Tag: Self-Talk

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!

 

 

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.

 

 

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.

Feeling Anxious? Lucky You.

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff

 

You are feeling anxious? Lucky you.

I am going to get on my soapbox for a couple minutes here. I think everybody can thrive from anxiety. However, the feelings of anxiety often make us uncomfortable. The root of this anxiety is because neither you, nor I, really know how to use our anxiety. Because here is the thing, anxiety could just be one of the most powerful innate skills we as humans possess, and instead of running with it, we run from it. If you look up the definition of anxiety this is what you will find:

“a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.”

Then scroll down and take a peek at the synonyms: worry, concern, apprehension, apprehensiveness, uneasiness, unease, fearfulness, fear, disquiet, agitation, angst, misgiving, nervousness, nerves, tension, and tenseness.

Well I think, while I am up here on my soapbox, I would like to pick a fight. I would like to pick a fight with the idea that anxiety is a negative thing. I would argue that anxiety is indeed a positive thing. I’ll use with another word, excited. The definition of excited reads: stirred emotionally, agitated, stimulated to activity, aroused, to cause; awaken. Now I may be the only one, but I have experienced both these feelings and have come to realize that the feelings can overlap a great deal. Are you going on a first date? How do you feel–anxious or excited? Are you buckling your seat on a roller coaster? Is that feeling anxiousness or excitement? Competing in a game? I ask you the same question. Are these feelings only anxiety or only excitement–often times it seems hard to have one without the other.

An excessive amount of anxiety is not beneficial, I agree. When it creeps its way into places it doesn’t belong, anxiety can cause problems from a physiological standpoint. And that is not going to do anyone any good. But, what if we can channel small amounts of anxiety into positive performance. Even an abundance of anxiety can be transformed into a wealth of energy and excitement. We can change the way our body responds to anxiety if we first change the way we think about it. People do not walk up to a podium in front of 500 people without anxiety. The players in the NHL, NFL, MLB, and NBA have all had their share of this feeling. However, the athletes and people that view anxiety as a strength and a skill for performing are the ones that can reach optimal performance.

If you asked every person if they have experienced this feeling, I would be surprised to hear if even one person had not. It is a natural response developed with our “fight or flight” reflex many years ago. And we still find it prevalent today. The role of anxiety has clearly left a genetic imprint that is crucial to our evolution (and to your success). So before I step down from up here where the view is great, I will ask you to remember one thing. The next time you feel your anxiety kick in, heart racing, sweat going, palms sweaty, and body shaky don’t run from it. Run with it. I am willing to bet you will run much faster with it, then without it.

 

Want to hear more about this topic? Watch this TED Talk by Kelly McGonigal.

Seeing the Glass Half Full

By: Premier Sport Psychology

People often ask if your glass half full or half empty. This rhetorical question may actually be better referred to as a “loaded question.” When it comes to human behavior, our ability to make logical, sound reactions to the world around us is harder than what one may think. People have a tendency to not only focus on negative experiences, but to cling to them as well. Psychology has defined this tendency within its styles of negative thinking as negative filtering. The concept goes something like this: You have a tendency to focus on the negative. You may have a great performance with plenty of positive feedback from teammates, coaches and fans but one is mildly critical and you become all-consumed by this one reaction. You ignore all the positive feedback and focus primarily on the singular negative comment. If while reading this you could not relate to this concept of negative filtering, you have mastered a skill that very few have. However, more likely than not, this statement rung true to your experiences at some point or another. Looking at the initial question of our glasses being half full or half empty leads to an even better question: How do we defy our human tendencies toward the negative and consistently see our glasses as half full?

Allison Ledgerwood is a social psychologist that decided to tackle this question. She sought out to answer why it is that we let rejection and failure stick in our minds and let the positives pass quickly. She designed an experiment that intended to shed some light on the subject. The experiment consisted of two groups that were told about a new surgical procedure. Group 1 was initially told that the success rate of the procedure was 70% while Group 2 was told that the procedure had a 30% failure rate. Not surprisingly, Group 1 liked the procedure and Group 2 disliked it. It was then presented to Group 1 that they could think of the procedure as having a 30% failure rate. Conversely, Group 2 was told that they could view the procedure as having a 70% success rate. So what happened next? Group 1 changed their opinions and no longer liked the idea of the procedure, while Group 2 stuck to their initial opinion and still did not like the procedure. The study demonstrated that when a negative thought seeps into our brain, we have an extremely hard time seeing the positive. These results led researchers to believe that our minds naturally convert toward the negative implications of a situation…but just how easy is it to convert from negative to positive or vice versa?

In an extension of the initial study, participants were asked to solve a simple math problem. Again, two groups were formed but asked the same question two different ways:

Group 1: If 100 lives are saved, how many will be lost?

Group 2: If 100 lives are lost, how many will be saved?

The time it took for participants to solve the problem that went from gain to loss took around 7 seconds (Group 1). However, when calculating losses to gains, it took closer to 11 seconds (Group 2). This provides insight that our brains have an easier time processing loss/negatives but a much slower recovery when going from negatives to positives. For example, an athlete may be having the best game of their life and score a big goal and feel ecstatic about it. That same athlete could still be having the best game of their life but have one small mistake preceding their big goal. All of a sudden, the mentality has changed from, “Wow what a great goal–I am so happy!” to something more like, “It was the least I could have done after making a mistake.” While our brains may have a genetic disposition to find negatives and hold on to them, there are small steps we can take to find the positive out of situations as well. Perhaps that means letting our negative thoughts and judgments come and go. Maybe it means replacing negative self-talk with positive feedback. Next time, when you are confronted with a situation where it appears that your glass may be half full or half empty, remember that your perception is a choice. Your instinct may gear you toward the negative, but your mental strength can rebound you to see the positive.

To hear more suggestions on this topic, click here.

Bethany Brausen

Learn to Listen to Yourself

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff

NPR radio recently broadcast a segment called “Why Saying is Believing – The Science of Self-Talk”.  If you think it sounds like a waste of your time, you might need to change your self-talk. Laura Starecheski investigates the messages we send ourselves and the implications these messages have on our daily lives. While it may seem like a simple feat, the ability to use positive self-talk on a consistent basis is easier said than done. However, this skill–when mastered–can have major benefits on our well-being and can lead us to feeling “sexier, more successful, have better relationships, and even help start a money making business and chase dreams [we] didn’t even know [we] had.” Starecheski investigates these claims by finding leading researchers in their fields and picking their brains on…well, how we pick on our brains. David Sarwer from the University of Pennsylvania specializes in research on eating disorders and immediately places a mirror in front of patients when he begins working with them. He encourages them to stray away from using harsh, critical vocabulary when describing themselves, and instead incorporate more neutral references that help them reframe their negative thoughts. While listening to the program, I began thinking, “Yes, I see the value in this… However, they are still just thoughts…and how harmful can thoughts truly be?” 

Shortly after, my question was answered.

A study conducted in the Netherlands analyzed anorexic subjects, and noticed that while women walked though doorways they turned their shoulders and squeezed sideways even though they had plenty of room.  This was an indicator that their internal representation of themselves was that they were much bigger than they were in reality.  Studies like this (i.e., those that show the tremendous effects self-talk can have on our physical world) are not uncommon. So how do we overcome these small thoughts that can become big problems? Ethan Cross of the University of Michigan suggests that the use of third person self-talk may be a trick to help “rewire” our brains.  Cross uses Lebron James as an example of using third person self-talk.  n an exit interview in 2010, Lebron James talked about leaving Cleveland for the Miami Heat:

“One thing I didn’t want to do was make an emotional decision. And I wanted to do what was best for Lebron James, and what I could do to make Lebron James happy.”

In this instance, he was able to distance himself from his emotions and look at a situation from a more neutral, logical standpoint. Cross furthered this idea with research of his own, confirming what he had already hypothesized. When people used third person self-talk and referred to themselves by name rather than “me” or “I”, subjects were significantly more rational, less emotional and were able to provide themselves with encouragement and advice.

Our self-talk shapes not only our internal world but our external world as well.  More often than you may think, the internal representations we create of ourselves are vastly different than reality. The skill of developing healthy, positive self-talk is not only beneficial, but also vital for our well-being and success. If you think otherwise, ironically you may just be the perfect candidate for strengthening your self-talk.

 

 

 

 

Mental Preparation For Your Game

By: Premier Sport Psychology

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:

Mindfulness:  Mindfulness has been shown to significantly increase athletes’ performance. Before a game, your brain can be going in a million different directions–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: Lots of athletes get caught up in thinking about the outcome of the game before they go out to compete (e.g., score, win/loss, making the line-up, how they play, etc.) rather than focusing on the PROCESS of performing well. The PROCESS is all the how-to parts of playing a great game (e.g., staying relaxed, confident play, good communication on the field, aggressive start, holding form, quick feet, etc.)! We know that athletes who focus on the process and let the outcome take care of itself, actually perform better. Try not to get sucked into worrying about the uncontrollable aspects of the game (e.g., the weather, ref calls, opponents’ skill level, coach’s decisions, etc.). Rather, before and during a game, zone-in on what you can control such as your attitude, effort, preparation and mindset!