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Dr. Saul Miller

It Was A Very Good Season

article posted: 2576 days ago

It was a very good season. Along with the individual players I consulted with, the three teams I worked with in Europe all performed extremely well. Two made it very, very close to a championship.

Switzerland: It was my third season with SC Bern in the Swiss National League and I was hoping for another championship. It very nearly happened. Despite an upsetting mid season coaching change, SC Bern stayed on a positive track, swept through the first two rounds of the playoffs and made it to game 7 of the final series, losing 2-1 in the final seconds of the game on a very questionable goal.

Germany: In my first year with Adler Mannheim in the DEL (the German Elite League), Mannheim also had a strong season and swept through the first two rounds of the playoffs making it to the final game of the championship series.

Disappointment: While both Bern and Mannheim had very successful seasons,  I’m still very disappointed they didn’t win it all. Both teams had a lead in the final series. Both lost overtime games at home that would have given them the championship.

My expertise is helping individuals and teams win, not in consoling loses. I believe and preach that whatever happens either you “use it” or “it uses you.” How do you “use” a disappointing loss? If you simply accept losing, mediocrity is sure to follow. In the end what I've come up with as far as “using it” is: a. respect the game, b. persevere - understand that in sport and life it’s never over until it’s over, and c. recommit to exploring and implementing those things that can be done to perform and contribute even more effectively in the future.

Expectation was less with two other teams I consulted with. Both did well. Italy: It was my first year working with SG Cortina in the Lega Italiana Hockey Ghiaccio. Cortina a team which had been last in the league the previous season, experienced a dramatic turnaround finishing top 4 in the standings, then dominating in the first round of the playoffs, before losing in the semi-finals to Bolzano, the eventual league champion.

WHL: It was my 8th season with the Medicine Hat Tigers in the Western Hockey League and it was expected to be something of a rebuilding year. However, the Tigers, a perennial winning team, comfortably made it into the playoffs, sweeping the first round, before being knocked out in the eastern semi finals.

One of the keys to the success of all these teams (and something I’ve blogged about before) is quality leadership which creates a positive culture and nurtures a willingness in everyone involved to do what it takes to win. Part of that positive culture is supporting the inclusion of specialized coaching such as sport psychology. What I do as a sport psychologist makes a real difference. It strengthens a positive mindset, improves focus, emotional control, mental preparation and a winning team culture. And I simply couldn’t do what I do with the players (and coaching staff) without the full support of coaching and management.

 Dr. Saul Miller is the author of Performing Under PressureHockey Toughand Why Teams Win.  


Winning Teams Have Effective Core Leadership

article posted: 2789 days ago

I was again reminded of this fact while working with three teams in Europe over the past month. It was clear that the level of core leadership on each team directly correlated with that team’s success.

Before my trip, I discussed this very point with team leaders at an Own The Podium Conference in preparation for Team Canada’s participation in the 2012 Olympics. I reminded them of that, while coaches and executives select talent and create a game plan, that’s clearly not enough. Some members of the rank and file (whether it’s a player on the bench, or a member of the management or sales team) must step up and lead their teammates by example.

Working with teams is always a fascinating learning experience. One of the major challenges of establishing core leadership on a team is inspiring the would-be leaders to exercise their “response-ability,” embrace the challenge, and model team-first behavior. This creates a success culture, one where talented people are excited and committed to performing at the highest level… and encouraging those around them to do so as well.

One winning NHL coach once said, “a team can win with a good coach and even in spite of a weak coach… however you need that core group of guys in the room to make it happen.”

More on the subject in Dr. Miller’s book, Why Teams Win: 9 Keys to Success in Business and Sport

Playing it Smart

article posted: 2840 days ago

The recent deaths of three relatively young NHL veterans in the past four months brings to mind the need to encourage people who have emotional problems to come forward and seek help. It’s been said that 8-10 percent of the general public suffer from mood disorders at some time in their lives. The numbers may be less for elite athletes because of all the screens they have to pass through to succeed at the highest levels. The more vulnerable personalities are often screened out while the more robust personalities survive.  However, pro athletes have to deal with an ongoing pressure to perform and some do have emotional issues that could benefit from therapy.

All the teams I have worked with in the NFL, NHL, major league baseball all have excellent medical resources available to treat players. The NHLPA also has counseling and substance abuse programs available. However players must come forward and ask for help. We know men are less inclined then women to seek help for emotional issues, and pro athletes are even less inclined then most men to express a need for therapy. It’s part of the “macho” mindset that exists in elite sport. And for fringe players, those who are not stars, and those on the last year of a contract there is even more reluctance to come forward. However, therapy works in most cases. One player I worked with sought psychiatric help for a mood disorder got treatment and went on to be a league all star.

So the message is, be smart not macho, if you have a problem step forward, seek help, and then get back to performing well and enjoying the game.

Dr. Saul Miller is the author of Performing Under PressureHockey Toughand Why Teams Win.