Tag: advice

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.

Play Ball! …Or Hoops, A Round of Golf or Anything for that Matter!

By: Premier Sport Psychology

Trent Klatt played in the NHL for 14 years before becoming the head amateur scout for the New York Islanders. With years of experience, he is offering one bold bit of advice: to become a better hockey player, get off the ice. Klatt sat down with USA Hockey to discuss his advice that most may disagree with initially. Growing up, Klatt played three different sports: football, hockey, and baseball. Rather than draining all of your energy into one sport, play a variety of them and focus on developing as an athlete. During the recruiting process, Klatt is looking for just that: an athlete. There is something to be said about a hockey player who also excels in other sports. While they are developing different muscles and reflexes, they are also developing skills that transfer over to other sports (such as hand-eye coordination).

Klatt worries that the public, and parents especially, have become so consumed by the idea that their children needs to participate in every possible league and camp in order to reach the professional level. Rather than having that mindset, it is important to give the athletes freedom to do what they want–whether it is another sport or even time off. If the athlete is not looking forward to playing, it can lead to burn out. Never taking time off can also lead to injury–even at the professional level. The best way to develop a hockey player is to allow them the time and space to develop first and foremost as an athlete. When children are allowed the leeway to choose when to pick up the hockey stick, the baseball bat, football or anything else, they will do so with much more eagerness and effort. Without those two attributes, a child may not reach their full potential–on the rink, or anywhere else for that matter! So, instead of having aspiring hockey players partake in every training camp available, encourage them to take a break from the rink instead. Ironically enough, it may be exactly what they need to become the professional player they aspire to be.

Bethany Brausen

Positively Parenting Your Athlete

By: Premier Sport Psychology

This post was most recently updated on July 25th, 2018

These days, it can be really hard to know how to best parent your athlete in a way that will help them reach their full potential…

Parental “Pressure Cooker”

It seems that more and more of our focus has shifted to performance outcomes and pushing kids to excel in sports, rather than ensuring that they are having fun. Signs that your child may be being pushed too hard in sport: 1) they express to you, peers, or coaches that they are no longer having fun, 2) they report that they no longer want to compete or participate in the sport, 3) they seem to have lost motivation (e.g., to attend practice or work hard), or 4) they display increased anxiety about participating in sport. Creating a healthy balance between having fun and focusing on improvement and success in and out of sport should be the goal for kids. 

Assess the coach and the sport environment and make sure both sufficiently support/encourage your child in a way that fosters life skills and overall positive development, rather than solely emphasizing winning. Youth coaches who over-stress winning are at greater risk of neglecting a young athlete’s personal development and not prioritizing their emotional best interests. Youth athletes who drop out or burnout of sport will more often report that they perceived their coach to be controlling, too focused on winning, and not very encouraging. Look for coaches who provide appropriate reinforcement and praise, encouragement after mistakes, and quality instruction.

Parents can play a huge role in creating a beneficial sport environment for their children! Kids are more prone to burnout when their parents criticize their sport performance and have exceedingly high expectations for them. Numerous studies demonstrate that children who perceive support, encouragement, and less pressure from parents, exhibit more internal motivation, sport enjoyment, and a preference to be challenged.

Compare & Despair

Most athletes–especially teenagers–naturally compare themselves to their peers. Many parents do the same with their children. This behavior is normal. However, communicating comparisons to your child may cause them to feel defeated, “less than,” or as though they have disappointed others. Comparing is easy to do, yet it is rarely motivating/helpful for athletes when it comes from parents.

Put Mistakes into Perspective

Very simply, be supportive of your athlete’s effort and point out aspects of the performance that you were proud of or areas they improved in. Emphasize that wins/losses are not a reflection of them as a person (i.e. what they do is not reflective of who they are), but just a measure of performance for any given moment. Many aspects of both winning and losing are actually out of our control. Elements such as skill level of the competition, equipment, coaches’ decisions, and injury are out of an athlete’s control, yet contribute to whether they win or lose. Emphasize the importance of focusing on those aspects they have control over–such as preparation, effort, concentration, confidence, and skill–and use these as a measure of improvement/performance. Show your athlete that you value these over winning or scoring high. Help them focus on the process versus the outcome! Dealing with adversity can be positive in that it can help shape an athlete’s mindset for future competitions, such as building resiliency, learning from mistakes, and learning to cope with frustration.

 

In summary, here’s some key points to help positively parent a youth athlete:

1. Creating a healthy balance between having fun and focusing on improvement and success in and out of sport should be the goal for kids. 

2. Look for coaches who provide appropriate reinforcement and praise, encouragement after mistakes, and quality instruction.

3. Kids are more prone to burnout when their parents criticize their sport performance and have exceedingly high expectations for them.

4. Comparing is easy to do, yet it is rarely motivating/helpful for athletes when it comes from parents.

5. Help youth athletes focuso n the process versus the outcome

 

 

The Social Stigma about Sport Psychology

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff

As world views alter, acceptance for those who contrast our own appearance and ideologies steadily increases. Why is it then, that the thought of being mentally unhealthy is so frightening? The mind is undoubtedly complex. Complications with the organ that is responsible for so many aspects of our body should not be a monumental bombshell. Perfection is impossible, resulting with everyone’s brain being slightly different. Of course, some people pose a greater risk in developing a mental illness – not excluding athletes. The vulnerability that mental illness creates is not an image anyone wants to elicit – especially not an athlete whose whole being is to be stronger than their competitors.

Mental illnesses in sport are often overlooked. Part of that is a result of societal expectations. “Mental health has a stigma that is tied into weakness and is absolutely the antithesis of what athletes want to portray.” Stated by Dr. Thelma Dye Holmes, it shows that many athletes are idealized for their work and are placed into positions as role models; they are people who physically go above and beyond what others would do (Vickers). To be labeled as anything less than the perfection they aspire to be is damaging. But why does seeking help have to be viewed in this way? Sport psychology is tailored to athletes – even those who are no longer competing. At every level, athletes should understand the fundamentals of mental health and know how to implement coping strategies when necessary.

Stress, anxiety, and depression are all felt to some degree by athletes, particularly during competition. When they are put in high pressure scenarios and then expected to perform at their peak each time, relying on the physical aspects of the body is not enough. Training the mind and body together gives a competitive edge that is more powerful than the body alone. Four-time Ironman champion Chrissie Wellington discusses with CNN how her mind is the greatest tool in her arsenal. “The brain is the master computer of the body. Even when we are working on the efficiency of the peripheral components – the legs, the arms, the butt cheeks – we can recruit the seat of all power to enhance the effectiveness of our work.” (Wellington). She goes on to say that there is an obsession with log books and data, to track how far the athlete has come, but the body can only handle so much discomfort until the brain has to take over. When it becomes overbearing, a sick mind won’t be help the athlete strive to their peak. Doubt will be created, and with that, the athlete will falter.

In addition, when the body is under stress, so is the mind. Fatigue, depression, and anxiety stem from this stress, which in turn increases cortisol levels. Neuroscientists at the University of California, Berkley have found that chronic stress and cortisol lead to damage within the brain. Their research has uncovered that the fatty tissue surrounding axons, known as white matter, increases in number the more exposed a person is to stress. The severity of this phenomenon is not fully understood, although it is agreed that an increase in white matter decreases the efficiency for communication in the brain leading to problems with memory, decision making, and emotions. They are now looking into how white matter affects such brain disorders as schizophrenia, autism, depression, ADHD, and PTSD (Bergland). A future goal for psychologists and scientists alike is not just to treat these disorders, but to provide information to the public on how to prevent them. Despite opinions of mental illness, getting help when needed is without a doubt the best option for improvement.

The stigma society afflicts on seeking help, whether it’s from professionals or a trusted person, prevent people from reaching their full athletic and mental potential. A sound body needs a sound mind to operate it; avoiding treatment will never fix the problem. There are resources out there to help those in need. Utilizing them doesn’t lessen a person’s worth or abilities, it simply helps strengthen them.

 

References:

  1. Bergland, C., (2014, February 12). Chronic Stress can Damage Brain Structure and Connectivity. Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201402/chronic-stress-can-damage-brain-structure-and-connectivity
  2. Vickers, E., (2013, December 19). The Stigma of Mental Health; is it Increased for Athletes?. Retrieved from http://www.thesportinmind.com/articles/the-stigma-of-mental-health-is-it-increased-for-athletes/
  3. Wellington, C., (2012, July 13). Ironman Champ: Your Mind Matters More. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2012/07/13/health/mind-over-matter-wellington/index.html

 

 

The Mental Side of a Physical Injury

By: Premier Sport Psychology

Imagine this: You are an athlete – and not just any athlete – an elite athlete.  You are a highly successful player in the sport of your choosing.  The highlight of your day includes stepping onto the field, ice, or court.  The sport drives you, and it serves as your passion for countless years.  Many of your best memories come from your sport, but so do a few of your worst.  After suffering from 5 concussions, you have limited your ability to focus for more than a ten-minute span.  Having a dim light on causes you pounding headaches.  Feeling faint and dizzy has become apart of your physiology. And worst of all, the thought of getting back into the sport you can’t live without shoots a bout of anxiety and fear ripping down your spine.  It does not take an athlete to understand the effects of an injury due to sport.  It does however, take the right knowledge to understand how to best treat those injuries.  A study published by the Journal of Sport and Health Science in 2012 open the topic by saying:

“Sport injuries frequently have profound negative consequences on the physical health of sports participants.  They also have the potential to cause a great deal of psychological disturbance through increased anger, depression, anxiety, tension, fear, and decreased self-esteem.  Sport injuries often result in an immediate imbalance and disruption to the lives of the injured athletes including loss of health and achievement of athletic potential.”

The study is quick to note that while there are serious physical implications that follow an injury, there are serious, and often times more detrimental, psychological effects.  Laura Reese, Ryan Pittsinger, and Jingzhen Yang sought out to decipher what steps psychologists can take to help restore the most crucial component in recovery: an athlete’s mind.  The study targeted populations of injured competitive and recreational athletes age 17 years and older by using interventions commonly used in sport psychology.  The interventions included imagery, goal-setting, relaxation, micro-counseling, written disclosure, and acceptance and commitment therapy.  The interventions showed promising results.  Guided imagery/relaxation was associated with improved psychological coping and reduced re-injury anxiety.  Psychological techniques such as micro-counseling, acceptance and commitment therapy, and written disclosure demonstrated effectiveness in reducing negative psychological consequences, improving psychological coping, and reducing re-injury anxiety. While seemingly small, these improvements may be exactly what an athlete needs to get back to where they want to be.

The reality of injuries in sports is that too often the process of recovery turns a blind eye to the single strongest operating force in our bodies: our brains.  While we work daily to subdue concussion symptoms, heal a broken bone, or undergo surgery to repair a tendon, we forget that the component driving that recovery in the first place lies in our head.  The encouragement of psychological repair must be reinforced by psychologists, doctors, social support and the athletes themselves.  Using interventions such as those demonstrated in this study may provide the foundation needed to get athletes back in competition both more timely and safely.  The importance of mental stability during a physical injury could not be more crucial.  You would never allow an athlete to go back to competition with a broken collarbone.  They are simply not ready.  Think twice before sending an athlete – or yourself – into competition before mentally ready.  You may not be able to see the injury, but that is an injustice of equal offense.

 

By Bethany Brausen

 

Reference:

Effectiveness of psychological intervention following sport injury. Journal of Sport and Health Science, 1, 71-79.

A Tip for Coaches: How to Bring Your Team up When They’re Down

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff

 

We’ve all been there: a negative state of mind when the game isn’t going well. It’s easy to get to that place, too. It starts with an error, a bad play, or some missed shots. Before you know it, your athletes are walking away from the competition with their heads hung low. If there’s anything that has the ability to spread quickly and to set in and take hold in our minds, it’s negative thinking. However, there is a silver lining. Dr. Justin Anderson, a licensed sport psychologist, has some key advice for coaches:

“The best thing that you can do for your athletes when they’ve hit a rough patch is to simplify the game. Give them one task to focus on; one goal that they can attain. It’s important to bring their minds back to one task that is important now.”

He suggests that instead of focusing on the end result, a win, break it down by giving your athletes a goal: getting positive yardage on the next drive or a defensive stand before the period runs out. When your athletes are in the moment and focusing on what they need to do right then and there, they’re going to perform much differently. When athletes have goals to build on, they can start building some really good momentum. He furthers this with a couple of quotes from Coach John Wooden, who is not only famous for his NCAA wins, but also for his many poignant, inspiring words:

“Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”

“It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.”

In his years of being an athlete and a sport psychologist, Dr. Justin knows how easy it is for an athlete to get overwhelmed. Coaches sometimes focus too much on the negative. It’s obvious that as a coach, your goals for your athletes are to have them compete well and to hopefully win, but it doesn’t always improve your athletes’ performance when they’re being drilled on what they’re doing wrong.

“The players already know that they aren’t supposed to fumble or that they’re supposed to make their shots. As a coach, you need to make a point to tell them what to do instead of what not to do.”

Next time your athletes are down, take a deep breath, and bring them back up. Give them a moment to be in. Know that your athletes have the ability to perform better and that looking toward success instead of pointing out failures is what can bring out the best in them. Small victories can easily boost morale and be a huge game changer. Keep the goal simple, but make sure that it’s something they can build on–getting that positive momentum going can be crucial.