Postural Enlightenment- (a mental training exercise)
Postural Enlightenment is a way of focusing on how we are doing. Just a short post to remind everyone during the holiday’s to stay focused on what is important in their lives. Team, family, friends can not be forgotten. Your goals are important, but remember to take time for others. This time of year for some brings on a malaise or sadness. I try never to use the word depression as this is a clinical term and as you know I do not work with clinical issues. But from time to time sadness comes into the lives of most of us and we must learn to deal. So especially this time of year, I would like you to look around and pay attention not only to others, but to yourself. Get in touch with your feelings and sort things out. Self awareness is critical to becoming the athlete and person you would like to be. In this light I want you to become aware of one simple thing. It is simple and can change your perspective very quickly.
Let us have good head and shoulders—the basic elegant posture of enlightenment and peace. This is a statement I have seen for many years. I may have heard it stated this way from an associate who was also a yoga instructor. Yoga which focuses so acutely on form can send us an important message.
I can’t tell you how many times I remind athletes that our state of mind can dependent on our posture. The athlete knows the importance of posture, of proper breath, of being relaxed. Of course, you can tell when someone is sad, they slump. Problem is- it’s self-fulfilling. It’s hard to cheer up, mentally, when, physically, you’re slumped. Also notice a person’s or your own shoulders. Are you or they wearing shoulders for earrings? (more…)
TAGFEE in Sports
TAGFEE in Sports. I have written about core values before here. I think they are very important to teams, individuals and businesses. Normally I apply things we have learned from elite athletes and sports teams to the people I help in the business world. I do a good bit of team building and teaching corporate entities the value of working more like a sports team then a business unit. I’d like to take some time today and reverse this stratagem. It is not that when I work with sports teams I do not use the things I have learned from being in the business world to help them be efficient, I do, but this is something I want to incorporate more. It is not that these ideas are revolutionary to either the business world or to the sports world. I just happen to like the way that this is laid out in I think a very useful way. To be sure for some teams this will be very alien in nature. If this make your club, team uncomfortable that may be good. If you are the owner, GM or coach just consider how this could make a difference. Maybe there are a few things, if not all you could incorporate. I just want you to consider them for now and we can discuss implementation at a later time.
This idea blossomed in my mind after a meeting I had with Founding President Emeritus of a hi-tech company called SeoMoz, Gillian Muessig. She and her son Rand Fishkin developed this model and Rand has been the chief orator on what they call TAGFEE. I thought what I would do was briefly describe TAGFEE and then apply it to a sports team rather than to a business unit. You can read much more about TAGFEE on SeoMoz.
TAGFEE represents the following. Transparency, Authenticity, Generosity, Fun, Empathy and Exceptionalism. Now if you are a Team Owner, GM or Coach you are thinking this is what we do. We may talk about them differently, but basically this is how we roll. I’ve been involved all of my life in sports. It is not how we roll. For a decade working with my own teams I have been asking players to look at some core values for our teams. While I think I looked at a lot of areas that may have included these themes, I assure you not everything here is covered. I suggest that most teams fail to understand how important having this type of core value is to the running of their organization.
Let’s look closer at what this all means. (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…)
Even Sport Psychology Consultants prepare
So how do sport psychology consultants prepare to go work with a team? I thought it might be instructive to talk about preparing to work with a hockey team from my perspective. I think this is important to understand because there are no cookie cutter programs. Just as one of the very principles I work with athletes is flexibility, I believe that has to be the case with any program put together for a team of any kind. I’ve worked with lots of teams and I assure you it is always different.
My bags are packed and I’m ready to go!
First step is learning about the team. People who believe that sport psychology consultants, sports performance experts, sports hypnotists or any other name you can make up do not have to understand the game are crazy. Yes this is the technical term more of less banned in psychotherapy, but it is easy enough for everyone to understand. The first rule of counseling /coaching in any field begins or ends with rapport. If I’m a poser I will turn off the very people I am trying to help. Does this mean I have to be able to skate or for that matter Pole Vault, of course not. But I should be able to intelligently discuss not only athletic behavior expected but have a pretty good understanding of what it takes for an athlete to compete in their sport. The more I understand the language of a given sport, the better I will relate to a team. I once knew a sport psychologist that was making a presentation to a football team and talked about scoring more runs. I think you understand where I’m going. So it is important to have a good understanding of the activity. I certainly believe over the years being a coach and doing work in exercise physiology has been a huge help. Having been trained to teach 20 plus activities also doesn’t hurt. But I digress. (more…)
Seven Day Challenge: Remembering the Coin
About a week ago I posted an exercise Remember the Coin Part 1.
Remembering the Coin. It was really a seven-day challenge. I gave the instructions, but no explanation of what the exercise was about. I set it up to entice athletes to want to do the exercise without an explanation of what the lesson was about. I left that part out for a couple of reason.
1) If you know what it is about you are likely to say that is not an issue for me and decide not to give it a go.
2) Another reason is I wanted to show how perhaps language might impact those that gave it a try.
3) And the third reason is that as with many good mental training exercises, I did not want to influence people into thinking that it was one simple construct, but perhaps it had multiple meanings.
So here is part of the reason for the exercise. If you found other significance’s, I would love for you to post them here. At the end of the explanation I’ve added another challenge for those of you that found this too easy. That would be the 10% that passed, not the other 10% that lied or the 80% that failed.
The primary reason to do this exercise revolves around discipline. What almost every person lacks to achieve what they want is Discipline.
If you are not disciplined enough to complete a simple task for 7 days, how will you possibly be disciplined enough to commit to any kind of goal setting or other training plan?
From experience, I will tell you that you will always have a difficult time in any training, if you are not willing to do the little things that are involved in success.
This is one of the things I start with in working with athletes. If they are not able to complete this simple exercise, expectations are in need of reassessment. I know of another sport psychology consultant who refuses to work with an athlete that cannot complete this simple task. I would rather use it as a great learning experience and teachable moment. The effort the athlete puts into this process is critical to the long-term effort they put into the sports performance they want to achieve.
The reason this exercise is difficult is in its simplicity. Stupid or silly are words I’ve heard to describe it. Meaningless as they do not see the relevance. In its simplicity and meaninglessness is its relevancy. When an athlete finds that they cannot be bothered with details of training, they often cannot stay on track with many other parts of training. An athlete may have no issue with parts of training they consider important to their success, but other less interesting or fun parts get set aside. For example an athlete, say an ice hockey player, might decide that on ice training is critical, but when it comes to off-ice work the motivation is not always there. I’ve seen this interfere many times with the relationship between coach and athlete, because the athlete lacks discipline to carry out the coaches instructions.
The other thing about this exercise is that it demonstrates a need for emotional commitment to everything the athlete does. In this exercise there was no emotional commitment. The athlete has no blood in the game. Neither success nor failure means anything. This makes completion of the task other than by discipline difficult. We all need to make an emotional connection to what we really want. These connections are what help motivate us to continue when we have reservations. The exercise helps create an emotional connection. If you accomplish this connection, you’ll be a step closer to finding the athlete within you.
OK a couple of other points about how I set up the exercise. I did set athletes up to fail. I challenged them almost to the point of saying you are a failure if you cannot achieve success. However, I also left the gate open and said you can start over should you forget a day. The other thing I did was that I continued to use the word TRY everywhere I could. I asked the athlete to try and meet the challenge. This was really as much for parents and coaches, as the athlete. When working with players eliminating this word can have a very positive effect. Consider that this exercise would be easier if I had told everyone that they could be very successful just by completing this task. Eliminate try and you will see more progress in those you work with. I promise. Give it a try, or rather as Nike says. “Just Do It”
Remembering the Coin: POST SCRIPT
To make the exercise more difficult (for the 10% THAT PASSED). Take your paper and put it behind something. Put it completely out of sight so you force yourself to do it. You can invent other challenges as well. Keep in mind that often times discipline is a habit and to create a new and positive habit takes between 21-45 days. Teach yourself to be a more disciplined athlete and you will find many other benefits.
Learn about sports performance from Albert Einstein
As a sport psychology consultant teaching athletes about the mental game I’ve always thought of myself as very eclectic (choosing what is best or preferred from a variety of sources or styles) to help my clients. There are things like cognitive behavioral therapy, Neurol-Linguistic Programming, Hypnosis, Freudian Psychoanalysis etc. I have often said I am willing to steal (borrow techniques from anywhere to help athletes find their dream). So why not borrow from the greatest mind of the Twentieth Century. Learn about sports performance from Albert Einstein.
I’ve made it no secret that one of my major role models in life has been Albert Einstein. I wrote about this last month in Role Models and Imagination. I was thinking about him again today after quoting him to one of my clients, a college soccer player who also plays on an MLS u23 team. I told him about the imagination quote on my wall while helping him with visualization (imagery rehearsal). It got me thinking about other quotes and what he teaches even those of us who grew up as jocks and not physicists and mathematicians. So here are 10 Things to learn from Einstein that translate into sports performance. It’s not the Universe and it’s easier to understand than E=mc2. Einstein did love to sail. Though it has been reported that the man that opened up the Universe was directionally challenged.
Thing 1: Nurture a Curious Mind (athletes lacking curiosity do not succeed)
“I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.” Do not hold back curiosity. It has a reason for its existence. Keep a questioning mind.
Thing 2: Worth of Perseverance is immeasurable (A major component of Mental Toughness)
“It’s not that I’m so smart; it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” The price of perseverance is beyond the corporeal things. It cannot be measured. It cannot be sold. It has no price.
Thing 3: Pay Attention to One Thing at a Time (focus of attention or concentration is key to athletic success)
“Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves.” Do not do several tasks at once. It is in doing one task at a time that excellence is achieved. (more…)