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.

Mental Notes from the 2012 Master Golf Tournament

Mental Notes from the 2012 Master Golf Tournament

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 Mental Notes from the 2012 Master Golf TournamentTournament 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.

definition of Resiliency and emotional intelligence?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.

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…)

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The Game within the Game: Mental Skills Training for Jr. “A” Hockey Players  Part III: Skill-Set: Imagery Rehearsal /Visualization / Mental Practice

The Game within the Game: Mental Skills Training for Jr. “A” Hockey Players Part III: Skill-Set: Imagery Rehearsal /Visualization / Mental Practice

This is the third post in my series about the effects Sport Psychology and Mental Skills Training can have on Jr. “A” Level Hockey Players. I am indebted to for posting these to the hockey community.

In the original I talked about four important skill sets. Relaxation: Imagination/Visualization: Self-confidence: Concentration. Of course these are not the only skills an athlete needs to work on, but it was a good place to get started as they have great impact and the terminology is easy to understand. Last week’s focus was on Relaxation .

This post focuses on Imagery Training.

Imagination/Visualization: What if we could practice more shots every single day? What if we allow that it takes 10,000 repetitions to groove a movement to a level of expertise? If Perfect Practice really makes perfect, through the use of imagery and visualization we can learn new skills and perfect them faster by using our minds. So let’s use the time we have wisely in order to find success. Utilize visualization techniques for both learning and accelerating your performance–in everything you do.

I have a great deal of experience in the area of applied imagery training. There are many diverse skills an athlete can develop with the aid of imagery. While working with athletes, I have developed these basic guidelines:

  • define realistic goals and limitations which are sport- specific
  • utilize relaxation training to prepare for imagery
  • develop a very clear image or feeling of the successful performance
  • maintain periodic surveillance over the athlete’s experience