Posts Tagged 'parent education'

Skill + Time = Results

by Matt Cuccaro, Ed.M.

It’s quite obvious that player development is based on building skill over time. The more an individual works at something, the more skills are developed. As skills are passionately pursued throughout a significant timeframe, expert performance appears.  Yet, it can be difficult to maintain this perspective on a daily basis – especially around tournament time. As competition nears, other ideas seem to bubble to the surface:

How many points is this tournament worth?   Who is in the field?  What’s the winning score going to be?

Although these thoughts are exciting to consider, they also tend to become a distraction to performance. The more distractions that arise against the player development mindset, the less attention an individual has to focus on the task at hand; and distracted is not a mindset which is synonymous with success.

Throughout training:IMG_20141007_085300583

Golfers don’t practice making birdies, they practice making smooth swings.

Golfers don’t practice shooting 4-under par, they practice staying target focused.

Golfers don’t practice getting recruited by a college or turning pro, they practice patience.

If distracting ideas start taking over (make birdie, shoot 4-under, get recruited) especially around tournament time, unreliable results are likely to follow. Discussions based on short-sighted results breed a mindset linked to distracted performance, frustration, lackluster effort and potential  burnout.

Parents, coaches and athletes who reinforce a player development mindset (Skill + Time = Results) seek long-term growth and build healthy competitors as a result. These individuals see competition as an opportunity to exhibit skills (smooth swings, target focus and patience) and test personal limits. When skills continue to remain a top priority throughout training and competition, consistent results unfold. As individuals consistently take part in dialogue filled with themes of player development, birdies happen, scores drop and barriers continue to be broken.

This post was originally created for & can also be found at http://www.juniorgolfparents.com/2014/01/29/junior-golf-development-tips/

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3 Keys for Sports Parents

by Matt Cuccaro, Ed.M.

Competitive sport is a great way for young men and women to learn about themselves and build skills that will assist them on and off the playing field. Sports can build confidence through discipline, respect, hard work, and by learning to manage stress. This process comes to fruition under the watchful eye of many people in the student-athlete’s support system. The support system plays a crucial role in the daily development of the student-athlete. When each of the pieces of this system plays their role, successful and healthy development is the result. When the system breaks down and roles become cluttered, the result is not as successful on or off the field of play. The following information is based on years of sport science research. It is meant to provide guidance to parents in order to assist and clarify their role in the development of their student-athlete.

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Open ears / Open arms – As athletes develop throughout the years, they will go through many highs and many lows along the way. Development in sport is synonymous with change. Parents who listen and display unconditional love through it all create the best environment for their child to succeed.

Values – What do you value as a family? Do the messages you send on a daily basis reflect those values? Consistent reminders of family values through thick and thin assist in maintaining a balanced life filled with perspective on and off the field.

Mastery of Skills over Results – If immediate results become more important than the long-term growth and development of your student-athlete, short-sighted reactions and habits will follow. Student-athletes who strive to consistently improve and refine their skills build effective habits. Athletes who are motivated to master skills rather than simply focus on the scoreboard establish a mindset that will endure the ups and downs of the 10 years and 10,000 hours of quality investment required to become an expert in any field.

Highly effective sports parents assist in maintaining balance within their student-athlete’s support system by taking great pride in their role and living that role to the fullest. These three fundamental ideas can help pave the road to healthier, more confident, and more secure student-athletes who will thrive on and off the field of play for years to come.

Performance Cycle: The Key to Continuous Improvement

by Matt Cuccaro, Ed.M.

Athlete development is a long-term process. Although many gadgets, instruments, and training aids are sold as the ultimate “must-have” item, unfortunately there are no shortcuts or magic pills that allow an individual to reach their ultimate potential without time, energy, and introspection. It should be understood that the only way for an athlete to get where they want to be is through preparation, experience, and continuous learning through evaluation. I utilize the following model to ensure each one of my students gets the most from themselves and their training on a daily basis. This model assists athletes in their journey to reach their potential on and off the field by creating a mindset of continuous improvement.

The prepare stage of the performance cycle is the longest in duration for all athletes. These are the days, weeks, or months set aside for training between competitions. This time is used to develop the technical, tactical, physical, and mental skills required to compete at a high level. This stage of the performance cycle typically starts with a high percentage of instruction in order for the athlete to learn new skills and improve technique. As the cycle continues, the athlete engages in quality repetition of movement to create the feel and trust required to compete without excess technical thought as competition nears.

The compete stage is the time to execute and showcase the skills that were developed and improved during the prepare stage. This is not the ideal time to try something new or uncomfortable that has not been practiced. Competition is naturally a time of higher stress, so an athlete’s mind and body will automatically revert to doing what it currently knows best. This will allow the individual to see where their game actually stands. The compete stage is the opportunity for an athlete to measure their current potential and show how well they can manage the physical, tactical, and mental  aspects of performance in a public forum.

The evaluate & active rest stage of the performance cycle is often skimmed over or eliminated altogether because it may not show any immediate results. However, if the athlete does not have an opportunity to assess themself and take time for other off-the-field needs, long-term development suffers. Success in life is a continuous process of evaluating, learning, and developing; which takes a significant amount of time and energy. Without proper evaluation and rest, athletes typically lose perspective on their sport and life as a whole, which results in burnout and shorter, less fulfilling athletic careers. Once the evaluation is complete, it’s time to create the next training plan to increase overall potential by preparing once again.

This model is clearly the opposite of a “must-have” item or magic pill. It is a training plan that exhibits the time, energy, and evaluation required to excel in sport and life. After going through this cycle a few hundred times, elite performance and skill mastery might begin to show itself.

The Proactive Athlete & Results

by Matt Cuccaro, Ed.M.

There are two very distinct ways to approach and respond to results in competition.  One approach is to be reactive, emotional, and helpless. The other is to be proactive, thoughtful, and open to introspection. Let’s use the example of a junior golfer who breaks 80 on a regular basis in practice. Today this player has posted a horrible score of 92 in a major junior tournament. The player is extremely upset and emotional walking off the course.  This is the natural response of any athlete who trains hard and cares about posting solid scores in competition, especially major competitions. After all, college coaches, peers, family members, and friends are all going to see the score and form an opinion about what happened out there.  This is the reality of competing and putting yourself on the line in tournaments. From this moment forward is what differentiates and defines the two types of athletes (the reactive and the proactive).  The reactive athlete will take one course of action and the proactive athlete will take another.  The choice is yours…

Reactive athlete – The reactive athlete allows results to define him or herself.  “If I play well…I am good, if I play bad…I am bad”.  The reactive athlete does not evaluate the round to identify what was done well and what are opportunities for improvement.  This athlete wants to forget about poor results and treats successful performance as though it should always be expected.  This type of person avoids the reality of the situation and simply hopes that tomorrow’s results will be better.

Proactive athlete – The proactive athlete may also show emotion to both successful and poor performances, but it doesn’t last for extended periods of time.  This person knows that a thorough evaluation must be done in order to draw from the experience to become even better moving forward.  A thorough and effective evaluation cannot be done in the heat of emotion, however, so this type of athlete likely sits down to cool off with a meal and some hydration to recover physically and mentally from the stress of competing.  This also means that any support team in attendance (coaches, family, friends, etc.)  respects that the athlete may need time and space to get out of the competitive mindset. Once the proactive athlete feels like they are back in “neutral” they assess their strengths and limitations from the day both physically and mentally.  Statistical measurements can be used to lead the physical evaluation (fairways/greens hit, number of putts, up and down percentage, etc.).  In order to do a mental evaluation, the proactive athlete grades him or herself on their preparation, effort, and ability to recover from adversity that day.  Once the assessment in complete, he or she takes action to maintain their current strengths and works diligently to improve their current limitations.  They make a simple plan to establish priorities moving forward and act upon those priorities to build effective habits. The proactive athlete is always learning, and therefore improving, from both success and failure.

In short, the reactive athlete has an emotional response to results while the proactive athlete uses results as feedback.  All athletes have both successes and failures throughout a career, throughout a year, and even throughout a single performance.  Over the course of a career, the proactive athlete will effectively deal with this reality and continuously improve as a result.  The reactive athlete will either stay the same or possibly get even worse. The choice is yours!  Do you intend to be a reactive or a proactive athlete this summer?

A common question…

by Matt Cuccaro, Ed.M.

Throughout the years I have received thousands of questions.  More than any other question, however, the one I receive most often is, “What exactly do you do for a living?”  The answer is simple and complicated at the same time…

I have designed and implement a mental training program to assist student-athletes in reaching their potential on and off the golf course.  Students are equipped with a mindset which is supplemented by skills to assist them to maximize their potential through quality practice, self-management, and a mindset of continuous improvement.

It all starts with student-athletes creating a clear and specific mission they would like to achieve.  This mission provides purpose and the motivation required to continue learning on a daily basis in order to reach personal short and long-term goals.  An individual with a specific purpose will overcome potential obstacles and distractions that may draw attention away from the task at hand.  Once the student-athlete creates his or her own mission, and understands the importance of having a purpose for every action, they will begin to engage in quality practice.  Quality practice can only be achieved when the student knows what he/she is working on and holds him/herself accountable for it.  Hitting balls, chipping, or putting mindlessly (without purpose) does not maximize time and energy; and worse yet, might lead to overuse injuries.  The more engaged the practice, the more learning and improvement occurs during that time.  Quality practice has two major benefits.  First and foremost, it creates increased confidence that will allow the student-athlete to know they have done everything within their power to prepare for competition.  The second benefit of quality practice is that it will also allow for balance and quality time off the course.  If the student-athlete knows he/she has done everything possible to improve during practice time, there will be no regrets during free time away from the golf course either.

Competition is the time for athletes to showcase their skills and prove their merit.  During competition, there are many external distractions and pressures that athletes must learn to manage effectively in order to play to their potential.  How an athlete responds to these distractions and pressures has much to do with the mindset they take into competition.  There are two distinct mindsets that separate competitors.  One of them is an outcome orientation, which is the mindset of an athlete who is more concerned with the end result (scores, rankings, college scholarships, etc.) and how they might appear to other people.  This mindset leads to inconsistent performances from athletes who typically perform below their potential.  An athlete with a process orientation, on the other hand, is more focused on “playing one shot at a time”.  This mindset allows the athlete to focus on him/herself and the appropriate action to take in the present moment to be successful.  An athlete with a process orientation tends to maintain a consistent level of effort, regardless of the situation, and typically sees more consistent outcomes as a result.

Finally, following competition it is imperative for athletes to engage in active rest.  This is the time for the student-athlete to take a step back and give an honest assessment of his/her own tournament performance and training leading up to the event.  An effective evaluation includes strengths that emerged to continue developing; limitations that exist that may be holding the individual back from reaching their potential; and most importantly, an updated plan to create the next mission to move forward and continue improving with renewed purpose and energy.

Hopefully this piece clarifies, rather than complicates the question of what I do and how I work to assist my student-athletes on a daily basis.  Just as I encourage my athletes to evaluate themselves on a regular basis to reach their potential, I attempt to do the same for myself.  This is my philosophy today.  Only time and introspection will tell if this answer will be the same down the road.

Solid Foundations Make Strong Buildings

by Matt Cuccaro, Ed.M.

The same is true when developing great athletes.  An unstable foundation creates a weak base.  A weak base cannot support continued growth.  Without continued growth, an athletic career will never reach its true potential.  A solid foundation on the other hand, can support a great amount of growth, development, and skill acquisition.  A solid foundation built upon sound fundamentals will also remain stable in pressure situations.  Great coaches and athletes continuously monitor the fundamentals of their sport before moving on to more advanced areas of development, which lays the foundation for long, prosperous, and healthy careers.

fundamentals pic

This model of player development may seem elementary, but following through to physically put the model into action is not.  In the real world of sport and competition, coaches and players face constant criticism and doubt when growth, skill development, and wins do not add up quickly.  This criticism and doubt often comes from those closest to the coaches and athletes themselves (parents, friends, team owners/management, etc…).  The temptation to move on to more advanced and more creative skills quickly builds.  Let’s face it, working on fundamentals is typically not as much fun or challenging for coaches and athletes either.  This adds even greater pressure to abandon the patience and long-term vision required to stick to the basics .  Remember, however, that once the coach or athlete does give in to this temptation, there is no way to turn back the clock.  Before you know it, the model starts to look a bit more like this…

fundamentals2 pic

Which model best fits your philosophy?  Does that philosophy show itself in your everyday training?

Injuries and Comebacks

by Matt Cuccaro, Ed.M.

Injuries.  They are a part of every athlete’s life.  Most of us can do our jobs and perform them equally as well with a jammed thumb, pulled quadriceps, or sprained ankle.   An athlete, however, requires a fully functioning body to perform to his or her potential on the field every day.  For this reason the subject of injuries cannot be taken lightly in the world of athletes, especially in the development of young athletes.  At the professional level (see illustration above) athletes are questioned for resting or being a wimp when sitting out with an injury.  On the other hand, they can also can be viewed as foolish or headstrong for playing when they are injured.  It’s a lose-lose situation.  Hopefully when it comes to developing young athletes, the decision becomes a bit easier.  Protect the potential and future career of athletes above winning a youth championship now.  Utilize the appropriate resources available to decide when it’s time to rest and when it’s time to play.  Medical doctors and athletic trainers are a part of sport culture for this exact reason.  Junior coaches, league officials, and parents hold a tremendous responsibility for ensuring the safety and well-being of their athletes.  When it comes to injuries and comebacks maintain long-term perspective for developing an athlete’s life both on and off the field.


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