SPINw Consultant Eric Bergreen was a national champion shot putter at UCLA. We recently asked him to comment on this article discussing Michelle Carter’s mental training. Here’s what he had to say:
As a former shot putter I was thrilled to see Chris Chavez of Sports Illustrated interview Michelle Carter
to discuss her success after the 2016 Olympic gold win. The shot put might not be glamorous to many
but it is far from “playing fetch with yourself.” To be the best you have to have great technical talent and
the ability to manage high pressure situations. I think you might agree that the Olympics is about as high
pressure as it gets for an athlete. Michelle Carter, daughter of Michael Carter, not only has tremendous
physicality in her genes, but understands the type of physical and mental training required to be her
best. In the interview she discusses utilizing a sport psychiatrist to help her learn how to max out her
mental strength. She uses techniques such as Imagery and self -talk to control the chatter in her head
that often leads to ineffective thoughts.
She visualized her competition and normalized the experience stating “I throw against these girls all the
time. She visualized the setting she would be in, the feeling of the stadium and the intensity of the
crowd. She visualized being in a calm energetically balanced state of being. This type of mental rehearsal
can train the mind to experience upcoming events as if you have done it a thousand times before. That
leads to amazing confidence. Michelle has a fantastic ability to keep her mind on the controllable factors
and stop thinking about the problems she may face with her competition. With self-talk she was able to
keep her mind from going into overboard fight or flight, reminding herself that the “Olympics was just
another track meet” with all the faces she has seen several times before. These energy management
techniques help her to stay on the good side of nervousness and keep the jitters down.
One of the last competitive skills she discussed was something I’ve tried to teach athletes many times in
the past. There is a time to train and a time to rest. That is an incredibly wise mental skill to possess. To
get to the high levels of athletic competition requires tremendous hard work. I often see athletes
become so focused and driven to push themselves that they don’t take the time to let their body heal
from all the stress and strain it’s been put through. I watched one of my teammates in college, the
hardest working man I know, wear himself down, and break himself down through over training. The
result was injury and sickness resulting in a missed opportunity at the NCAA Championships.
To get to the big competitions you have put in the time and perfect your physical body, lots of hard
intense work outs. To get through the big competitions and reach your potential you have to learn how
to get the mind into the mental zone state of being energetically balanced, focused, and confident.
Michelle Carter is mastering those skills and I love it!