Posts Tagged ‘mental game’

Mental Skills Of Sports Performance (And How You Can Improve Them)

Sunday, October 20th, 2013

 

Mental Skills of Sports PerformanceSustaining high sporting performance requires more than simply putting in time at the gym, or on the field, every single day; it’s just as much about maintaining a high level of mental toughness. Psychological studies continue to show just how important a developed, or natural, psychological edge is when it comes to sports performance. It is imperative athletes develop and receive support for the following key components to mental toughness:

1. Believing In One’s Self

One of the toughest obstacles that athletes in every sport face is negative and self deprecating thought patterns. A missed goal or a loss of points can quickly undermine an athletes belief in his or her abilities, which has a negative impact on how well they perform. By having a strong self belief, an athlete won’t be so easily shaken when they do face a difficult situation. He or she will maintain a secure trust in the unique abilities and qualities they possess that they believe make them better than their opponent.

Improvement Tip: Keeping a training log will provide an athlete with evidence on how they’ve improved over the days, months and years of training.

2. Maintaining Focus

There are so many factors that can affect an athlete’s focus, from a roaring crowd, to the performance of other athletes, to their very own “self talk” or internal voice. It’s key for an athlete to be able to regain focus as quickly as possible when they find themselves distracted or when an unexpected event occurs.

Improvement Tip: Positive self talk as well as verbal, physical and visual prompts and queues will help athletes control their focus.

3. Conquering Pain

Every athlete is confronted with some sort of mental or physical challenge at some point in their career. In order for an athlete to grow and improve, he or she needs to be able to push through any painful barriers that may potentially block his or her success. This mental toughness also goes a long way to helping athletes overcome any feelings of failure.

Improvement Tip: Creating opportunities for athletes to work for longer or harder in a secure environment will help them build both mental and physical endurance.

4. Dealing With Pressure

Pressure plays a role in any sporting performance, as each sport involves some level of competition. Fortunately, pressure can be utilised in a way that will allow an athlete to thrive and use it to their advantage against the competition (i.e. use it as motivation).

Improvement Tip: Getting into a performance routine will bring a sense of familiarity, which will help an athlete stay calm and focused at an event.

 

Why a Mind Coach is an Athlete’s ‘Best Kept Secret’

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

 

Dave Diggle Counter TerrorismThe Other Secret Service: Covert Coach Ops

My name is Dave Diggle and I am a member of the Secret Service!

No not THAT Secret Service – not the Secret Service who protect the US President, but the Secret Service who manage the mental, emotional and cognitive welfare of some of the world’s top athletes – so we are like the other Secret Service.

So if we don’t have to be as secret as them, why are we such a Secret Service?

Well for many years athletes, coaches and managers haven’t wanted it acknowledged that their prize competitors needed someone to tinker inside their heads, nor did they want people thinking the athletes were in any way vulnerable – so our role was unmentioned and largely undisclosed to the world.

In reality coaches of yesteryear didn’t truly understand, recognise or value the significant advantage of having an athlete on their team who was mentally aware. There was far more emphasis placed on the physical attributes of the athlete than their mental preparedness, so quite simply, the demand wasn’t there.

In retrospect this belief was quite bizarre as it was openly accepted that all athletes need their coaches. In fact, they utilised a multitude of specialised coaches to be successful – be it physical trainers or technical instructors were deployed due to their chosen expertise and value to an athlete.

These traditional coaches were accepted as part of the game.

But the management of an athlete’s emotions, behaviours and psychology was a taboo subject even though the philosophy of a physical and mental coach are one in the same: to create the best possible athlete based on their own unique attributes.

Traditional sports psychologists were surreptitiously placed into sporting organisations a few decades ago, their main role initially to pick up the pieces after a blow out. But slowly and tentatively this has evolved to now having a more significant input into their training and competition.

So why do Mind Coaches of all descriptions get such a bad wrap?

It is partly about perception. Sporting organisations didn’t want the wider community thinking their athlete, their pride and joy and (lets not beat around the bush) their income were in need of psychological help. Nor did they want it known that maybe they were vulnerable in some way.

We now understand an athlete’s mind is something that is either their individual strength or their unique weakness.

The social stigma associated to the professionals who work with a person’s innermost workings, their fears and psychology were tainted with the white coat brigade, the image of the couch, the questions around your relationship with parents – and if you wet the bed as a child.

These mental images are what most people think of when you mention a behavioural psychologist or professional mind coach.

This is like saying you never want to see a doctor just in case they do a lobotomy!

Today’s professional mind coaches are as diverse in their skill-set as those in the traditional medical fraternity. Most have a basic understanding of traditional psychology, then there are those who specialise in Sports Psychology, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), Hypnosis, Timeline therapy (TLT), Emotional Management (EM), Cognitive Science and many more strands of neurological therapies.

Each have their own niche strengths and inherent weaknesses and, when correctly applied, can be incredibly powerful.

As a professional Mind Coach I am normally brought into an athlete’s world only when something significant has gone wrong. Much like a paramedic arriving onto a scene after the crash, we normally arrive into their environment after things have gone wrong – not before – and are tasked with rebuilding as quickly as possible.

The frustrating truth is if we had been contracted six or twelve months earlier the likelihood is the catastrophe probably would not have happened.

At the London 2012 Olympic games a number of the world’s top athletes began publicly thanking their mind coaches, acknowledging the influence they have had over the outcome and recognising them as a significant part of their entourage to success.

It was also noted that the Australian swim team – who had under performed in their own estimations – had not taken their neurological team with them. A coincidence? I think not!

In reality many of these world class athletes had crashed some time before the games and had probably exhausted all other avenues before bringing in the Head Doctors.

But who knows, if they had contracted a professional mind coach earlier – before things had to be fixed – maybe their results would have been better or even come much earlier in their careers.

So as an athlete or a coach are you constantly tuning the mental engine, or are you going to keep running it til it runs out of fuel, or has a crash?

It’s worth thinking about – isn’t it!

 

 

The Athlete Mindset: Reactionary Versus Responsive Behaviour

Friday, May 18th, 2012

If you are chasing after another athlete you will always be behind them – waiting for them to make the next move. It is better to lead yourself than follow another.

Athletes base much of their outcome strategy on being able to intuitively produce the right action at the right time.

This forms part of their belief systems, instinctive direction and ultimately the sustained success of their performance.

When working with professional athletes, it is important that their internal drive and external performance needs are personally tailored to them.

However this very specific objective sometimes leads to some confusion for athletes and coaches around being either reactionary or being responsive!

These two actions may sound very similar in nature – but they have two very different drivers and consequences.

If we look at the specific behaviour of the ‘reactionary’ athlete, they are reacting to any and all situations:

  • a perceived external force on them, such as their environment;
  • the venue conditions;
  • the pressure; and probably more importantly
  • the other competitors actions

These athletes let their performances be directed, dictated and controlled by interpretation of their current situation – assessing – reacting – reassessing.

This mindset places the athlete in a constant observational role, not an action role. These athlete are then in damage control mode or constantly playing catch up as they wait for something to happen or someone to act before they can assess and react.

They have essentially surrendered their control over their performance to an external force limiting their options to counter actions.

When a Mind Coach builds an athlete’s optimal performance strategy, it is tailored specifically to that athlete and their skill-set and objective. It is not based on another athletes agenda or objective.

So by being a reactionary athlete and deviating from the designed path in order to react to another’s actions, an athlete is detracting from their own optimal performance strategy and objective.

I often tell athletes, ‘If you are chasing after another athlete then you will always be behind them – waiting for them to make the next move – it is better to lead yourself than follow another.’

The reactionary approach essentially ties the athlete into following their competitors path not their own.

If we now look at the specific behaviour of the ‘responsive’ athlete, these athletes have both their physical and psychological performances primed and ready to strike in a specific way, thus making them responsive to their own needs. This also allows them to make informed performance decisions based on their ability and their objective.

These athletes posses behavioural flexibility and can manoeuvre their performance within their optimal strategy based on their outcomes and situational needs. This gives the athlete the freedom and control to perform towards their objective and not be looking, judging and reacting to what others are or are not doing and using that as their gauge.

This single-minded focus gives our athletes clarity, objectivity, control and an optimally designed path to follow. This lowers performance anxiety and any second-guessing to what is coming next and also allows athletes to select the path that is right for them.

So the next time someone advises you they want you to have better reactions – tell them you would rather be responsive and compete on your own terms not those of your competitors!

There will always be environmental conditions or personal conditions outside the athletes control, so it is important an athlete remains open minded, cognisant of their ability and primed – responsive and ready to tap into their resources when called on.

Mental Coaching Handbook: Magic Wand Not Included

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

 

I am often asked what it is I do for a living (sometimes even by those closest to me…). My answer is always the same – I take an athlete and I make a champion!

Although this response does little to clear up the confusion my family has about what I do for a job, achieving this outcome specifically is done through working both with and on an athlete.

Working with an athlete comprises working on their mental structuring, emotional stability and natural cognitive patterning to produce a sustainable, replicable and smarter performing champion.

However –

There is no Magic Wand included

No one hit wonder…

No silver bullet…

No one technique where we mystically hypnotise, covertly re-pattern and take away the self doubt in an afternoon that will see them through to the rest of their lives…

Absolutely no picket fences and fluffy dogs!

We do utilise all those techniques – and more – and this takes dedication, time and commitment!

The same way an athlete knows they have to continually hone their performance skills, practice their training techniques and systematically nurture their physical body – the mental process is the same. In fact, if unattended, it can be less forgiving than the physical programme!

If an athlete neglects their mental and emotional development, it can have devastating consequences and have an immediate impact on both their performance and confidence!

Individual perspective and behaviour have been forged over their entire lives and it is these unique views on reality about what they can and cannot achieve that dictates the effectiveness of their behavior, and therefore, level of their success!

The mechanics of our reality is quite simple:

  1. We experience an event, physical or imagined
  2. We assess that event and create our own personal interpretation
  3. We create an internal representation, an understanding
  4. We apply a personal meaning to that and similar events
  5. It becomes a distinguishing emotion

This essentially categorises that event as ‘something’ and assigns a perceived value.

Our individual perspective on the world is built upon these personal experiences from the copious amounts of data we come into contact with, then translated and used as puzzle pieces.

The good, the bad and the ugly in our lives, are decided upon by us, whether we consciously mean to or not.

For an athlete to truly produce their preferred performance, we must first understand and master the mind’s Information Filtration Systems, deciphering the picture it has painted, what emotional tagging system is adopted and what information is allowed in and what information is kept out – and why!

As we now understand, the pivotal influence over our performance is our mind. So athletes and coaches who wait until the train has crashed before they engage in effective mental training are going to be left behind.

There is no instant fix – when coaches see athletes almost magically transform under another coaches tutelage – this coach is fully engaged in mental training. It is the most effective way of producing a bigger, brighter and more productive attitude and belief in their athlete.

There is no doubt that physical talent is paramount and will probably get you so far towards your dreams, goals and aspirations but it is your mental agility and mental toughness that will make you a champion!

 

Image Credit: Flickr pillwoodlouse