Why mental training?
I was asked the other day and not for the first time why do mental training? I have been a proponent for three decades now that everyone should do mental training and working with someone like myself can help give every athlete a new set of tools or even one tool that will help them get to a new level of performance. I have worked with beginners to world champions and everyone finds something that is useful to them. But the question is still often asked so I thought I would address it here today.
The usual questions start with how does mental training or sport psychology help athlete’s perform at a higher level. Generally before I can answer that question the person will ask; will it help me deal with ___________________? There is a long list usually dealing with fear or anxiety. The answer is yes it will help and in so many other areas as well. Usually people will ask about a certain area.
In general I usually work with athletes on some form of the things I have listed below. If you are astute the thing you will notice is that I have listed a combination of training techniques and issues. I’ve done this because over the years I have found that people tend to think about sport psychology in both terms issues and techniques. An example is relaxation training. Athletes may want to learn how to deal with stress and the easiest way for them to talk about it is they want to learn to relax. Whatever way you want to think about is OK. What I want you to understand is that regardless of how you think about sport psychology and mental training it must be in your arsenal as a hockey player. It doesn’t matter how much talent you have, and I have worked with world champions, this is an area that you can improve and help yourself get to the next level. (more…)
Journal of a Sport Psychology Consultant
This is a journal of a sport psychology consultant. A week with the Cheyenne Stampede working with them on the mental game. Pre season Mental training with them. I thought I would take a brief moment to talk about the process. It is a process I have used many times, but it is always different in the sense that flexibility is critical. I had worked out a rough schedule with the GM prior to my flying in. He and the head coach had worked it into a posted schedule on the website so the players were aware of what we were going to be doing. I flew into Denver and drove up to Cheyenne where I met the GM at the Holiday Inn (a team sponsor).
Working with the Cheyenne Stampede, Jr A Hockey Team
Our first session was at 5PM, but our first stop was practice. I met briefly with Coach Quarters as the players hit the ice. Right after practice we headed to Smart Sports which is where they do strength and conditioning. It’s a great facility with its own medical facility. I met the facility owner and head physician Dr. Skip Ross and the personal trainers and physical therapist. There were a few players getting PT while Ro the personal trainer was killing it with the team doing core and strength work.
Headed to the Arena for my first session with the team
Ceremonial Puck Drop prior to Stampede vs Weber State
Talked a little more with Coach Quarters about my plan and then met the team officially. I was introduced to the team by GM and owner Mark Lantz. GM & coach sat in on introductory session. This is important to establish that what we are doing is important to the team’s success. I’ve often been asked to work with teams and the team coaches and front office more or less go play golf. This hurts the programs credibility as players see it as there is no buy in from staff. (more…)
Failings of sports psychology: A Response
I just read an article about the failings of sports psychology. So I need to respond. It’s been an interesting week as a sport psychology consultant. I’ve had a couple of clients take part in major competitions and do well. I even got acknowledgement from them, their families and some of their coaches that a good part of their high level performance was due to their new skills that they learned from me. (there is a point here)
I also worked with a reluctant client. My definition of this type of client is one who knows they need some help, just do not believe sport psychology really has anything to offer. They just believed they were not mentally tough enough to deal with competitive anxiety. This person was goaded by a friend to at least give sport psychology (and me) a chance. (another point).
The rest of the week was pretty much normal with clients preparing for their seasons, some speaking gigs and meeting.
I want to tell a story first.
I am reminded of one last story and feel compelled to share. It is about a major steam ship that is at anchor here in the Puget Sound. It is broken. Something is wrong on this billion-dollar ship with its millions of dollars of cargo. It is costing the shipping line $50,000 a day to be stuck just outside Seattle. Unable to move the captain is desperate for a solution. They call all around the area and try several ship mechanics to no avail. One of them finally tells the captain he should call Hiram. Hiram is an old mechanic and semi-retired. He answers the call. Hiram goes down into the engine area and looks around. He listens and listens some more, standing very still. The captain and his head mechanic start to think they are simply wasting more time.
Suddenly, or at least as suddenly as an old man moves, the master mechanic moves over to one of the pipes. He takes out a hammer and bangs it once at the elbow. The engines start up immediately. Everyone is thrilled. They congratulate Hiram and themselves for being smart enough to call him in.
They then ask him what they owe him for his 15 minutes. He tells them $50,000. $50,000 they say for 15 minutes, that’s crazy. Write it out for us, they demanded. What is the entire bill for? He takes a piece of paper and simple puts down two lines. $1,000 for hitting the pipe. $49,000 for knowing where to strike.
Yes, knowledge is important but equally important is imagination in applying knowledge. I’ve met a lot of people, worked with many and a great deal of them know, absolutely know, what to do in lots of situations. Just as we needed those really good teachers when we were growing up, sometimes we need help to fill in the gaps, so we can be successful.
Late in the week through two social media outlets I got two references that both said the same thing more or less. The first was by some guy trying to sell a book and the other was by a psychotherapists turned sport psychology consultant. The gist of both posts were nearly identical. “Most Sport Psychology Consultants Stink, and Here’s Why”. (more…)
Mental Notes from the 2012 Master Golf Tournament
The Masters Golf Tournament 2012
Yesterday April 9th, 2012 I sat back and watched a fairly dramatic Masters Golf Tournament to its conclusion. It was an enjoyable afternoon. There was drama and both good and bad play. I hadn’t watched the Masters in years for one reason or another. Just timing really as it has always been one of my favorite golf tournaments. I’ve seen remarkable play at Augusta and remarkable meltdowns. I’ve seen dramatic shots that ripped the green jacket off of the apparent winner and I’ve seen apparent winners toss the jacket away with shots that are normally the jurisdiction of high handicap players. I’ve witnessed crushing defeats and glorious victories. My favorite moment was in 1986 with Jack Nicklaus winning at the age of 46. It was a moment lost in time not only because of the Golden Bears age or the hug for his caddie son on the 18th green, but because I watched it with friends at a sport psychology conference and it would be the last time we were together in one place.
So why am I writing about yesterdays Masters. Not because of the drama of Bubba Watson winning the two hole sudden death playoff even though his approach shot was remarkable. Yes I do think there were a few interesting psychological competencies that are always demonstrated during highly pressurized matches, but there was more at this one. Not more pressure or more instances where we could see them, but for me something more interesting.
I will interject a twitter argument I had with a sport psychology researcher while we were tweeting away about the match. He pointed out that Bubba Watsons shot that basically won the Masters was not a demonstration of mental toughness because if he were mentally tough he would not have put his drive in such a bad spot to begin with. This is just another case of a researcher not having a good understanding of sports. While I believe there is much more to mental toughness as I have written quite often about, I do think it was an example of resiliency an important competency of emotional intelligence and mental toughness. I will of course state that we don’t know from what we say on TV had anything to do with any psychological construct other than to say it might have been a great example of resiliency. That in fact is how I use anything seen from sports events in working with athletes. They are stories that teach lessons about things we want athletes to understand. What actually happened we don’t have an understanding about unless we have the opportunity to talk with the athlete and even then the information would be questionable. But as an example of behavior we want another athlete to emulate, it provides a great story and as such is a wonderful teaching tool. So to my twitter friend, I’m glad you are out there doing research. I hope it is useful to those of use that work in the real world.
Back to the Masters and why I was so intrigued. One of the first things I heard during the broadcast was the word visualization. Not once but twice in succession talking about a golfer. This was followed shortly with remarks about how calm the golfer is and comments about his breathing. As I paid attention during the tournament I heard more and more references to psychological constructs related to performance. Hearing one or two during a tournament is no big thing, but it seemed to me that there was a definite tendency towards the mental picture of a golfer. I’ve watched tournaments for years both on TV and in person and usually the discussion is about swing mechanics. The only time the announcers focus on mental attributes is when a player melts down for the world to see. This was definitely different. I heard discussions about stress, anxiety, focus, calmness, breathing, visualization, imagery, emotion and other skills. I have to wonder out loud, this is as loud as I can be, if it was part of their show notes or just a new trend especially with so many golfers working with sport psychology consultants like myself.
AS for what I saw at the end of the tournament. I saw two golfers hit bad drives on the 2nd playoff hole. I won’t say it was stress. It could have been something as ridiculous as just a slip in footing. The next shots I will use as examples. Louis Oosthuizen was in a better position for his next shot. He left it short. Stress, loss of focus, poor club selection or a bad lie could all have caused the ball not to carry to the green. Watson had to hood a wedge 155-165 yards and hook the ball 40 yards to hit the green. He did and basically put himself in the driver’s seat. Oosthuizen would have had to sink his putt to regain control and instead put the ball past the hole. At that point the tournament belonged to Watson. The construct I will use regardless of what actually happened is resiliency. Watson hit a bad shot and needed a great one to recover. Golf is an unfair game and sometimes you hit shots that don’t go where you want them to go. How you recover is how you succeed. This is one of the keys to emotional intelligence. Bad things happen in every sport. Not just because of stress, but often because of the good play of others and it is how you recover that will dictate how successful you ultimately become in anything you do.
Last week LA Laker Kobe Bryant went like 0-14 in a game and then hits the game winning 3 point shot. People don’t bounce back unless they are resilient. There will always be examples of remarkable athletes and great performances, but as people are rarely perfect, they most always need to bounce back from some adversity. Resiliency can be developed within you. I suspect it’s worth a shot.
This is not just for golf, it is for life.
Is Mental Training Right for You and your Team? Ask Questions-
I was talking with a potential client’s mother today. She wanted to see if I was the right fit for helping her kid. We discussed all of my services, but it came down to some basic questions. One was that the concern he would think there was something wrong with because of the term “Psychology” and the other was how does sport psychology and mental training fit their needs. The second part was easy, and it has been the nature and intent of the posts I have been making. The first question gets more to the roots that 99% of Sports Psychology and Mental training is for healthy athletes that want to increase or accelerate their performance. Yes, we deal with things like fear, self confidence and anxiety, but it is with the intent to increase performance.
So as you read through the rest of this post, I would like you to answer two questions for yourself and me. Please feel free to leave comments so we can have a conversation.
1) Is mental training right for you and/ or your team?
2) What makes someone wake up and say to themselves “I think I’ll look for a sports psychologist / mental trainer today? (I ask this in part because in talking with sport psychologists in Canada and the UK, mental training is far more accepted than it is in the US and I have been working with athletes for three decades and am still answering these questions today. So maybe it is that I am missing something and would love to hear from you.)
The Big Why
Baseball great Yogi Berra is quoted as saying, “90% of all sport is mental and the other 50% physical. Why do we spend almost 100% of our time training only our bodies? This is the big question you need to ask yourself as an athlete. What are you doing to train your mind for athletic success? Are you dealing with competitive stress productively? Sport Psychology and Mental Game Training will help you reach the next level of peak performance. You need to explore and see if there are areas of your mental training that would benefit by learning the game within the game. Most programs are relatively short, but the results will last a lifetime.
Take this short quiz.
1) Are you a confident athlete?
2) Do you understand how best to use imagery to help you to peak performance and to accelerate learning of new skills?
3) Do you deal with your fears?
4) Do you know how to relax? Can you turn the switch on when you need to?
5) Do you lose focus during competition?
6) Does the word choke hit close to home?
7) Do you use an effective pre- and post competition routine? How about for practice?
If you found that there are questions that you answered to with a NO, then let’s turn them into a YES. Gain the skills to effectively get results and take your game to the next level. Come join us and play the Game within the Game.
The greatest waste in the world is the difference between what we are and what we could become.
Most people have so much more potential than where they are right now!
Success or Failure is dependent on one thing- YOU
Are you the player you want to become? Come discover” The Athlete within You” and find out what is sport psychology; and why you should learn about the game within the game!
This is Part I of a series of posts I did for Jr. Hockey . I am currently on staff with the Cheyenne Stampede and they asked me if i would be interested in writing some posts for Jr. Hockey. I’m at three so far and it’s been a very nice response.
Are you familiar with the game within the game? It’s the game we play with ourselves and the one we play against each other. It’s about what we tell ourselves preparing for, during and after competition. It is also the games we play with our opponents, and at times, even with our team mates. It’s about self confidence, stress management, concentration, goals, visualization and motivation. The game we play with ourselves to best prepare for the game that takes place on the ice. How we play this game determines how we play the one in the arena.
Are you ready to play? Do you know the rules? Are you playing this game with the proper background and fundamentals? If you’re not, then you really need to get in this game, because in most competitions, whatever your level, what happens in this game determines how competitive you are. How you play the Mental – Game will ultimately decide your outcome and success in sports, as well as in the classroom. Striving to reach your potential is about the game within the game. This is especially true for Jr. “A” Hockey Players and I’ll tell you why.
All athletes deal with stress. Generally it is stress of competition, but life being what it is always adds to the fun. This is particularly true in Jr. “A” Hockey. While most athletes the age of Jr. “A” players are competing in high school or beginning their college careers, the Jr. “A” hockey player has all of that and a few additional stressors to cope with. In Jr. “A” hockey, the players are very much like any high level player in other sport. They have school, they have practice, they have a life (revolving around practice and competition), but they also are full-time athletes. Early dry land training, then school, then team or community obligations. Of course we can’t forget about regular practice and games and travel. (more…)