Coaching Anxiety

A desire to achieve can be a powerful incentive to overcome ourselves. My son’s quest for his school’s beep-test record has taught him a lot about human nature in group situations.

Sport is a wonderful place to equip ourselves with skills we can use in our daily lives. I’m going to take another swing at sharing some ideas about anxiety.

First up, the feelings most of us label “anxiety” are useful. They are not a problem to be removed and anxious people aren’t flawed. In my life, these feelings provide little nudges towards better.

When might my emotional state become an issue? When I make quick decisions based on unlikely fears.

I was chatting about this with one of my kids and they stated flatly, “I’m never anxious.” I smiled because this kid has some of the highest baseline anxiety I’ve seen. However, like many of us, they do an excellent job of living with it.

We were on a chair lift. About four towers out they started to get twitchy about raising the bar. This rapidly progressed to mild hysteria, “we are going to get caught and hurt!!!” After we got off, safely, it gave me a chance to introduce the concept of being worried about a future that might never materialize.

The feared future can be adaptive => better behavior nudged by a fear of getting caught.

It can make us miserable => fear of loss, resulting in never taking a chance on improving one’s life.

It can cost us money => fear-based selling in the face of price-volatility

Body composition, friendships, portfolios, marriage, business relationships… all are damaged when we train rapid action based on our fears.

How might we use sport to build useful emotional skills?

Don’t train the startle reflex => endurance sport is filled with opportunities to notice, rather than act on, our instincts. ALL our deepest habits come to the surface in the face of competition and fatigue.

With my athletes, we’d start with bike pacing, and using their powermeter to give them visual feedback (when they had lost their minds!).

We’d progress to getting bumped while swimming, holding personal pace in groups and, finally, letting other people make mistakes.

Letting other people make mistakes => letting others deal with the consequences of their actions

…this habit leads naturally towards “let it go.”

On the bike, in a race, on a zoom call, at the meal table… notice when the startle reflex is triggered and pause.

As a father and husband, my victories are invisible.

Conflicts not triggered, confidence not damaged, relationships strengthened by not-acting on my fears.

Notice, then let it go.

Fathers and Sons – Mountain Leadership

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An unfortunate reality…

Most educators spend more time with other people’s children than their own.

As a student, and parent, this has worked out very well for me. I’m grateful for our teachers, mentors and coaches.

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Last season, I spent a lot of time in Vail and noticed a gap between Vail Resort’s youtube clips and my actual experience with their first responders. I’ve been considering, “What are the qualities required to lead in the mountains?”

This season, there’s a new boss for Vail. She’s done fantastic work at Beaver Creek and I’m sure her team will sort it out. Everyone looked super-peppy during opening week. Maybe the grumpy guys retired?!

I spent months mentally rehashing my letter to the new boss. Gradually, I turned my “you could be so much more” mojo inwards, towards making myself a better father.

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Since my son could stand up, he’s been passionate about heading uphill. I figured it would take me a decade to get him up to speed. I underestimated the guy and we’ve had a lot of fun over the last year, skiing, camping and hiking.

My son has been eating up The Way of the Warrior Kid. There’s an unexpected overlap between the Code of The Warrior Kid and what he learned at his Buddhist preschool. The code fits with what I’m seeking to achieve in my own life.


So that got me thinking… rather than figuring out how to fix grumpy ski-patrollers, why don’t we train ourselves to be the change.

  • The best memories of my life (and my son’s) are in the mountains
  • It’s a project we can enjoy for many years
  • It’s a beautiful legacy to leave him
  • It’s local
  • There’s no judges, tournaments, competitions or rankings
  • It provides huge motivation for me to stay in the game

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What would our code look like? Here’s a draft and we can make it our own over the next few years.

  • Fit For Purpose => strong, durable, resilient
  • Skilled => able to get where we need to be, in any conditions
  • Peer, Teacher & Student => learn from the experienced, share our knowledge and work with others
  • Prudent => pause and consider consequences
  • Prepared => we carry extra so we can help others
  • Calm, Humble and Patient => Knowing I need much more of this at home, I will practice it in my favorite environment. These traits are also on my (hotshot) son’s “to do” list.

The lesson here isn’t about the mountains.

The mountains are our story.

The lesson is to pay attention to passion and use childhood interests to create a value system for navigating the world.

Let’s fill the world with positive memories for our children.

Correction Without Resentment

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A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment.

— John Wooden

Coach Wooden hits the nail on the head. Looking deeper, I ask myself, as the corrector, “What am I seeking to achieve here?”

Constant correction, mostly non-verbalized, floats through my head.

Criticism, dissatisfaction, endless tweaking and optimization… what purpose does it serve?

What is the source of this correction?

  • Is it habit?
  • Is it altruism?
  • Is it a desire to alleviate the pain I see from watching you suffer?

Too often, my correction-by-habit makes my family suffer.

Sit quietly in a room full of children. Notice two things…

  • How little the master teachers correct.
  • How much the novice parents correct.

The frazzled parents beg for the children to listen.

When I catch myself, I slow down to see if the situation will resolve itself.

It’s humbling to realize how much of the distraction I create by hurrying.

How do the masters get through to us…

  • Fix myself first
  • Shared laughter
  • Wait until asked
  • Keep it short

When I am tempted to carpet bomb my Facebook feed, I remind myself that the world is filled with good people, particularly in the homes of my enemies. What might those good people need from me?

Share a laugh, keep it short and remember…

…the important stuff happens under my own roof.

What is your value added – Streamlining low-value busy-work

ax_valThis was a coaching question but it applies to anyone with a boss, client, student or colleague.

Novice coaches often mistake inefficiencies with dedication.

Spending hours, upon hours, on administration and busy-work that add very little value to their client, or boss.

Specifically, there is a reluctance to use templates and recycle work. In fact, they think that anything not built from scratch is cheating.

Under what conditions are templates cheating?

  • don’t work
  • not fun
  • lower compliance
  • fail to meet goals

What to do?

  • Aim towards continual efficiency improvements at what you do
  • Save your work – you have limited number of keystrokes in your life
  • Check with bosses, supervisors and clients on what they value – so you can work on the right things!
  • Pay attention to what limits your performance and enjoyment – admin will make you miserable, especially when it can be avoided
  • Notice, and keep, what works
  • The cost of (an inefficient) status quo is hidden
  • Frequently pause and ask… What is important now?

As an advisor, remember that performance is driven by behavior, not protocol – the best protocol is the one that motivates effective behavior.

Personal inefficiencies don’t motivate effective behavior in others.

What are your most effective behaviors?

Be the brand.

Keep it simple.

Structuring Your Business

I am going to use Triathlon Coaching for this case study but I could easily re-write with a focus on investment analysis.


How efficient are you?  I’ve worked with the best coaches in sport and they never brag about how busy they are.  If you’re constantly busy then you need to take an honest look at your efficiency.  Do you spend your time on what the team wants to achieve?  

Strong relationships are built on being effective, not busy.

Productivity happens when we are effective and efficient.  Here are quick hits to improve your productivity:

  1. Training Peaks – template creation for training plans, an pooled workout library, and auto notify for key workouts (via email into a separate mail folder).  If you don’t know what I’m talking about then you need to fix that, now.
  2. Season Planner – I’ve created this in google docs.  It has the year on a single page and I can create a new page for athlete specific information.  I have my team create a short URL (via and access via clickthrough which is embedded in each athlete’s signature file.  Again, if that doesn’t make sense to you then figure out what I’m talking about.  It will save you time.
  3. Team Forum – the big IT investment for 2010 was creation of a team forum.  We copied the market leader (Slowtwitch) so everyone was familiar with the look & feel.  This creates a network effect that is far superior to email tennis.  We help each other; access a greater knowledge base; and the coaches have a single place for integration/education.  [NOTE: One of the things that drives me nuts about email is the lack of scale (1:1).  I’m leveraged over 100:1 on our forum; over 1,000:1 on my blog and over 10,000:1 on my book.  Financial funnels aren’t the only ones that I think about.]
  4. Billing – we are integrated between our accounting, banking and email systems (Intuit/Quickbooks/Chase).  Even though I like receiving money in the mail – I’ve removed myself from most the admin.
  5. Social Networks & Blogs – I’m a read/write guy so I track my crew via twitter and blog RSS.  Athletes, in general, tend to be kinesthetic (Facebook).  Facebook is an effort for me but I’m getting better.

What sort of people do you like working with?  Where are they?  Does your business model let you control growth or are you working as fast as you can to simply stay in the same place?  How do you establish, and retain, your expert credentials?  Better yet, what are your credentials?  How could I find out about them?  How often does your target market think about you?  What do they think?

The public side of EnduranceCorner.Com is our answer to all the questions above.  What’s your answer?

The most common mistake for head coaches/senior partners is to see the junior partners as profit, rather than knowledge, contributors.  Your best people (coaches, sponsors and athletes) will leave if you “feed off them”, rather than work for them.  At EC, I contribute to our overheads on the same basis as everyone else.  We have visibility on the overheads and a shared incentive to manage ourselves effectively.

Who’s winning in your business?  Anyone losing? Lose any people that you would have liked to keep?  Why did they go?

Your strategic position is strengthened when you are sold out. Get to that position and assess your business.  The Endurance Nation guys are sold out on their team and their waiting list is sold out.  You can’t even wait to wait.  Their playbook is effective for their goals.  What are your goals?

Let’s consider two business structures: a team of six athletes paying $1,000 per month vs a team of 60 athletes paying $100 per month. A common mistake is to link value to the headline number.  $1,000 is bigger so that must be better, right?  That depends.  Sixty smart people create a powerful network – especially when they have the demographic profile of triathletes.  The discretionary spending power of sixty average triathletes is over $500,000 per annum.  Sixty highly educated triathletes?  Well over a million dollars per year.  

Consider your contribution to the team’s life experience vs your cost within their overall budget.  Keep your share of fun WAY over your share of wallet.

Remember my question about “who you like to work with”?  Say you’re charging “maximum rate” to coach; be careful of creating co-dependence to justify your fee.  Bigger isn’t always better when it comes to pricing and team size.

Spend time considering the result you want to create.

What incentives are you giving the team, the coaches and yourself with your business structure?  

The incentives will drive the result – might as well point them at the desired result!