Did you catch Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III's press conference yesterday? If so, you may have noticed he alluded several times to mental aspects of his rehabilitation. He talked about "mental reps," mindset, goals and imagery. He sure seems to have a good head on his shoulders, and knows how important it is to engage his mind as he heals his knee.
RGIII said that at yesterday's practice he and a few other injured players went through "mental reps," rather than taking actual snaps and running full-speed plays. He said doing the mental reps kept him engaged in the practice, rather than just sitting there, watching. "Practice can get a little boring when you aren't taking those mental reps, but as long as you get at least a little bit of work in, we don't feel like we're completely separated from the team." This involvement is vital when you find yourself on injured reserve. In addition to helping you to still feel a part of the team, the activity that you do engage in, even mentally, continues to strengthen the neural pathways involved in the physical movement of play. RGIII held the ball, dropped back, surveyed the field and threw the ball. He did not do any sprinting or cutting like he might have if he were in perfect health. Since there was no pressure to actually complete the pass or avoid a blindside hit, he was able to focus more on the process of decision making in the plays. He explains, "The mental rep is...basically just paying attention...It helps you by looking at it from a different perspective, so that when you get out there on the field you understand that you only need to look at this guy on this play, this guy on this play, and you go about it that way."
RGIII also knows the importance of setting goals when embarking on the seemingly endless road back to full activity. He said as soon as the surgery was over, he thought about the date of the first game of next season. He made that his goal for returning to play. He even set that date as his pass code on his phone!
Finally, he talked about his mindset as a player. While many may criticize some of the play calling decisions made in the past, we all need to remember we are dealing with a "high-caliber athlete," as RGIII referred to himself. More may be expected, but more will likely be achieved as well. He said he wasn't going to change his mindset, his will to win, but he would do a better job of making more appropriate decisions for the situation. He also talked about his emotional mindset upon his return to play. Many athletes have a nagging doubt that their injury is truly healed, or they fear that they will suffer another injury. RGIII said, "It's all about having that confidence. If you put the work in, you'll have that confidence when you get back out there on the field. It's about playing like you were never hurt." He said when he returns to play he will not play afraid. He will believe that he is invincible. His fans are way ahead of him on that one.
I am no longer a beginner figure skater. This is my favorite thing to say since about three weeks ago when my coach "tested" me on my basic skills and declared I had received a passing grade. It's a really big deal for me because I am new to figure skating itself, not just to lessons. And because up until a little over a year ago, I was deathly afraid of the ice and everything about it. Cold, hard, slippery, unforgiving--what's to like? But when my young son declared he wanted to be a hockey player and take lessons, I pulled out the mom martyr card and decided to make the big sacrifice. I would learn to skate too, so I could help him achieve his Alexander Ovechkin board-crashing celebration dreams.
I tried on my own at first, and thought I was making great strides. I was falling much less frequently--bonus! I befriended a woman who was much more advanced than I, and who kindly took me under her wing. She very directly declared I was not doing very well, and should take lessons from a coach like she was doing. I appreciated the honesty and got a coach. He and his coaching partner have been skater and coach, respectively, at the Olympic level. Naturally, I was a bit intimidated at my first lesson!
Fast forward to today, and now my coach (I switched coaches to the partner back in September) actually says I'm doing "very well" once in a while. (He is not one to give positive feedback unless it is earned. I guess you could say he is the Simon Cowell of the rink. I do appreciate that, actually!) How I got from Day 1 to today was a study itself in sport psychology, and an inspiration for me to go "official" so I could help others achieve the same success.
My main tool of choice was, and continues to be, mental practice. After learning the physical requirements of a movement at the rink, and practicing it (usually badly, with less than stellar results at first), I go home and relax and practice it all in my head. I try to experience as many senses as I can, recalling the feel of my muscles during the move, the placement of my skates and my arms. Even just imagining these, I can sense my muscles actually tensing, receiving the message my brain is "sending," but without the order to actually move. In my mind, I am always successful with the movement. Over and over, getting it perfect each time.
By the time I get back to the rink, my mind feels a sense of confidence, that I have already mastered the new moves (albeit in my mind). My body responds as if it had all been in "real life." While not perfect, there can be huge improvement even the next day. And I don't have the fear and trepidation I had upon first learning the skill.
I have set goals for myself, continue to use mental practice, and have such a blast at the rink! Look out Disney Princesses on Ice, here I come!
Finally the website is live! I hope you find it useful and even inspiring. Personal Best Sports is the culmination of many years of education and "unofficial" sport psychology consultation. When I decided to go "official," I mulled over names for the business. Similar businesses I found included "mental or competitive edge," "elite," or "winning" in their names. To me, these words all seemed to invoke competing at the highest level, surpassing all others, winning as the ultimate outcome. My contention, however, is that our greatest competition is actually ourselves. Being able to achieve a personal best performance, constantly improving, staying motivated, setting and achieving goals, and most of all believing in one's self and abilities, is more valuable in the long run in both athletics and life. It is through striving to achieve our personal best performance that we develop mental strength. A happy by-product of this just might be winning, beating the competition or having an "edge" over the others in one's chosen activity. But that is not the main focus. In my practice with athletes I am a resource, a guide, a catalyst. Through discussions, careful analysis and observation, and implementation of a personalized plan of action, I enable the athlete to improve focus, take ownership of their skills and abilities, and find ways to mentally prepare for athletic activity. By applying what I teach, athletes can be in control and well on their way to one of many "personal best" performances.
The Personal Best Sports logo depicts an athlete breaking through barriers to reach for the stars. The stars are goals, and the barriers represent conflicting attitudes, beliefs, negativity. There are three stars to represent mind, body and spirit. All of these are intertwined and play important roles, whether in athletic development, injury rehabilitation, or ultimate performance.
I hope you will take the time to read the articles I post in each of the specific areas of interest--coaches, athletes and parents. I hope you can gain insight that will help you in your endeavors. And if you are interested in delving further and would like to meet with me for consultations, I am here for you. Welcome, and enjoy!
"Even if you are on the right track, you will get run over if you just sit there."
Personal Best Sports
The sports world is filled with stories of perseverance, failure and success, personal struggles and public triumph. Each story provides insight into the mental side of sport and activity.