Posts Tagged ‘mental training’

Winter Olympics Athletes to Utilise Sports Mental Training to Stay on Track

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

 

The winter Olympics are being held in Sochi, Russia, this year, beginning on February 7 and ending on February 23.

Winter Olympics Sochi 2014As one can imagine, the participating athletes have been preparing for years, physically and mentally. Much of the world is watching the Olympics, and the athletes can no doubt already feel that pressure.

Even though Olympic athletes have been preparing for months, they can still experience self-doubt when it gets close to competition time. They can find themselves engaging in self-doubt minutes before an Olympic event or after an injury that occurred during training.

Athletes that compete in the Olympics consult sports psychologists, or mental coaches, to mentally prepare for the big games. A mental coach is much like an athletic coach, except the emphasis is on developing the mental toughness, self-confidence, and motivation required to succeed.

Strategies that help athletes in the Olympic Games

One athlete that competed in the 1998 winter Olympics stated that her mental strategy was to pretend that the Olympics were like any other day, and on the flip side, to treat every day like the Olympic games.

How is this possible if there isn’t a loud, cheering crowd or cameras following the athlete’s every move?

  • When training, pretend there is a crowd watching what is going on. Imagine the cheers and yelling mentally.
  • When practising a skill, imagine that how you perform the skill that very day is the difference between a bronze and a gold medal.

Australian athletes preparing for the summer and winter Olympics are provided a clinical psychologist. The athletes are taught relaxation and stress-management techniques, such as counselling, and sleeping and breathing techniques. Others listen to music and practice positive visualisations, such as remembering past successes. Athletes have even used hypnosis to obtain optimal visualisation results.

Katya Crema, an Australian skier, has stated that mental preparation for the upcoming Sochi Olympic Games is just as important as her physical preparation. Crema believes that the Olympics are a mental game as well, so it is essential that she believes in herself and that she is as good as the athletes against which she is competing.

Australian athletes will be working with sports psychologists at this year’s winter Olympics. Not only will they be learning stress management techniques, they will also be learning to focus on the process of the sport in which they are competing and not the outcome. Additionally, they will be utilising techniques that will help them adapt to change and be more flexible in unexpected circumstances, like having a roommate that has a completely different training schedule.

 

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.