Learn from a Jackass (donkey that is)
Learn from a Jackass is an old motivational, (scratch that) inspirational story. It has been repeated many times. I use it occasionally to make a few points about Mental Training. I’ve no idea where I first heard it; though I know it was years ago. I realized today that it is one of those stories I’ve not used here. So indulge me and learn a lesson from a Jackass.
One day a farmer’s donkey (officially recognized as a Jackass by Webster’s) fell down into a well. The animal brayed (Heehawed) for hours as the farmer tried to figure out what to do. Finally, he decided the animal was old, and the well needed to be covered up anyway; it just wasn’t worth it to rescue the jackass.
He invited all his neighbors to come over and help him. They all grabbed a shovel and began to shovel dirt into the well. At first, the donkey realized what was happening and cried horribly.
Then, to everyone’s amazement he quieted down. (more…)
The Water Tower Motivation Analogy
If we look at a metaphorical generalized model of what motivation might look like it might be a large water tank. I am not in any way removing my supposition that we need to think about motivation as a triangle. This is just another way of generalizing about motivation to help athletes understand more about the simplicity of motivation overall and some of the complexities.
So if we use a picture of a large water tank I think it will help with the explanation. There is no top to the tank and so for many of us motivation, drive, enthusiasm, or the Fury just over flow the tank. The tank is filled mostly and best by a hose that is inside the tank. Sometimes it is filled by other people. Oddly they make us offerings of speeches, carrots and sometimes they use fear which can be a motivator as well. All of these hoses are smaller and are far less effective at filling the tank.
Sometimes our tank develops hoses in it. Normally when we are fully focused out internal hose keeps up with the out flow. Sometimes it is difficult to keep our internal hose on all the time and the leaks sap us of some of our essence. Holes develop for lots of reasons like a lack of confidence, stress, poor team cohesion, outside distractions, etc.
If the hoses cannot keep up with the leak, we see less of the motivation we usually have and performance generally diminishes. We can patch holes of course. Generally what happens when things are leaking is that we lose ourselves and take our hand off our internal hose regulator. If we can’t keep up for the inside it is very difficult for all of the outside hoses to keep up. It becomes a situation as in Hans Christian Anderson’s story of the little Dutch boy with his finger in the dike. Eventually you can’t keep up with the leaks and having stopped filling from the inside you end up being no longer motivated, even though it is something you wanted very much to do.
Eventually many people at that point just stop trying to keep the valve open and have to shift. Shifting is one way of closing those holes. The problem is after the shift things are never really the same until the person finds something that re-ignites their passion.
I hope that this makes some sense to you. To simplify it I can have you think of it this way:
- Internal Motivation = Big Hose (but you do have to keep a hand on the valve)
- External Motivation = Smaller hoses controlled by other people. It takes a lot of these hoses to top of the tank.
- Leaks = Stress, anxiety, loss of confidence, fear and many others. You can keep the leaks small or patched by using mental skills like relaxation, imagery and other cognitive behavioral techniques.
I think a huge secret in all of this is understanding your Big Why. If you understand your own triangle you will have a far easier time keeping your hand on the valve or perhaps even think of it as pedal to the metal which ever works best for you. Finding and knowing your why will always help you keep the water near the top. It will allow you to rely far less on all those small hoses. It gives you ultimate control because the big hose you control so when you need to back off, even when your coach is overly enthusiastic, it is in your hands. Same goes for when you develop leaks. Adding a little extra water in will allow you to use your mental game skill sets to seal up the holes, ultimately with a patch that neither requires attention or the little Dutch boy’s finger.
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…)
Control Anger: Keep your cool
In sport we often need to control anger. It is a natural emotion experienced by almost all people, and as something that has functional value for survival. Anger can mobilize psychological resources for corrective action. Uncontrolled anger can, however, negatively affect personal or social well-being.
Athletes know when they not focused, not working hard or just plain not bringing it. An opponent likely is getting in their head, or your coach is yelling at you; it can cause frustration that can affect one’s performance causing angry outbursts.
If you are competitive and that winning seems to be everything when on the ice; as most athletes do, and that when the heat of the game is on they may let things go right away. Then in this precarious emotional state something happens in the game. Maybe there is a little extra contact. Maybe someone takes a cheap shot at one of your team mates. So what can you do? Push the player back? Fight? Yell at your coach? Yell at your teammates? Take yourself out of the game? Get thrown out of the game? Whichever one you decide to do, it is probably not the best way to handle the situation, and at the end of the day, is it really helping you? Or is it actually hurting you and your team? Most likely it will be the latter. However, the way you react can make or break the game you are in. A negative reaction can lead to a lack of coordination between you and the other players on your team throwing the entire team off-balance. A positive reaction, however, can inspire you and your team creating an unspoken commitment and drive from each player to put everything they have into the game, creating unity throughout the entire team. Now don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that an aggressive act to protect your team mates or yourself in inappropriate. I could hardly work with hockey players if I believed that o be the case. I am suggesting however that whatever you do is based on cool calculation and not anger. (more…)
Olympic Conversation and More
Whenever the Olympics roll around I love to listen in on the commentary. A great deal is always about the psychological aspects of competition. So this is about Olympic conversation and more. Yesterday they talked about how the most celebrated beach volleyball players in the world added psychological training to what they do. There are always mentions of athletes cracking under pressure and those that excel with it. The one’s that excel often mention that they work with a sport psychology consultant. I’ve been fortunate to have worked with 14 or so that have gone on to the World Championships and the Olympics. Some have won and some not. It is a competition after all. All of them said their performance was the best that they had to give, win or lose. Isn’t that what everyone wants to come away saying? I’m putting together some examples and I will post them later in the Olympics. It is a great place to observe how athletes cope with being on such a huge stage. Do they lose focus? Does a normally fluid performer look stiff with tension? Are there lots of unforced errors? What were the effects of being successful and coming back for more and what were those implications? All Great Stuff.
Olympic Conversation and More, here’s the more
I so rarely post pictures of myself with clients. I do so only with their consent. This is a picture of me and DeAndre Yedlin. He plays for Sounders FC U23’s and the University of Akron.
Sounders FC U23 Player DeAndre Yedlin with Mike Margolies
That is Soccer of course. The PDL League is perhaps the same as Minor League Baseball A Ball and or other semi pro leagues.. Combination of college and X college players working towards playing professionally. Today he was named to the All PDL National Team. I’m very happy for him. Great work ethic, great attitude and of course a great mental game.
The common theme today is simple. Olympians using sport psychology. One of the best College players in North America using sport psychology. So the question is, as always, Are You?
And I’m not asking everyone to call me. (It would be nice however, as I would love to hear from you). I am saying that you should gather information and incorporate it into your training program.
If you are interested in learning more just go to www.themental-game.com
Concussions in Sports- Tragedy of Jr Seau’s Death
Concussions in Sports- Tragedy of Jr Seau’s Death. A few days ago Jr Seau, former NFL linebacker (19 years) shot himself in the chest and died. I rarely jump ahead of formal news reports, but the evidence is suggestive and because it is, awareness is important.
I have pulled some statements from football super agent Leigh Steinberg’s blog. You can read his full blog at How Many Deaths Will It Take? → I wanted to help players, coaches and parents understand that we are all part of the problem and the solution. Don’t get me wrong. As a sport psychology consultant, I’m a tough guy. I love contact sports. I love aggressive behavior for both males and females in sport, but I believe in teaching sportsmanship, good technique and common sense. I also believe that we need to be aware of the issue and our awareness will keep players safer. This is not about scare tactics. It’s about protecting are players and our sport.
Leigh’s statements are in red.
Normally, speculation as to causation would be premature, but these are not normal times. The specter of head injury and the disastrous lifetime ramifications call for emphatic action. There is a largely undiagnosed health epidemic which has surrounded contact sports at the youth sports, high school, collegiate and professional level and it is a ticking time bomb.
What are the long-term ramifications? How many head injuries are too many? How long should a player sit out after suffering the hit?
The players themselves were in a state of denial concerning physical health. They had been taught since Pop Warner to ignore pain — hide injury so as to not lose their starting position or jeopardize their status on the team. They didn’t want to be known as “training room” players and be stigmatized and isolated from their peers.
I just wrote about this for juniorhockey.com because ice hockey is no different; in fact hockey has a reputation of believing hockey players are tougher than football players. My previous post here was about SHAME. It contributes to the problem. (more…)