I’ve not ever felt a need to do this before, to have a year in review. It is a new experience for me. I want to look back at 2012 with clarity and be able to move forward in new ways. So taking my own advice, I am going back over the successes and of course challenges of the past year. You can cut to the chase by going to the last paragraph if you like.
Starting with the Athletes and their sports
Sounders FC U23 Player DeAndre Yedlin with Mike Margolies
I worked with an amazing group of athletes this year including those in the following sports: Golf, football, gymnastics, hockey, equestrians, soccer, tennis, swimming, softball, baseball, track, diving, roller derby, basketball, triathlon, cycling, fencing, water skiing, fitness, power lifting and lacrosse.
Competitor’s ages ranged from 12 to 70+. Competitive levels were club, high school, college and professional. Seven high school athletes earned scholarships or were accepted to their first choice college as an athlete (Ivy League = no athletic scholarships). One college walk-on earned her full scholarship. Most the athletes, but not all, were starters on their respective teams. In the end all were starting most of their games. I worked with a few teams as well at the club and minor league levels. All in all it was a very good year for the clients I worked with. If I were to put it in baseball terms, I would say that we batted around .900 Read the rest of the post by choosing more…. (more…)
On being overconfident what does this mean? Part of the goal in working with athletes either as a sport psychology consultant or as a coach is to produce confident athletes. We know both from practical application and research that confident athletes perform at higher levels than athletes lacking in this competency of Emotional Intelligence (EQ). However, it is important to look at confidence on a continuum from low self-confidence to overconfidence. We know athletes fail on either end of this continuum. Muhammad Ali had a supreme level of confidence that served him well.
Most psychological literature suggests that human beings are overconfident in their abilities. We tend to overestimate our ability to perform in given situations. This is part of human nature and perhaps related to our need to achieve and for survival. Lack of confidence certainly hinders effort; if someone believes they will fail, we know they will make less of an effort. That said, overconfidence can lead to failure, and it’s an issue that’s not covered nearly enough in the available literature.
Researchers believe evolution likely favors overconfidence (OC). People having an overly positive self-image tend to win out over others with more accurate assessments in sports and other activities. By making every kid a winner, sports educators have probably contributed to this notion. We need to remind ourselves even in a discussion about overconfidence that in order to achieve success, we must believe we can. Being OC may drive someone to believe they can achieve almost anything. Keeping in mind the adage “If you think you can or you think you can’t – you are right”. Overconfidence is often the information deficit between perception and performance. Objective feedback is the best independent variable to help athletes maintain balance.
Three issues stand out in talking about overconfidence. First the drive for preparation is often lacking in those that are overconfident. This can be physical and mental. Athletes that are OC may not put in the effort needed to prepare for a contest. When this is the case, coaches must be aware and communicate the proper challenges for athletes. Often this is done by inventing scenarios about the opposition to create focus for the athletes. I recommend creating practice and contest challenges that require athletes to prepare as if they were getting ready to compete against equals or slightly better competition. Require skilled practices where a high set of goals need to be met. Joe Namath predicted victory in the Super Bowl even though NY Jets were underdogs.
After you’ve create a solid practice routine, the second issue is effort during a contest. Being OC may mean that athletes are willing to sleepwalk through a game. Again coaches can use goal setting to help athletes stay on task. It is an opportunity to play athletes that don’t often get the same playing time that starters have earned. This motivates everyone and can push OC players not wanting to find themselves on the bench because of lack of focused mental and physical effort.
Third, overconfidence is often linked to arrogance. Arrogance in an athlete can lead to conflicts on teams. A certain amount of cockiness is admired by coaches and teammates. It can be an issue when it causes a disruption on a team and cohesion takes a beating. Of the two other issues, this requires a strong coach to guide the athlete, while not shaking their confidence. The old adage “A dogs bark is more often than not just a loud noise”. One good way of working with athletes like this is to discuss role models and have them describe the athlete’s temperament and not just their athletic prowess.
The primary ways we help athletes using mental training to teach them the emotional skill set to maintain proper balance. This involves goal setting, monitoring their self talk; helping them identify positive role models, and increasing their self-awareness with accurate performance information. A runner gets accurate information, as the stop watch only speaks truths. On a team, an athlete is more likely to get false information, both positive and negative, from a game and practice because the information is more subjective. Coaches and others can help make information usable with good input.
The bottom line revolves around self-awareness. Confidence is interrelated with other EQ constructs. Helping athletes develop a balanced understanding of themselves and their abilities enables them to find the proper competitive balance and perform at their highest levels.
Fear of Failure or is it the Fear of Failing? I was reading someone’s blog. They are a personal trainer, not a sport psychology consultant. I’m not saying that because I’m academically prejudiced about personal trainers. Just about the best friends I have are trainers and coaches and I borrow concepts from them all of the time. I just want to make it clear that their definition is based on their experience. As I guess you could say are all of ours.
They were talking about FEAR. Primarily Fear of Failure. It was a decent piece as far as it went. The writer unfortunately does not understand the subtle difference between Fear of failure and fear of failing.
They wrote “FEAR can be scary; it can definitely hold athletes back from accomplishing many great things. But as a trainer my job is to take that Fear and turn it into a positive. Turn it into something that the athlete can use to strive to become better. For example, my Fear is failure, I do not want to fail at anything I do, so I push myself to achieve greatness at all things. I do not always succeed but I learn many great lessons from my failures. We as athletes, coaches, parents have to turn the Fear of something into a positive, so we can achieve greatness on all levels. We need to strive to be better today than we were yesterday”. I do wish it was just that easy, but they made some interesting statements. Most of all it got me thinking about the difference between Failure and Failing. (more…)
I’ve written about motivation before on this blog and it’s a major theme in “The Athlete within You”. Understanding what drives you is very important to your success. This came up the other day with one of my client / athletes. In going over her ESi (Emotional Intelligence Sports Inventory) we discussed her low Achievement Drive. A part of a measure of her internal motivation. The first question I generally ask of course is “WHY do you compete?” Usually I get a fairly trivial answer or one that doesn’t often ring true. With some exploration we generally start to see a better clearer picture of why someone competes and what their purpose is playing a sport. In my gymnast’s case, she thought she was competing to to get into the college of her choice. As we explored her “why” it became clear to her that her real motive was to be part of something special at college. I could see a change in her behavior and her emotions as she understood her “why”. Understanding her why gave her the conviction to commit to part of her routine at State and Regional’s that had recently caused her to fear her dismount in one of the events. Understanding her “Why” isn’t the only technique I taught her to use in overcoming her fear, but her understanding made it far easier for her to believe in herself and that she could place and move on to Regional’s and then National’s.
I got a message from her mother last night and then an email from her this morning that she finished in the top four in all round and took first in one event and will be headed to Nationals. I pretty good change for someone stuck three weeks ago fearing that her dream might be finished. I am really happy for her.
I’m not writing about her accomplishment because I need to brag about being good at what I do. After 30 years of working with athletes, her story is familiar and while I do myself feel great about helping her, (It is my Why after all), I wanted to write about her because she demonstrates so clearly by example what happens when you increase your self awareness and discover your “WHY”.
As I got ready to write this post, a Facebook “friend” posted a video on his drive for success and I want to share it with you here. It is a very short video. The athlete is Bryan Clay. Bryan is the reigning World and Olympic Gold medalist in Decathlon. I have a soft spot for decathletes as one of my first clients was one. So here is the short video.
The role of sports psychology and how mental training can improve your performance is today’s subject. My last post talked about why sport psychology and mental training is important in hockey player development. If the last post was about why, today’s is about What.
The goal of sports or performance psychology is to help players and teams perform their best by improving mental skills that help athletes excel in sports. Sport Psychology is not about working with problem athletes or abnormal behavior. Mental training or mental game coaching is the segment of sports psychology that focuses specifically on training athletes on how to break through the mental obstacles that distract them from performing up to their peak potential. Learning mental game strategies via mental game training helps improve overall performance by enhancing preparation and consistency.
A myth that most athletes maintain is the view that mental and physical aspects are separate. Some athletes believe they must first master “perfect” technique or mechanics before they can improve their mental game, mindset, or mental skills. You cannot separate the mental from the physical when it comes to being your best. Sports Psychology helps athletes develop emotional control and is just as important as mastering the technical aspects of sport. Here are some lists I have gathered over the years from various places you might find useful.
When is Sports Psychology Needed? When ….. (more…)
Keep in mind that I have been working as a sport psychology consultant for three decades now. I’ve seen a lot of changes, but not enough. In Europe and even in Canada I know sports psychology consultants that never even hear these questions. So why here? If you get my book you will note that I trained under someone many consider the modern father of sports psychology n North America, Bruce Olgilvie. He started working with athletes in 1966. And we still ask the question 46 years later. The Russians brought Sports Psychologists with them in the 1950’s. Why is it in North America, particularly in the US, we have made such slow progress. This is in answer to feedback I got from my post “Is Mental Training Right for You”
Many athletes have a fear that other athletes or teammates will see them as weak if they work with a sports psychologist. Are you or any of your athletes hesitant about mental training? I talked with a football player at a DI University that has a sport psychologist and he said very few would utilize their services and it was free. Myths about sports psychology can prevent athletes from developing a strong mental game. (more…)