Next-Level Coaching: How to Use Sport Psychology to Educate, Motivate, and Improve Student-Athlete Performance

Next-Level Coaching: How to Use Sport Psychology to Educate, Motivate, and Improve Student-Athlete Performance

by Ben Loeb


View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for delivery by Thursday, June 17


Play your sport, not mind games

Ben Loeb has created an actionable guide to implementing sport psychology in team sports, including extensive exercises and self-assessment activities.

With seventy-five exercises for coaches and athletes to use upping their game, Next-Level Coaching will give you the competitive edge.

This book will help you learn about:

• Mental Toughness

• Confidence

• Focus

• Motivation and Motivational Obstacles

• Entering “The Zone”

• Developing Mental and Emotional Skills

• Leadership and Team Building

• Character and Values

Next-Level Coaching will help any athlete, coach, or parent working with a young athlete become more successful in athletics—and life.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781632991775
Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group, LLC
Publication date: 06/18/2018
Pages: 214
Product dimensions: 7.00(w) x 10.00(h) x 0.45(d)

About the Author

BEN LOEB teaches a sport psychology course at Rock Bridge High School in Columbia, Missouri, where he also coaches both the boys' and girls' tennis teams. The teams he has coached had won over one thousand dual meets, sixteen state championships, and thirty-eight Final Four appearances by the end of 2017.

Read an Excerpt



Athletes need mental effectiveness and clarity (i.e., mental excellence), and they need mental strength (i.e., mental toughness) to perform their best. The exercises that follow in chapters 1 and 2 will help athletes better understand what they can do to improve mentally in their performance arena. You will find some overlap with both of these terms but also some differences.

Mental excellence — think of mental excellence as the athlete's ability to mentally summon the best of what they have. Mental excellence has to do with what you think, how you think, and if you overthink. It is being aware of what you can accomplish and what you can control, and following a process to get there.

Mental toughness — take mental excellence and then add in grit, competitive spirit, coping skills, confidence stability, and a very high motivation to succeed, and you have mental toughness. It reminds me of adding extra spice to a meal (i.e., some Tabasco sauce!).

To simplify, mental excellence is more cognitively oriented (i.e., mindset), while mental toughness is both cognitively and emotionally oriented.

There can be some overlap in what makes up mental excellence and mental toughness. The question becomes for both terms, "What does it take for athletes to perform in the upper range of what they are capable of?" Mental excellence is a process the athlete strives for on a consistent basis. It should be a core value of the athlete. Furthermore, mental excellence is a goal worth pursuing, because it is directly correlated with the performance level of the athlete.

Arrivers or Strivers?

I distinctly remember a time when I addressed a team about focusing on bringing out the best in themselves mentally, physically, and emotionally on a regular basis. Are we willing to choose the path of striving for personal excellence or a path of being satisfied with winning, no matter the level of competition? One athlete responded, "We are going to win the state championship either way."

That response was indicative of an attitude that supports doing only what it takes to be good enough to win and nothing more. In short, this athlete was an arriver. An arriver is an athlete who wants to be good enough to win, but not good enough to maximize their true potential.

A striver is an athlete who seeks to bring out the very best in themselves. They want to discover their true potential. They will train hard and do the right things to win and to find their best self.

Ask yourself as a player, as a coach, or as a team, "What is my purpose?" What is the athlete's and the team's attitude toward achievement? What defines success? Jeff Moore of Moore Leadership suggests the athlete or the team ask, "Are we arrivers or strivers? Are we driven to be winners or champions?" The following table illustrates the characteristics of both.


Answer the following questions.

1. Do you consider yourself a striver? Why? And if you are not a striver, explain what steps you need to take to become one.



2. Discuss your self-evaluation with teammates.

3. Is your team more oriented toward being winners or champions? Discuss. ______________________________________________________


4. Write down one to three steps you can take as a team and/or as an individual to be a striver with a champion attitude.



The Demanded and the Undemanded Mile

How often do you as an athlete travel the un-demanded mile? What is your practice intensity level when the coach is not watching? Do you take the initiative to be a self-starter, or do you wait until the coach asks you to get going? How often do you show up to practice early or stay late to work on improving a skill? Do you record some of your thoughts on your performances or games in a journal? How often do you use visual imagery as a performance-enhancing tool?

Are you doing both the things that are expected of you (The Demanded Mile) and the things that are not explicitly expected of you (The Un-demanded Mile)?


Reflect on your preparation and training in your performance arena.

Calculate your total Un-demanded Mile Score: ______

Compare your individual scores and total score with a teammate or coach.

Discuss or write down ways to attain a higher score in one or more categories.




Three Essential Pillars of Mental Excellence

There are many factors that make up mental excellence. If the list is too long, it can feel overwhelming and confusing. Athletes should stand strong with the three essential pillars listed below to have a solid foundation for mental excellence. If successful, mental excellence will lead to physical excellence.


This pillar starts before the competition. What are you, the athlete, doing, eating, and thinking before the competition? Your pre-performance routine should start at least twenty-four hours before the competition and go from general to specific. For example, the type of practice you do the day before the event would likely have similar objectives and be similar in duration but not identical to the practice you do before the next game. The things you do the day before a competition should be similar for each game. The timing and type of dinner you eat would likely be similar, as well as what time you go to sleep. When you get closer to game time, your routine should be pretty much identical to what you've done before other games (i.e., your pregame warm-up routine).

Familiar routines should make you feel more at ease and ready to go. You should also use a "during-performance routine," especially in sports that lend themselves to it with stop-and-go action. Examples of this include the rituals you do before hitting a serve, shooting a free throw, making a penalty kick, pitching, batting, putting, etc.


How well do you manage your emotions during competition? Do your emotions fluctuate frequently based on how the game is going? Is there a narrow range or a wide range to your emotional state? Evaluate your coping skills in managing your emotions. Some strategies to help manage your emotions could include deep breathing, proper visualization, and positive self-talk.


Handling stress addresses two things: (1) how well you handle stress or adversity during the competition and (2) how well you bounce back from setbacks, such as a loss. We all have had and will have setbacks in sport and in life. Picture bouncing a ball as a reminder to find the inner strength to bounce back from such setbacks just like a ball bounces back from the ground. The resilience to overcome setbacks may lead to the image of the ball bouncing back even higher to simulate your newfound height of emotional inner strength. The intent is that it will clear your mind for the next point, play, or opportunity during the game and also for the next game. Some strategies for handling stress include taking some deep breaths during the game to relax and focusing on the things you can control, such as appropriate self-talk and game strategy.

1. Evaluate yourself on each of the three pillars on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 = low; 3 = average; 5 = high). Place your response in the blank by the title of each pillar.

2. Discuss your evaluation with a teammate or the coach. Determine if you need to strengthen one or more of these base pillars. If so, how will you do it?




Success Orientation

The athlete that derives great satisfaction from pursuing success without worrying about the possibility of failure is success-oriented. For many athletes it is difficult to not worry about failure, especially during crunch time or when the outcome is in doubt. The athlete may fear failure or even fear success. It can also be difficult for some athletes to be comfortable with themselves while pursuing success; this is because losing is disappointing, and winning brings on greater expectations.

There are many athletes who either worry about failure or become uncomfortable with the expectations of winning. If you experience one or the other (worrying about failure is more common), you are among a cruise ship full of people who experience the same thing. What can you do? You can set a goal to be success-oriented.

The best things to do are the following:

* Embrace the unknown.

* Thrive on being challenged.


Respond to the three following questions and then discuss your responses with a teammate or with a coach.

1. Rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 = low; 3 = average; 5 = high) on your ability to perform without worrying about failure. More specifically, to what degree do you "embrace the unknown" and "thrive on being challenged"?

Self-evaluation score: _______

2. Why do you feel you deserve your score?




3. What can you do to grade yourself higher, or what would you recommend a teammate do who wants to grade themselves higher?




Locus of Control

Your team is up by one point with three seconds left. You can almost taste the conference basketball championship ... until their best player sneaks past you to take a shot — which you block, of course — and the ref blows his whistle and calls a foul. What? You were just guarding your basket! Two foul shots later, your team has lost the championship.

Who do you blame for your loss? The ref on the basketball court who you claim cost you the championship? Or do you admit you got a little overzealous in trying to stop the opponent's shot?

Answer this, and you'll describe where your locus of control (LOC) is. Your "locus" (Latin for "place" or "location") can be either internal (your fault) or external (the ref's fault). Athletes who have an internal locus of control will first ask themselves questions about what they could have done better. They believe events in their life are affected primarily by their own actions.

Your LOC is a personality trait that affects athletic performance. According to Bret L. Simmons, who has studied positive organizational behavior, "LOC is the belief an individual holds about who or what controls events and behavior." Put more simply, it is to what extent the athlete takes responsibility for what could happen in the near future (i.e., the game) or what has already happened.

On the other hand, with an external locus of control, the athlete believes their decisions and life are controlled by other factors (i.e., the environment) that for the most part they cannot influence. Consequently, the athlete may blame other factors such as the umpire, the weather, the coach, their team-mate, or the opponent for any missteps or losses.

For the most part, having an internal locus of control is a better place to operate from in sports and in life. When people make fewer excuses and feel their effort can make a difference in their outcome, they tend to have better self-control. As a result, they have a better chance of performing with mental excellence.


Perform a self-evaluation using the following scale. Consider 5 a balance between the two ends of the scale.

Circle your self-evaluation score above.

1. Which word best describes your level of satisfaction with your score (circle one choice):

Satisfied Unsatisfied

2. Explain why you are satisfied or unsatisfied with your self-evaluation of your locus of control.




3. What can you do about it if you are unsatisfied with your score, or what would you advise a teammate to do if they were unsatisfied with their score?






It's the bottom of the ninth with two runners on base and two outs. You're coming to the plate with your team down 5–4. Your body is fine, but not your mind. You are very nervous. The game is on the line. You start to think about "what-if." What will you think of yourself, and what will other people think of you, if you strike out? Do you have the mental toughness to go into "challenge mode" instead of "threat mode"?

Mental toughness is having the natural or developed mental and emotional makeup to better cope with the demands opponents place upon you. It is the measure of an athlete's ability to be resilient, the willingness to be confident, and the willpower to embrace challenges when the pressure is on to excel. It is the ability to resist, manage, and overcome doubts while moving forward into a state of playing with a sustained competitive spirit.

No technical expertise will be more important than mental toughness when the outcome is truly in question.

Four Foundational Factors of Mental Toughness

The four foundational factors of mental toughness give a broad overview of the distinctly different factors that compose mental toughness. Similarly, the four emotional markers of mental toughness give the athlete a way to differentiate among emotional factors that relate to their mental toughness. Keep in mind that both mental and emotional skills work together to lead to psychological effectiveness. Both are covered in this chapter; the four foundational factors of mental toughness complement the four emotional markers of mental toughness covered in the next exercise.

The four foundational factors below are the "prerequisites" you'll need in order to develop your mental toughness.


Grade yourself in each of the following areas (A, B, C, D letter grades). Determine if you need to improve in any of the following four areas to get an "A" or "B" before deeming yourself worthy of getting a Mentally Tough Certificate!

#1: CONFIDENCE ______

Confidence is a key factor for athletic success. When you have two opponents with comparable physical skills, mental toughness becomes a separator. Confidence is the glue that holds mental toughness together. When you play well, your self- confidence increases. When your confidence improves, you play better. Here is the catch, though: you cannot always wait until you play well for your self-confidence to increase. Why? The game may be over by that point! In the short term (i.e., within the game), you may need to improve your self- confidence before you play better. For starters, exhibit strong body language (i.e., posture and a strong physical presence), and use positive self-talk (i.e., "I can do this!").

#2: FOCUS ______

Maintaining focus and controlling distractions is an important component of athletic success. You should strive to be present-focused in the moment and focus on things you can control. Generally speaking, athletes should be relaxed physically, alert mentally, and living in the now. How will you, the athlete, deal with the immediate situation in a positive and constructive way? Trust yourself, and play.


A mentally tough athlete knows where to be on the spectrum of energy output for optimal performance. It's important to know how to calm down when you are nervous or when you are feeling anxious. It's also important to know how to get more pumped up when you are not performing with enough energy. Your optimal energy level and level of effort are not the same! More effort does not necessarily mean more success. A higher level of arousal (competitive energy) is not infinitely correlated with a higher performance level. Competitive energy and performance are directly correlated up to a point, after which more arousal will result in a lesser performance. The objective is to find the optimal level of competitive energy and use it when needed to achieve the best performance possible.


Excerpted from "Next-Level Coaching"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Ben Loeb.
Excerpted by permission of River Grove Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Tips and Exercises by Topic,
Author's Note,
Chapter 1: Mental Excellence,
Chapter 2: Mental Toughness,
Chapter 3: Confidence,
Chapter 4: Focus,
Chapter 5: Motivation,
Chapter 6: Motivational Obstacles,
Chapter 7: Entering "The Zone",
Chapter 8: Developing Mental Skills,
Chapter 9: Developing Emotional Skills,
Chapter 10: Leadership,
Chapter 11: Team Building,
Chapter 12: Character and Values,
End Notes,
About the Author,

Customer Reviews