Last week's issue covered the fact that: #1 - Sport Psychology is not “psychology” Not only is sport psychology not psychology, it is also not just a measure of last resort. There can be a tendency to think of sport psychology only as a reactive measure - when the athlete is struggling mightily with performance. But working on the mental game is valuable as a proactive tool too. Let’s look at the Mental Game on this spectrum: In our experience at SPINw, the majority of our athletes are on the lower end of this spectrum. They are usually trending toward the Struggling mode or worse. But we do serve as a proactive measure as well. For young athletes, as they grow physically, become more skilled technically, and learn their sport tactically, the psychological aspect of sports can't be ignored. The older a player gets, the more pressure, the higher the stakes become, they must have the tools to handle. For older athletes, a strong mental game is needed to keep consistency in performance. A Proactive Success Story I once worked with a high school quarterback who was up toward the higher end of the spectrum and told me the reason he came in was because he “heard sport psychology could help make me a better player.” Simple. He was a confident kid, but this was his first year to potentially be a starter. He was in a preseason battle to win the starting job and wanted to do everything he could to give him a competitive edge. We worked together on setting goals for the season to sharpen his focus. He worked on improving his leadership skills to communicate better and get the most out [...]
No, not a sixth sense of being able to see dead people like in the movie... but more like this dictionary.com definition: sixth sense - noun: a power of perception beyond the five senses; intuition: "His sixth sense warned him to be cautious." As an athlete or a coach, do you ever have a feeling that you know what's going to happen next? Or after something has happened, thinking "I knew that was going to happen!" Do you ever make decisions based on a "gut feeling?" That's the kind of sixth sense I am talking about. It's more about seeing things before they happen. Here's another way to look at "sense." If something "makes sense," we are talking about this definition: a sane and realistic attitude to situations and problems; a reasonable or comprehensible rationale. But sometimes sports makes no sense. How else to explain upsets, chokes, and record-breaking performances? Those "wow!" moments like Kirk Gibson's homerun, David Tyree's "helmet catch," or Tim Tebow winning an NFL playoff game (kidding, I'm a big Gator fan, so I can go there)? So what exactly is the sixth sense of sports? Belief, Confidence, Anticipation, Intuition, Trust, Faith? A combination of these? And can it be developed? We think so. Let's take a look at some other "Senses" - Sense of humor, sense of balance, sense of fairness Like these, the sixth sense in sports, well, makes no "sense." Sense of humor is just that - a sense of what's funny. It's not all the same for all people and there is definitely no formula to it. Jerry Seinfeld has a certain sense of humor, and so does Adam Carolla. Both are very funny, but in different senses. [...]
It is often asked, how do teams fit mental skills sessions into the practice setting? What are some things that sport psychologists work on during these sessions? With the start of the NFL season, the Seattle Seahawks uncover their recipe for success. First off, success starts with the head coach. Fundamentally, the head coach needs to create an environment tailored for success. For Pete Carroll (head coach of the Seahawks) success starts by supporting the players by showing that the coaches and the organization care about them. Carroll feels that “happy players make for better players.” His mantra with the team is “Do your job better than it has ever been done before,” through the use of positivity of thought, words, and actions. How does a sport psychologist fit into this culture? Since 2011, sport psychologist Mike Gervais has worked with the team at practice and has also been spotted on the sidelines during games. Sessions with Gervais include meditation, visualization, and neurotopia brain-performance testing that includes neurofeedback (brainwave testing), and status profiling that identifies: “what is going on in their lives, how much sleep they are getting, their goals, and how they are dealing with stressors.” How does this help the athletes? Russell Wilson (starting quarterback for the Seahawks) states that his work with Gervais helps him prepare for competition and high-pressure situations by “being in the moment and increasing chaos throughout practice, so when I go into the game, everything is relaxed.” To read more about how Pete Carroll and his innovative staff are changing the environment of professional football, click on the following link: http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/9581925/seattle-seahawks-use-unusual-techniques-practice-espn-magazine by Jimmy Yoo, SPINw consultant
I'm pretty big on themes in life, and sit up and take notice when I see them. What are the topics that seem to bubble up in conversation frequently? That you read about in SI? Or see on SportsCenter? The big theme over the past couple weeks for me has been that of culture, identity, and mission, and how they tie into motivation. In the past few days I have heard some variation of this theme from a collegiate strength and conditioning coach, a collegiate soccer coach, various sports parents, a high school baseball team, an adult horseback rider, and a 6th grade basketball player. All of these different people are coming from a different place, of course, but the similtarities are there - they are struggling due to a lack of overall guiding prinicple. In the sport psychology world, they are lacking a clearly defined mission statement. Those without a clearly defined mission are more likely to: - have trouble getting the most our of their athletes - have a hard time staying fully motivated - rest on their past achievements - suffer communication breakdowns - do not fully commit in training or competition - panic when the pressure is on Typically, problems with the mental game come from a series of small moments snowballing into something bigger. Having a clearly defined mission statement is one sport psychology technique that can help with focus, motivation, and keeping a positive mindset when things aren't going so well. The mission statement is meant to take a look at the big picture - the sum of all the parts: past history, skillset, work rate, goals, etc. Whereas most of the loss [...]
Tips for building focus and getting In the Zone Clinical Psychologist Bryan T. Karazsia, in a recent article, offers some interesting tips for building focus and getting in the zone. Some of his ideas include: Visualization - Practice seeing performance success in your mind before competition even arrives. That way, when the big moment arrives, you've already lived through it. Breathing - Slow, regular, deep breathing is key for competitors at any level to relax themselves. As clutch moments arrive, breathing work can serve to calm those jittery nerves and upset stomachs. Cue words - Another useful skill to learn is that of a cue word which prompts us to think of relaxation. Karaszia himself uses "ocean", while other examples could be "clear", "calm", or "breathe". Remember, these are all skills to be learned. Just as we hone our bodies for competition, so does the elite athlete hone their mind. Regular practice, with the guidance of a SPINw sport counselor, is the key for developing these techniques. Of course, for those of you familiar with sport psychology, these ideas probably aren't new. What may surprise you is that these tips were offered for a narrower niche: hunters. That's right, Dr. Karaszia's advice and tips appeared in Peterson's Bowhunting. Said the doctor, in summary of the benefits of sport psychology: "The fields of clinical and sports psychology have proven that these [mental training] methods can enhance your performance in the field -- so much that the best athletes in the world have paid thousands of dollars to get some advice from a sports psychologist." Interesting to see our field expanding into more and more areas....