Managing Stress and Staying Focused | Q&A with Coach Rebecca

Today’s Topic: Managing Stress and Staying Focused


About Me

Hi everybody. I am coach Rebecca Smith. The founder and director of Complete Performance Coaching. Here for my weekly song and dance. About all things performance, and sport confidence related. Today is going to be a good juicy one.

I’ve got some great questions about stressors, outside of sport, school, bullies, drama. This stuff is so in the forefront for most of my clients – athletes age eight to eighteen. Primarily they’re about eleven to fifteen. That’s the age I absolutely adore working with.

Finding Yourself

It’s super ironic, because that was absolutely the hardest period of my life. No question. Eleven to fifteen. Super hard. I had a lot of transitions going on in life. I had a new school, family changes were going on and got the hormonal blah, craziness. On top of trying to figure out who you are as an individual.

You’re trying to separate from your parents. Separate from people who don’t share your values. And meanwhile, trying to be a part of something. Trying to find out “where do I fit? Who am I? What’s important to me? Where do I belong? Do I belong anywhere? Or am I just this person who got the raw end of the deal, and can’t fit in?”

It is not the most fun stage of life, and if you’re 12 and you’re like, “My life is awesome.” Then girlfriend, that’s awesome. But if you’re like “why is everything so hard?” Then I relate to you. And if you’re somewhere in between, that’s great too.

Maternity Leave Update

I’m going to answer some questions from members of the Perform Happy Community. Which is my super awesome community that is building every single day. Full of amazing parents, who care about their kids, and really want to be saying the right things, and avoiding the wrong things. Really motivated athletes, who just want to sharpen their confidence, so they can go out and do their very best. And not be overrun by fear.

You can join us, at here. And the doors are open. We’d love to have you. I’m going on maternity leave in a month, but I will be in the community. That is my commitment. I’m going to stay connected there. But I’m stepping out from one-on-one coaching. After about a month. Don’t worry. You can still find me online. But, you’re not going to get my mug one-to-one. Until I’ve been sleeping for at least you know, I don’t know? Two hours at a time.

Here are our questions for the week. One comes from Jen. She says,

Q: My daughter is 15, a freshman in high school. She has had a mental block on all back tumbling on and off for two years. Recently she’s made progress in the gym, and is slowly regaining tumbling. She’s slowly regaining her tumbling, however, it’s finals week at school. The stress level is high, and she is tired. Suggestions on how to manage all of this, and minimize the damage to her recent successes in the gym?



She’s a cheerleader. Which, I am a huge fan of the slow rebuild, because that’s what sticks. These spurt, and crash. Type of recovery, from fear. Is temporary. Where the slow steady rebuild, that’s the good stuff, because it lasts.

First of all mom, good job being aware that this might be a potential stressor. That’s something we want to know about ourselves. As athletes, and as parents of athletes. We want to know okay, we are coming up against something stressful. She’s not sleeping, as much as she needs to. What do we do?

Cut Yourself Some Slack

First of all, and most important, you are in finals, and you are up to your eyeballs in stress. Most of the athletes that I work with are perfectionists and people pleasers. Cut yourself some slack.

This might be a week. Where the tumbling does not improve at a magical rate. This might be a week where you just try to maintain. Number one priority needs to be sleep.

Get Enough Sleep

I talk a lot about sleep with my athletes because, it’s probably the most underrated mental toughness technique. If you are not getting enough sleep. Your brain, doesn’t have the capacity to do the sorts of things you have to do to stay confident.

You can’t focus as well. You feel unsafe. Because you aren’t as safe if your body isn’t running on a full, high octane. You have to manage time wisely. To prioritize sleep, during these times. And if that means, you’re not able to put it all in, to your sport. For just that week, cut yourself some slack.

Stay Consistent

Okay, and I also talk about when you’re dealing with fear. You must be consistent. You have to be making numbers. Every single day. Ideally. Or at least five days a week.

You don’t want to be like, “Hey. Let’s just come back to it in a week obviously, or avoid.” You do have to be putting numbers in. But, you might have to consider. That if you haven’t been rested. Your mind is in a million different places, your brain is just tired. You start back a step. Focus on and easier progression to get your numbers done. Just to make it a little easier on yourself.

Time Management

Ideally, you have everything written out, and you can compartmentalize. That is my favorite word for dealing with school, homework stress. Compartmentalize. Put your school in a compartment, and leave it outside. Unless you’re actually going to be leaving early, to do something. That is what needs to happen. School is a priority. Unless you need to do that. You will not probably perform better in practice, by stressing out all evening. On what you have to do when you get home.

Write a To-Do List

I’m guessing that’s not going to help you. Some people actually like to write it out. Here’s my to-do list. This is all the stuff I need to get done before bed tonight. Then, you fold it up, and you put it in the glove box you know, or in your backpack, or whatever. And when you get out of the car, and you go to practice. Anytime you start to think, about, “Oh gosh that thing’s tomorrow. And oh no I didn’t do this.” You go, “It’s written down. I don’t have to think about this right now. I’m not going to forget. It’s written down. I can let it go.”

Each time you catch yourself going into the, “I’m not going to get to sleep. Oh my gosh.” Just go, “It’s written down. It will get done. I’m not leaving early. I might as well not worry about it, and finish my practice strong, and safe.” I like writing stuff down. I love writing stuff down. Especially when it comes to this, “I’m so overwhelmed with what I have to get done.” Get out a calendar. Write down, exactly what you’ll do each day. Then, you can just go, “Okay. I’m just going to do today. Because tomorrow, is scary. The next day, super overwhelming. Today, buckle down, and get these three things done, and then go to bed.” Just let the next day be the next day.

Make Adjustments

If you write it out and you realize, “There actually is not enough time for me to get done what I need to get done,” then you can make adjustments. You know, maybe you leave early, or maybe you work it out with your coach. That you can do an extra practice on the weekend, or something. But, make sure that you’ve got it written out so that you’re not just assuming, you have an overwhelming amount of things to get done, and you don’t actually know exactly what you need to get done. It always seems scarier than it is.

Okay. Moving along to the next question. Laurie says,

Q: It seems inevitable, that social issues will creep into a sport, and have a direct affect on our athletes. My daughter’s once very tight gymnastics group is becoming plagued with jealousy, and overall nastiness. Thankfully my daughter doesn’t dwell on it. However, I do see it raising her anxiety, which directly affects her tumbling. We talk a lot, and I’m grateful she confides in me, but I can see it beginning to take a toll on her confidence. Any words of wisdom, to help keep the fire lit and not fall victim to the nonsense?



My two clients back-to-back after Laurie asked this question today. Both were talking about fear of embarrassment. Fear of jealousy. Bullying. One of them, her big aha question was, “Why does the drama seem to follow me everywhere?” And she was like, “Oh my gosh. This is the source of my insecurity. My lack of confidence. My stress.”

I am constantly amazed at what these twelve year old, thirteen year old girls can identify in themselves. Things I didn’t get ‘till I was like 25. “They’re like wow. My fear of being embarrassed, or being left out. Or being different. Makes me sabotage my stuff, or makes the fear come on, or triggers.” And you know, these are girls in lots of different sports. One of them is a swimmer, but it’s all the same stuff. With the same age.

I’m going to give you guys a really, super fast crash course for athletes on what to do, with the drama, and then parents – how to help them.

Multiple Threats

Something to consider, is that when we’re dealing with fear. There are multiple threats to safety. There’s physical, threats to safety. There’s relationship threats. There’s social threats. Those are what we’re going to talk about right now.

This is not physical. And a lot of the time it manifest as these mental blocks, that seem like you are afraid of getting hurt. You are, but it’s not a physical pain. It’s a social, emotional, relationship pain. That if you find yourself out at the front succeeding, and the mean girl who’s insecure, doesn’t like it. She could make your life a living hell. You know it.

Because of that, you, at some subconscious level, are holding yourself back. I’ve had this little voice in my head. One of my little negative belief systems is, it’s lonely at the top. You don’t want to be to successful, because then people won’t like you. You don’t want to be too good at that, because then they’re going to want to pick you apart, and then you’re going to be a target, and you’ll be vulnerable. Maybe they realize it? Maybe they don’t? But have a similar thought. Here’s what athletes can do.

Reality Check

You got to do a reality check on the stories you’re telling yourself. You know if I was like, “It’s lonely at the top. Everybody’s going to be so concerned about me.” I’m like, “Well who’s this everybody? I can’t really think of anybody who’s so concerned with me,” that they would be like, “That Rebecca’s getting so successful. I better be mad at her.” You know. Who is this person? Check your stories. You’re making stuff up guys. We make stuff up all the time. If it’s not useful, then you can let it go. I know, easier said than done. But, check your stories.

Am I telling myself a story that is not necessarily true? Is it possible that this is false? If so, see if you can just cleanly let it go. Okay. Avoid comparison thinking. Whenever you compare yourself to somebody else, are you usually coming out on top? I’m guessing no. You know, as humans we have all these things coming up on my phone here. As humans we’re not usually like, “I’m so wonderful. And so are they. This is great.” We’re like, “I could take him.” Or, “She’s smarter than me.” Or, “Oh, they like her better.” We are constantly going through the world judging.


If you compare yourself to others. You’re likely giving yourself the short end of the deal. Just see if you can catch it, and let it go. Just like the stories. “I don’t need to compare myself to them because, we are different. We’re apples and oranges. She learns this way. I learn this way. She’s good at this. I’m good at this. It’s not the same. I’m me. She’s her. I’m better off just allowing that to be, and letting it go.”

Tune into Your Body

Okay. Tune into your body. This is one of my favorite techniques for emotion in general. You start to get angry. Or you start to get frustrated. Or you start to get insecure, or shy. Ask yourself, “Where do I feel this? Is it in my heart? Is it in my stomach?” And tune in. And that is the opposite of what you’ll probably want to do. You’ll want to lash out, or have some kind of a reaction. But if you can tune inward. It allows you to gain a little control. Over what’s going on. And it allows you to let it simmer. Okay. That’s the first thing to do.

If I’m in traffic, and I get mad. Instead of driving like a jerk. Or yelling. I go, “Ooh, I’m feeling this in my belly.” Take a break. Everybody’s okay. Proceed. Breathe. Stay calm. Just like I said. Give it a pause. Take a little pause. Don’t talk about it while you’re freaking out. Come back to it in a minute. If parents, and athletes, you know adolescents are fighting see if one of you can have the maturity to say, “Can we come back to this in 15 minutes? Can we just walk away. Set a timer. Come back in 15 minutes?” That’s something my husband is phenomenal at

He’s like, “Hold on.” Where I’m like, “I want to get into it. I want to make you feel bad. Because my feelings are hurt.” And he’s like, “Hold on.” And we walk away. Come back together. We both are like, “This was my part in this. I’m sorry.” We hug it out. We’re good. Pause. Pausing is so powerful.

Take a Break

You can always focus on what’s going wrong, but if you can get yourself, you know, I always say pull out your five fingers, and count five things you’re grateful for. Even if the drama is bad, and the people are mean, and life is hard. You can always come up with five good things to be grateful for.

And just know that, the more that you’re working on your own confidence. Being comfortable in your skin. Being you. Knowing that you are who you are, that’s what you’ve received. You know, you’ve arrived in that body. With that mind. So, now what? Okay this is me. Now what? If somebody else doesn’t like it. I’m okay with myself. It’s not going to matter. But if I’m insecure, and I don’t feel good, and I’m needing your validation, and yours, and yours, and yours and I’m not getting it. I’m going to feel awful. And I’m going to feel like I need to lash out.


It’s got to be all about this journey towards self-acceptance. That you are exactly who you’re supposed to be. For whatever reason. You came as you. Now what? How do we make the best of it? I had this aha like, “Who am I to say that I got put here messed up? That I was somehow this one defective person. That arrived on the planet. Everybody else was made just right. But they really screwed this one up.” Who am I to say that? That I’m not exactly who I’m supposed to be. To fulfill whatever purpose it is.

You might not get down with my brand of spirituality. Who am I to say that I’m not just right? Flaws and all. Makes me feel better at least. Alright. I got to wrap up pretty quick here.

Have an Inner Circle

Another strategy for you athletes is, come up with who’s your inner circle? I like to draw the target logo. And then right in the middle, you write down who are your people? The people that you can trust. And be completely vulnerable with. And you know you’re safe.

Then in the next one you write the people who you’re pretty safe with, but you’re not going to give them a 100% of your bad day. Then there’s the people who you might invite them to your party, but they don’t really know you. And then you got the people who you just have to be respectful of. You know be kind. You don’t tell your secrets to them. You say, “Wow nice shirt.” And then you go about your day. Even if you’re feeling horrible, they’re not the people who you go to.

You kind of look at that, and you realize that people are always moving out and in. You know, you get to know somebody, they move in. Somebody breaks your trust, they move out. It’s not a static thing, relationships. But you know who’s in the middle. Today. It might change tomorrow, but you know who’s in the middle. And you give them your power. That’s it. Nobody else gets your power. You don’t give your power to the outside ring. I mean most of the time, that’s who you guys are giving your power to.

Focus on what you Need To

That mom of that other figure skater over there, who happens to blah, blah, blah. It’s like, “Who cares? Who are these people, that I’m so worried about impressing? If my people in the middle, love me and care about me. I am going to be okay. Even if they don’t. I will find a new inner circle. Because I ultimately know that I’m okay.” But that’s who you give that vulnerability to. The rest of them, don’t worry about it. You go do you. You go be successful. They don’t like you, it’s okay. You have your people.

Sometimes it’s just so important to go, “Not my people. You, your my people. I care about what you think. If you think I’m making a bad decision, I’m going to listen to you. If you do, I don’t really care. Because you’re not my people.” I mean obviously respect. Kindness. But, sometimes you just got to look at it that way and go, “Why am I giving my power to all the people on the outside? When they’re not the people who really, truly know me. And they’re not the people who I even feel safe, or trust.”

Dealing with Bullies

I’ve talked about this before. In one of the Perform Happy Community parents only Q&A’s. Quick strategies. I always want to give it all. Avoid the bully. Use the buddy system. Act brave. Walk away. Be neutral. Be boring. If you’re the target of a bully, be boring. You know, just don’t react. Be around other people. Don’t give them anything to work with, and tell an adult immediately.

If you are being harassed by somebody on your team, somebody in school. An adult has to know, because otherwise they can’t help you. When I was a coach, I had a girl’s mom come and tell the head coach, that somebody was getting picked on. I was like, “No. Not her. She’s so sweet. There’s no way.” And the second I could start to tune my radar in to what was going on. I was like, “That little punk. She is.” And so I could see it, and then I could be like, “You. Out.” You know? “This is not acceptable. You be nice. Go. Nope. You’re not buddying up.” If the adult doesn’t know, then they can’t help. If something is going on, and tell them right away.

Please come over to Check it out. And I will see you again soon. Thanks for joining me.

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