Timber Creek Wrestling

The Most Common Struggle For College Athletes

Are you ever frustrated because you want the people around you just to make a decision? I recently took a poll from college coaches and asked “What is one of the biggest struggles you have with athletes?” And one of the common answers was “To think and problem solve for themselves”. It’s time to decide what’s right for you.

On top of that a good friend requested that I write up a blog on critical thinking. So this whole concept got me thinking!

Why is it that so many people struggle with the ability to make decisions and think for themselves? When I teach this I refer to this as you can be one of two people but you can not be both. You can be a decision maker or you can be a dabbler.

Unfortunately most people go through their entire lives being a dabbler. Step one to being able to make the switch from dabbler to decision maker is to understand what the actual definition of the word “decision” is.

If you look up the word decide and break it down from its latin origin “decaedere”. De means “off” and caedere means “cut”. So by definition to make a decision literally means to cut off!

Once I learned this and began teaching it, athletes were starting to have this huge aha moment because they were beginning to understand that once you decide on something you are literally cutting off all other options!

It seems so simple and boring but I firmly believe that we use all these words throughout our life without ever knowing what the meaning of them are. How can you live something out in your life if you do not know what it actually means?

On the other hand most athletes are dabblers. They dabble from one identity to the next. Dabble from one influencer to the next, Dabble in what they want to accomplish in their sport. Dabble from one pain and struggle to the next. Always jumping from one thing to the next because either they try it once and it doesn’t work or they hit a plateau and assume that’s as good as it will get.

Step one is knowing that when you say yes to one thing you are saying no to everything else around it otherwise you dabble in a bunch of different things.

What Is A Decision

Next you must actually decide what YOU want. Again seems simple yet most people make their decisions based on the external environment around them. To be honest, unconsciously so many coaches make this mistake with their teams and athletes…

I can’t even count all the times I have had conversations with coaches and asked what their team mission is for that season. I follow up and say this is going to be the biggest hurdle getting them to make this decision.

95% of the time coaches respond “oh no they are all on the same page here”…

Cold hard facts they very rarely are. You think they are because you either forced them to agree with YOUR mission as the coach or based on fear they said what you wanted to hear!

I can not express that this is the most fatal mistake you can make as a coach, because your athletes are going through an entire season subconsciously trying to prove themselves right and you wrong. That the mission you set for them was not possible!

Now, one of the few times that does not apply is when you have a culture of winning and started to create a dynasty. For example if you have won multiple championships in a short period of time most of the athletes you are bringing in are most likely coming to you to continue that winning tradition.

But even then you should allow THEM to verbalize that each season so that they are the ones taking ownership of the mission.

You Can Not Have It Both Ways

This is the interesting part. As coaches we want to empower our athletes but hover over them and basically strong arm them into making the most important decision of each season for them!

If you want to build a strong culture they have to know they are in control of determining their outcome. You will be much better off and quite frankly have more success allowing them to ALL agree on a common mission. They will all be rowing in the same direction…

For example I was recently talking with one of the individual college kids I work with. Some context: their team is a top 20 team at a power 5 school and I asked them what their team mission was and this response will blow your mind…

They responded: “To be a top 4 team in the country” and then proceeded to start giggling saying “But that isn’t gunna happen”

Like WHAT! But it makes sense as you dive deep they were TOLD what to accomplish this season!

So how does this affect the ability to critically think? Well for one they never made the decision for themselves so now they are looking to you as the coach for ALL the answers. When you decide on a mission that YOU want then YOU start seeking answers to build progress and move you closer to your outcome!

I firmly believe that one of the most powerful emotional states you have is the ability to be curious. I call this being obnoxiously curious!

You have immediately taken this emotional state of curiosity away when you make decisions for people.

How To Think: Making A Decision

One of my mentors recently told me something that has been tattooed in my brain. He said 

“Ryan, nothing is real when it’s in your head. You must be able to get things out of your head and verbalize it plus write it down on paper”

This makes so much sense and why college athletes can’t make decisions because they assume that if things are in their head they are fine. Not true! And I will give an example…

If you showed up to class and asked the teacher about the chapter they were teaching and they responded with: “Well I know the answer to that question but it’s hard to explain. It’s in my head but I can’t really explain it to you”

You would be like WTF, do you know the material for this class or not. Yet that is how so many people live. You ask questions like:

Who Are you? Describe your identity and personality.

What’s your mission and dream outcome for this year?

Describe 25 things you LOVE about yourself

The typical response is, shoot this is hard. Yes, I agree it is hard because while you have thought about it before you never made it real by talking about it and/or writing it down!

It’s the primary problem with school. 

School teaches you WHAT to think NOT HOW to think!

When you learn How to think your entire life changes!

Questions To Build Critical Thinking:

  • What is my number one focus in life right now?(Sport, relationship and career)
  • What is my mission right now?
  • What do I perceive to be true that isn’t?
  • Who should I know that I don’t right now?
  • What is the greatest ideal of myself?
  • Who in history do I admire, and how did they act?
  • Whom do I want to model?
  • How would I talk, dress and interact with others if I were changed?
  • What thoughts do I want to put my energy behind?
  • How do I want to be perceived?
  • How would the NEW me think?
  • How would the NEW me Act?
  • How would the NEW me Feel?
  • How do I want to live today?

Hope this adds some value.

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