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So far Brian Baxter has created 180 blog entries.

Anger and Performance: Sport Psychology Techniques for dealing with extreme emotions

“Anybody can become angry — that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, and to the right degree and at the right time, and for the right purpose, and in the right way — that is not within everybody’s power, and is not easy.” —Aristotle An essential element of sport psychology is dealing with the emotions that come with competitive athletics. Whether you are an athlete, a coach, a referee, a parent, or a fan, the higher the level of competition, the higher the emotional level can become. And the higher the emotional level, the more important it becomes to control and manage those emotions. One exercise I lead my athletes through is to identify which emotions help their performance and which emotions hurt their performance. For a vast majority of my clients, there are more emotions that negatively affect how they play than positively affect. This awareness is key to developing strategies to handle the negative emotions, and even use them for your benefit. There are some emotions that athletes identify that sometimes help and sometimes hurt their performance. Among them: aggressiveness, caution, stubbornness, and surprise. But by far, the most common is anger. Athletes describe it this way: “Sometimes I get angry and it makes me focus and play better. Sometimes I get angry and it makes me play erratic and out of control.” That is important information to know, and to come up with a plan to make sure you harness your anger for positive, instead of letting the anger control you and your actions. If we take Aristotle’s quote above, let’s examine these questions: Who Are You Angry With? This is a big factor in whether anger is [...]

5 Things Amazing Sports Parents Do

   Brian Baxter with older son, Hawk Raising a young athlete can be at the same time: rewarding and frustrating, exhilarating and boring, energizing and exhausting!  A few years ago, I wrote about Being a Student of Parenting - really taking this crazy world of youth sports and making it about learning how to be a better parent. Since 1999, SPINw has worked with thousands of youth and high school athletes to help them build or re-build confidence, improve focus, set goals, and deal with the pressure of elite level sports. This process always involves the parents!  As the young athlete learns new techniques, the parents are their best support system, and also need tools to help. So, read on to find out 5 Things Amazing Sports Parents Do: 1 - They keep the BIG PICTURE in mind Sports parents most important insight is perspective.  For a young athlete, every game is the biggest game of their lives - which can bring with it extra stress, pressure and anxiety.  "What is I don't play well?"  "What if all that hard work and training doesn't pay off in this competition?"  "What if I let someone down?" The last thing a parent wants to do is add on to that stress level in any way. If you were an athlete growing up, hopefully you will have some perspective on things. You will be able to separate the "must win" game from a learning experience.  You know that, as important as this game seems now, in the words of John Popper from Blues Traveler: "It won't mean a thing in 100 years." Even if you weren't an athlete growing up, you most likely experienced similar situations in other [...]

By | 2017-10-18T15:01:48-07:00 October 18th, 2017|Confidence, Sports Parenting, Sports Psychology|0 Comments

Sport Psychology of Shot Put

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 [...]

Developing a High Performance Lifestyle (part 1)

Developing a High Performance Lifestyle (part 1 - avoiding burnout) By Jimmy Yoo, MA Sport Psychology    As a mental skills coach at SPINw, I help athletes attain a consistent high performance mindset through sport psychology techniques like focus, goal setting, visualization.  A high performance mindset is not something that is turned on one minute and off the next.  It is more consistent than that.  Therefore, I help athletes dedicate everyday to a high performance lifestyle, both on and off the field.  Lifestyle can be defined as "the typical way of life of an individual, group, or culture." It's basically your habits - how you do things under pressure. Some of my athletes are professionals, who make a living at playing sports.  But most are only part-time athletes, who are also students, parents, performing artists, doctors, teachers, etc., and often many of these.  It's good to bring your “A-Game” everyday - not necessarily that you will win every time at everything, but that you consistently perform at a high level.  Anyone can benefit from developing a high performance lifestyle, both on and off the field. This doesn’t mean perfection: that in every moment of your life, you are competing to be the best at everything you do, like being being the best student, athlete, or employee at all times.  This type of focus is not ideal because you are constantly comparing yourself to others.  This type of focus is out of your control. If you are too focused on comparing yourself to others, being the best, being perfect, you are not focusing on the necessary skills and strategies to effectively perform the task at hand.  To achieve a high performance mindset each day, it is important to focus on the little things that [...]

Why Does Visualizing Success Help You Attain it?

Why Does Visualizing Success Help You Attain it? by Jake Sivinski, SPINw intern In my last blog I talked about how and why we should use visualization. But the question that I am sure ,many of you have is why does imagining yourself doing something help you do it?  Over the last 30 years psychologists have come up with a few different answers to this question. The one that has received the most traction in modern psychology comes from the field of behavioral neuroscience. According to this argument, visualization owes its efficacy to our brain’s mirror neuron system. While this system is incredibly complex, it can can be broken down to the core idea that when we watch somebody do an action our brains mirror the action. Essentially if you were to watch another person drink a cup of coffee the same neural networks that would be active if you were the one drinking the coffee would activate. This process takes place subconsciously due to the fact that several aspects of our brain keep it from reaching the threshold of activity necessary to keep us from actually tasting the coffee and feeling the heat on our tongues. However our mirror neuron systems sub conscious imitations of others’ actions helps to inform us about our world. One of the major ways in which its does this is through the process of motor referral. Motor referral is the process in which our visual system activates our motor system in response to visual stimuli. A good example of this would be when you see somebody smile, your facial muscles are activated at subthreshold levels to smile. The activation of these muscles helps you know that the other person [...]

By | 2017-08-21T14:18:01-07:00 December 12th, 2016|Visualization|0 Comments

How to Think About Your Game: get the most out of your daydream

How to Think About Your Game: get the most out of your daydream by Jake Sivinski, SPINw intern Here at SPINw one of the our most trusted tools for bettering an athlete's mental game is the use of positive mental visualization. Visualization is essentially thinking about and going over plays, skills, and the bliss of victory in your head. It is something that most of us do everyday. As an athlete our minds are frequently preoccupied with with thoughts of sport. While some may call this a daydream, we see it as an opportunity to get a competitive edge. Numerous scientific studies have contributed to the understanding that visualization helps people learn new skills and stay motivated. Much of this is due to the fact that as people with real world responsibilities, we do not always have time to physically practice. In these scenarios mental practice through visualization is the best we can do. As well, visualization gives us a chance to explore different aspects of our game we have not discovered yet, or it lets us feel the glory of scoring that goal we have always wanted to. While visualization is a great tool, there is a lot we need to understand before we can truly unlock its potential. The first thing to learn is that there are two main types of imagery created through visualization. The first is external imagery which places the viewer outside of their body and allows them to see the situation from third person. The second type of imagery is kinesthetic imagery which places the viewer inside their body and is mostly related to how and activity feels rather than what it looks like to an observer. Both of [...]

By | 2017-08-21T14:18:01-07:00 December 12th, 2016|Visualization|0 Comments

How to prevent hazing in your organization

A recent google search for "hazing" in the news turned up 128,000 hits this morning. I've been asked a few times about hazing and it's impact:  Is it happening more now than ever? Is there a difference between physically, mentally and emotionally abusive hazing? What can coaches and organizations do about the problem?  It's got me thinking about the subject and doing a little research. From my own experience, as a freshman in college back in the early '90s I was hazed. Both as a member of the soccer team and a fraternity. And I also doled it out as an upperclassman.  I suspect I am like millions of people for whom hazing did not have much of a lasting negative effect. So little effect that I never really considered that I was “hazed” until I started writing this article.  However, it is safe to say that there are countless others for whom hazing has had a seriously negative impact. My situation is not unique. In one study, 47% of high school athletes reported being hazed, but only 8% identified the behaviors as “hazing.” While hazing did not have a negative impact on me, it definitely has the propensity to get out of control and have severe negative effects, such as emotional trauma, physical injury and in rare cases, death.  As athletic directors, coaches, and parents, we need to make sure that this doesn’t happen. Before we discuss how to stop the overblown types of hazing and it’s negative effects, and replace with positive team building rituals, we have to understand why it happens in the first place. What is hazing? Why is hazing even a thing in the first place? What do athletes get out of it? [...]

By | 2017-08-21T14:18:01-07:00 September 29th, 2016|Sports Psychology|0 Comments

Sports, Peers and Injury

Hello all! The next couple blog posts I really want to dive into the idea that sports culture and teams work the same way as any cultural group. I want to talk about what psychological aspects of human nature lead to various sports phenomenon and how we can use this information to deconstruct the way we compete. -Jake Sivinski Sports, Peers and Injury My background in competitive skiing has meant that the threat of serious injury has never been far. This is a reality that strikes many different athletes as they progress in their sport and push to perform at higher and higher levels. But why does this have to be so? Why does the threat have to progress as our game does? What sort of psychological processes lead to this increase? One possible answer takes us to the field of social psychology and various facets of social identity theory. In short, social identity theory states that we define who we are by looking to the people around us and the groups we belong to. For example, I identify myself as American because that is where I live and most people I interact with are also American. This theory not only describes our identities as social constructions, but also as being fluid and subject to change. This means that over time the extent to which we identify as one thing or another can wax and wane and change based on the environment in which we exist. In the context of athletes social identity theory would predict that the more time you spend playing a sport and the better you get at it, the more valuable it becomes to your identity. So how does this relate [...]

By | 2017-08-21T14:18:01-07:00 September 27th, 2016|Sports Psychology|0 Comments

Meet Jake Sivinski – SPINw’s fall intern

 Hello world! My name is Jake Sivinski and I am a new intern here at SPINw! I’m super excited to announce that I will be updating the SPINw blog every week. My background as an athlete lies primarily in the winter sports world. I was a competitive freeskier for  7 years competing internationally all over the continent. My background in athletics and my passion for psychology has led me to SPINw, and for that I am grateful. For my first post I would like to tell the story about how I came to know about the field of Sports Psychology and the profound positive impact it has had on my life. Hope you enjoy! -Jake There’s something pretty weird about skiing in July. Every time I do it I feel like I am cheating nature, like stealing a cookie from winter’s proverbial cookie jar. But when the opportunity to ski in one of country's national parks pops up, sometimes you just have to take it. The date was July 1, 2009 and I was 15 years old. I was young and excited and coming off one of my best winters to date: a dangerous trio. To make matters even more dangerous I was with a large group of other 15 year olds who felt the exact same way. We had just built a nice big jump and were all attempting to learn new tricks in the soft summer slush on Chinook Pass in Rainier National Park.  The trick of the day was a frontflip and nobody wanted to be the first to try it. Finally, I decided to go first, and well, it didn’t go very well. In fact, it ended in a fracture of both my [...]

By | 2017-08-21T14:18:01-07:00 September 15th, 2016|Confidence, Positive Thinking, Sports Psychology, Visualization|0 Comments

This is Your Brain on Sports – book review

"We've spent the preceding chapters trying to make the case that there are rational underpinnings for all the supposed craziness and unusual behavior that sports seem to trigger. That is, that "your brain on sports" is really just your regular brain acting as it does in other contexts." Sound interesting?  This is how Wertheim and Sommers sum up their latest book, This is Your Brain on Sports. From a sport psychology perspective, it's a great book in the same vein as classics like "Freakonomics" or "Outliers."   The authors take common ideas and phenomena in sports and put them under the sociological and psychological research microscope to explain certain peculiar behaviors and that are common not only in sports, but in life in general. Each chapter explores a unique idea from sports, examines the research, and relates it to real life.  Beginning by promising answers to Why questions: "Why Hockey Goons Would Rather Fight at Home" to "Why We Need Rivals" to "Why Our Moral Compass is More Flexible than an Olympic Gymnast" these chapters offer excellent insights into how the mind works, how people relate to each other through the prism of sports, and uncovers why things that seem bizarre are actually quite common..  The conclusion is that sports isn't so much different than life.  Although, they do go on to explain:  "...sports and athletic competition are fertile ground for scientists across disciplines to test their hypotheses about basic aspects of human nature." There's a lot in here to relate to sport psychology and the mental game.  For instance, popular theory says that sport psychology was founded in 1898 by Norman Triplett, who noticed that he rode his bicycle faster when he was with other people.  In the chapter "Why We Need Rivals," the authors [...]

By | 2017-08-21T14:18:01-07:00 May 24th, 2016|Coaching, General, Goal Setting, Sports Psychology|0 Comments