Being a role model & incorporating simple mental training with your athletes (Part 2)

Read Part 1 Here

My coaching philosophy is clear-cut and sounds simple. In order to accomplish my goals as a coach there will be much planning and preparation. Coaching is more than a day job and it goes far beyond the two hour practices scheduled each day. Instead, it is who I am and is a part of my everyday life. I find myself reading at home, planning on the weekends, searching new and innovative ideas on the internet, discussing with mentors and communicating with parents after practices and during the week. Whether I am working out myself, doing my other job, driving my car, I am constantly planning and thinking of my athletes and what changes I need to make so that they can reach their full potential. They need to see this; they need to see that even coaches need to work hard to make their goals happen.


I started this reflection process every week, usually on Saturdays. We met briefly (time is valued), and I asked a single question, it changed weekly, “What kind of athlete do you want to be?”, “Why did you show up today?”, “If you could go back in time and tell a younger version of yourself one thing, what would you tell?” From these conversations we are able to create our training community, I get to see what is important to them and what they want from me. It is funny but I consider myself a young mom, sister, coach, teacher, doctor, psychologist and counsellor to my “kids” (I could name off many others). That said, I want the best for each of them and truly believe they are meant to go places. I realize that if I have succeeded they will leave me and I want them to leave me. I want them to go further with someone else who can take them farther.


They’re at that awkward stage where telling them how to do something isn’t enough, showing them isn’t enough, having a practice ready to go isn’t enough. As coaches we need to build self-confidence and find creative ways such as integrating technology or mentor athletes to motivate them. I have a journal that I keep in my car where I have tally marks beside the names of kids I’ve leisurely talked to today. It’s a good way to keep connected and figure out where their head was before they got here or perhaps what they’re leaving with once they go home. By the end of each week the hope is that the book has tallies beside everyone’s name.


You see the differences; they start to communicate with you and show their silly side. They feel comfortable being brave around you but they also feel comfortable showing discomfort and fear. It is in those moments where I am fulfilled and it motivates me and inspires me to be the best coach I can be, no matter where I am at or who I am coaching. It is not about separating girls from boys, or treating them in a way that is considered “special treatment” but it is about understanding the differences in their brains. We should emphasize respect for training partners first and foremost and empathy for each other. We should allow boys to be soft and caring, awkward and bright. The word “tough” isn’t just an exterior description but an inside one that can apply to anyone.


We should show girls that strength is a powerful entity on its own and does not need to be put in front or behind of the word “beauty”. This is not about what makes female coaches better than others (because it isn’t true), it is about what makes us equal. All coaches have this responsibility. When we empower athletes to see beyond their setbacks, we fuel the world of potential.


Incorporate some simple mental training and see if it makes a difference in the way athletes interact with you.


Questions that require higher-level thinking; I can vouch for this because some mornings it takes the kids 10 minutes to figure out what to write:

  1. What is 1 word that will help you achieve a personal best today?
  2. What kind of athlete do you want to be?
  3. Why did you show up today?
  4. How do you want to be remembered?
  5. I have the power to be GREAT because…
  6. You are the captain of your ship, how will you navigate it?
  7. How have you given back to our sport? Who have you influenced and how?
  8. Who are you really? Describe yourself without using your name, or any qualities given to you by others.
  9. Who are your role models and who are you mentors? What sets them apart from you?



Ornmadee Baxter-LovoBio: Ornmadee has a huge passion canoe/kayaking.  She is a Youth Development and Masters coach in Bedford, Nova Scotia, Canada.  She loves being in the sun and sitting in the coach boat, watching her athletes paddle by with gritted teeth and glistening skin. Ornmadee’s tough days are spent in the pouring rain with two different types of coats on, while her athletes steam up with frigid water with their energy and heat and she would not trade it for anything else.