Posts Tagged ‘mental preparation for athletes’

Role of a Mind Coach in Olympic Athletic Performance

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

 

Competing in the Olympics is a common goal of many athletes. Long and rigorous physical and mental training precede the competition, building excitement and anxiety as this massive 4-yearly event approaches.

It’s now accepted that it is not enough to train the body physically for the challenges of the competition. Various psychological skills are also developed for the athlete to cope with the tremendous pressure and unique environment surrounding the Olympic events.

The Australian Olympic athletes to the 2012 London Olympic Games know this well. Their strategy for winning involved training for physical ability and maintaining an athletic mindset with the help of a mind coach.

Why athletes need to develop mental skills for competition

Psychological factors that are present during competition contribute to the athlete’s performance. These include the athlete’s capacity to:

Track Medals

  • Focus during competition
  • Understand their own emotional responses to stressors
  • Identify moments when change is required
  • Identify skills to adapt under pressure
  • Adapt to the environment
  • Regulate cognitions, emotion and behaviour
  • Use competition skills to perform
  • Recover psychologically and maintain emotional well-being

Importance of psychological recovery

Win or lose, an athlete in a competition experiences a wide range of stressors and distractions that can have a negative impact on their mental health.

Sleep difficulties, illness, minor injuries, transport delays, performance anxiety and disruptions during training are just some of the challenges during competition. Without adequate recovery, an athlete may not be able to achieve or maintain peak performance in subsequent events.

An Olympic athlete must be able to maintain high confidence levels, competition focus and regulated emotions. Recovery to restore confidence, focus and emotions is therefore crucial. In this phase, the athlete needs the support of a sports mind coach who can guide him in taking important steps such as:

  • Dealing with thoughts about the competition performance in order to distance the athlete from the experience
  • Choosing and following recovery strategies which are designed to address responses to competition stressors
  • Orienting the athlete to the present

Psychological debriefing

Debriefing is part of recovery and many sports psychologists use this process to help the athlete understand, process and manage the competition experience. An athlete must be debriefed consistently after an event, whether they win or lose in competition.

This process promotes closure of an event in the mind of the athlete so that recovery can take place. Added benefits of mind coaching during recovery include stress reduction, relaxation, emotional management and better sleep.

Other Olympic mental preparation that a mind coach can provide include:

  • Individual consultation
  • Mental health assessment
  • Team consultation
  • Training and competition support

 

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.

 

3 Benefits To High Mental Fitness

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

 

Physical fitness is a “must” for professional athletes and champions, but what may be even more important, and a better predictor of their success, is their mental fitness.

How mentally fit an athlete is will benefit individuals in a variety of ways, such as:

Goal Setting

Goal setting Confidence Coping with DifficultiesSeveral studies have shown a clear correlation between how mentally fit an individual is and their ability to set challenging yet obtainable goals. Athletes who tend to have a more fixed mindset or believe that they’re born with a natural or true ability tend to be weaker mentally. They’re more guarded about their deficiencies and are less or completely unwilling to try and improve them and are more focused on masking or hiding them. As a result, they won’t set the goals necessary to overcome the hardest challenges or hurdles.

Mentally strong athletes, on the other hand, are continually striving to improve their game. They know where they may be falling short, or where they need to work harder to knock the competition out of the park. So what do they do? They set goals. And they don’t just set a final goal, they’ll create milestones and steps that need to be reached so that they will get to that positive final outcome.

Confidence

The athlete whose brain fitness is just as high as their physical fitness is going to always be more confident than the weaker. Weaker mindsets are more focused on proving their ability. When they perform poorly, or when the competition is proving themselves to be the better, that athlete with a poor mindset will gradually begin to have feelings of self doubt and failure. Mentally tough athletes, however, have greater confidence because they recognize that there is always room to grow. They know that they aren’t “stuck” in their current state and can always become better.

Coping With Difficulties

Not surprisingly, the weaker athlete is mentally less able to cope with and handle setbacks. Athletes who suffer from mental weakness will immediately chastise themelves and beat themselves up emotionally when they don’t win a race or score a goal. The result: their performance immediately begins to decline, which leads to more negative self talk and self loathing, which leads to a cycle of further performance decline.

Those who have trained themselves to be mentally tough won’t let such things bring them down. In fact, not only will an individual with a high level of mental fitness then take charge of further improving their skills, but they will also take control of their motivation. They stay interested and committed to their growth and success every step of the way.

Mental Preparation of Athletes, Demystified – Part II

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

In Part II we delve deep inside The Preparation Funnel to bridge the gap between knowing you need to do something and doing the something you know you need.

Mental Preparation for Athletes

Competition Day Formats

In the previous Article we looked at the significance of consistent action in creating sustainable behavioural change – with recognising ’the difference between knowing you need to do something and doing the something you know you need’ as an area of performance some athletes and coaches can, at times, struggle with.

We identified some of the more common performance issues such as anxiety, nerves, self-doubt and unpredictability of core skills that athletes face around competition time. And we ascertained these were probably internally created and fed by our own unchecked and somewhat wild imagination and sensitive emotions.

We looked at an effective and practical approach to managing this issue with the application of a preparation funnel. 

We then delved into the first phase of the 2 part funnel: The 7to2 Process, a process which creates positive momentum by actively crafting an abundant environment of success, enabling athletes to actively hone their focus and reward their achievements.

And if you do nothing more than the 7to2 Process, you have already increased your prospects of getting to competition day in a more stable and productive state of mind.

However, as an elite athlete, we want more. So the real magic occurs when we deploy the second part of the preparation funnel, when all this preparation can be brought together …

Competition Day Formats

Now by knowing what you know and doing what you do, you are already more efficiently primed for sustainable performance. So how do we maximise on this on competition day?

Again this is all about managing our emotions and controlling our imagination – it all starts long before you get to the competition venue. You wake up and follow your pre-game structure, knowing what you will do and how you will do it in the lead up to competing. This enables you to take full advantage of your internal rewards system and control your emotions. It adds a sense of familiarity to your day and puts you back in the driver seat.

Visualisation: One of the key techniques we teach athletes within the Competition Day Format includes a powerful visualisation exercise, which involves an athlete visiting the venue the day before competing to familiarise them with the layout and idiosyncrasies, before crafting a detailed performance plan to then visualise this in a very structured and precise format.

Switching On: Part of this process also ensures athletes identify where and when the ‘athlete mode’ is switched on with precision.

The concept of mentally switching an athlete on and off is all about maintaining optimum quality. If an athlete (as many do) believe they are in ‘athlete mode’ 24/7 then there is no differentiation between idle and throttle, between focused and relaxed or between preparing and performing – and this is unsustainable for long periods of time.

To avoid burnout, understand there needs to be a switching phase that enables an athlete to be highly focused, precise and concentrated when it matters rather than diluted by time.

This switching process is specifically designed to enable an athlete to be 100% on task and not have distractions, to be on the job when it counts.

It also provides a ‘physical’ trigger to an emotional state, mentally stepping up the level of intensity and precision.

It should also be a key part of the training preparation too, because we know if we train like we want to compete then we have an active NPR (neurological point of reference), so training your brain and emotions to switch into athlete mode when needed and off when not prepares athletes for competition day by creating an effective blueprint as well as maintaining physical and emotional levels of fatigue…

The Trigger: So once we have actively identified the key differences between the person and the athlete and the benefits and emotional signatures that go with each identity, a switching point can now be created (normally the entrance to the venue) and we build a specific and personalised trigger that is anchored and actioned.

Then we can move on to athlete tasks…

Athlete Tasks

These are the key tasks, such as pre-competition preparation; warming up; assessing and visualisation; and mentally focusing. When switched into athlete mode we see things differently. We can see them from a more relevant perspective as our athlete filter is activated. We get a feel for the now, being ‘the athlete’ gives your mind permission to be centric, focused on you and your needs in the context of the event.

And as with the 7to2 Process, we have a set of tasks that need to be completed before you set foot on the pitch, mat, track or ice and by identifying them and structuring them in such a way that encourages mini-successes, in turn releasing serotonin into our system which makes us feel great, motivated and in control!

But hold on there one minute – there is one more step we have not competed yet…

There is a missing link to this highly structured, highly crafted emotional manipulation that is designed for success…

And that is the PERFORMANCE! The end objective – the reason!

The whole way through this preparation funnel: the 7to2 Process and Competition Day Format we have been filtering down to that last step, that one performance… and so what action do we initiate to move efficiently into that end step?

We move our consciousness up another notch, becoming even more focused, more emotionally centered and more in control – and we do this by going from the switched on athlete who is in fine-tune preparation mode to the pure athlete – the 100% performance focused, in the moment, in the ‘system’ athlete – an ultra athlete if you like.

This is initiated by again identifying what does the pure athlete have that the general switched on athlete doesn’t, what is needed to perform at the ultimate state?

The pure athlete transcends to a new level of focus, clarity and perspective – whatever it is for you it is this next intrinsic level that produces the sparkle, brings out the stand out performance and enables you to replicate it.

We craft a second trigger point, maybe stepping up to the line, standing on the blocks, at the crease or placing the blade on the ice!

At this stage there is nothing else, no distractions, no unproductive thoughts, no destructive emotions – it’s just you and the performance!

And once you have performed as a champion, unpack the athlete and switch down a gear to athlete and then to you as the non athlete (your Clark Kent).

What we have just moved through is a highly structured template which produces a replicable, effective and efficient performance every time.

So the next time you are faced with a competition build up and the outcome is important to you – ask yourself have YOU done everything you could have done in order to be the champion you know you can be?

And if you haven’t done the preparation funnel, check in with your emotions (and serotonin levels) to see if that calming feeling that all that could be done, has been done is present in your body.

If not, begin again at the top and start ticking!