Tag: Team

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

Adversity: (N.) Fortunate Misfortune

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff

 

Imagine that right now, you are given a piece of paper. On this paper is a list, and this list contains all of the painful, frustrating, and heartbreaking experiences that you will have within the future of your athletic career. You are then given the option to cross off any or all of the items, thereby eliminating them from your life’s timeline and saving yourself from facing these setbacks down the road. Would you do so? Or what if: you are given the list, but you cannot change anything on it. You can, however, move to a new sport so as to avoid these otherwise inevitable experiences. Would you change sports in hopes of finding a smoother, more pleasant path toward your ultimate goals

Assuming that your desire is to maximize overall success, and that you want to become the best athlete you can be, you should have answered “no” to these questions. (This is also assuming that the setbacks are not so disabling as to cause PTSD or long-term trauma, as not all adversity has positive outcomes.) However, if you replied with “yes” to either of them, don’t be so hard on yourself. It is our natural instinct as humans to avoid danger and pain, so of course you wouldn’t look at that list and automatically shout, “Yes! I really want to go through all of these horrible events!” Yet…are they really so horrible? In the moment, yes, they very likely are. But with one or more people who are there to support you, and with the prerequisite skills and attitudes, these events are actually not horrible in the long run. In fact, they are beneficial, as they will likely move you further toward your goals than you may have travelled otherwise (Savage, Collins, & Cruickshank, 2017)

To gain an understanding as to why exactly this is, let’s step back for a moment and take a look at what can occur when an athlete experiences a setback. Let’s say, for example, that you get sick, and it’s the middle of the season. You are forced to sit out and rest until you recover, and this is likely frustrating in and of itself. But then when you return to practice, you are significantly weaker, and you feel as though you lost all the endurance that you had worked so hard to build up throughout the past few months. At this point, you essentially have two options. You can throw in the towel and give up on the season. Or, despite feeling angry and disappointed, you can proceed to work relentlessly—not only toward the level which you were once at, but also toward surpassing this level and becoming even greater. In this scenario, you choose the latter. You are somewhat disheartened, but your unwavering desire to reach your goals drives a determination within you which is greater than your sense of defeat.

Later in your career, you are able to see the full picture when looking back. Getting sick in the heart of the season had seemed like a purely unfortunate event. Nothing good came of it at the time. You couldn’t change it, so you gave all that you had in your fight to return to the top. And maybe the season didn’t turn out the way that you had hoped, but you now realize that you augmented your resilience and mental toughness as a result of the way in which you dealt with the setback. The overall payoff thus proved itself to be greater in magnitude than the initial negative impact of the adversity (Savage et al., 2017).

There are three aspects of this example which are important to recognize. First, when faced with the decision as to whether you wanted to confront the challenge head-on or accept the misfortune, you strengthened your resolve and chose the former. This decision was made by you, not for you (i.e., by someone else). Second, when struggling to get back on your feet and working through the grind, you employed the skills, attitude, and knowledge which you already had, including the initiative to seek external support (e.g., from family members, coaches, or trained psychologists). Even before this incident, you were a motivated, resilient, hard-working, and mentally tough athlete. It is also likely that you had previously witnessed others bounce back from injury or illness, so you had a sense of what it would take. And third, you learned from your experience by subsequently reflecting upon it, thus adding to the personal growth with which it enabled you (Savage et al., 2017).

Though it’s tempting, you should not erase your future adversities from that theoretical list. Similarly, it is not advantageous for you to constantly avoid situations which yield the possibility of failure or disappointment. Frustration and heartbreak can work to your benefit in the long run, given that you have the necessary mental tools and prior skillset to navigate them and pick yourself back up. These skills are consequently refined and strengthened, and your experience becomes a resource that you can draw upon when faced with adversity down the road. As such, setbacks cause an initial drop in perceived performance potential, but their subsequent rebounds exceed the magnitude of the drop (Savage et al., 2017).

Competition is not easy—physically or mentally. When things get tough, you need to be tough, too. Being faced with a major obstacle can at times, though, be tremendously upsetting; it can be scary, or stressful, or simply exhausting. But here’s the beautiful thing about pain: it can help you learn, it can help you grow, and it can be the catalyst for accomplishments that you had once never imagined possible.

 

Savage, J., Collins, D., & Cruickshank, A. (2017). Exploring traumas in the development of talent: what are they, what do they do, and what do they require? Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 29(1), 101-117. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10413200.2016.1194910

 

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.

 

 

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

Communication in Play

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff

 

Take a minute to think about the various ways you communicate on a day-to-day basis. The first few things that come to mind may be talking, texting, or through some form of social media. Even though most communication is nonverbal, when asked about communication, our instinct is to think about the different types of verbal communication we use. That said, my goal here is not to advocate for the importance of nonverbal communication, but rather to help you think about how both verbal and nonverbal communication and interactions can be optimized in order for teams to function at their best.

Athletes win and lose games because of split-second decisions, and, depending on the sport, their decisions are rooted in the information gained from a teammate, coach, or opponent. Whether it’s a coach yelling to shoot the ball or a teammate waving her arms frantically because she’s open under the basket, communication is one of the most important factors in the success of a team.

Verbal communication is the bedrock of a healthy team. Relationships on the rink, field, and court are built through conversation, a necessary ingredient for team camaraderie and fine-tuning team strategies. Verbal communication amongst a team increases its competitiveness due to enabling more productivity and therefore higher performance (Hanson, 2016).

If we consider verbal communication the bedrock, nonverbal communication is what can take a team to the next level. The nonverbal signs passed from teammate to teammate are frequently a predictor of failure or success amongst the team (Goldberg, 2015). Some of the most common nonverbal signs you see in sports are a flash of an eyebrow, tilting at the torso, or the chin solute. But simply using these to communicate doesn’t result in success. The key is for these signs to be interpreted by teammates the way the athlete intended, and it is that interpretation of the nonverbal communication that can make or break a team (Edwards, 2014).

So how do we increase communication among team members? Step one is to evaluate the goals and values of your team. All players and coaches must be on the same page when understanding the team’s values. This will create a platform for each individual to naturally communicate with one another. Step two is learning how to interpret each other’s communication. As communication is fostered throughout the season you will be able to learn how to interpret each player’s differences in communication (Janssen, 2014). This will grow a close-knit connection between you and your teammates, preparing you for competition.

As you continue to watch or play sports, focus on the verbal and nonverbal communication teams have. Identify ways in which you as a player can improve your personal communication as well as your interpretation of team members’ communication while in competiting.

 

References:
Edwards, Vanessa Van. (2014). Body Language in Sports
Goldberg, Jeff. (2015). Sports & Nonverbal Communication
Hanson, Bo. (2016). Importance of Communication in Sports
Janssen, Jeff. (2014). Improving Communication Among Athletes

 

 

In a Slump? Turn to Your Team

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff

 

Slumps are inevitable. Every athlete, every coach, and every team experiences them at one time or another. They occur for a myriad of reasons: chronic injury, inability to maintain focus, or a combination of the two and more. No matter the cause, our first and foremost priority is escaping the slump. However, while doing so, many athletes press, leading them to an extended and possibly worse slump.

The Minnesota Lynx have lost five out of their last nine games. Not a horrific slump—they’re not on a nine game losing streak—but still, for a team that has been known to excel, playing below .500 is not where they want to be. Recently Lynx Coach Cheryl Reeve was asked about how her team plans to improve:

“We’re going to try to keep perspective about things,” Reeve said. “We know what our challenges are. We’re working really, really hard to be a good basketball team. Every day. Every moment we spend together is a step forward.’’

Every moment they spend together is a step forward. Often in slumps we get stuck in a bad rhythm and try to pull ourselves out of it. We stay late to practice, spend more time visualizing, and do everything we can to make ourselves better. However, we sometimes forget that we are not alone in the situation. Even if the team is succeeding and individuals are slumping, we are not alone. Utilize your team. It doesn’t matter if you play an “individual” sport; you may not have “teammates,” but you have a team. You have a team of people who strive to help you reach your full potential. Leaning on other people for support is a necessity—we can pick each other up. Your team knows your skills as well as you do; they work with you day in and day out to help you improve. As the old adage goes, two heads are better than one. You don’t need to solve your slumps by yourself. Much of the work may need to be done by yourself, but you don’t need to go through them alone. Your team is there to help and support you. As Coach Reeve said, every moment you work with each other is a step forward. Next time you’re in a slump, reach out to your team. Chances are they’ve been in a similar situation and know how to help you out.