Tag: goals

Embrace Your Shake Like Phil Hansen

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff

Phil Hansen was going to school to become an artist when he discovered something that he thought would end his career before it even began. He had developed a shake in his hand from using pointillism—a painting technique in which small dots are applied in patterns to form a single image. Because he could no longer create art through his preferred method, he decided to drop art school and art altogether. However, years later he decided to return to art and saw a doctor about his condition. The doctor changed his life with a single question: “Why don’t you just embrace the shake?”

Hansen’s TED talk describes his inspiring journey to find his new calling through art: “And I realized, if I ever wanted my creativity back, I had to quit trying so hard to think outside of the box and get back into it.” Athletes can mirror this idea by spending time going back to the beginning and thinking about what aspects of their sport made them fall in love with it in the first place. More importantly, this talk—and what we can all take from it—is about remembering what makes us unique and what strengths we have.

As his talk comes to a close, Hansen professes: “Limitations may be the most unlikely of places to harness creativity, but perhaps one of the best ways to get ourselves out of ruts, rethink categories, and challenge accepted norms. And instead of telling each other to seize the day, maybe we can remind ourselves every day to seize the limitation.”

Everyone has a “shake” or weakness, and although this insecurity may seem like a flaw it is simply something that makes you unique. However, because “shakes” are unique to each individual, it may seem as though you are the only one with that particular “shake.” Sometimes, that results in athletes defying their shakes in the attempt to be “normal.” This perspective is understandable considering technicalities in sports require athletes to follow certain rules and regulations. As a result, it is hard for them to both accept and figure out an alternate path to take toward the designated goal. Although taking another route for the sport or skill they are working toward will be an adjustment, it will make them a stronger athlete with stronger weaknesses.

Athletes have the ability to embrace whatever “shakes” they have just like Phil Hansen. Rather than letting the shake define them, athletes can define it for themselves and use it as a performance enhancement they never knew they had. In other words they can seize the limitation in their shake. Believe in what makes you different; never give up on something just because it is not viewed as typical. Most importantly, embrace your shake.

See Hansen’s inspiring talk here.

 

 

Looking for a TED Talk? Premier Has a Few Recommendations

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff

 

At Premier, we always strive to learn more. We read through the latest scholarly journals, explore new books, and—one of our favorites—watch numerous TED talks. Below is a list of some of our favorite TED talks about sport and/or psychology along with a memorable quote from each of the pieces. If you have any recommendations for us, let us know via Facebook or Twitter!

Sarah Lewis – Embrace the near win “Coming close to what you thought you wanted can help you attain more than you ever dreamed you could.”

Dan Gilbert – The psychology of your future self Human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they’re finished. The person you are right now is as transient, as fleeting and as temporary as all the people you’ve ever been.”

Diana Nyad – Extreme swimming with the world’s most dangerous jellyfish And with all sincerity, I can say, I am glad I lived those two years of my life that way, because my goal to not suffer regrets anymore, I got there with that goal. When you live that way, when you live with that kind of passion, there’s no time, there’s no time for regrets, you’re just moving forward.”

Christopher McDougall – Are we born to run? Running — it’s basically just right, left, right, left — yeah? I mean, we’ve been doing it for two million years, so it’s kind of arrogant to assume that I’ve got something to say that hasn’t been said and performed better a long time ago. But the cool thing about running, as I’ve discovered, is that something bizarre happens in this activity all the time…”

Angela Lee Duckworth – The key to success? Grit Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

Amy Cuddy – Your body language shapes who you are So, for example, we smile when we feel happy, but also, when we’re forced to smile by holding a pen in our teeth like this, it makes us feel happy. So it goes both ways. When it comes to power, it also goes both ways. So when you feel powerful, you’re more likely to do this, but it’s also possible that when you pretend to be powerful, you are more likely to actually feel powerful.”

Carol Dweck – The power of believing that you can improve I heard about a high school in Chicago where students had to pass a certain number of courses to graduate, and if they didn’t pass a course, they got the grade ‘Not Yet.’ And I thought that was fantastic, because if you get a failing grade, you think, I’m nothing, I’m nowhere. But if you get the grade ‘Not Yet’ you understand that you’re on a learning curve. It gives you a path into the future.”

Sophie Scott – Why we laugh Everybody underestimates how often they laugh, and you’re doing something, when you laugh with people, that’s actually letting you access a really ancient evolutionary system that mammals have evolved to make and maintain social bonds, and clearly to regulate emotions, to make ourselves feel better. It’s not something specific to humans — it’s a really ancient behavior which really helps us regulate how we feel and makes us feel better.”

Amy Purdy – Living beyond limits If your life were a book and you were the author, how would you want your story to go? That’s the question that changed my life forever.”

Andy Puddicombe – All it takes is 10 mindful minutes “…when did you last take any time to do nothing? Just 10 minutes, undisturbed? And when I say nothing, I do mean nothing. So that’s no emailing, texting, no Internet, no TV, no chatting, no eating, no reading. Not even sitting there reminiscing about the past or planning for the future. Simply doing nothing…”

Ben Ambridge – 10 myths about psychology, debunked So the myth is that psychology is just a collection of interesting theories, all of which say something useful and all of which have something to offer. What I hope to have shown you in the past few minutes is that this isn’t true. What we need to do is assess psychological theories by seeing what predictions they make, whether that is that listening to Mozart makes you smarter, that you learn better when information is presented in your preferred learning styleor whatever it is, all of these are testable empirical predictions, and the only way we can make progress is to test these predictions against the data in tightly controlled experimental studies.

 

 

What it Takes to be Successful

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff

 

In her famous TED Talk, Angela Lee Duckworth tackles a question our individualist culture continually strives answer: What does it take to be successful? In just six minutes, Duckworth explains through her experiences teaching math in New York City public schools and studying people from West Point to the National Spelling Bee that the most successful people embody one specific characteristic: grit. As she most eloquently says in her talk:

“Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

She goes on to explain that we can encourage the development of grit by referring to Stanford Psychologist Carol Dweck’s theory of a “growth mindset,” or the belief that one’s ability to learn is not pre-determined but can be changed with effort.

While not directly talking about sports, these theories are very much applicable to athletes. The athletes who are the most successful are the ones who show up first to practice and leave last. They are the ones who fuel their bodies with nutritious foods and get enough sleep so they can have the stamina to perform at optimum levels. They are the ones who don’t believe their skills are fixed because they have proven that wrong: they have seen their talents develop through hard work in and out of practice.

If you want to be successful, you need to put in the effort—“day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month…”

Click here to hear Angela Lee Duckworth’s TED Talk on grit.

Click here to hear Carol Dweck talk about the “growth mindset.”

 

Six Traits of Mentally Tough Athletes — Including the U.S. Soccer Team

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff

 

All eyes will be on Vancouver this Sunday as the U.S. Women’s soccer team takes on Japan in their second consecutive World Cup Championship game. In order to reach the finals for two straight tournaments, we know the athletes have not only incredible physical strength, but also extraordinary mental strength. Midfielder Megan Rapinoe spoke with NPR before the World Cup began about what distinguishes the U.S. team: “I think traditionally, we’ve always been very fit and fast and physical, and we have that sort of physical element that we can just outlast teams,” she said. “And we have that grit and that mentality that we’re never going to quit.” That grit is an integral part of what has led to the team’s success—and is also an integral part of being mentally tough.

In their book, The Mental Game Plan: Getting Psyched for Sport, Drs. Stephen J. Bull, John G. Albinson, and Christopher J. Shambrook outline six characteristics of mentally tough athletes:

Strong desire to succeed

Stay positive in the face of challenge and pressure

Control the controllables

High commitment with a balanced attitude

High level of self-belief

Positive body language

From Rapinoe’s quote alone, it is easy to see that the U.S. team embodies these characteristics. The team’s determination and refusal to quit aligns with characteristics 1-5 (and if you look at pictures of the team in action, you’ll see No. 6 as well).

So how can you embrace these six skills and be mentally tough like the U.S. women? What do they really mean?

Strong desire to succeed – Why are you playing your sport? We imagine it’s because you love it and have fun while playing! Your No. 1 priority should be to enjoy what you’re doing. Then, that love for the game will transfer over to your desire to keep getting better. “Succeeding” does not necessarily mean winning the championship or being the best player on the team; rather, it’s about setting your mind to a few, tangible goals and working hard to attain them. These are progress-oriented goals—like taking a few deep breaths before you make your next pitch or becoming 5% stronger over the next two weeks. The real success is when you achieve these progress-goals throughout the year!

Stay positive in the face of challenge and pressure – Athletes of any sport, especially at high levels of competition, endure a lot of stress. Making excuses and complaining won’t help you get any better. Mentally tough athletes challenge stress head on by staying positive throughout their competition.

Control the controllables – In order to be mentally tough, you need to recognize that there are some things you can’t do anything about. The refs, the weather, the past—recognizing that there are aspects of the game out of your control will help you become more aware of what you can control. You can control your effort in practice, your attitude when you miss a rebound, and what you’re doing at the current moment, to name a few. When you focus on what you can control, you put more conscious effort into making those aspects of your game better instead of worrying about what’s out of your hands.

High commitment with a balanced attitude – Having a balanced attitude means that you need to be dedicated to your sport while also being dedicated to other aspects of your life like school, family, and friends. Enjoy your sport while you’re playing, but if something bad happens during a game or practice, don’t let that negatively affect your mood when you leave the field. Mentally tough athletes recognize that they need to focus on sports while training, but they need to be engaged with other parts of their life as well.

High level of self-belief – We all know that we won’t make every basket or catch every pass from the quarterback, but that’s ok! If you stay focused on the present moment—on the basket you’re about to shoot or the pass the quarterback is throwing right now and you say to yourself over and over that you can do this and you will make the basket/pass, then more often than not you will make the shot. If you believe in yourself, you will be able to turn those thoughts into actions.

Positive body language – When you swing at a pitch outside of the zone, do you slam your bat down in frustration or do you take a deep breath and tell yourself that you’ll get it next time? Standing upright with confidence will in fact make you more confident. Everyone makes mistakes, but it’s those who realize that they can be better next time that are mentally tough and successful.

Mental training takes time just as physical training—you can’t get better overnight. Next time when you’re skating around the rink, take a few deep breaths, remember what you can and cannot control, and believe in yourself. Those quick mental skills will put you steps above your opponent—as evident by the U.S. women’s soccer team only one step away from a World Cup Championship!

 

Why the Journey is More Important Than the Destination

By: Premier Sport Psychology

We have all heard the old adage, “The journey is more important than the destination,” (or some variation of it) time and again. What few people discuss, however, is what makes the journey so important.

Look at any newspaper story describing an athletic accomplishment, and you may notice that while the headline comes from the accomplishment itself, the body of the story is, in fact, a story. It is the story of how the athlete achieved his or her goals, typically through preparation and adversity. Take for example, Ben Saunders.

In 2014, Saunders accomplished a journey that no one previously had—he trekked to the South Pole and back on foot. He and his partner ventured 1,800 miles, spanning 105 days—shattering the record for the longest human-powered polar journey by over 400 miles. However, it wouldn’t have been a journey without obstacles along the way. After experiencing consistent headwind slowing them down, the two cut back their food rations to half of what they should have been consuming, and eventually ran out. 46 miles away from their storage of food, hungry and suffering from hypothermia, Saunders made the decision to call for assistance. It was not easy, and Saunders called it “one of the toughest decisions of [his] life.” He went on to say, “I don’t regret calling for that plane for a second, because I’m still standing here alive, with all digits intact. But getting external assistance like that was never part of the plan, and it’s something my ego is still struggling with. This was the biggest dream I’ve ever had, and it was so nearly perfect.”

In today’s fast-paced world, we constantly try to achieve the next goal as fast as humanly possible. We try to change the definition of what is humanly possible. We are obsessed with perfection and being the best. However, we must shift our focus from the end point to the point we are currently in. We must focus on accomplishing our current challenge before we prepare for our next challenge. Runners build up their endurance by running 5, 10, 15 miles before running a marathon. Swimmers do not swim the 400-meter freestyle without spending time in the gym building their muscles and physical strength. Athletes (much like Ben Saunders) do not accomplish great feats unless they first spend a great deal of time preparing.

We need to learn to be content with the place that we are in and not just the destination. Crossing the finish line takes a split second, but the journey takes so much longer. If we are only living for the finish line, we are only enjoying a few moments instead of the weeks, months, or years of preparation. The journey is where we learn. When people recall their stories, they don’t just say, “Well, I crossed the finish line at this time and then that was that.” They tell their stories. They talk about overcoming obstacles—when they learned what their breaking points were after being pushed to their physical and mental limits. They talk about the relationships they formed with their teammates and crews. They talk about how, in the most brutal of conditions, they learned what they were made of. We don’t learn what we’re made of after we complete goals—we learn during the process.

After Saunders completed his journey to the South Pole and back, many people asked him what would be the next milestone he would conquer. Reporters wanted to know the next destination, but Saunders was still reflecting on his journey:

“Looking back, I still stand by all the things I’ve been saying for years about the importance of goals and determination and self-belief, but I’ll also admit that I hadn’t given much thought to what happens when you reach the all-consuming goal that you’ve dedicated most of your adult life to, and the reality is that I’m still figuring that bit out. […] I’m also standing here saying, you know what, that cliché about the journey being more important than the destination? There’s something in that. The closer I got to my finish line, that rubbly, rocky coast of Ross Island, the more I started to realize that the biggest lesson that this very long, very hard walk might be teaching me is that happiness is not a finish line, that for us humans, the perfection that so many of us seem to dream of might not ever be truly attainable, and that if we can’t feel content here, today, now, on our journeys amidst the mess and the striving that we all inhabit, the open loops, the half-finished to-do lists, the could-do-better-next-times, then we might never feel it.”

To hear Saunders’ full story, watch his TED talk here.

Olivia Wyatt

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.

 

 

He Shoots, He Scores! Setting Goals, Not Just Scoring Them

By: Premier Sport Psychology

Athletes today fight a very uphill battle when it comes to expectations from themselves and others. While most athletes begin playing sports because of pure enjoyment, expectations often grow alongside young athletes. For athletes at any age to improve physically and mentally in their sport, goal setting is a practiced skill that can too often be underused.

In order to develop helpful goals for athletes it is important to understand that there is two primary drives for people in just about any situation. The first being internal drive, and the second being external drive. Internal drive is that feeling of wanting to accomplish something for yourself or perfecting a skill you have worked on for some time. It is the feeling of accomplishment an athlete gets when they know they worked hard and did their best. External drive comes from outside motivators. This is when at athlete feels successful because they outperform their opponent or score the most goals. External drive is not necessarily a bad thing; it just should not be the only motivator for an athlete. The best way to develop helpful goals is to account for an athletes personal motivators and set goals that account for both their internal and external drives.

When goal setting it is equally as important to set mental goals as it is to set physical goals. If a basketball player can shoot 20 for 20 free throws at the gym, but believes he will miss as soon as he is in a game setting, what happens? More often that not, that great free-throw shooter will miss. At Premier Sport Psychology we are strong believers that the mind is like a muscle, and it only works at full capacity when it is trained properly. There are many different sport psychology techniques that can increase your mental training such as mental imagery, visualization, focus exercises, and mindfulness training. By educating yourself more on these topics you are taking the first step into reaching your goals.

Now, speaking of goals, how do we set them? When setting goals it is important to set SMART goals. Meaning that goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relative, and time-bound. It is also important that when setting goals, you track your physical and mental training. Athletes can set up a weekly and monthly schedule to hold themselves accountable and celebrate milestones along the way to their major outcome goal. For example, a runner may want to shorten their mile time by one minute before their season begins. It is important to figure out the proper training, both physically and mentally, that will need to take place in the allotted time to reach that goal. It is not enough to simply want to be better, faster, or stronger; you must actually follow through on the process.

In review, here is a basic overview:

1) Identify personal motivators. Figure out what your internal and externals drives are and how you can target them to reach your goals. Success and achievement are different for everyone; make sure you understand what success means to you.

2) Learn and implement proper mental techniques to help you work towards your goals. If you would like more information on this, consider looking into the Premier Mental Training System on our website or contacting one of our sport psychologists.

3) Develop SMART goals and stick to them!

4) Set up a weekly and monthly calendar to keep you on track. Seeing your goals on paper will be helpful for you to process where you began, where you are going and the steps it will take to get there.

5) Seek input. Remember that being an athlete is often a very dynamic role. There are often coaches, parents and/or peers that are alongside you at some point during your athletic career. It is important to share your goals and get constructive feedback and support from others to help get you to where you want to be!

6) Accept non-linear progress. Setting goals and working towards them is not a linear process. You will have ups and downs, and it is not realistic to reach perfection all (or any) of the time! Be patient and proud of yourself with any progress you make, even if it is slow and gradual.

Bethany Brausen

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.

The Tigers are Tamed; The Royals are Kings

By: Premier Sport Psychology

A coach of mine once told me that momentum is made up. He said all that really happens is we convince ourselves mentally that we are in a state of retreat, when in reality we are still every bit “in the game” as our opponents are. I 100% agree with him, but the Kansas City Royals may need some more convincing.

After not being in the playoffs for 29 years, the Royals have gone 4-0 in their first four playoff games. In doing so, they have secured themselves a spot in the American League Championship Series and are now just eight wins away from bringing home a World Series Championship. All things seem to be “go” for this 2014 Royals team, and if these last games are any indication, they have no intention of slowing down.

They overcame the Oakland Athletics in an extra innings battle, and then came back only a few days later to sweep the Detroit Tigers (one of the postseason favorites). In doing so, the Royals overcame three of the most dominant pitchers in baseball: Max Sherzer, Justin Verlander, and David Price–and outhit some of the best bats the sport has to offer: Miguel Cabrera, Ian Kinsler, and Torii Hunter. How did they do it?

The answer is simple: with a smile on their face.

“They’re all enjoying it…we get to this type of atmosphere and we’re flourishing,” Royals Manager Ned Yost said after the ALDS sweep. He wasn’t alone in the sentiment–Royals starting catcher Salvador Perez added, “We feel so happy to win the last two games.”

So how can it seem so simple yet do so much? Because in reality, it can be that simple. The influence of a positive mindset is so vastly overlooked in competitive sport, but as we can see through the success the Kansas City Royals are having, it can really make a difference. Especially considering they were up against the odds, on short rest, and playing against one of the best teams in baseball. The impact can’t be overlooked.

Give it a try sometime. Next time you need to do something, no matter how daunting it seems, tell yourself that you can be successful. Put a smile on your face while you do it. Do it again and again until it becomes genuine, and you won’t be disappointed. Change your mindset, and the results will follow.

Konnor Fleming

It’s All In Your Head

By: Premier Sport Psychology

A rhythmic pulse of two-hundred tightly laced shoes flies through the dense woods of the DuPage River Park Forest Preserve. A grassy beaten path lay before us, punctured by the spikes of previous runners. My teammates and I are just finishing up the casual 3 mile loop that will soon be the judge, jury, and prosecutor for which of us are free to compete in regionals and a chance to cling to the dream of carrying on to sectionals, or even greater, state. Our coach, Mr. Iverson, stands with his legs wide apart, arms crossed with a concentrated gaze rested upon us as we jog toward him at the soon to be finish line. He nods for us to continue toward a shaded patch of grass where the two assistant coaches are waiting.

He instructs us to take a seat wherever we like and to make sure there is plenty of room between us. The team curiously does as instructed but a low rumble of conversation vibrates between us. Iverson lets it die down before he continues. He explains that that he wants to do an exercise with imagery and that we need to keep our minds open. This comes from a man who has surpassed all expectations by having his cross country team successfully compete every year at state for the past 30-some years; it’s hard not to trust what he says.

We gladly lie down in the cool grass and close our eyes, as instructed. Iverson begins by drawing our attention to our breathing and position in the grass. As he speaks, I follow his deep calming voice into a trance like state; my breathing slows and my body feels as if it is melting into the ground. His words lead me back to the course we have just finished, except it is now altered. There are eight colored tents: each representing a different competing team. Distant cheers from another race mix together with the heightened buzz of conversation among the athletes. He tells us to take note of the excitement, the energy, the fear, and to let it fuel us, but not distract us. In our minds, he leads us on a confident walk toward our tent and directs us to concentrate on beginning a strong warm-up. I envision myself taking perfect strides: arms at my waist, straightened back and a leg raising high while the other simultaneously rips the dirt beneath me. The image plants pre-race jitters in my heart and it starts to accelerate.

Iverson brings our imagination to the jog toward the starting line. As he speaks, I feel my heart hammering in my chest and a coldness fall over me. My blood is quickly rushing in anticipation and my hands start to tremble. Even with the race still another day away in reality, I feel everything the same way I would as if it were just mere minutes away. There is a moment of anxious silence before he speaks again. We’re told to pause a moment and breathe. Iverson explains that whether we run our best or worst, either way we are still going to be running three miles. He adds that we have nothing to fear because our best is good enough and no one can be disappointed in someone who puts themselves out there for a chance to be great. He tells us to feel our melted bodies on the ground and to remember this feeling as we are on our way to the starting line. He says that there is nothing to fear and to slow our breathing–the race has not yet begun, and until we reach that finish line, we still have the opportunity to improve. We’re instructed to use the strength we’ve built each and every practice and reminded once more that it’s just another 3 mile race.

With a renewed energy we line up at the start line and strongly sprint out 100 meters before returning to our positions. The scene is so familiar, but somehow different. I don’t fear the race. I don’t fear the pain or mental fatigue I am about to endure. Instead, I am invigorated by it. I know what I am capable of as Iverson drives our minds through the course we race, and I feel powerful. When he brings us to the finish line, I see myself put in every last bit of effort to pass every color I can. Mentally crossing the finish line is exhilarating. Again, he takes us to our cool down and stretches where we lay down to finish them. As our bodies soften into the ground, they take shape in reality.

We keep our eyes closed in complete silence, contemplating what we have just experienced. I replay the ideas in my head. Run the race without fear. Slow my breathing. Tap into my potential. Hold nothing back. Be free.

With that final thought, I open my eyes.

Sarah Brinkman