Tag: Premier Sport Psychology

Olympians: Performing Under Pressure

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff

Olympians: Performing Under Pressure 

It takes many qualities to be an Olympian; passion, determination, motivation, commitment, discipline and consistency to name a few. One important mental skill that can often be overlooked in Olympic athletes’ is mental toughness.

Mental toughness is described as the ability to cope with pressure, adversity and stress (Bull, 1996). After spending a lifetime of training and perfecting form for a single opportunity to compete in an Olympic games, Olympians can understandably feel an intense amount of pressure and stress when it comes time for their final performance. Research shows that athletes achieve the best performance results when they have more mental toughness, as measured by commonly associated attributes (Bull, 1996).

Mental strength and awareness influences many underlying mechanisms that operate in a combination to achieve a successful mindset and performance outcome. Every practice and competition begins with the way an athlete thinks and what their mindset is focused on. The quality of our thoughts is critical and can often attribute to our success or our shortcomings.

Being able to perform under pressure, such as competing at the 2018 Olympics, involves years of concentration, determination, and stability of a positive attitude to obtain mental strength. Just like practicing physical skills, practicing mental skills such as dealing with stress, performance setbacks, bad weather conditions or fatigue can impact performance. The quality of an Olympian that makes them so successful is that regardless of any implications standing in their way, they stand in the face of adversity and remain confident in their skills.  

Mental toughness is a skill any athlete can acquire that can help to positively influence performance. Studies conducted at Staffordshire University showed that athletes with high levels of confidence and control reported feeling less physical discomfort during competition and higher levels of concentration than those who had less confidence (Hamilton, 2015). This evidence supports the importance of mental toughness for performance and how significant it is to believe in yourself and your abilities.

 

References

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

Hamilton, M. (2015) “How Much Does Mental Toughness Affect Race Times?” Runner’s World, 26 May 2015, www.runnersworld.com/newswire/how-much-does-mental-

toughness-affect-race-times.

 

 

 

The Super Bowl: Playing to Win or to Improve?

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff

 

If you live in Minnesota, odds are you know Super Bowl VII will be held at US Bank stadium on February 4th. What you may not know is the driving force behind these teams that makes them so successful. Motivation style plays a huge role in performance outcome. Is it more important to have a drive to win or a drive to improve?

Any team that has made it to the Super Bowl would say it is more important to win. What many teams do not know is that performance is linked to motivation style, and according to research athletes are more successful when they are motivated to improve rather than to win (Vallerand, 2012). Motivation purely to win can actually result in a poorer performance from the athlete due to pressure from uncontrolled outcomes.

Improvement may not be the main goal for many athletes or teams competing in the Super Bowl, however, it may be the key to victory. According to the Theory of Self-Determination, athletes perform better when they are intrinsically motivated, for example by a desire to improve, compared to being extrinsically motivated by an outcome such as wining (Cameron, 1999).

When athletes are extrinsically motivated it means their motivation comes from an outside source, such as winning. This may lead athletes to feel as though their behavior is controlled by external, material rewards like trophies, scholarships, or recognition. Therefore, their personal motivation level decreases and can lead to a loss of interest, value, and effort resulting in higher anxiety, poor sportsmanship, and decreased performance outcome (Vallerand, 2012). This being said, if an athlete plays in the Super Bowl with the mindset of wanting to win rather than wanting to improve, their performance can suffer and may cost them the game.

Intrinsic motivation is just the opposite; athletes participate in a sport for internal enjoyment and satisfaction through skill improvement and personal growth resulting in an increased confidence level, reduced stress from mistakes, and an overall higher satisfaction in the game (Vallerand, 2012). The behaviors associated with those who are intrinsically motivated are more self-determination and fulfillment in their sport (Cameron, 1999). These behaviors allow athletes to grow and improve their focus and performance without the worry of external factors such as the pressure of winning or any other outside expectations. These behaviors are related to growth mindset; the belief that abilities are developed through dedication and hard work.

The motivation style each team chooses can immensely influence the outcome of the game. Motivation is the force that drives athletes to succeed both physically and mentally and will be a key factor in the outcome of Super Bowl VII.

 

 

Meet Amanda Letsinger

By: Premier Sport Psychology

Amanda will be with Premier Sport Psychology for the spring of 2018 as our intern. Read below to learn more about Amanda!

Let’s start with a fun fact about yourself.
I’ve broken five different bones all in non-contact sports.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
I think it would be really interesting to travel to Australia.

Do you prefer movies or Netflix?  
Both! I really like movies but a good show on Netflix is hard to beat.

What is the best show you’ve watched on Netflix?
Grey’s Anatomy, so interesting.

Chocolate or vanilla?
Definitely chocolate.

What is your favorite song?
Anything by Taylor Swift, she’s my favorite.

You are being sent to a deserted island you can bring one person and one item, who and what would you bring, and why?
I would bring my friend Anne and my dog Oliver since they both make me happy and we can have fun doing anything.

Favorite sport to play? How about to watch?
I like to play anything competitive, but if I had to pick I’d say running track. Favorite sport to watch is football.

What is your experience with sports?
Growing up I played soccer, swam, and danced until I was in middle school. Through high school I played volleyball, gymnastics, ran cross country and track and field. In college I competed in track and field at Winona State in the 100 High Hurdles, 100m, 200m, 4x100m relay, and High jump.

What has drawn you to the sports psychology world?
I honestly really enjoy sports and the different mindset and motivation levels athletes have compared to other people. Experiencing certain injuries and recovering from them has also opened my mind to the different mental processes someone can go through. Being able to help and improve the mentality of other athletes to reach their goals really draws me to the field of sports psychology.

What is your educational background and future aspirations?
I graduated from Buffalo High School in 2013. In May of 2017, I graduated from Winona State University with my Bachelor’s Degree in Cellular Molecular Biology and immediately began the Master’s of Sports Psychology program through Capella University. In April, I am planning on graduating and pursuing a career in sports psychology or furthering my education in the field.

Mental Toughness A Myth Or A Must In Hockey?

By: Premier Sport Psychology

Without question, playing hockey requires toughness.

But that’s toughness of the physical variety — defined by the ability to take and deliver a hit, to hold your ground in the crease or the corners, to leap over the boards for one more shift when your legs and lungs are screaming “no.”

What of mental toughness? Maybe more to the point: What is mental toughness?

Legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi defined it thusly: “Mental toughness is many things and rather difficult to explain. Its qualities are sacrifice and self-denial. Also, most importantly, it is combined with a perfectly disciplined will that refuses to give in. It’s a state of mind — you could call it character in action.”

Feelings Aren’t Facts

Some sports psychologists will tell you mental toughness is a myth, arguing that convincing yourself to be constantly tough is to live perpetually in denial, and further such denial is a tacit admission that you don’t know how to handle negative thoughts and emotions. Some would argue the semantical flip side, that what the above argument describes — conceding you have to learn to handle those perfectly natural thoughts and emotions — is the very definition of, or at least the pathway to, true mental toughness.

Perhaps, though, mental toughness is best thought of in terms of Mark Twain’s classic definition of courage: “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.”

Components Of Mental Toughness

Complete mental toughness is the sum of many parts, but no one ingredient is more essential than preparation. An athlete who knows he has given his best to prepare his body will not doubt its readiness for those “crunch time” moments that arrive in every contest. And an athlete who has given his best to prepare his mind will trust conscious training that has become subconscious instinct.

So, it takes work. But work on what? What are the components of mental toughness? It depends on whom you ask.

Some cite determination, concentration, self-confidence and poise. Others prefer flexibility, responsiveness, strength, courage, ethics and sportsmanship. Nearly everything you’ll see on the subject of mental toughness, however, will deal in some way with the notion of resiliency, or failing well.

This is to say, learn from your mistakes. Don’t be afraid to make them (as long as you’ve not crossed that line from max effort to out of control). Be ready to endure the downs that inevitably arrive, remain optimistic, and be willing to make adjustments.

Head Games and Hockey Games

On the ice, opportunities to be mentally tough will manifest in essentially three ways:

When factors are out of your control: A mentally weak player will give full throat to his displeasure over a lousy referee — no doubt creating a ref willing to give him more reasons to yell. A mentally strong player will realize most refs, if they know they’ve blown a call, will try to even it up — and if the refs are just bad, it’ll even up naturally.

Similarly, concede that there are other things out of your control — ice conditions (hey, they’re the same for everybody), hostile crowds (won’t it be great to shut them up?) — that can be viewed either as bad breaks or opportunities for greatness.

When you’re off your game: This goes back to preparation. Do you know why 3-point shooters in basketball can keep shooting even though the best of them miss more than half their shots? Because they’ve seen thousands go in at practice. They always believe they’re going to make the next one.

Confidence comes from preparation. Preparation doesn’t guarantee you will never fail, but it helps you bounce back when failure inevitably arrives.

When you’re in pain: We’ve all been hurt enough to be affected by the injury, but not so hurt as to stop playing. In those moments, we turn to our minds — our mental toughness — to get us through.

Distance runners might close out thoughts of pain by consciously running for all those who can’t, but hockey players might better concentrate on “why.”

Not “why am I doing this?” Don’t ask in the moment. Know before you step on the ice. Your “why” is your strength.

Author bio: AJ Lee is Marketing Coordinator for Pro Stock Hockey, an online resource for pro stock hockey equipment. Lee was born and raised in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, and has been a huge Blackhawks fan his entire life. AJ picked up his first hockey stick at age 3, and has yet to put it down. He played hockey at Illinois State University while earning his bachelor’s degree in marketing. 

At Premier Sport Psychology, we help athlete’s train their mind to manage fears and still perform under pressure, on demand, and when fatigued. To work on your mental toughness and other mindset skills, check out our Mindset Training Program at https://www.mindsetprogram.com

 

The Psychological Effect of Long Distance Pacers

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff

 

If you have run or even watched a marathon, you have surely seen the pacers leading packs of people while carrying pieces of paper on poles signifying the time that they are pacing for. Pacers are experienced runners who keep track of the time during a race and run at a pace which will allow them to finish the race at the time their sign publicizes. Less experienced runners run nearby the pacer during a race to be sure that they finish at the time they desire without over exerting themselves.

Pacers take much of the thought out of running. Instead of a runner having to pace himself or herself, one simply has to keep up with the pacer. Because of this, pacers have been used throughout the history of running to break world records. One of the most significant of these records is Roger Bannister’s sub-four-minute mile. The sub-four-minute mile was thought to be unreachable. Athletes had tried time and time again, often running the mile just seconds above four minutes. Bannister was the first to run a mile below four minutes, finishing the mile at 3 minutes and 59.4 seconds in 1954, and he credits much of this time to the two pacers who helped him during the race, Chris Chataway and Chris Brasher. More recently, Nike put on a project for three champion marathoners to break the two-hour marathon with the help of pacers and Nike’s new marathon designed shoe. With multiple different pacing groups containing many different experienced runners, Nike created an intense pacing plan which allowed one runner to finished at 2:00:25, 2 minutes closer to the sub-two-hour marathon than ever before.

From these examples, it is clear to see that pacing is a way to both assist and push runners. But how does it work? While much of the effect of pacing can be said to be due to physiological effects, psychologically, pacers allow runners’ focus on more important aspects of race. During a race without a pacer, runners have multiple things to think about. Runners are receiving many signals throughout a race including those of pain from their aching bodies telling them to slow down or stop. If a runner is not focused on something ahead of them, they are likely to have their focus drift to the feelings of pain, causing them to slow down without even noticing it. A pacer in front of the runner allows that runner to focus solely on keeping up and keeps the runner in check.

One research study measured the effects of a self-controlled pace versus a pace set by a second runner on a nonelite runner. The results showed that when the second runner was setting the pace, the nonelite runners perceived the run as easier, despite the fact that it was still the same 5 km that they had run at a self-controlled pace (Bath et al., 2012). Yet another study showed that an externally-controlled pace aided performance when compared to a self-controlled pacing strategy due to increased attentional focus (Brick et al., 2016). The results of these two studies suggest that running alongside a pacer aids performance because it reduces the amount of mental energy a runner has to use on thoughts regarding their pace. A runner who is focused on maintaining their pace sacrifices mental energy that could be put towards more important aspects such pushing himself or herself to the finish line.

So what does this mean for other sports? While the concept of a pacemaker cannot be introduced into many other competitive realms, such as basketball, learning from the benefits gained from pacemakers can help your own performance. The main benefit gained from pacemakers is, evidently, that reducing the amount of required thought about topics which can be externally controlled can aid in both focus and performance. With this, you can take the idea of narrowing your focus, apply it to your own performance, and like a runner following a pacer, keep your head up and look forward.

 

References

Bath, D., Turner, L.A., Bosch, A.N., Tucker, R. Lambert, E.V., Thompson, K.G., & St Clair Gibson, (2012). The effect of a second runner on pacing strategy and RPE during a running time trial. International Journal of Sport Physiology Performance, 7(1), 26-32.

Brick, N.E., Campbell, M.J., Metcalfe, R.S., Mair, J.L, & MacInyre, T.E. (2016). Altering pace control and pace regulation: Attentional focus effects during running. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 48(5), 879-86. doi: 10.1249/MS.0000000000000843.

Friel, A. (2016). Hired guns: A brief history of the pacer [Blog Post]. Retrieved from https://thelongslowdistance.com/2016/02/09/hired-guns-a-brief-history-of-the-pacer/.

Huebsch, T. (2017). Big names in running comprise roster of pacers set to lead Nike’s Breaking2 attempt [News Article]. Retrieved from http://runningmagazine.ca/nikes-sub-two-marathon-breaking2-pacers/.

Nolan, A. (2017). So close! Kipchoge runs a 2:00:25 in the Breaking2 attempt [News Article]. Retrieved from http://www.runnersworld.com/2-hour-marathon/so-close-kipchoge-runs-a-20025-in-the-breaking2-attempt.

 

 

Selective Attention in Irish Dance

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff

 

Just over 3,000 Irish dancers from all regions of the world flocked to New Orleans early this month for the North American Irish Dance Championships, the biggest Irish dance event of the summer. As dancers and spectators walked into one of the many ballrooms, they were immediately blinded by the sparkling dresses and the curly wigs of those competing. In the front of the room, competitors danced on the raised stage with seven snappily dressed judges watching, pens positioned to write their comments.

There are thousands of distractions for the dancers on stage. The audience talking, the other dancers practicing backstage, the sparkles shining off of the bright stage lights, and the thoughts circling inside their heads are some of the many distractions dancers face. One of the most potentially harmful distractions in all of Irish dance, though, is the competitor dancing alongside you on stage. The question posed is how can you focus on your own dancing when your competitor is on the stage at the same time as you, dancing to the same music, but doing a different dance? It seems almost impossible to ignore the thought of accidentally colliding with him or her. Not only do you have to perform your own dance to the best of your ability, you have to dodge the other competitor while doing so. How can you pay attention to your competitor while still maintaining focus on the task in front of you? It ultimately comes down to this question: what are the right things to focus on and how do you focus on those things alone?  We call this selective attention, and it is a critical skill to optimizing your performance in any skill or setting.

There are many uncontrollable parts of dancing, but luckily, your focus is one thing that you can control. Thousands of pieces of information are processed by your brain each and every day, and every second you can actively choose to focus on one specific thing and attempt to tune out all other background information. With all of the competing stimuli around you, thoughts that are not relevant to your performance are inevitably going to run through your head. For example, an Irish dancer on stage may think about what that other dancer on stage is doing. How you respond to that thought is crucial. Acknowledge that thought, whether good or bad, and then let it go. Because focus is a limited resource for the human brain, realizing what thoughts are necessary for performance and what thoughts are not is imperative to focus.

One way to improve your focus is to plan ahead and recognize, before you begin a performance, what will distract you and what will help you during the performance. In the context of an Irish dance performance, a dancer may note that worrying about running into her competitor will distract her during the performance.  Planning ahead and knowing that this distraction may occur will help the dancer to acknowledge the thought and then let it go, making room in her window of focus for constructive thoughts which will help performance. Constructive thoughts for an Irish dancer may include aspects of dancing that the dancer can control, such as foot placement and navigating around the competitor.

Lastly, it is important to remember that improving focus requires persistence. Even with training, your focus may occasionally drift, especially when your mind is tired. Training your mind to refocus when you start to concentrate on thoughts irrelevant to your performance is key. Refocus yourself by concentrating on behaviors that you can control and that will be helpful and relevant to your performance.

Focus is not just important for Irish dancers, though. Every sport has hundreds of distractions calling to the athlete from all sides. Every task you perform has the possibility of being impacted by the many distractions around you. Zoning in on what is important, recognizing what is not, and being able to refocus your attention helps to organize the thousands of bits of information that the world is throwing at you into productive and useful thoughts that can move you forward.

 

References:

“Mindset Training Program: Focus.”  Premier Sport Psychology.

Goleman, D. (2014). Focus: the hidden driver of excellence. New Delhi: Bloomsbury Publishing      India.

 

Positive Self-Talk and Flow

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff

 

Close your eyes for a second and think of a time when you were at your best in a competition or performance. Put yourself back into that mindset and recall the feelings you experienced. Remember your thoughts from that moment. Did you know exactly what you wanted to achieve? Did you feel that you were equipped with the skills to achieve it? Did time seem to slow down? Did you feel completely in control? Were you concentrated solely on the task in front of you? Did you seem to stop judging yourself?  Were you enjoying yourself completely?

If you said yes to most or all of these questions, you may have experienced a psychological state called flow. Flow is an elusive psychological phenomenon that can occur during peak performance of any kind, from playing an instrument, to dancing, working, or exercising. During a flow experience, you have a deep sense of enjoyment and time seems to pass more slowly. Flow is that sort of optimal experience when you feel entirely in tune with your body and as if you are able to accomplish anything (Csikszenthmihalyi, 1990).

The idea of flow developed out of the positive psychology field and with it the idea that thinking positively can influence how you achieve or approach a flow state.  Because flow is a psychological state, developing the mental skill of positive self-talk can help lead you to a psychological state approaching or achieving flow.   In a recent study, elite golfers were interviewed about their flow experiences. They each acknowledged that nothing negative was on their mind and that they felt very confident when experiencing a flow state. They reported thinking to themselves that they could handle any challenge that presented itself and that they were doing great (Swann, Keegan, Crust, & Piggott, 2015). These phrases are examples of positive self-talk.

Positive self-talk is about mentally motivating and encouraging yourself as opposed to letting that critical voice inside your head get the best of you. We all have it, that little nagging voice inside our heads telling us that we will never succeed. By using positive self-talk, we turn those negative thoughts around and prevent them from making us feel badly about ourselves.

Positive self-talk is a powerful mental skill that not only can change your attitude, but also your performance. Let’s say, for example, a soccer player misses an easy shot on goal. The ball goes flying over the net, nowhere near where she planned for it to go. She has two potential paths she can take here: 1) She can think, Wow, that was such a dumb move! I can’t believe I missed it. I must be such a horrible player; or 2) She can think, Wow, that didn’t go as planned, but I’ve been doing great the rest of the game. That just shows I have some room for improvement in practice. It is clear that the second path would be more productive in both the short and long term. In the short term, the second path allows her to focus on the positive aspects of her game, which can help keep her confidence and energy levels high. In the longer term, the second path allows her to identify specific areas she can improve upon at a later time, which will aid her performance in the long run.

In this example, using positive self-talk is uplifting and productive and is related to a flow state. Positive self-talk supports you by providing you with confidence to perform at your best, whereas negative self-talk can serve to eat away at that confidence. Remember, flow can occur when you think positively and you feel that nothing is standing in your way. Using positive self-talk can help enhance your confidence and get you feeling closer to the elusive experience of flow, even though achieving flow during every performance is unrealistic. As Maya Angelou said, “if you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” Stay Productive. Stay Confident. Stay Positive.

 

References:

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. New York, NY: Harper & Row.

Swann, C., Keegan, R. J., Crust, L., & Piggott, D. (2015). Psychological States Underlying Excellent Performance in Professional Golfers: “Letting it Happen” vs. “Making it Happen.” Psychology of Sport and Exercise 23. doi:10.1016.j.psychsport.2015.10.008.

 

 

 

The Use of Psychological Profiling in Drafting

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff

 

There is more science behind the NFL drafting process than one may think, for psychologists have discovered new ways to help coaches assess which players are more or less likely to succeed in the NFL based on the psychological and behavioral qualities that they bring to the table. These qualities are exposed by mental assessments that key in on facets such as mental speed, behavioral traits, impact traits, learning traits, and cognitive functions that would not otherwise be visible to the eye. One specific test that has assessed more than 10,000 past and current NFL players is called the TAP (Troutwine Athletic Profile) (Duncan, 2014). Used by approximately 95% of current NFL franchises, the TAP allows coaches to not only see whether a player will fit well with their team, it also compares the mental profile of the draftee with previous successful and unsuccessful NFL players, to see where they rank with regard to their overall mental capabilities (Athletic Types, 2016). Pretty cool huh?

So what kind of mental and behavioral qualities are coaches looking for based on previous successful NFL players?

One important quality picked up by the TAP is “drive”. Coaches are ultimately seeking players who continually look for ways to push and challenge themselves, not because of any external rewards that are on the line, but because they are internally driven to improve. They want players who are intrinsically motivated to train and play hard even when there is nobody watching.  Players who display this kind of drive make their teammates around them better, and create an atmosphere of integrity and tenacity both in the weight room and out on the field.

Another key quality that coaches are looking for is coachability. A player who has a high level of coachability is someone who is willing to listen to and internalize any feedback that the coach has to give. They use positive feedback to reinforce productive habits, and accept constructive criticism as a tool to make corrections and enhance their play. Because of their natural humility and openness to feedback, every bit of additional information that they can get from coach is wanted. Now, “being coachable doesn’t mean you have surrendered and don’t have an opinion of your own. It means you have the awareness, perseverance and determination to seek out someone to help you be better” (Probert, 2016).  Coaches appreciate players who are receptive to their coaching, and who readily adapt to their roles within the coach’s schemes.

One final quality that coaches are looking for in an athlete’s psychological profile is the ability to communicate effectively.  On the football field, this skill is particularly important for quarterbacks. In fact, the TAP helped the Colts select Peyton Manning over Ryan Leaf in the 1998 NFL Draft as a result of his promising scores in communication, focus, and preparation (Athletic Types, 2016).  “Although Ryan Leaf was the stronger athlete in many respects, he turned out to have a 10-cent emotional quotient to go with his million-dollar arm” (Haberman, 2014).  These emotional dynamics were picked up by the TAP, and helped lead the Colts away from Leaf and toward Manning, who became one of the best quarterbacks of all time.

Although there are additional qualities that could be added to this list, I encourage you to assess where you fall within these three metrics, and incorporate them into your life on and off the field.  The drive to improve, a commitment to mindset training, and the ability to listen and to learn from feedback, both positive and corrective, are deal-makers for NFL prospects.  They can be for you, too.

 

References:

Duncan, D. (2014). Hiring A New Team Player? Lessons From The NFL Draft

https://www.forbes.com/sites/rodgerdeanduncan/2014/05/04/hiring-a-new-team-player-lessons-from-the-nfl-draft/#2ac87a557077

Athletic Types. (2016). About the TAP

http://athletetypes.com/about-tap/

Probert, L. (2016). What it Means to be Coachable and Why You Should Care.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/laura-probert-mpt/what-it-means-to-be-coachable-and-why-you-should-care_b_9178372.html

Athletic Types. (2016). TAP History

http://athletetypes.com/company/

 

 

Growth Mindset

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff

“You can do anything that you set your mind to.” Not quite, but whatever you set your mind to, you can absolutely make better.  There is a mentality called the growth mindset that can be adopted by all people which leads to greater success and overall performance. Having a growth mindset is associated with having the fundamental belief that your abilities and outcomes are influenced by hard work (as opposed to mere natural talent). It is a way of thinking that not only increases your motivation levels, giving you the drive to work towards your goals, but one that also allows for greater bounce-back from challenges faced along the way (otherwise known as resiliency). The athletes who adopt this way of thinking are the ones that tend to stand out from the rest. They are the ones that persistently look for ways in which they can improve their game and work hard to correct mistakes or bad habits. “Athletes with the growth mindset find success in doing their best, in learning and improving” (Dweck, 2006). They don’t need a prize to feel confident, and instead attain it through adopting a growth mindset and focusing on self-improvement.  Not everyone has this same way of thinking, though, for there is another mindset called the “fixed mindset” that people often adopt.

The fixed mindset is associated with the fundamental belief that your ability level is limited by natural talent. Which, in essence, is what makes success and outcomes set at a fixed level determined by said ability.  Athletes that have a fixed mindset have a fear of trying and failing. Instead of working hard to engage in their own improvement (as someone with the growth mindset would), they often get caught up in their failures/shortcomings, comparing their ability levels to other athletes around them. Someone with a fixed mindset may have all kinds of natural talent, but that talent means very little if they lack the motivation to develop it into something better.

They undermine their chances of success by assuming that their talent alone will take them where they want to go. Because talent has allowed things to come easier to them throughout their career, their confidence is quickly put to the test and often diminishes when they run into a set-back of any kind. The truth is, the athlete isn’t always to blame for having this kind of mindset. Coaches and parents have an influence on their athlete’s mindset based on the way that they communicate with them. When their athlete does something well, parents and coaches often fall into the habit of praising their talent and accomplishments, rather than praising the hard work that the athlete put forth to get there. Although praise is what many athletes like to hear, “children need honest and constructive feedback that pushes them towards growth as well” (Dweck, 2006).

That doesn’t necessarily mean that a coach or parent should negate praise altogether, but they should be cautious as to what message they are sending the athlete through the way that they deliver that praise. At the end of the day, “the athlete should recognize the value of challenging themselves and the importance of effort over anything else” (Dweck, 2006).

One athlete who used the growth mindset to overcome failure throughout his athletic career was Michael Jordan. Believe it or not, he wasn’t always the star athlete that people view him as today. Not only was Jordan cut from his high school’s varsity team, he never got recruited to play for his top college team, and was passed up during the first two draft picks in the NBA. BUT instead of viewing these so-called “failures” as reasons to give up (as many people would), he used them as motivators. In fact, Michael Jordan was featured in a Nike ad where he says, “I’ve missed more than nine thousand shots. I’ve lost almost three hundred games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot, and missed, and that is why I succeed” (Dweck, 2006). He succeeds because he has trained his mind to see failure and defeat as a challenge and an opportunity for growth. This should be the mindset of every athlete, for “success is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” (Quote by Colin Powell)

 

Dweck, Carol S. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. 1st ed. New York: Ballantine Books, 2006. Print.

 

 

Sticking with it: Motivation to Follow Through on Goals

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff

 

I’m sure that we have all experienced a time when we didn’t want to follow through with a task at hand. Either we got bored, felt like the task was too difficult to complete, became burnt out, or couldn’t see the benefits that would arise upon completion. Whatever the reason may be, we’ve been there. The good news is that there are various approaches that can be taken to fix this problem, one of them being, “keeping your eyes on the prize.”

Everything that we do is done for a reason. For example, baseball players both young and old are required to go to batting practice. It has become part of their pregame routine to take dozens of extra swings in preparation for competition. The purpose, as told by the Oakland hitting coach Chili Davis, is that “batting practice is a time to create and foster good habits. The guys who do it and do it right are the ones who are more successful.” (Caple, 2014) The same thing goes for volleyball players. “A setter will come close to making one third of all the ball contacts by the team.” (USA volleyball) This means that they better be darn good at what they do, or the team won’t be successful. But how do they achieve this skill? The answer is that they make goals for themselves and lean into them. They practice footwork, hand contact, vision, etc. time and time again so that they can deliver the perfect ball to their hitters. They want success for their team, so they keep their eyes on the prize during all of those days of practice and problem solving.

Another tactic that can be used to stay motivated is to take a different approach. Sometimes the way you are doing something won’t feel right or may seem more difficult than it should. In this case, taking a step back and re-analyzing your methodology towards the task may be a good option for you. Being able to identify a couple tweaks and changes that could be made may change your outlook and experience in ways you didn’t know were possible!

Last of all, reward yourself! Nothing worth having ever comes easy, right? So instead of just looking at the big picture (which may appear a little daunting), make small goals for yourself along the way. When you reach one of those milestones, reward yourself. One way you could do this is to treat yourself to a nice breakfast the next morning, or to document your success in writing. Reading and reliving your accomplishments may give you the right drive to continue forward on your journey. It is important to be able to recognize your own progress, which will not only allow you to celebrate the successes, but will also let you know how much further you have to go in reaching your primary goals.

“The discipline you learn and character you build from setting and achieving a goal can be more valuable than the achievement of the goal itself.” -Bo Bennett

 

References:

Caple, J. (2014). Batting Practice: Swings and Misses

USA Volleyball (2013). Thoughts for Setters