Podcast S1. Ep.25: The Confidence Game - Character in Athletics With Coach Scott Westering Part 3/5

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Coach Scott Westering is the son of Hall of Fame Coach Frosty Westering. He had the privilege of coaching with and being mentored by his father for 23 years as an assistant at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma Washington. Scott was the Head Coach at PLU for 14 seasons, taking over the position from his father who retired after 32 years. Over the last 20+ years Scott has been a highly sought after speaker, having presented to hundreds of teams, coaches, and athletes. His talks have spanned corporations, conferences, and clinics - including USA Football and two Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony speeches.

We talk with Scott about the second part in what we call the Attitude Games: the Confidence Game, and look at what really breeds confidence in us, in our students, and in the teams that we coach.


In many cases, we’re not even aware that maybe we’re a negative person or we’re a putdown person. Sometimes, even I’ll challenge coaches. I said, “You may think you’re a pretty positive coach. Well, have your manager follow you around with a clipboard one day and just make a little tally sheet, or even better yet, video you with your mic on and go back and watch how you coach your practice and sit there and listen to yourself and think, ‘Oh my gosh, I thought I was a pretty positive guy, when I really found out I’m really not.’” ...now let’s exercise that as we move forward with our power of choice, of choosing what we’re going to do with our words...
— Coach Scott Westering

Episode Transcript:

  • John: Welcome to the CharacterStrong Podcast, where we have conversations on school culture and leadership. Today, we're talking with Coach Scott Westering. Scott is the son of Hall of Fame coach, Frosty Westering. He had the privilege of coaching with and being mentored by his father for 23 years as an assistant coach at Pacific Lutheran University. Scott was the head coach at PLU for 14 seasons, taking over the position from his father, who retired after 32 years.

  • John: Over the last 20 plus years, Scott has been a highly sought after speaker, having presented to hundreds of teams, coaches, and athletes. His talks have spanned corporations, conferences, and clinics, including USA football and two Hall of Fame induction ceremony speeches. Are you ready? Let's get CharacterStrong with Scott Westering.

  • John: All right everybody, welcome back to the CharacterStrong Podcast. We're back again with a multi-series episode with Coach Scott Westering, who is doing a lot of work with CharacterStrong right now, working with coaches and working with athletes on how to put a focus on not only character in athletics, but also how do we really bring joy to what we're doing, how do we focus on what we would call at CharacterStrong the whole child, the whole athlete. In the words of what for many years, Scott, his dad Frosty, put on, "Making the big time where you are."

  • John: We've talked about the model of winning, how you view winning. We've talked about the first of four attitude games in our last episode, the comparison game, and now I want to talk about the confidence game with you, coach. I think it goes off that last line we talked about, which is a lot of times I think in sport, when I don't have any other way of operating, what we see a lot of times is yellers, people that yell at kids to perform better, sometimes on the dangerous side. It can even lead to shaming and thinking that that's what ... like if I just yell at them more and tell them all the things that they're doing wrong, that they're going to naturally then be motivated to want to be better. And so let's talk about how the confidence game connects to that mode and the attitude games that we've been talking about.

  • Scott: As we use this word confidence, John, confidence comes in a lot of ways, and there's lots of ways we can talk about what brings you confidence in life, in given situations, whatever it may be. One of the classic phrases that's used is dealing with preparation, as we know it, like studying for a test. If I stay up and really study for a test, make my note cards and do all that stuff and go in to take that test in the morning, I'm sitting at my desk, "Come on. Bring that test, teacher. I want it. I'm ready. I'm confident," and all those kinds of things.

  • Scott: That holds true also in athletic venues. If we prepare in all of that through the week and we practice well and really put the extra time in, do extra running, and that we really feel ready, we've studied a lot of film, we've done all the things, we've crossed our Ts and dotted our Is and put ourselves in position.

  • Scott: But, the big difference is, and I always kind of see it uniquely in all my years of coaching football, is, well, the other team's doing the same thing, many times, if that coach on the other side of the field gets it, they've put a great week of preparation in, they've done all the things.

  • Scott: Classically, in football, because it's played in four quarters, the way it's timed ... It's been around a long time, that when the third quarter comes to an end and now it becomes the fourth quarter, that supposedly the reminder to us on our team and everyone in the stadium is that we're all going to put a four up in the air starting with our coaches and all our players. We're all going to put them up in the air to say and designate that we've put all this time in and now we're going to separate ourselves here in the fourth quarter.

  • Scott: Well, as I say to people and coaches when I talk to them, I've been to high school games where I was doing some recruiting and all, and I see one team do it. They've got fours in the air, and I looked across the field and they've got fours in the air, too. So now what? How's this all going to work?

  • Scott: We're going to look at a different avenue of really what breeds confidence, and that's the idea of what we call the power of the put up game, the power of words. We know. We know intrinsically. We know through research. We know through empirical evidence the power of words. We've heard that phrase, as we know in life, "Sticks and stones will break our bones but words will never hurt me."

  • John: Yeah, what a lie.

  • Scott: I always say ... Oh, by all means. I always say that to the audiences I present to. There'll be a lot of people still sitting there and they'll nod, yeah, they believe that, and I'll just say, "Absolutely not. That's not true." I'll tell them, just with any of you listeners out there, close your eyes and you can think of something pretty quickly probably of something that was said to you maybe even today or at some point in your life that really impacted you and hurt you.

  • Scott: Likewise, you look at the other part of this. In my life, in my playing life, when I spent time playing down at UCLA, I'll never forget this, and I share this story often. I played outside linebacker there. We had a little scrimmage. Came off the field after a scrimmage. We had a gentleman named Jerry Robinson, who played linebacker there, four year consensus, all American. Unbelievable, even as a freshman. Tremendous football player. Went into pro football, had a great career, whatever.

  • Scott: We had this scrimmage and the scrimmage ended and we walked off the field, and I'll never forget it. Jerry Robinson, or Robby, as we called him, came up to me and he hit me on the behind and just said, "Westering, you're going to be a great linebacker."

  • John: You never forgot that.

  • Scott: I've never forgot. I can close my eyes and I can be right on that practice field down at UCLA right now and I can remember that.

  • John: Less than five second sacrifice.

  • Scott: Oh, by all means. What it meant to him, and again, he just said it in passing as athletes do, put each other up a little bit, and so this idea of encouraging and affirming and complimenting and praising each other, and to truly commit to it.

  • Scott: As I will say, this isn't about patronizing people. This isn't about rah rah. This is genuine commitment to put people up, to speak life, to speak positive things. The classic, it's been around forever, as we know, "If you don't have anything good to say, don't say anything at all."

  • John: Yeah.

  • Scott: We have an article that we use in our presentations called Put Up or Shut Up.

  • John: Yep.

  • Scott: In many cases, we're not even aware that maybe we're a negative person or we're a putdown person. Sometimes, even I'll challenge coaches. I said, "You may think you're a pretty positive coach. Well, have your manager follow you around with a clipboard one day and just make a little tally sheet, or even better yet, video you with your mic on and go back and watch how you coach your practice and sit there and listen to yourself and think, 'Oh my gosh, I thought I was a pretty positive guy, when I really found out I'm really not.'"

  • Scott: So it's, okay, now let's exercise that as we move forward with our power of choice, of choosing what we're going to do with our words and how we understand that, but it's human nature.

  • John: That's right.

  • Scott: We always say to people, "How does it feel when people speak life into you and speak all of those things, those affirmations, encouragements to us, especially when we don't do it right or we get it wrong or we make a mistake?"

  • Scott: In the world of coaching, to me, I truly believe, and I've seen it happen with our teams, put ups, the power of put ups can ultimately make a team almost momentum-proof, because what happens in sport when momentum starts to shift on you? Everybody starts to circle their wagons. Everybody gets tense. They start pointing fingers and blaming each other, versus, if we're going to make a commitment when, as we would say, Rome is burning or the dike is leaking and we're running out of fingers to put in the holes of the dike, that we're going to stay positive with each other. The coaches are going to stay positive to their student athletes. The student athletes are going to stay positive to each other.

  • John: Yep.

  • Scott: To imagine that, if we can do that and offset that, 'cause that's what happens. Momentum goes, and then we end up becoming our own worst enemy because we now start, as I said, blaming ourselves and pointing fingers at each other. Well, the same thing is true when it comes down to ... You can circumstance-proof your team with staying positive.

  • John: Yep.

  • Scott: You get into a given situation, whether it be competitively or where you're playing. Maybe it's a really bad field or a bad gym or lighting or whatever it is, where all of a sudden the circumstances of competition become potentially maybe issues. But if we're going to always choose to take that positive spin on things, and we're going to talk about that I'm sure down the road, a phrase that we use is the idea of being a TMO, a tough-minded optimist.

  • John: Yeah.


...this idea within the attitude game of confidence, how strong our words and how powerful our words are to each other, between coaches, to our kids, and how that plays obviously from parents to their sons and their daughters and those kinds of things. It’s so imperative to understand the power of that, how it breeds confidence and belief then in themselves.
— Coach Scott Westering

Scott: When you look at the definition of being an optimist in the dictionary, basically, one of the parts of the definition is, not someone who sees pie in the sky, Pollyanna way of looking at life and everything's great. No. It really literally says it's one who sees life at its worst and yet still chooses to put a positive spin on it.

  • John: Sure.

  • Scott: And so when you can do that, and then ultimately look at it versus putdowns, which when we get put down, again, how does that make us feel about ourselves? How does that make us feel about not making this mistake again and bouncing back? It creates a hugely negative culture.

  • Scott: So ultimately, within that, the idea of performing now cuts into belief and my confidence, and so how we go into a given situation, another simple way, 'cause it plays into the idea of the power of words as it plays into belief. In baseball, you get two strikes on you. You go to a Little League game, it's classic. You go to a Little League game, the boy's got two strikes on him, and he steps back, and then you heard dad from the stands, "Son, you got two strikes on you." Well, the kid already knows he's got two strikes and he knows he only has three opportunities in baseball to swing a bat, and so what else does he say? The kid's kind of, "Okay," and then he says, "You got to protect."

  • Scott: So now he gives him all this fear that comes into play, all this negativism, and then he steps into the box, and you think that kid's going to, in essence, give it his best shot? Not even necessarily peak perform, because you can do all this stuff, and that's what we want to do. There's no guarantee that that means I'm going to make contact and get a great hit or hit a home run or whatever, but I know if I swing and miss, I'm going to go back to the dugout knowing I gave it my best shot, as opposed to knowing I was standing in there fearful and I just kind of waved at the ball or I didn't even take the bat off my shoulder.

  • Scott: And so as we learn this idea within the attitude game of confidence, how strong our words and how powerful our words are to each other, between coaches, to our kids, and how that plays obviously from parents to their sons and their daughters and those kinds of things. It's so imperative to understand the power of that, how it breeds confidence and belief then in themselves.

  • John: So, one minute for closing this one down, just because I think this is a good place to go. What do you then say to the coach, the person who's out there, even the parent who's like, "Okay, that's great"? But nowadays, we don't hold kids accountable enough. I mean, we even saw it in national news. It's almost like, "Well, if you're about giving put ups, then you're not about holding kids accountable," which is a silly way of thinking that it's just one or the other and that you can't hold ... One minute just on that. I can guarantee from knowing you that you still held your athletes accountable, coached them up, all those things. So what do you say to someone who's like, "That's great, the put up game, but what about holding kids accountable"? What do you say to that?

  • Scott: I think it starts with two layers, really simply, that have been around a long time, two adages. One, it's not what you say, it's how you say it.

  • John: Good.

  • Scott: Two, people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.

  • John: Yep, so if you haven't built that-

  • Scott: By all means.

  • John: ... relationship, good luck. At some point, it just becomes noise.

  • Scott: That's right.

  • John: You see that so many times from youth coaches. They're just noise. The kids literally, just like a teacher or parent, tone them out.

  • Scott: Yep.

  • John: So now it's just them getting used to their own voice, I guess, and everybody else seeing the show, which then a lot of times can lead to shaming type examples, but you're right. How many times is it just noise because, come on, you don't even have a relationship with me.

  • Scott: Yep, and there's two other layers to this. The feared B word, but. A coach can praise a kid and be positive with him, and then he hits him with the zinger, "But." It's been shown, proven, researched and lived out, the moment that kid, us, the moment we hear but, everything in front of that goes away.

  • John: Yep.

  • Scott: Now it's all just the constructive criticism or the criticism ... It might not even be constructive. It might just be criticism or yelling or whatever ... comes into play and then totally tears that young person down or individual down or any of us down.

  • Scott: The second aspect that comes into play, there is a time and a place for tough love, as it's called. There is accountability. If there isn't accountability, you are setting yourself up for mediocrity and failure, because our culture has become, "I'm okay. You're okay," and we're all kind of warm and fuzzy within this. No.

  • John: That's not what we're saying here at all.

  • Scott: That's exactly right, John. So, being down the road many, many times with athletes as a coach, being firm with a kid but understanding that the verbiage that I use and my tone of voice, not that there's not a time and a place that I got to raise my voice and all, but if I do it and do it correctly or if I do stub my toe and I cross the line, it's having to live out, which we can talk down the road, looking at that young man and basically living out the nine most important words we need to learn to live in life, "I'm sorry. I was wrong. Please forgive me." For a coach to say that to a young athlete, oy vey, it's a huge deal. That kid really sees that you do genuinely care about me, like we talked about before.

  • John: Good.

  • Scott: So there's a lot of layers to it, but there's a right way, believe me, to do it.

  • John: Good. We're going to keep this conversation going even into the next one, which is the next part, the next attitude game, which is the challenge game, in our next episode. Thanks for being with us today.

  • Scott: You betcha.

  • John: Thank you for listening to the CharacterStrong Podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, feel free to share on your social media. Please rate, review, and make sure to subscribe for future episodes on iTunes, Spotify, and Google Play.

  • John: To learn more about CharacterStrong and how we are supporting schools, visit characterstrong.com. Thanks for listening. Make it a great day.


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