How to Handle a Negative Coach

When you play for a negative coach

Every athlete should try and find a coach who brings out the best in them. However, that’s not always what happens. Sometimes you find yourself on a team with a coach you don’t get along with or one that is negative.

And this isn’t to say that makes them a bad coach, either. It’s just that the way they coach (which tends to be negative) isn’t the best environment for you to be in. This coaching may work for other people, but not for you.

That’s not a bad thing, either. Everybody is different, and it’s not about good or bad. It’s about what is the right coach and right environment for you that enables you to perform your best.

So, if you’re an athlete who’s playing for a negative coach right now and it’s getting to you, what can you do?

Well, there is a sport psychology strategy you can use to manage the situation and perform your best (and enjoy yourself) even in these less than optimal environments.

What Happens When You Play for a Negative Coach

When you are playing for a negative coach, the reason this is something you need to address is because of the negative impact it has on your mindset and your performance.

Not only will your performances tend to decrease over time, but your mental health can also take a downward turn.

This is because of the way you are responding to your coach and the habits and ways of thinking you adopt as a result.

So, before we get into a strategy you can use to manage a negative coach, here are the main ways playing for a negative coach can hurt you as an athlete…

  • Fear of Failure: when you play for a negative coach, it’s easy to adopt the fear of failure. This is especially true when the coach yells and singles you out whenever you make a mistake. You may play timidly now out of fear of not wanting to make another mistake.
  • Performance Anxiety: this occurs when you worry about what’s going to happen. When you play for a negative coach, you may worry a lot about what they’re thinking and these types of worries can lead to anxiety going into practices and games.
  • Poor Confidence: the more you feel like your coach is negative and gets down on you, the easier it is to begin to doubt yourself. One of the most important pieces to building confidence is seeing yourself succeed. When your coach constantly points out everything you did badly, it’s difficult to focus on the things you did well and use them as a way to build your confidence.
  • Loss of Passion: the more practices and games become a chore and the more fear and anxiety you feel, the quicker you will lose the love for the game. I’ve seen this happen to many athletes, where they play for a negative coach, and as a result, they lose the love for the game.

Sport Psychology Strategy to Handle a Negative Coach

As an athlete, you can’t change how your coach coaches. I know you may want to at times (or maybe all the time) but it’s a useless desire. Sadly, how they coach is not in your control. But the good news is that there is something in your control…yourself.

While you may not get to choose how your coach coaches, you do get to choose how you respond.

Now, the way you respond is what’s truly to blame for all the negative impacts I listed above. It’s not the coach that’s to blame, but the way you are reacting that’s to blame.

I know that may seem harsh, but the reason that’s an important thing to understand is because it puts the power back in your hands. Since it’s your reaction that’s to blame, it’s your reaction we need to focus on improving.

Now, before we get into the strategy you can use, there is a very important question you must answer: are you going to change teams or stay where you are?

I know that’s not always the easiest choice to make, but it’s a very important one. Because if you decide to change teams, that’s a very understandable choice to make.

The only thing I encourage you to keep in mind is that you want to look for a coach you like and who brings out the best in you, so you can avoid once again finding yourself in a similar situation.

If you choose to stay, that’s okay too. But what you have to do is begin working on ways to strengthen your mindset so that the coach no longer negatively impacts you.

The worst thing you can do is remain where you are and do nothing. If you don’t take action, nothing will change.

So, if you’re ready to learn how you can handle a negative coach as an athlete, this strategy will show you how. And it all starts with paying attention to your own thoughts.

Pay Attention to What You’re Thinking

As a mental coach, one of the first things I work on with athletes is their thoughts. The reason is because the way you think has a tremendous impact on how you feel. And it’s no different when it comes to handling a negative coach.

Whether it’s before, during, or after a practice or a game, or any time in between, if you allow the coach’s negativity to impact the way you think, that will have a direct impact on your mental state and the way you play.

Above I listed fear of failure, performance anxiety, low confidence, and loss of love for your sport as the main things that hurt you as a result of a negative coach. Well, all of those are caused by your thoughts. Just like all of them are improved by changing how you’re thinking.

A good practice for you to adopt, if you are dealing with a negative coach, is a self-talk routine. This involves creating a list of all the negative thoughts and beliefs you have about yourself. Then coming up with a list of positive alternatives.

Then, each day you want to read that new list of positive alternatives to yourself. This will work to reprogram the way you think and help you think more positively…even in the face of a negative coach.

Take Control of Evaluating Your Game

If your coach is the type of coach who tends to criticize and constantly point out the things you did wrong, it’s natural to begin thinking that way yourself. But that’s a very dangerous mindset to adopt as an athlete.

When you only focus on the things you did wrong, this lowers your confidence. It also leads to perfectionism which can contribute to you playing with fear since you’re afraid of making a mistake.

What you want to do instead is take control of evaluating your game. This can be done by applying a simple post performance practice.

After each practice and game, you want to ask yourself two questions:

  • What did I do well today?
  • Where can I improve?

And be very careful to answer them in that order.

This evaluation practice works to build your confidence because you are giving yourself the opportunity each day to focus on the things you did well. But what’s great about it is that you don’t stop there. You then ask where you can improve.

And no, not what did I do wrong? You are looking at where you can improve so that you can take valuable information from the practice or game and you apply it moving forward to get better.

Focus on What You Enjoy

When you play for a negative coach, it’s easy to lose the love for the game.

When you develop fear of failure, performance anxiety, or low confidence, this will not be fun to deal with. What can quickly happen is you begin to dread going to practice and games.

The more you dread your sport, the more you will start to question why you’re doing it at all and the more the idea of quitting will dance in your mind.

But if at the core you love your sport, it’s a shame to see these outside forces leading to you not wanting to play anymore. So you want to be sure, if you are dealing with fear of failure, performance anxiety, or low confidence, you are working to improve.

What you can also do is begin to focus on what you enjoy.

Whenever you experience fear, for example, your mind will tend to focus on what you fear. The same goes for anxiety. You may focus on what you’re anxious about, or the feelings of anxiety in general.

When you are focused on these things, how much focus are you giving to what you love about your sport?

Very little, I’d say.

You want to change that.

What you can do to make the practice more actionable is make a list of everything you love about your sport. Then, each day you must work to focus on those things.

It’s not going to be easy and your mind will naturally want to think about what you fear, how anxious you are, or how lousy your coach is. That’s where discipline and work on your part must come in.

But by giving more attention to the things you enjoy about your sport. You will be better able to handle the negative coach you’re currently dealing with.

Mental Coaching for Handling a Negative Coach

Whether it’s due to fear, anxiety, low confidence, a loss of love, or anything else, a negative coach can have an extremely negative impact on your mindset and your performance as an athlete.

The strategy outlined above will help you begin to handle a negative coach. But if you’re looking for a more in-depth and personal approach, then you need one-on-one mental coaching.

With mental performance coaching, we will work together to uncover the best way for you to handle a negative coach and increase your performance.

But even more importantly, we will work together to help you regain the love for the game and enjoy yourself while you play once again.

To learn more about mental coaching please fill out the form below or schedule a free introductory coaching call.

Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of success in all that you do.

Contact Success Starts Within Today

Please contact us to learn more about mental coaching and to see how it can improve your mental game and increase your performance. Complete the form below, call (252)-371-1602 or schedule an introductory coaching call here.

Eli Straw

Eli is a sport psychology consultant and mental game coach who works 1-1 with athletes to help them improve their mental skills and overcome any mental barriers keeping them from performing their best. He has an M.S. in psychology and his mission is to help athletes and performers reach their goals through the use of sport psychology & mental training.

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The Mentally Tough Kid course will teach your young athlete tools & techniques to increase self-confidence, improve focus, manage mistakes, increase motivation, and build mental toughness.

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