Learn about sports performance from Albert Einstein

Learn about sports performance from Albert Einstein

Einsteins contribution to sports psychologyLearn 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 Sailing, could be lostEinstein 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…)

Game within the Game – Slideshow

The Game within the Game slideshow

I thought I would post one of my PowerPoint presentations on the game within the game. It is how I often introduce sport psychology and mental training to parent groups. It is performance oriented and takes a more research or academic based approach to mental training. Come view the slide show and see many of the topics covered in mental training and how it can be a benefit to athlete who decide to travel this road. Mental training is an important aspect of the athletic experience.

Visualization: Follow up on the Masters Golf Tournament

Visualization: Follow up on the Masters Golf Tournament

Following up on something from the Master’s that applies to all athletes. I’ve made some comments about this the use of imagery and visualization in other posts, but the comment by Bubba Watson is particularly important.

Bubba got off the course at the Masters and said “I just got into the trees, saw a crazy shot in my head, and now I’m wearing the Green Jacket”.

So let’s look at what this means to an athlete. The ability to imagine success is critical to performance and imagining or visualizing the right picture is important as well. It is not good enough to conjure up unrealistic pictures in your mind, nor is it helpful to have a perspective that will not be of value.

I’ve been asked many times what the difference between using your imagination and fantasy is when using this process. The answer I generally give goes like this. It is one thing to imagine jumping to catch a pass or dunk a basketball when it is within your abilities, it is another thing to believe you are Superman and believe you can leap tall buildings in a single bound. Visualization is a developed skill using solid goal setting criteria to use your mind to in many cases problem solve a solution.

Perspective is important. I’ve studied elite athletes at the United States Olympic Training Center, college athletes and dancers and found that their perspective using imagery changes depending on your level of accomplishment. Higher level performers, when they are learning a new activity, view themselves performing as on video. When they imagine a well learned skill it is through their own eyes, seeing what they would during performance. This perspective has been referred to as external vs. internal imagery. Lower level athletes and dancers reversed this tendency. Our analysis also showed that when we taught athletes to use visualization as elite performers did, their skills improved faster than groups that imaged as lower level performers. I have been using this method training athletes for over two decades very successfully. It is not a random event. It is not what seems right to you. If you want success, do as experts do.

So what does this have to do with Bubba Watson and his great shot at the Masters Golf Tournament? EVERYTHING! Bubba saw the shot in his mind. He pictured for him a realistic outcome based on past performance. He likely viewed it from both perspectives. External and internal.

The consequences were emotional control, confidence, and the motor ability to put the shot together. What he saw in his mind allowed him to unconsciously find the right swing plan to hit the shot. What we do imagine or visualize has a direct effect on our motor neurons and our performance. If you want to experiment, just visualize failure doing a task. If you are really trying this most of the time you will not do well. Try shooting on goal. Imagine a ball or puck going way left or right and then fire away without changing the image. As you practice doing this successfully you will perform better. In an active sport like hockey, basketball or soccer using imagery rehearsal with relaxation is very effective in learning new skills as well as honing things you already are great at. Keep perspective in mind and you will become a better player. The next post I’ll talk about emotional control and imagery.

Panicking or Choking in Sports- Do You recognize the Difference?

Panicking or Choking in Sports- Do You recognize the Difference?

Panicking or Choking in Sports- Do You recognize the Difference?

In working with athletes on emotional control especially as it concerns emotional intelligence I frequently need to help athletes cope with situations in which they say they choked. This then is about Panicking or Choking in Sports.

Very often it is a big game or a game that involved added pressure. Added pressure could be anything from a big crowd or critical situation. Sometimes it is not the game, but who is watching.  Just having someone important in the crowd, like a special relation, scout or coach that the athlete is trying to impress has been known to increase the level of pressure causing athletes to have a poor performance. We have over time seen instances on TV in major championships where athletes did not cope properly with the competition. There are two negative behaviors that can occur under this type of pressure. Choking and Panicking.

I received a post from an associate about a book called “What the Dog Saw” Malcolm Gladwell

I read this a few years ago when it first came out. The author is Malcolm Gladwell and it is available thru Amazon.com  He has a chapter in it called “The Art of Failure”. Gladwell does a great job in describing the differences between the two by describing behavior, brain processes, and psychological studies related to choking and panicking.  

“Choking is about thinking too much.  Panic is about thinking too little. Choking is about loss of instinct.  Panic is reversion to instinct.  They may look the same, but they are worlds apart.”

Let’s look at choking first. When an athlete starts to focus on the future outcome and has negative thoughts as in what will people say if I miss the shot or if I don’t skate well tonight Coach Jones isn’t going to offer me a scholarship. The thoughts are plentiful and cause an athlete to be tight and not play to their ability. When I teach relaxation training one of the muscle groups I focus on revolve around the neck and jaw because these muscles tighten under pressure hence the name Choking. Teaching athletes to be aware of tightening of these muscles can allow them early recognition that they need to refocus. The thought of the possibility of choking during competition ruins many players ability to enjoy their sport. It often is a more destructive thought than actual concerns about team or even their own success. The shame and embarrassment of having choked the game away can be very debilitating. The answer is understanding how important our self talk is in shaping our behavior. What we say to ourselves really does matter. Using emotional control in stressful situations will help a player tremendously. It is a skill that can be learned and is part of understanding emotional intelligence.

Panic is a bit different. It is the abandonment of everything an athlete has trained to do and relies on instinct. This is our old limbic system at work, or the flight / fight response so often seen in sports. An athlete seemingly just loses (some would say their minds) control and panic sets in. Often time I have seen athletes break down completely. All of their strategy or tactics goes out the window. Dependent on their skill level they can sometimes play ok, but their focus is gone and they often react contrary to game plans. Either way choking or panicking the issues remains similar in that performance degrades completely. Elite athletes may rely on their greater experience and find away to overcome panic and settle in. This is where experience plays a role and why coping behavior is so important. If we remember that practice does not make perfect, that perfect practice makes perfect it is easier to understand what happens during competition. If an athlete panics, the more ingrained perfect practice is, the more likely they rely on that experience. It is why I emphasize the use of guided imagery to enhance the practice competitive experience. If an athlete uses imagery rehearsal and practices stressful situations with positive results, when stressed they will relay on the system that is highly practiced and trained, resulting in a better performance. This can be very unconscious as opposed to the more conscious behavior of choking.

Is Mental Training Right for You and your Team?

Is Mental Training Right for You and your Team?

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!

The Game within the Game: Emotional Intelligence in Sports

The Game within the Game: Emotional Intelligence in Sports

Emotional Intelligence in Hockey players

Emotional Intelligence in Sports

This post was intended to be about self confidence, but I decided I needed to take a step back and rather than talk specifically about gaining confidence; a more general overview of Emotional Intelligence was in order. In this way it becomes easier to address many aspects of how the Game within the Game affects hockey performance.

Sports Psychology research has seen the increase in a concept named emotional intelligence. First utilized in the business world, Emotional Intelligence is finding its way into other areas of life such as sports. What is it, how can it help sports performance and how can we enhance our own emotional intelligence? Emotional intelligence is a relatively new construct that has emerged over the last ten years. Identified as ‘the capacity to recognize and utilize emotional states to change intentions and behaviors. Emotional intelligence can be measured through a series of statements about emotional states and the ways that a person deals with them.

Emotional Intelligence can be summed up as: (more…)