Tag: Mindful Behavior

Player Development and Mental Skills: Why Does It Matter?

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff

 

The Why:  

When you think of any sport, there are always fundamentals and strategy that come into play.  There are roles and responsibilities, specific skills, things to focus on, adrenaline spikes, fatigue, ups and downs, and these are just the demands that occur during one performance.  We spend so much of our training and efforts around learning how to do the task, that we forget to consider the demands we face while performing under pressure.  At Premier Sport Psychology, we teach coaches and athletes how to implement processes around training for BOTH the tasks and demands of their sport.  In doing so, you have a structured process for program and player development to reach an optimal level of consistent high performance.

The What:

Mental skills are designed to help athletes organize what they are learning from their coaches and cope with the demands of performing under pressure.  Therefore, mental skills are either organizational or motivational in nature.

  1. Organizational – Organizational mental skills help athletes develop structures around their development.  These skills bring attention to detail how they train for competition in order to keep their efforts in areas that they can control.  Some examples of organizational mental skills include:
    1. Goal-Setting
    2. Focus and Attention
    3. Mental Rehearsal
  2. Motivational – Motivational mental skills help athletes manage the demands and challenges they encounter during performances.  These skills help athletes raise their awareness, problem solve, adjust and maintain motivation after mistakes are made.  Some examples of motivational mental skills include:
    1. Confidence
    2. Mindful Behavior
    3. Self-Talk

The How:  

At Premier Sport Psychology, we find that many athletes are in one of three stages (Defining their process, Refining their process, or Mastering their process).  Use the questions below to identify which stage your child falls under in order to help your child develop a plan.

  1. What are the tasks you are expected to perform within your sport?   (If team sport, break down the positional fundamentals/tasks)
  2. What are the biggest challenges or annoyances you experience that hinder your ability to perform?  (During a game or over the season)
  3. What structures do you have in place to improve these areas?

Summary:

After answering the questions above, which areas need more specific strategies?  Can they be addressed by you?  Or the coach?  Or are the areas a bit more subjective?  Leveraging a sport psychologist or mental skills coach can help you and your child fill in those gaps and identify a clear path to high level performance.

 

Bonus Material:  One of the key components of developing peak performance is develop strong habits with your attention.  Click our link below to visit our Premier Mindset Program site and subscribe to our mailing list to download a free focus exercise to start training today!

Get the Free Focus Exercise here!

 

 

How Should I Prepare Mentally For A Game?

By: Premier Sport Psychology

How should I prepare mentally for a game?

While there are techniques and suggestions for mental preparation, the biggest thing to remember is that the best mental preparation for any game will come from both trusting your physical training and being aware of what it is you do mentally when you perform at your best. Mental preparation for a game will vary by the individual. For example, one athlete may prepare best by listening to music on their own and conversing with others minimally before a game, on the other hand another athlete may need to talk and interact with others to prepare, neither approach is right nor wrong. The trick is to key in on what works on an individual level, and channel your preparation through that. That being said, here are a few preparations strategies to try and see if they work for you:

Mindful Behavior: Mindful behavior has been shown to significantly increase athlete’s performance. Before a game your brain can be going in a million different directions, and what mindfulness does is center your attention on the immediate moment without judging the moment as “good” or “bad.” When we do this, we allow ourselves to channel our energy into our performance and take it moment to moment and be less critical of ourselves while competing. We are less distracted and more focused.

Imagery & Self-Talk: Before a game try closing your eyes and watch yourself on a highlight reel. See yourself being successful in all facets of your sport competing exactly how you want to. Any time a negative thought seeps in, notice it and let it pass. Replay those positive thoughts over in your head to help build your confidence. Focus on what you do well. Your self-talk tells you whether you can or cannot do something, and the effect it has on your actual performance is profound.

Stay Focused on the Process & the Controllables: A lot of athletes get caught up in thinking about the outcome of the game before they go out to compete (e.g., score, win/loss, will they make the line-up, how will I play, what will my time be, etc.?) rather than focusing on the PROCESS of performing well….all the how-to parts of playing a great game! (e.g., stay relaxed, confident play, good communication on the field, aggressive start, hold my form, quick feet, etc.) We know that athletes who focus on the process and let the outcome take care of itself, actually perform better. Also, try not to get sucked into worrying about the uncontrollable aspects of the game, such as the weather, refs calls, opponents’ skill level, or coach’s decisions. Rather, before and during a game, zone in on what you can control such as your attitude, effort, preparation, and mindset.

Mindfulness and Flow in Elite Athletes

By: Premier Sport Psychology

Background:

This study sought out to examine the relationship between mindfulness and states of flow in elite athletes. To learn more about flow, click here. In doing so, the researchers were able to test the validity of a mindfulness measure, replicate and extend past research, and look closer at relationships of mindfulness and flow in:

  • Individual vs. Team Sport
  • Pacing vs. Nonpacing Sports
  • Males vs. Females

By the Numbers:

92 athletes from the South Australian Sports Institute and the Australian Institute of Sport participated in the study. There was a representation of males and females from 12 different sports. Athletes used two measures, the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire and the Dispositional Flow Scale-2 for assessment purposes.

Take Away Messages:

Results of this study provided evidence that the relationship between mindfulness and flow may be slightly higher in individual-pacing sports compared to team-based nonpacing sports. Mindfulness could possibly be related to different facets of flow in males compared to females. This information makes an argument that mindfulness and states of flow may be more obtainable on an individual basis. No different than any skill for athletes, it is important to know what works for you and how to get into “the zone.”

References:

Carthcart, S., McGregor, M., & Groundwater, E. (2014).  Mindfulness and Flow in Elite Athletes. Journal of Clinical Sport Psychology, (8), 199-141.

Playing in the Present Moment

By: Premier Sport Psychology

We bring every past moment to the present moment. This is both good and bad. Thankfully, we carry all of our hard work: Every game we have played and each step of the training and practice. We also take the last mistake we made, such as a swing at a bad pitch or the pass you just dropped. This is why playing in this exact moment is vital. We need to let go of the mistakes while focusing on the positive stuff.

Of course, this isn’t an automatic occurrence, this learning how to be here right now. Luckily, we can learn how to play this way. Authors Ken Ravizza and Tom Hanson give us concrete steps to reach this goal in the book Head-Ups Baseball: Playing the Game One Pitch at a Time. The first step on this path is self-awareness: “being aware of what is happening and then respond to it.”

Think of this as a traffic light. When your body is in the green, you are playing in the zone. You are playing well with no need to think. When your body is in the yellow, you are starting to have trouble. Maybe you didn’t hit your split time or you saw your girlfriend talking to her ex-boyfriend on the sideline. When your body is in the red, you are struggling: your mind is racing and you are tense, shaken, and completely out of the zone.

Ravizza and Hanson suggest making a chart of how your body reacts to each light. Think about your game and write down several examples of how you act while at each light. Now you know your body’s signals and you can be self-aware during practice and while in competition.

Next, practice gaining self-control when you are experiencing a yellow or red light. Ravizza and Hanson recommend these six techniques:

  1. Recognize when you aren’t in control: Just realizing you have lost control can help you regain focus and change to the green light mode.
  2. Breathe in and out three times, deeply, to change your mood.
  3. Take a minute: If your sport allows it, take a break by doing something as simple as tying your shoelace.
  4. Release negativity: Create a routine or gesture to let go of negative thoughts and feelings. Pick up a small stone, place your frustration on that rock, then toss the stone away from you.
  5. Find a focal point: Find a spot, from a crack in the wall to the flag blowing in the breeze, and let this be the place you look at to regain focus when you are faltering. By looking here, you are acknowledging all the hard work that got you this far and will carry you to the next good place.
  6. Carry yourself to confidence: Change your defeated body posture to a confident stance. “Keep your head up. Lift your sternum. Act like the most confident player you know. Think about your greatest performance and carry yourself the way you did that day.”

These are the first steps in learning how to play in the present moment. A sport psychologist can teach you more techniques for being present on the playing field, which helps us play the best possible game.