Today’s guest is Nick Davis, head women’s track and field coach at the University of Wisconsin, LaCrosse. Nick Davis has been a successful track and field coach with multiple stops on the NCAA Division I and III levels, has experience in research, lecturing and course instruction, and has also published 5 original research papers.
I share an affinity with Nick, as we were both competitors in very similar event classifications (track and field jumps and javelin) and are both from the great state of Wisconsin. About a year ago, I ran across Nick’s USTFCCCA presentation on mental skills training for athletes and was blown away by the depth and content.
Coach Davis’s coaching resume includes work at MIT and Marquette University. He was named the 2015 USTFCCCA New England Region Men’s Assistant Coach of the Year in 2015 and 2016. Nick competed as an athlete at UW-Milwaukee, where he was a 10-time Horizon League individual champion in the high jump and javelin. At UW-Milwaukee, Davis was named the 2004 Horizon League Athlete of the Year. He was a four-time NCAA Division I Midwest Regional Qualifier in the high jump and javelin for the Panthers while setting the school record in the high jump (indoor and outdoor) and javelin.
The more time I spend with great coaches, the more I realize that one of the biggest separation points that they have is their ability to understand what makes athletes tick from a mental perspective, and how to motivate and prepare an athlete accordingly. The mind drives the body, and I feel that not enough podcasts have episodes that are dedicated to mental skills, when we know through research of its effectiveness.
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- Nick’s background
- Characteristics in an athlete that responds to competition well
- Ideas in preparing athletes for competitive situations
- How to have athletes develop their pre-competitive routine
- Developing ability to get into FLOW state in practice and competition
- Using visualization and competition rehearsal
- Mental strength needed for short versus long duration events
- Optimal goal setting for athletic performance
- Different types of goals: Performance, Consistency, and Process Goals
“Someone who responds to competitive situations well is motivated by opportunity to succeed versus fear of failure”
“One thing that has been a common theme in my training this year has been getting individuals to focus on the present”
“I want to ask athletes, what is the self-talk going on in your head right now; instead of watch the symptoms play out, let’s go to the root of the problem and fix that”
“I hold athletes accountable for what they are saying to themselves… athletes don’t realize how negative they really are until they sit down and make note of the thoughts that go through their heads throughout the day”
“I have a lot of athletes do a self-talk log”
“Worriers are often worried about the unknown; I think it’s really important from a coaching standpoint to share what your training plan is for them, the different phases of the training year and how everything fits together”
“One thing I try to be mindful of is, to what degree are we as coaches causing them to be worriers, by giving them too much to think about, or the wording that we use”
“Often times we don’t analyze our best competition day as much as we should… what were you thinking the day you performed your very best. Let’s try to get you there as frequently as possible”
“A lot of times worriers have trouble visualizing themselves doing things well; start off small, visualize yourself putting on your shoes at a track meet”
“Within our programs here, we’ll take pictures of where the championship sites are so that they can get a sense of being there before they are actually there; so that they can feel more control while they are there in the competitive situation”
“Where we spend most of our time is on the process goals; shorter term goals focused on skill acquisition. I also want them to set process goals for their mental approach” (58:00)
“(Regarding goal setting) Overall, the process is where we should focus most of our effort”
About Nick Davis
Nickolas Davis is the UW-La Crosse head women’s track & field coach, and also serves as associate lecturer in the exercise sport science department.
Davis completed his fourth season as assistant men’s and women’s track & field coach (vertical and horizontal jumps) and instructor in the physical education department at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2016-17.
Named the 2015 USTFCCCA New England Region Men’s Assistant Coach of the Year in 2015 and 2016, Davis has coached five USTFCCCA All-Americas at MIT, four College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) Academic All-Americans®, seven NCAA Division III Indoor qualifiers and 11 NCAA Division III Outdoor qualifiers.
Prior to arriving at MIT, Davis was the assistant men’s and women’s track & field and cross country coach at Marquette University (Wis.) from 2009-13. He coached a 2010 NCAA Division I Indoor Championship Provisional Qualifier while at Marquette (Wis.) as well as five preliminary round qualifiers for the NCAA I Outdoor Championships.
Davis earned his bachelor’s (2004) and master’s (2007) degrees in kinesiology from UW-Milwaukee. A 10-time Horizon League individual champion in the high jump and javelin at UW-Milwaukee, Davis was named the 2004 Horizon League Athlete of the Year. He was a four-time NCAA Division I Midwest Regional Qualifier in the high jump and javelin for the Panthers while setting the school record in the high jump (indoor and outdoor) and javelin.
Davis was inducted into the UW-Milwaukee Athletics Hall of Fame in 2015. He was an associate lecturer in the UW-Milwaukee Department of Human Movement Sciences from 2008-11. A member of the USTFCCCA, Davis has published five original research papers.