Tag: sportpsychology

March Madness and Focus

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff

 

March Madness is here, and fans are itching to see which NCAA Division 1 men’s and women’s basketball teams will be the last ones standing. People from all over the United States have made predictions about which teams will advance and which ones will crumble. Logic, however, rarely gets its way when it comes to March Madness. Every year, we witness unexpected upsets and blowouts. So why are some teams more clutch than others when it comes to the games that matter most? The answer may lie heavily in the players’ abilities to exercise one mental skill properly––focus. Every team in the tournament has physical talent, there’s no doubt about that. They are all well-trained and conditioned for highly competitive moments like these, but which teams can truthfully say that they are as prepared mentally as they are physically? Those who can are the teams who will likely wind up advancing furthest in the tournament.

There are two primary ways in which players can enhance their focus on the court. The first method involves concentrating on the processes and actions which have helped them to achieve success during past games. Some athletes almost involuntarily form game-day consistent routines over time as they progress in their careers. These may include things such as listening to pre-game music to calm nerves, taking the same number of dribbles before a free throw, or thinking back to past achievements and attempting to replicate the actions and mindset which aided in attaining those achievements. Players who have not yet created routines could greatly benefit from doing so, as these may help them to focus on the task at hand, as opposed to becoming overwhelmed or letting their nerves get the best of them. By performing dependable procedures and drawing on previous successes throughout each game, players are able to build confidence through consistency. Rather than merely focusing on the score and on wanting to win, they are keyed into the processes which can ultimately help them to do so.

A second way players can amplify their level of focus is by thinking about the controllables of the game rather than the uncontrollables. Within the sport of basketball, uncontrollables may include factors such as expectations from others, qualities of the opposing team (e.g., size, speed, skills, reputation, and character), playing time, and calls made by the refs (Competitive Advantage, 1999). Concentrating on these aspects of the game takes mental energy away from a player’s own actions and from what they as an individual can do to perform optimally. If a player cannot change something, then the only way to get around it is to deal with what they can change. Doing so inevitably helps them navigate the unchangeable factors of the game, thereby giving them a better shot at winning. Controllables such as communication, hustle, drive, aggressive play, and encouragement of teammates are all examples of factors which can have significant effects on the outcome of a basketball game.

The games during March Madness are not the only ones for which focus is paramount. In fact, this idea is not at all exclusive to basketball. No matter your sport, it is advantageous to concentrate on the processes which have helped you to be successful in the past. Additionally, everyone can benefit from allowing themselves to let go of what they cannot control, because doing so frees up the mind to focus on the things which can be done to maximize success. It is a waste of time and energy to think about and dwell on how you could change something that you do not have power over. In the same light, concerning yourself only with the aspects of the competition which are within your control can substantially help you in bringing your A-game during those clutch moments. Focus is key for all of us, because if your mind is not where you need it to be, then it is very likely that your results won’t be, either.

 

Competitive Advantage. (1999, October). Staying Cool and Calm in the Clutch. [Web log comment]. Retrieved from https://www.competitivedge.com/staying-cool-and-calm-clutch

Coach’s Corner. (n.d.). 7 Keys to Becoming a More Focused Basketball Player. [Web log comment]. Retrieved from http://www.ussportscamps.com/tips/basketball/7-keys-focused-basketball-player

 

 

Effective Team Captains

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff

 

Derek Jeter.  Tom Brady.  Kobe Bryant.  Three polarizing men that have forever left an imprint on the sports they play.  Regardless of your view on these three individuals, each of these athletes have shown uncommon leadership in their respective roles as team captain. Showing the kind of leadership that has transcended their position, their teams, and at times, their sports.  The influence they each have had is remarkable in that they continually made their teammates better when they stepped into the competition.  They modeled excellence in their respective sports while directing their teams toward victory, and it was the influence they possessed that made them such great captains for their teams (Hackman, 2011).  This influence can be broken into three important characteristics: care, courage, and consistency.  It is these three characteristics that make a team captain a great captain and played an important role in Derek Jeter, Tom Brady and Kobe Bryant’s lives of leadership.

Derek Jeter, a retired baseball player for the New York Yankees, has been a leader who shows he genuinely cares.  But what does it mean to care as a leader?  A study done by Lauer and Blue showed that being an effective team captain involves having an overflow of passion for teammates, the game, and competition.  This passion for one’s teammates has an elevated importance to a captain, as one task the captain often partakes of is conflict resolution.  A caring captain will show sensitivity to individual differences between teammates and will present solutions in a positive manner during times of conflict.  This individuality and positivity makes an effective leader, as it involves placing the team’s success before one’s personal desires and needs (Lauer & Blue).  Andy Pettitte, who played alongside Jeter for 13 seasons, said about his commitment, “We play in a city where a whole lot of stuff is made out of what’s going on around us.  The reason why Derek has thrived is because he keeps it simple.  He doesn’t let everything clutter his mind.  He is focused on one thing – to take care of the team’s business.  He continuously pushes everyone around him to focus even during the difficult times.  He often will take the stress upon his own shoulders so the rest of us can focus on playing” (Lennon, 2013).  Pettitte’s sentiments speak to Jeter’s ability to put the team before himself, and to be a source of clarity and discipline when distractions threaten team performance.  Many players, like Ichiro Suzuki, stayed to play with the Yankees, not because of New York or the Yankees, but because of Jeter – a player who cared (Lennon, 2013).

Courage is also a key characteristic among effective captains.  Captains are often seen as the model of excellence in a team because they step up when necessary and are not afraid to compete in the worst situations; they are known to “walk the talk” (Lauer & Blue).  A good captain sets the example for the team by displaying and encouraging the values of the team on and off the field.  Tom Brady did just that during the 2017 Super Bowl.  With the Patriots down by 25 points, Brady pulled his team together and reminded them of why they are playing in the Super Bowl.  He never gave up.  In the fourth quarter with seconds on the clock, he threw a pass into triple coverage.  A decision that he had made on his own after running the clock for 15 seconds and neither of his desired options were open.  An extremely risky pass, tipped by the defense, Brady’s pass was made complete.  Brady is an example of courage as he makes plays with seconds to go that have led his team to many victories (Rohan, 2017).  He is a leader that has been known to be a reliable player, taking the blame for his mistakes and the mistakes of his team.  Brady steps up when necessary even in the most difficult situations on and off the field (Economy, 2017). Matthew Slater said this about Brady in an interview, “We look to him. We have a lot of confidence in him as a player, as a leader, as a teammate, and as a friend. We are thankful he is on our side.” Brady puts a lot of work in to see the success of his team be achieved.

Lastly: Consistency. Consistency is when a captain is holding himself to a high standard, giving it his all in games, and continuing to be caring and courageous when things don’t go their way.  This often causes the individual to become more vocal on and off the court through actions and words (Hackman, 2011).  32,482 career points have given athletes 32,482 reasons to look up to Kobe Bryant.  Yet his example transcends his statistics. (Hansford, 2015).  “There aren’t too many people who understand how you bring it, night after night after night, for all those years at that level, and he is one of the guys who did it,” said coach Greg Popovich.  The consistency that Bryant brought to the court every game was exemplary; he focused on pushing himself and others to be the best version of themselves.  He truly is a man worth recognizing for his love of the game.

Care, courage, and consistency are characteristics that will enhance the influence a captain has on his teammates, and, in turn, lead to success.  These characteristics have created captains who are known to be the glue that holds their teams together while leading their team to victory.

 

References:

Economy, P. (2017, February 4). These 7 Leadership Traits Make Tom Brady the Greatest Quarterback Ever. Retrieve March 2nd, 2017, fromhttp://www.inc.com/peter-economy/these-7-leadership-traits-make-tom-brady-the-greatest-quarterback-ever.html

Hackman, R. (2011, March 1). Do Teams Need Leaders? Retrieved February 27th, 2017, fromhttp://insights.som.yale.edu/insights/do-teams-need-leaders

Hansford, C. (2015, February 16). Kobe Bryant on Leadership: ‘You’re not going to please everybody.’ Retrieved March 2nd, 2017, fromhttp://www.lakersnation.com/kobe-bryant-on-leadership-youre-not-going-to-please-everybody/2015/02/16/

Lauer, L. & Blue, K. Association for Applied Sport Psychology: The 3 C’s of Being a Captain. Retrieved February 20th, 2017, fromhttp://www.appliedsportpsych.org/resources/resources-for-athletes/the-3-c-s-of-being-a-captain/

Lennon, D. (2013, March 30). Those Who Know Him Speak Glowingly of Derek Jeter’s Leadership. Retrieved March 7th, 2017,http://www.newsday.com/sports/baseball/yankees/those-who-know-him-speak-glowingly-of-derek-jeter-s-leadership-1.4961273

Rohan, T. (2017, February 5). The Greatest Comeback Ever. Retrieve March 8th, 2017, from http://mmqb.si.com/mmqb/2017/02/05/nfl-super-bowl-51-new-england-patriots-tom-brady-bill-belichick-fifth-super-bowl-ring

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