Healthy doses of anxiety can help you as a coach to improve the performance of your constituents. Healthy anxiety creates enough tension in a person so that change can occur. As a parent-coach for your teenage children, if you make it too comfortable at home, your teenagers will just lounge around, wanting to stay and not leave the nest, as there is not enough tension for them to make a change. On the other hand, if you give your teenagers structure and household jobs, such as cleaning and cooking for the household, and if you institute rules and consequences, sooner or later, your teenagers will buckle under the pressure and receive the consequences for their actions (or inaction). This tension is necessary for them to develop and decide to leave the nest as independent, responsible adults. A home without structure is a home without tension, and therefore no development can occur in that kind of environment.
Another way parent-coaches create enough tension to institute changes is that the parents insist on their children getting paid work or volunteering time with a charity or non-profit. Working and volunteering add more tension, as they need to follow another authority figure with their own set of rules, and the teen learns to go outside their normal comfort zone and allow themselves to have some tension, some anxiety, which in turn allows them to learn and develop. For example, if the teenager is learning procedures and rules at a fast food kitchen, learning the protocols for cleaning, cooking, assembling, and interacting with customers, this leads to tension as the teenager has never before been tasked with so many jobs and responsibilities. The tension felt by the stress of the multi-tasking, leaning new skills, and feeling inadequate builds enough anxiety for the teenager to utilize to go forward and develop. In other words, because the stress and tension causes anxiety, this is uncomfortable for the teenager, so they either elect to avoid the anxiety, or to overcome it by practicing and honing new skills.
As a coach for athletes, the same principles also apply to your athletes. The best way to improve performance in your athletes is to induce healthy doses of anxiety by instituting tension. For example, as a coach for a football team, you can institute healthy doses of anxiety and tension by not naming your starters…everyone competes for their positions on a game-to-game basis, especially early in the football season. This way, nobody gets too comfortable with their role…you know what happens when people become too comfortable- they become complacent and do not develop further. So shake up your team a little, and have your players compete for their positions by not naming a permanent starter. It will make everyone on your team feel like they have as chance. You never know, you may have a back-up quarterback on your team who takes over the starting role through competition. Tom Brady was an unknown quarterback from Michigan who became a backup for the New England Patriots, took over the starting role from Drew Bledsoe, and you know the rest of the story.
There are other ways to induce tension and anxiety in your players, like instituting team rules and instituting consequences if the rules are broken. Another way is to not praise your players too much…there is always someone better than them, and they should not be praised too much, as it leads to entitlement and hence complacency. These are just a few examples of how to use anxiety to improve performance. The key is to not have your players become too comfortable…they need healthy doses of anxiety and tension to work at building skills and knowledge. Only with healthy anxiety will they improve and optimize their performance…entitlement and lack of accountability only leads to complacency and mediocrity.