Category: Leadership

Everyone Can Be a Champion, Just Like Matthew Williams

By: Premier Sport Psychology

Matthew Williams is a champion. He trains five days a week to excel in both basketball and speed skating and has gone on to represent Canada in international competition. In his inspiring TED Talk, Williams discusses how society has become more accepting of athletes with intellectual disabilities—however, we still have a ways to go. “The world does not see all people like me as champions,” Williams says, “Not long ago, people like me were shunned and hidden away. There has been lots of change since Special Olympics began in 1968, but in too many cases, people with intellectual disabilities are invisible to the wider population.”

Unfortunately, too many athletes have not been given the opportunity to perfect and showcase their talents. The Special Olympics has taken great steps to help all athletes reach their fullest potential by not only supporting athletes in competition, but also supporting their health: “Special Olympics also addresses critical health needs. Studies have shown that, on average, men with intellectual disabilities die 13 years younger than men without, and women with intellectual disabilities die 20 years younger than women without. Special Olympics keeps us healthy by getting us active and participating in sport. Also, our coaches teach us about nutrition and health. Special Olympics also provides free health screening for athletes who have difficulty communicating with their doctor or accessing health care.”

Playing sports have a variety of benefits such as building teamwork and leadership skills in a safe and fun environment—an environment all athletes should have the opportunity to be a part of. The Special Olympics is just one organization that is doing incredible work—work that Williams has the utmost respect for: “Special Olympics is changing the world by transforming four and a half million athletes and giving us a place to be confident, meet friends, not be judged and get to feel like and be champions.”

For more information on the Special Olympics, visit their website.

Watch the full talk below:

5 Sport Psychology Skills Every Coach Should Know

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff

Leadership

One of the most important skills that a coach can develop is personal leadership. As a coach, you are put into a role that deems a significant amount of guidance and responsibility. Athletes will observe all your positive attributes, but also your downfalls. Developing a set of leadership skills that will help athletes improve both in sport and in personal endeavors is crucial.

“Make no doubt about it, athletes not only need effective leadership, they also desire it. Young people want consistent parameters, direction, order structure, organization and discipline. They need it whether they know it or not. It gives them security, and that, in turn, helps them to be more confident.” (Dorfman, 2003)

Blog: “Qualities of a quality leader”

Imagery

Imagery has been the focus of a great deal of research over the recent years. Results consistently lead us to believe that successful implementation of imagery techniques have a direct and positive effect on sport performance. By developing these techniques, we enable our athletes to experience a variety of competition settings mentally so that when the time comes they will be prepared to perform at their highest level.

“Although it is still not clear why, imagery frequently predicts behaviors: Imagining disaster or success at work, in relationships, or in sport often leads to that outcome. Taking control of our imaginations is vital if we are to manage our behavior effectively, particularly in sport.”

Self-confidence

Even without research, most would argue the importance of confidence in sport and in life. It is a feeling that when experienced can make or break ones performance. Feeling confident gives an athlete the ability to believe in “I can” rather than “I can’t” which often times determines whether that belief becomes a reality.

Coaches can help develop athlete’s confidence by providing positive feedback when the athlete performs well and conversely, in the instances where athletes are not performing their best. Sometimes it is equally or more important to build an athletes confidence when they are struggling. Providing constructive criticism can help athletes learn how to improve, but giving them the confidence to know they can improve is more important yet.

Self-talk

A study conducted by David Tod, James Hardy, and Emily Oliver analyzed 47 studies that assessed the relationship between self-talk and performance. The study suggested positive effects on performance by athletes who were using various forms of self-talk. Similar to imagery, often times what we think has a direct effect on our behavior. If we focus on the thoughts that go through our head on our regular basis, we can start to identify the negative thoughts that have potential to lead us to decreased performance. On the other hand, we will notice self-talk that is positive and constructive and will be able to implement those types of thoughts more often.

As a coach, teaching athletes how to implement positive self-talk will benefit them (and the team as a whole). Self-talk can increase performance and will help the athletes develop a strong sense of self worth that is an invaluable skill outside of competition as well.

Blog: “Learn to listen to yourself”

Goal Setting

Goal setting can be a great way to get the team on board and working toward a common outcome or result. It is important to be SMART when setting goals with your team. Check our Premier Sport Psychology’s recent blog post on setting goals titled “He Shoots, He Scores! Setting Goals, Not Just Scoring Them”

S – Specific – Be very clear in your mind exactly what the goal relates to. If there are several aspects, create multiple goals.
M – Measurable – Any goal set should be capable of being measure in some way. If there is no way to measure, there is no way to assess progress. If assessing Mental Skills, a subjective measuring scale can be used, as long as the same scale is used every time.
A – Adjustable – Goal setting is a dynamic process and goals need to be altered at times. If your teams’ progress is faster or slower than you had originally planned, goals will need to be changed to reflect this.
R – Realistic – It is essential to set challenging goals, but not so challenging you never achieve them. As a simple rule, set goals that are sufficiently beyond your present ability to force hard work and persistence, but not so challenging they are unrealistic. Use your best judgment for what is and is not realistic for your teams.
T – Time-based – All goals should have a specific time period. Without a target date, there is little motivation for the athletes to achieve the goal. There are three time periods for goal setting: short-term, intermediate-term, and long-term.

 

References:

Bull, S., Albinson, J., & Shambrook, C. (1996). The mental game plan: Getting psyched for sport. Eastbourne: Sports Dynamics.

Dorfman, H. (2003). Leadership and Power(s). In Coaching the mental game: Leadership philosophies and strategies for peak performance in sports, and everyday life (p. 3). Lanham, Maryland: Taylor Trade Publishing.

Morris, T., Spittle, M., & Watt, A. (2005). Imagery in sport. Champaign, Illinois: Human Kinetics.

Tod, D., James, H., & Oliver, E. (2011). Effects of Self-Talk: A Systematic Review. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 666-687.

 

 

Being A Hero in the Game

By: Premier Sport Psychology

Hero: A person who is admired for great or brave acts or fine qualities; a person who is greatly admired.

There is one minute left on the clock; the championship game for state is tied 1-1. You’ve got the ball and are dribbling down field on a breakaway for a chance to win the game. As you reach the goal, you strike the ball, aiming it directly at the upper right part of the net. If you make this goal, your team will be victorious and you’ll be given credit for making the game winning goal: a heroic action that you crave, that you have trained and worked hard for, that will be oh so sweet…

We all would love that moment of making the winning shot, putt, lap, or stuck landing for our team or ourselves and can view it as heroic behavior. This is something we train for and that is important. However, what really fuels and energizes our heroism and lasting impressions on others are the small, everyday steps and movements that often get overlooked.

Here are three vital components to help increase your ability to be a hero:

Strengths-Based Approach

Focusing on the positives of a situation is essential for moving forward toward your goals. It’s easy to get caught ruminating on your past mistakes and failures, but getting stuck in that loop can quickly become a barrier, preventing you from achieving peak performance. Acknowledging and learning from past mistakes and re-shifting your focus onto what strengths and areas you have done well with will be beneficial.

Gratitude

Within each of our own athletic careers, we are on a path to achieving a set of goals–all of which would not be doable without a set of core people. Those people can be parents, coaches, teachers, teammates, friends, sport psychologists, and/or other athletes. Research has shown that displaying gratitude to those around you increases appreciation and overall enjoyment in activities. It’s also contagious! If you are outwardly thankful to your coach, your teammates will see and hear that and others may mimic that behavior (great leadership!)

Process Goals

It is essential to become engaged in the process of the game and the smaller goals within the game rather than solely becoming consumed by the outcome (score). When we take time to set goals and concentrate on them (such as “point toes on every leap” or “arms up when playing defense”) we are able to see more progress and success within our athletic careers.

Your athletic journey will be met with many trials and tests which will allow you many opportunities to shine as a hero, role model, and leader. We encourage you to challenge yourself to see how you can expand your definition of what hero means to you and how you can be a hero, role model, and leader every day.

How can you be a hero, role model, and leader on your team, within your family, or community? Take one action step each day moving toward those goals.

Teddy “GUMP”

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff

If you happened to catch any of the Vikings-Falcons game on Sunday, you had the chance to see Teddy “Two Gloves” Bridgewater make his NFL debut. You also had a chance to see him throw for over 300 yards, score a rushing touchdown, and lead the Vikings to a hard-fought and well-earned home victory over a dangerous Atlanta Falcons teams.

So what’s the one word to describe Bridgewater’s brilliant debut? If you asked him, it would be GUMP.

GUMP is a nickname that Bridgewater first adopted in high school, given to him by his teammates after the copious amounts of Forrest Gump jokes and references he would make. But GUMP quickly became more than just a nickname for Bridgewater; those four letters are now a life motto that motivates Teddy each and every day.

It stands for Great Under Major Pressure and helped guide Bridgewater first through a spectacular career at the University of Louisville, where he saw tremendous on-field success. Arguably even more importantly, though, was the implication it has had on his life following his time as a collegiate star.

Heralded as one of the best available quarterbacks in the 2014 Draft Class, Bridgewater watched the big board move along farther and farther without hearing his name. To make it even worse, he had to sit by and watch other high profile QB’s, namely Blake Bortles and Johnny Manziel, get drafted to teams in need of relief at the position. It was not until the Vikings made a trade and picked up Bridgewater with the 31st overall pick that his NFL dreams become a reality, and with them even more major pressure than he had ever faced in his young life.

Stepping into an organization with quarterback troubles and a lot of questions floating around about whether or not Ponder and Cassel would be able to perform, all eyes turned to Bridgewater. Here’s this first-rounder that’s coming in with the expectation that he’ll come in and help turn the franchise around. Think that’s a little bit of pressure? Chalk it up for major pressure count number one.

It was right around that point that the Vikings’ coaches formally announced that Bridgewater was going to be properly coached and was going to be given lots of time to acclimate to the culture of the NFL before seeing the field. So now not only was the weight of ‘franchise savior’ on his shoulders, but when he does finally see the field there would be no excuses for anything short of perfection. Add that to the major pressure count, number two.

Then suddenly, what seemed like all at once, the face of the franchise and the team’s best player, Adrian Peterson, was no longer a member of the team. Then, Matt Cassel seemed to flop against the New England Patriots. The packed house at TCF Bank Stadium chanted, “Teddy! Teddy!” begging for him to come save the day. Not only did Bridgewater need to come save the day, but in doing so he was being asked to become the face of a franchise in need of a hero on and off the field. We’ll call that major pressures three, four, and five.

Yet, despite it all, Bridgewater came out and led the Vikings to the victory everyone was asking for. He dominated the game on the field, and went on to handle himself as professionally and humbly as could be asked for off the field following the victory. He took every expectation of him–gathered every bit of major pressure that had been placed on him–and he was good. No, he was better than good: on Sunday, September 28th, Teddy Bridgewater was GUMP.

There are any number questions one might ask for crediting Bridgewater’s success. Did he prepare himself physically to be able to perform on the field? Undoubtedly. Did he study his playbook until he knew it like the back of his gloved hand? It sure seemed that way on the field. But what was the most important piece of the Bridgewater puzzle? It seems to be a state of mind that he has been practicing, normalizing, and optimizing since he was just a teenager; the real key to Bridgewater’s success seems to be that he believed he would be successful.

And maybe that’s the most profound lesson to learn of all. Something as simple as a mindset and a firmly held belief helped to mold Bridgewater into the NFL phenom he showed he can be. We’ve seen sport psychology techniques such as this prove to be successful already in professional football after Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks took their mindfulness all the way to the top, winning Super Bowl XLVIII. I’m sure Minnesota fans across the country will be hoping so–especially with the new stadium en route and the opportunity to host the contest in 2018.

Our advice: hop on the bandwagon now! Teddy Bridgewater has proven to be great, and has all the mental tools to be great for years to come. Where some might say the pressure will be too great to get to and win a Super Bowl in a team’s home stadium, we say to them this: If Bridgewater has been this successful already, just imagine how capable he will be faced with all of that.

 

 

Leadership Lessons from Sports Fields

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff

 

Whether you are building a sports team or a company, author Rosabeth Moss Kanter recommends culling lessons from the sporting arena. In a Harvard Business Review blog,  Kantar turns her gaze to both World Cup Soccer action and the cricket field.

What can we learn from the playing field? Kantar writes: “The leadership culture surrounding teams shapes outcomes. Whether in the boardroom, locker room, or living room, success is derived from not just the talents of individuals but the context surrounding them.”

If you caught any World Cup coverage this past summer, you may have witnessed the French team’s “emotional meltdown,” or the German team’s “discipline.”  Nigeria faltered while its country’s soccer federation suffered a corruption investigation. All of these examples point to the culture and leadership surrounding each soccer team.

Kanter uses this lens in the book Confidence: How Winning Streaks and Losing Streaks Begin and End. For this book, she researched how cricket teams in various countries rose and declined based on both culture and leadership practices. In this blog, she writes how the Australian Cricket Board’s (now Cricket Australia) fostered leadership and innovation, building a “winning national team.” Key tactics, which can be used in both business and on the field, included:

  • Letting players mature and grow instead of discarding them, creating a solid team.
  • Founding a youth cricket academy to invest in younger athletes.
  • Offering scholarships for this academy for talent programs and camps.
  • As winning made the sport more popular, the money from attendance was used to enliven World Series matches, and corporate sponsorship began.
  • Good press made cricket even more popular.

The next time you watch your favorite sport team in action, think about why these players are successful or, alternatively, why your team is in the middle of a losing streak. And whether you are a leader on a field or at a company, use the lessons from this article and from your viewing time in your life.