excellence with Ease in Sports and Life, suggests that maybe I had hit on something. He would suggest that my thought processes were the major hangup in my stinted athletic career.
"I believe that the finest competitors in every sport play with stillpower - not willpower. To them, trying hard and giving their best effort are not the same thing. These athletes feel a sense of cooperation with - and respect for - their teammates, coaches and even opponents, thus mental clarity is their norm. Men and women with stillpower excel in many fields and develop into our most prolific leaders. They naturally gravitate to their passions, rarely feel fatigued, and intuitively know what not to do if they drift off course."
Stillpower and Personal Performance
Mental preparation allows an athlete to experience "freedom" in his performance. The athlete puts aside all of the external forces like bad coaches, cheating players, inept referees and umpires and get himself or herself into "the zone" in which the athlete is free to perform with excellence.
The Message for Coaches
Most of all, I tried to focus on the recreational aspects of soccer and less on the drive and will to win that I saw in many other coaches in our league. It was supposed to be fun; it was supposed to help them exercise; it was supposed to be about teamwork and sportsmanship.
While Kramer would agree that coaches need to work on the fundamentals of the game, he would also argue that the major purpose of working on fundamentals is to give athletes the freedom to perform well. Focusing on pressure, discipline and willpower is typical coaching behavior, but it misses the point of stillpower. Kramer remarks, "Rather than holding players accountable for their actions, hold them (and yourself) accountable to recognizing the thoughts and feelings that accompany high levels of well-being - and only acting from this mental state. Then watch what happens to the performance level of your team."
The Bottom Line
Helping an athlete develop confidence, find inner peace and freedom and letting peak performance come from within become the most important things a coach has to offer a young man or young woman.
I can recommend Stillpower - Excellence with Ease in Sports and Life without reservation to any father who wants to be a better coach, a better father and a better man. After all, peak performance as a father and a man is perhaps the most important thing to be sought after.