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  • Kelly VanderBeek, OLY - Speaker - Broadcaster

Leaders: Emotional Discipline Matters

It was like clockwork. With the looming pressure cooker of an Olympics or World Championships, coaches & associations went a little crazy - and many athletes followed suit.

To avoid this, read on.




- Brad Stevens, NBA Coach

A statement so simply, yet it smacks with truth. The simple act of knowing this statement to be true, will help set you and your team up for success.

If you're a leader, keeping your $@!T together is critical.



Think of emotional discipline like a muscle - it needs to be worked and flexed, tested and strained.

Since there are few things in life we can control, controlling the controllable is vital for success. Easier said than done...I know. Especially when it comes to reigning in our emotional states.

Demonstrating emotional discipline can't start at the Olympic Games or an equivalent pressure cooker. Like any muscle, emotional discipline has to be developed so it can hold strong when it matters.

As a leader, when it comes to your temperament, you don't get days off. Period.

If you work hard, if you show discipline, if you're focused - your team will reflect that and be better for it.



If your team is late, slacking off, distracted, stressed out, anxious, etc. look at yourself first .

Break down where you may be demonstrating these traits and be sure you're on top of things before even considering broaching the topic of change with your team.



Leading into big events, athletes would seek help from their sport psychologists. Yet, all too often, no one was paying attention to the emotional state of the staff surrounding the athletes.

I once had an employee of our national sport organization (NSO) personally tell me, right before racing, that their job and families well being were relying on my results. That I HAD to go fast for them.

I've seen other coaches give course reports that, normally take 30 seconds, soak up 5min of radio time moments before a racers is meant to leave the gate! This is NOT normal behaviour and should never happen.



Knowing your emotional state will be reflected in your teams' behaviour is half the battle.

Here is a short check list to help you maintain that awareness:

- Was my first interaction with my team a positive one today?

- Was I on time, even early?

- When was the last time I didn't have time to, either talk to or listen to, one my team members?

- Have I been uncharacteristically short or long winded with answers to questions?

- Am I showing outward signs of stress? (clenched fists, chewing nails, etc?)

- On a scale of 1-10 (1 is Low, 10 is High):

- have I been distracted a lot this week?

- what would I rate my stress levels today?

- Am I exhibiting the work ethic I expect to see in my team?

- Am I taking enough time for myself so find balance?


Strong emotional discipline is one of the greatest traits of high performers. It isn't easy but it is an attainable goal within everyones' grasp.

So, grab hold of this moment and demonstrate to your team the type of behaviours you want to see emulated.

- Kelly VanderBeek, OLY

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