In the June 21 issue of Sports Illustrated, writer Pablo Torre examined Major League Baseball's increasing acceptance of the legitimacy of mental and emotional issues that athletes may face. The article includes clinical depression and anxiety disorder among the issues that big leaguers have gone onto the DL for in the past few years. This is a really positive sign in taking the stigma away from these serious issues that are faced by people in all walks of life. By being able to acknowledge the problems, players may seek the help they need to get themselves back in the game, as Kansas City Royals pitcher Zack Greinke did in 2006. In a highly competitive sport where players do not want to show weakness of any kind, and are often taught to figure out problems for themselves, this is a great leap forward. The article did not only focus on the severe mental and emotional issues that athletes may go through, but also the mental side of athletics that all athletes go through on a day-to-day basis: "Mark Shapiro, now the executive vice president and general manager of the Indians, saw something curious: Outside the elite of the elite, 90% to 95% of players at the Double A level had comparable physical skills. The better players' competitive advantage came mostly from something intangible. "At least in baseball," Shapiro says, "the mental side is what allows you to bridge the gap between potential and performance." It turns out that Yogi Berra, who once calculated that "90 percent of the game is half mental," had something of a point." So even if we're not talking about severe clinical issues, the mental side of the game is coming [...]
It has been a long time since I have been able to leave town for longer than a few days. Vacation is a word we all know, but mostly think about how nice it is to do nothing. With a crazy work life, I have been looking forward to my trip in order to get some rest. Now, at the tail end of my trip I find I am more relaxed and I am thinking faster and my attitude has improved greatly. This got me thinking about the role of the "Vacation" in sport. I am reminded of the time in college when a teammate was so motivated that he worked through a bout of sickness so that he could be at his peak for the NCAA championships. As it turned out he had an ear infection. His "mind over matter attitude" didnâ€™t pay off and his performance suffered. Sometimes we need a break. Listen closely to your body and it will tell you the â€œState of the Union." Without rest and good sleep your body will not heal, Humpty Dumpty will not get all the pieces put back together again. This affects both your physical and psychological potential.Â If you are the type that has to go like gangbusters and reach all of your goals, consider this...like with driving... sometimes taking the longer route gets you there faster. You may need to extend the length of a training cycle, but the time spent resting may allow you to maximize your training time. Had my teammate went to the doctor and took a few days off he would most likely come home with a championship title, just as my vacation has helped me to get [...]
RIP Coach John Wooden (1910-2010) As a young coach, I really enjoyed not only the training and the competition, but learning and improving my skills, just as I had done as an athlete. To get better I liked hanging out with other coaches and talking soccer andÂ taking coaching courses. I also developed quite an appetite for reading books by and about great coaches. Why not learn from those who have been there and done that.I have read books by all kinds of coaches from all different sports, and I find that I pick something up from all of them. But none more than Coach John Wooden.Â Knowing that the man had won 12 NCAA basketball titles at UCLA, a book about him was the first I read.Â Looking back now, I realize that Coach Wooden's wisdom not only made me a better coach, but it started me on my path to a career in sport psychology.Â His philosophy is contains great insights on the mental game that are so important in sport psychology:Â Setting expectations and being firm with them, focusing on the controllables, focusing on the performance rather than the outcome, and being a good teammate, among others.Here is Coach Wooden's famous "Pyramid of Success:"I high recommend any books by or about Coach Wooden. But not only him - what coach or player do you admire?Â Do a little research, find a book, read and learn!What are some of your favorite stories or lessons from Coach Wooden?What coaching books do you recommend?About this Author: Brian Baxter received an M.A. in Sports Psychology.Â He teaches individuals how to identify and build awareness of their difficulties, their areas of improvement and their strengths and implements strategies to [...]
Welcome to 2010! Did you set a New Year's Resolution (or 12)? Have you kept them? Have you already written any off as impossible? Have you ever wondered why New Year's Resolutions so seldom stick? The New Year's Resolution is about changing human behavior, which is no easy feat. (Trying to change it in the days after staying out all night and having a little too much champagne doesn't make it any easier!) Setting New Year's Resolutions is but one form of goal setting. The reasons that athletes fail to achieve their goals are the same reasons people in all walks of life may fail using the New Year's Resolution to change habits and lifestyle. In sport psychology research and literature, goal setting is the most consistently proven factor in facilitating peak performance. However, when goals are not set properly, they are not as effective as they could be, and can even be counter-productive. Whether setting a New Year's Resolution, or just a goal in general, here are the main reasons that goal may fail: 1) Too general 2) Too hard or unrealistic 3) Doesn't account for unexpected events 4) No consistent check in 5) Lack of support system Let's take a common example of a New Year's Resolution that is well intentioned, but destined to fail. Goal: "I want to get in better shape this year." Sounds good, right - who wouldn't want that? But, as is, this goal is destined to fail because it is 1) too general. What does that goal mean? How is it measured? If you go running 1 time in 2010, compared to 2009, when you went running 0 times, you have [...]
Tips for the weekend warrior: Sport psychology is often seen as something for professionals, Olympians, collegians, and high level youth athletes. And while this is true, improving the mental part of the game to enhance performance can be beneficial for athletes of all levels. For the weekend warrior, a better performance usually makes athletic participation more enjoyable and a better experience. That is an area where sport psychology can be beneficial to anyone. For instance, I played soccer competitively through college. Looking back on my experience, I can say with confidence that working with a sport psychologist would have been a huge help. Now, as weekend warrior, I still play for the love of the game, to get exercise, and hang out with friends. But even though this isn't something I train for, or practice, I still want to perform well. It's even expected. But carrying the same expectations of my performance today that I did in college is not realistic. I think this is true for most people. So for you weekend warriors, who don't have time to practice, but love to play pick-up or league games for fun, here are three sport psych tips to help improve your performance, and maximize your enjoyment. 1 - Set small goals. Don't try to do it all. Don't expect to play like Jordan or Tiger, or even your 18 year old self. Focus on one thing you do well or would like to do, and make that your success. Odds are that focusing on that one thing will clear your head and allow you to get into the flow of the game. When you get success early, confidence rises. When confidence rises, so does performance.Â 2 [...]
Sleep better to play better Ongoing research out of Stanford University is continuing to establish the relationship between athletic performance and sleeping habits. Sleep lab researcher Cheri Mah has now conducted studies with male basketball players and male and female swimmers for Stanford. The results are conclusive: more sleep for the athletes yielded better performance. The athletes were asked to compare their performance results during periods of normal sleeping habits with 6-7 week trial periods of at least 10 hours of sleep per night. During the period of extended sleep, the athletes demonstrated improved quickness, speed, and reaction time. Furthermore, they reported better moods throughout the day, reduced daytime sleepiness, and increased energy. Said Mah of her research: "These results begin to elucidate the importance of sleep on athletic performance and, more specifically, how sleep is a significant factor in achieving peak athletic performance." Some tips for sleeping better for better performance: Make sleep a part of your regular training regimen. Extend nightly sleep for several weeks to reduce your sleep debt before competition. Maintain a low sleep debt by obtaining a sufficient amount of nightly sleep (seven to eight hours for adults, nine or more hours for teens and young adults). Keep a regular sleep-wake schedule, going to bed and waking up at the same times every day. Take brief naps to obtain additional sleep during the day, especially if drowsy.