Tag: 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/

 

 

QUIZ (DISTANCE RUNNING): What does your attentional focus type say about your race performance?

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff

If you are a distance runner, it’s quite possible that you are familiar with the question, “What do you focus on during such a long race?” This may be especially true for those of you who run marathons. 26.2 grueling miles’ worth of running, which typically equates to several hours, is more than plenty of time for your mind to really hone in on something—whether that be your running form, your levels of exertion and pain, the people around you, your breathing, or simply the ground in front of you. So it’s only natural for those who do not compete in long-distance races to wonder how you mentally make it through, and just what you could possibly be thinking about that whole time.

Yet, have you ever asked yourself these questions? Do you voluntarily choose where to put your focus during a race, or have you even considered the idea that your decision could have significant effects on your performance? Take the quiz in order to find out if and how you can possibly improve your race results—just in time for this year’s Boston Marathon.

 

1. Where do you put the majority of your focus during a race?

A) Externally: I tend to focus most on my surroundings, e.g., other runners, the scenery, my music, or the crowd and people who are cheering me on –– go to question 2

B) Internally: I tend to focus most on my breathing and/or other immanent factors, e.g., physical sensations, speed, pain, running form, or perceived exertion –– go to question 3

 

2. Do you believe that having a primarily external focus helps your performance, or is your area of focus and attention something you hope to change in order to improve?

A) I think that keeping my focus on my surroundings makes me run faster and/or more efficiently than focusing on internal factors and sensations. –– result: E/E

B) I think that I could improve my overall race performance if I were to shift my primary focus from external to internal conditions. –– go to question 4

C) I don’t think it really matters. –– result: X

 

3. Have you ever been told that you should focus on your breathing during a race, did you do so, and did that seem to positively affect your performance?

A) Yes, I have been told to focus on my breathing. I did so, and I believe that it helped me. –– go to question 5

B) Yes, I have been told to focus on my breathing. I did so, and I believe that it either did nothing in regards to my overall performance or negatively affected it. –– go to question 6

C) Yes, I have been told to focus on my breathing. But I did not actually do so, because it seemed like either it would negatively impact my performance or it would be pointless. –– go to question 6

D) No, I cannot recall having been told to focus on my breathing. –– go to question 6

 

4. In what way do you believe that remaining internally-focused throughout the majority a race could most positively affect you?

A) I don’t think it would necessarily help me run a faster time, but it could help me avoid pain by allowing me to monitor and correctly pace myself and/or by allowing me to concentrate on running form and thus decrease chance of injury. OR, it could help me in some other way, but still, it would not improve my overall race time. –– result: E/X

B) It would help me run a faster time because I can focus on form and thereby maximize my running efficiency. –– result: E/I

C) It would help me run a faster time because I can pay more attention to how I am pacing myself. –– result: E/I

D) It would help me run a faster time for a reason other than the options listed above. –– result: E/I

 

5. Do you believe that focusing on your breathing throughout a race would always or almost always help you run a faster time?

A) Yes, focusing on breathing while I race is something which has continued and/or can continue to boost my performance. –– result: B/B

B) No, focusing on my breathing was just something which helped me that one time, and I don’t believe that it will (likely) continue to be something which helps me throughout races in the future. –– go to question 6

 

6. Do you believe that having a primarily internal focus helps your performance, or is your area of focus and attention something you hope to change in order to improve?

A) I think that keeping my focus internal makes me run faster and/or more efficiently than focusing on external factors. –– result: I/I

B) I think that I could improve my overall race performance if I were to shift my primary focus from internal to external conditions. –– go to question 7

C) I don’t think it really matters. –– result: X

 

7. In what way do you believe that remaining externally focused throughout the majority of a race could most positively affect you?

A) I don’t think it would necessarily help me run a faster time, but it could help me avoid pain by distracting me. OR, it could help me in some other way, but still, it would not improve my overall race time. –– result: I/X

B) It would help me run a faster time because I can focus on passing/staying ahead of other runners. –– result: I/E

C) It would help me run a faster time because it could help me avoid pain by distracting me, thus allowing me to push myself harder. –– result: I/E

D) It would help me run a faster time for a reason other than the options listed above. –– result: I/E

 

Results:

E/E

Whether it is your music, the crowd, the scenery, the course itself, or other runners, you pay most attention to factors which are outside of your body and/or its physical sensations. You also do not plan on changing this direction of attentional focus anytime soon. Good news—not only are you right to be focusing on external conditions, but you are also correct in deeming this something which does not need to be changed. Running economy, defined in terms of oxygen consumption at sub-maximum running speed (so not during all-out sprinting), is maximized when you choose not to place your focus on internal factors and instead direct it externally. This means that at a given running speed, you consume less oxygen when your focus is directed externally than you do when it is directed internally. Or, you can look at it this way: at a given level of oxygen consumption, your running speed while focusing externally is faster than it is while focusing internally. Thus, it is likely that directing your attention outside of yourself when racing creates a better running economy, a better running economy means less depletion of physiological resources at a given speed, and less depletion of resources means running a faster overall time (Schücker, Hagemann, Strauss, & Völker, 2009).

 

X

Even though you believe that it doesn’t matter where you put your focus during a race, you took this quiz. So whether it was out of boredom, curiosity, or some sliver of doubt in your belief, you were nonetheless right in doing so. The good news, therefore, is that you are already on the right track. The first step to improving is realizing that you have both the potential and the desire to do so. And if you do, in fact, hope to improve your running times, then you have completed step one. Running economy, defined in terms of oxygen consumption at sub-maximum running speed (so not during all-out sprinting), is maximized when you choose not to place your focus on internal factors (e.g., physical sensations, speed, pain, running form, or perceived exertion) and instead direct it externally (e.g., focusing on your music, the crowd, the scenery, the course itself, or other runners). This means that at a given running speed, you consume less oxygen when your focus is directed externally than you do when it is directed internally. Or, you can look at it this way: at a given level of oxygen consumption, your running speed while focusing externally is faster than it is while focusing internally. Thus, it is likely that directing your attention outside of yourself when racing creates a better running economy, a better running economy means less depletion of physiological resources at a given speed, and less depletion of resources means running a faster overall time (Schücker, Hagemann, Strauss, & Völker, 2009).

 

E/X

Whether it is your music, the crowd, the scenery, the course itself, or other runners, you pay most attention to factors which are outside of your body and/or its physical sensations. Even if you did not realize it, you have been putting your attention where it is most beneficial to your running economy—so despite being previously unaware that direction of attentional focus could affect your times, you are already in a good habit. Running economy, defined in terms of oxygen consumption at sub-maximum running speed (so not during all-out sprinting), is maximized when you choose not to place your focus on internal factors (e.g., physical sensations, speed, pain, running form, or perceived exertion) and instead direct it externally. This means that at a given running speed, you consume less oxygen when your focus is directed externally than you do when it is directed internally. Or, you can look at it this way: at a given level of oxygen consumption, your running speed while focusing externally is faster than it is while focusing internally. Thus, it is likely that directing your attention outside of yourself when racing creates a better running economy, a better running economy means less depletion of physiological resources at a given speed, and less depletion of resources means running a faster overall time (Schücker, Hagemann, Strauss, & Völker, 2009).

 

E/I

Whether it is your music, the crowd, the scenery, the course itself, or other runners, you pay most attention to factors which are outside of your body and/or its physical sensations. Even if you did not realize it, you are already putting your focus where it will likely maximize your running economy, so there is no need to change. Running economy, defined in terms of oxygen consumption at sub-maximum running speed (so not during all-out sprinting), is maximized when you choose not to place your focus on internal factors (e.g., physical sensations, speed, pain, running form, or perceived exertion) and instead direct it externally. This means that at a given running speed, you consume less oxygen when your focus is directed externally than you do when it is directed internally. Or, you can look at it this way: at a given level of oxygen consumption, your running speed while focusing externally is faster than it is while focusing internally. Thus, it is likely that directing your attention outside of yourself when racing creates a better running economy, a better running economy means less depletion of physiological resources at a given speed, and less depletion of resources means running a faster overall time (Schücker, Hagemann, Strauss, & Völker, 2009).

 

B/B

Whether it is your physical sensations, speed, amount and category of pain, running form, or levels of perceived exertion, you pay most attention to factors internal to your body. Additionally, and as a subtype of these internal conditions, you put intentional focus on your breathing. However, breathing is likely the most sub-optimal direction of attentional focus during endurance races—at least in terms of running economy, that is. But good news: you are now on the right track. The first step to improving is realizing that you have both the potential and the desire to do so. And if you do, in fact, hope to improve your running times, then in taking this quiz you have completed step one. Running economy, defined in terms of oxygen consumption at sub-maximum running speed (so not during all-out sprinting), is maximized when you choose not to place your focus on internal factors and instead direct it externally (e.g., focusing on your music, the crowd, the scenery, the course itself, or other runners). This means that at a given running speed, you consume less oxygen when your focus is directed externally than you do when it is directed internally. Or, you can look at it this way: at a given level of oxygen consumption, your running speed while focusing externally is faster than it is while focusing internally. Thus, it is likely that directing your attention outside of yourself when racing creates a better running economy, a better running economy means less depletion of physiological resources at a given speed, and less depletion of resources means running a faster overall time (Schücker, Hagemann, Strauss, & Völker, 2009).

 

I/I

Whether it is your physical sensations, speed, amount and category of pain, running form, or levels of perceived exertion, you pay most attention to factors internal to your body. However, the most optimal direction of attentional focus during endurance races—in terms of running economy, at least—is not internal. But good news: you are now on the right track. The first step to improving is realizing that you have both the potential and the desire to do so. And if you do, in fact, hope to improve your running times, then in taking this quiz you have completed step one. Running economy, defined in terms of oxygen consumption at sub-maximum running speed (so not during all-out sprinting), is maximized when you choose not to place your focus on internal factors and instead direct it externally (e.g., focusing on your music, the crowd, the scenery, the course itself, or other runners). This means that at a given running speed, you consume less oxygen when your focus is directed externally than you do when it is directed internally. Or, you can look at it this way: at a given level of oxygen consumption, your running speed while focusing externally is faster than it is while focusing internally. Thus, it is likely that directing your attention outside of yourself when racing creates a better running economy, a better running economy means less depletion of physiological resources at a given speed, and less depletion of resources means running a faster overall time (Schücker, Hagemann, Strauss, & Völker, 2009).

 

I/X

Whether it is your physical sensations, speed, amount and category of pain, running form, or levels of perceived exertion, you pay most attention to factors internal to your body. However, the most optimal direction of attentional focus during endurance races—in terms of running economy, at least—is not internal. But good news: you are now on the right track. The first step to improving is realizing that you have both the potential and the desire to do so. And if you do, in fact, hope to improve your running times, then in taking this quiz you have completed step one. Running economy, defined in terms of oxygen consumption at sub-maximum running speed (so not during all-out sprinting), is maximized when you choose not to place your focus on internal factors and instead direct it externally (e.g., focusing on your music, the crowd, the scenery, the course itself, or other runners). This means that at a given running speed, you consume less oxygen when your focus is directed externally than you do when it is directed internally. Or, you can look at it this way: at a given level of oxygen consumption, your running speed while focusing externally is faster than it is while focusing internally. Thus, it is likely that directing your attention outside of yourself when racing creates a better running economy, a better running economy means less depletion of physiological resources at a given speed, and less depletion of resources means running a faster overall time (Schücker, Hagemann, Strauss, & Völker, 2009).

 

I/E

Whether it is your physical sensations, speed, amount and category of pain, running form, or levels of perceived exertion, you pay most attention to factors internal to your body—yet you hope to change this. The most optimal direction of attentional focus during endurance races—in terms of running economy, at least—is not internal. So good news: you are now on the right track. Running economy, defined in terms of oxygen consumption at sub-maximum running speed (so not during all-out sprinting), is maximized when you choose not to place your focus on internal factors and instead direct it externally (e.g., focusing on your music, the crowd, the scenery, the course itself, or other runners). This means that at a given running speed, you consume less oxygen when your focus is directed externally than you do when it is directed internally. Or, you can look at it this way: at a given level of oxygen consumption, your running speed while focusing externally is faster than it is while focusing internally. Thus, it is likely that directing your attention outside of yourself when racing creates a better running economy, a better running economy means less depletion of physiological resources at a given speed, and less depletion of resources means running a faster overall time (Schücker, Hagemann, Strauss, & Völker, 2009).

 

 

 

Reference:
Schücker, L., Hagemann, N., Strauss, B., & Völker, K. (2009). The effect of attentional focus on running economy. Journal of Sports Sciences, 27(12), 1241-1248. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02640410903150467

 

 

Stanley Cup Playoffs

By: Premier Sport Psychology

The Stanley cup is the oldest and most revered trophy in professional sports. Originally donated to the “professional hockey club of the dominion of Canada” in 1892, it has since become the crown jewel of the NHL, traveling to the headquarters of each NHL champion since 1958 (Schwartz, 2017). Players not only leave their legacies engraved upon the cup, in a tradition unique to the NHL, they are each allowed one day with the cup to celebrate how they please. The cup has traveled to Europe, been used for baptisms, schlepped up mountains, and has even been shared with the winner of the Kentucky Derby (Anderson, 2016). Yet despite its many travels and travails, there are 11 teams who have never won the Stanley Cup.  

So what helps teams and organizations put themselves into a position to raise Lord Stanley’s cup?  One philosophy and contributing factor is infusing an adaptable playing style in high pressure game situations. “What compels adaptability are two things: the skill to notice a gap between where you are and where you need to be to be effective, and the will to close that gap” (Boss, 2016).  It will not solely matter if a team has a head coach that has been to or won a cup before in order to make it there this playoff season.  It is eminently more important a coach makes it a point to tweak lines and game plans based on the strengths of the team members. An example of this is Minnesota Wild’s Bruce Boudreau’s development of an up-tempo attacking style for players like Charlie Coyle and Mikael Granlund who both had career-best totals last season with 42 and 44 points respectively. By using their strengths of speed and agility to their advantage, both players have already surpassed their previous season point totals with flying colors prior to reaching playoffs this season (Dowd, 2017).  

This adaptive mentality can be beneficial for all coaches and players alike. Coaches who know the chemistry of their players/team members can use adaptability as a tool to develop effective game plans for their team’s success. Additionally, when players and coaches work as a cohesive unit, adapting to each other’s strengths and weaknesses, it is then that the team is able to produce optimal levels of performance. Coaches that depend less on one or two of their players and instead adapt and mold players together will be hard to beat.

With all of that being said, coaching takes commitment and hard work-Not only to teach concepts and strategy to the players, but to really learn and understand the environment that each player thrives best in. Whether that means a player performs better with one teammate than another, or he needs the speed ramped up to be more successful, a good coach will do whatever is needed to get all players playing at their best. It may take some compromise along the way, but with the help of careful thought and deliberate change, adaptations will greatly be to the coach’s advantage.  

As the Stanley Cup playoffs begin, I encourage you all to think about ways in which you too can add adaptability into your sports repertoire. Displayed by both hockey players and coaches alike, you will find that team performance is greatly enhanced when each member can play to each other’s strengths, not just their own.

Katie Lubben

References:

Anderson, C. (2016). The 10 Craziest Stanley Cup Celebrations

http://www.goliath.com/sports/the-10-craziest-stanley-cup-celebrations/

Boss, J. (2016). The Most Effective Teams Adapt to Change

https://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffboss/2016/06/07/the-most-effective-teams-adapt-to-change/#6e918ad279b7

Dowd, J. (2017). The Minnesota Wild Will Avoid Its Annual Collapse This Season
http://www.hockeywilderness.com/2017/1/12/14235208/minnesota-wild-will-avoid-annual-collapse-bruce-boudreau-has-team-playing-well-coaching-life-cycle

Schwartz, J. (1997-2017). Legends of Hockey- NHL trophies- Stanley Cup https://www.hhof.com/htmlSilverware/silver_splashstanleycup.shtml