"Don't go to the doctor!" But the shoulder pain has become unbearable. "Just don't go to the doctor!" my skating coach insisted again. I always know he has my best interests in mind.
"Why not?" I asked.
"Because he will just tell you to stop skating."
"Well what if he's right? I have to feel better. It's just too much now."
"He's not right. Pain is just part of life now. You are older, you will have pain. You can still skate."
Whoa, he played the age card. No fair. Still, I know I have endured numerous minor aches and pains regularly for years, figuring they will likely be with me for the remainder of my "older" adult life. But this pain has become unbearable. It wakes me in the middle of the night, begging for attention. I have invented a hundred "workarounds" to help me dress, open the car door, put my hair up, even hug my kids without pain.
I decided to ignore my coach's pleas, and made an appointment with renowned shoulder expert, Dr. B. After a series of x-rays and an office visit filled with excruciating movement study ("do you have pain when I do this?"), my diagnosis was shoulder impingement and rotator cuff tendonitis. Basically a ton of inflammation and parts rubbing rudely against other parts that have no business being rubbed. His prescription for now is anti-inflammatories and some physical therapy. Day 2 and so far not much has changed, pain-wise. I will start the physical therapy on Monday, which will be Day 6, so hopefully the meds will enable me to do some exercises with much less pain.
OK so that is the back story. Now for the lesson. It's a lesson for me. It's my job, my passion, to help injured athletes successfully navigate the sport injury rehabilitation process and come out confident and ready to return to play. All the knowledge in the world does not compare to knowledge plus experience. I am ready to experience, ready to practice what I so fervently preach. Thought I would share with you as I go.
It's not going to be easy, as you can see from my coach's reaction. In the past, I have had sports injuries. Of course I have. Any athlete can point to any number of dings, sprains or breaks they have had. When training for the Marine Corps Marathon one year, my spirit was willing, but my achilles was weak. Had I continued to train it would surely have ruptured. I endured rehab and came back, though I did miss the marathon. Poor timing. So I have past experience to tell me that I will get through this, I will return. At that time, however, I did not yet know about the mental tools I could have used to help me. I struggled instead of taking control and thus did not fully regain confidence in my ability to run long distance.
Another difference between then and now was that I was an individual, training on my own and not with a coach or team. I did not need to please anyone with my progress but myself. There was no timetable beyond my control for my return. Now, I have a coach. And the pressure he exerts is far more than I imagined it would be. It's not like I am training for the Olympics, but I must say I have made significant progress in my skating this year, and who knows what the future holds. To my coach, though, Olympian or not, train through the pain is the mantra.
Granted, Dr. B did not specifically say "don't skate." He did say quite obviously, "If something you're doing when you skate causes pain, it might be a good idea not to do it for a few weeks to let the medication and therapy do their job."
Like many of my clients who hear these words or face the cessation, albeit temporary, of a loved activity so integrated with life, I immediately began to figure a workaround. I can still skate, sure, but I just won't use that arm. Sure, that will affect my balance, my ability to use my shoulders to guide my turns and edges. But is that so bad?
Practice what I preach. I need to do this right, if for no other reason than to prove to my clients I get it. And that the tools we use during their rehab do indeed work. So here I go.
Even though my injury was not due to a trauma but was gradual in onset, there still came the moment when I knew enough was enough. Yet I was still unprepared to consider taking a break from skating. I did not understand exactly what was happening to my shoulder. There was a feeling that my shoulder was betraying me. As athletes we are very in tune with our bodies. We know how they move, know how to direct them to perform. We know what feels right and what feels wrong. We have the sense that we are in control of our bodies. So when an injury occurs, we may feel we are losing control over our bodies. So first things first, I set out to understand from Dr. B what exactly was happening without me. He is an amazing doctor, very patient and knowledgeable. He showed me a model of a shoulder, demonstrated over and over what was going on in my shoulder, and what needs to happen in order for the pain to go away. I plan to take this information into the next phase, when imagery will really come in handy.
Robert Griffin III probably thought social media was the key to his connection to his growing fan base when he first came to Washington. He happily shared his thoughts about his opportunity to play for the Redskins, his workouts, his expectations for himself. His Twitter followers gobbled up every tweet and responded with overwhelming positivity, encouragement and support. At the mention of his pending nuptials, fans everywhere flooded his home with gifts from his and his fiancee's bridal registry. The humble and grateful gentleman hand-wrote hundreds of thank you notes to his generous fans.
When the unthinkable happened and Griffin found himself under the knife, fans rallied on social media with words of encouragement. Griffin shared his personal recovery timetable, goals and struggles. I, too, was very interested in his discussion of his mental recovery (RGIII's Mental Game).
Social media, however, can be a double-edged sword. Even as it nurtured and lifted the bonds between favorite athlete and appreciated fans, it soon served as a method of slow, methodical destruction when the going got tough.
As Griffin's return proved more difficult and a second injury and rehabilitation effort hampered his efforts to be the exciting dual threat as per his billing, comments and debates ensued. Negativity grew. Griffin, for all of his humility and affability, could hardly hide the hurt he was beginning to feel with the backlash. He is human, after all. Study after study shows negative comments far outweigh positive when it comes to what our human brains attend and hang on to. It takes at least 10 positive comments to soften the blow of one negative.
For Griffin, the positives fell far short. The change in Griffin's once engaging and humorous larger-than-life personality had become painfully evident. If only we could tell ourselves, "Who cares what people say or think" of us. But sometimes that is a bell which cannot be un-rung.
[Full disclosure is warranted here: I am a lifelong Washington Redskins fan. And while not wishing to disclose my age, I did cheer for the Fun Bunch, the Hogs, and had a schoolgirl crush on Joe Theismann. I actually got to meet him once at the old Redskins Park after a practice. You could actually get close to the building back then. It was a great day I still talk about. I got an autograph and had a nice little chat which I will always remember--I'm sure he does too. OK maybe he doesn't. Still...I "knew" Joe Theismann just from watching him play. This was long before social media. How would things have been different then? How about a tweet to NY Giants Lawrence Taylor after the game which ended Theismann's career? "Man, LT, we were just wishing u luck when we said break a leg LOL" But I digress...]
Athletes who elect to put themselves out there on social media need to prepare for the inevitable bad that goes with the good. Prepare for how to handle and process what come in. Ideally, refraining from reading comments would keep negativity away, but we all know that is nearly impossible. A bit of perspective is required.
Remember that for the vast majority of "followers," social media affords an anonymous identity through which anything can be said without consequence. But for the celebrity athlete, such anonymity does not exist. Responses and reactions to negative anonymous postings should be kept to a minimum.
Athletes should strive to portray themselves in a positive light. Social media is a great way to do this, if done properly. And while it is great to feel the fans love, it must be taken for what it is--anonymous, conditional, and often, fleeting.
Athletes must decide who in their lives are truly important to them, whose opinions matter, who is really there for them. Anything and anyone else cannot be of great influence. It is the only way to protect oneself from mental anguish in bad times.
RGIII will bounce back. He is a proven warrior, who has beaten the odds with his style, and has impressed and entranced thousands of fans with his humanness. But the only one he really needs to fully support him is himself.
I'm sure everyone has been wondering, "How is Christie's skating coming along?" I mean, it's been 2+ years of lessons now (one 30-minute lesson per week--summers off--and three 90 minute skating sessions per week--again, summers off). So it's time for a check-in to see all the amazing progress.
I have been applying principles of sport psychology, using my mental tools to help me learn and develop skills, mentally rehearse and perform with confidence. One tool I had purposely neglected to use--and I had my own good reasons--was videotaping my practices.
While videotaping practices and performances has a number of very positive uses for athletes, for me, the idea of possibly seeing that the reality didn't match the beautiful fantasy in my mind, was a slope as slippery as the ice I magically sail upon.
Content to use observation of other skaters and my coach as my examples of proper execution, my visualization practice involved seeing myself and my skating from a first-person point of view. I would see the ice, the rink, my skates, from an internal perspective, not third-person the way I actually appear to others.
In my images, I perform the skills just as I've seen others perform them. This has been effective in learning the basics, improving my confidence on the ice, and helping the movements to flow a little better. Eager to share my incredible accomplishments, I invited my husband and kids to the rink so they could be blown away by my progress. My husband brought out the video camera, and for once I was OK with it.
When I finally watched the video, however, I realized the person on it was not exactly me, or the me I'd imagined in my head. There was definitely vast improvement but I could pick out a lot of things I was not doing well, to put it kindly. The confidence I felt on the inside when on the ice did not show on the video.
At first I was devastated by the disconnect and wanted to just throw in the towel. After all, this is just a hobby. But the competitive side of me--and the sport psychologist--searched for the silver lining. I have reached a point in my training where I can stay stagnant or make a great leap forward. It's up to me.
I can now integrate video into my active toolkit and make it work for me at a level it could not have when I was a mere beginner. The key for me is to watch with ego firmly detached, and observe from a perspective of learning, tweaking, perfecting. Rather than blissfully practice skills "slightly wrong," when I'm on the ice, I will focus on the aspects of each move and how to perform them perfectly.
Practice makes perfect? Only if it is perfect practice. It will require taking a few steps back in order to bound ahead.
I actually look forward to getting back out there and practicing with renewed focus. I look forward to my next video, too. Never thought I'd say that.
For many years, attempts have been made to just do away with the third place game in the World Cup. The players agree they come to the World Cup to win. Anything less, pun intended, is no "consolation." Teams vary as to how they have approached the game in the past. Some have even managed to let loose and have fun. Let's look at this year's contenders and how they approached the game.
Brazil likely wanted to just get it over with. But they had something to prove. To their fans, to themselves, to their country. They saw in this final game an opportunity to prove they were more than the sum total of the goals against them in the semifinal against eventual champions Germany.
The Netherlands, on the other hand, apparently didn't want the hassle of changing their return plane tickets home, so reluctantly agreed to stay and play the game they supposedly love one...more...time. Something like that.
I'm sure the fans who spent the money and took the time to travel great distances to wear the orange (and I do mean orange--see under, "whoa, that is a bright color! We will be seen!) or to "root, root, root" for the home team, appreciate the players' acquiescence. But don't they deserve more? What is it all really about, anyway?
Is it about young men who have loved the game for their lifetimes and dedicated themselves to playing and perfecting their craft? Men who would do anything just to be out there playing?
Is it about the fans, people who may have their differences at home, but who can come together in harmony to share whatever comes as one collective entity, cheering, celebrating, jeering or consoling?
As soon as you hear comments from the players and coaches voicing their disdain for anything less than victory, it makes you wonder. It makes me wonder where along the line the values we try to instill in our young athletes have gone off track. "Winning isn't everything" has become, as Dutch coach Louis van Gaal so bluntly put it, "There's only one prize, one award that counts, and that is becoming champion. This match should never be played. Teams don't want to play for third place." Dutch forward, Arjen Robben added, of the possibility of a third place medal, "They can keep it."
It is disappointing to know now that the team who had some real emotion in playing, some motivation, was left with nothing. Brazil wanted to be professionals, to show their character. It didn't manifest in a win, but I give them credit for their attitude and drive. In the face of semifinal humiliation in front of their home crowd, they took their consolation game as a challenge and opportunity. It will sting for a while, but hopefully they can find a way to be proud of themselves.
These teams on the world stage may not realize it, but they shoulder the burden of being an example to millions of young soccer players around the world. The way they play, the laughable dramatics and showmanship, the incredible skill and athleticism, all are being scrutinized and internalized by these young fans.
As heartwarming as Brazil's David Luiz's show of good sportsmanship toward Colombian player James Rodriguez was, I have to wonder why it stood out so much--I guess these types of moments are few and far between, which is unfortunate. But that image will stay with the next generations and that is the real heartwarming part.
Thank you, Netherlands, for finding it in your hearts to play one last game. Next time, be bigger than your egos. Think about who might be watching, who you can inspire with your play, your attitude, regardless of the outcome. Second loser? Only if you think it so.
Get 'em next time Brazil. Your fans will be behind you as long as you stay true to why you play and how you can inspire.
It's the Olympics, and the US athletes are expected to shine. A whole nation expects them to return next week laden with gold. But so far, expectations have been met with disappointment and questions. "What is going on?" we ask. Surely there is some conspiracy, right? Oh yes, the speedskaters' suits were to blame for Shani Davis and company's disappointing finishes. Or the Cold War is back and it's all on the Russian judges. What about the invisible tripwires on the skating rink? Even Mother Nature is in on it, laughing deviously as she brings summer to the Black Sea resort, turning the ski and sliding courses to slush. Ah, wait, maybe it's all in their heads. Our team, collectively, is losing confidence and mental toughness all at the same time.
Or maybe...maybe it just is what it is. Anyone can win any race or competition on any given day, even at the Olympics. ("Do you believe in miracles?!!!!") These athletes are the best of the best from all over the world. Even with the best physical training and mindset, does any one athlete have complete control over every aspect of competition? Certainly greater conditioning, better strategy, more confidence, an ability to focus, relax and do what they do best can give athletes an edge. An edge. Not a guarantee. With every athlete facing the same external conditions, it comes down to individual performance on that day, at that time.
Julia Mancuso, a favorite in the women's downhill, finished eighth. She said of the combined less-than-stellar showing of her team, "...There's really only three spots where you can get a medal, and there's tons of skiers out here who can really step it up and have their best races." Anyone, any day.
Not to say that all of Team USA's performances have been epic failures. In many sports where the difference between medal and empty hands can be hundredths of a second or point, these athletes are faring quite well.
I would be remiss if I did not emphasize, though, that the mental game is a huge component, particularly in situations where external forces beyond individual's control are in play (i.e., weather, course conditions, media intrusion, subjective scoring). All of the athletes need to put everything in perspective. Favorites should try to manage others' expectations in their minds, and not get caught up in the media spectacle. Up-and-comers should remind themselves that every Olympics brings stories of great surprise medal-winning performances. When it comes to the actual performance, though, the focus needs to be solely on the race or the short-program or the game, relying on the comfort that training has provided. The knowledge that they have prepared physically as well as they possibly could, and hopefully have prepared for all of the "what if" scenarios they can't control, so they know how to handle anything that is thrown in their path, should give the athletes peace of mind.
No matter the external conditions, the athlete's ultimate performance in those conditions is completely within their control at this point. They can be assured of performing at their personal best if they can keep the right mindset. Will their best be enough to medal? Again, nothing is for certain. Success is doing what you know how to do, the best way you know how.
When it's their turn to perform, all that is left is to quiet the mind, take a deep breath and just do it. On any given Olympic day, anyone can win.
From Olympic speed skater Apolo Ohno's book, Zero Regrets: Be Greater Than Yesterday:
I love this saying: Reach for the unreachable. When you reach for that branch in the tree and you can touch it - great. That's your goal.
More: that's your destination.
When it's your destination, that changes everything about how you approach the way. An Olympics, for instance--that might be four years away. There are innumerable ways to get there. But those four years are going to speed by amazingly fast. An Olympics lasts seventeen days. The cauldron goes out and it's over. I've arrived--or have I?
Afterward, while I surely remember the Games themselves, I mostly recall the moments on the way. The strength you gain from that is remarkable. You've lived the experience--really lived it, fully.
The process, not the outcome. That has to be what sustains us as athletes, elite or weekend warrior. Every time the Olympic Games come around, we hear announcers say things like, "This is it." "This is what it's all about." "This is the moment." "This is what they've trained for." But really what "This" is cannot just be the Olympic performance. "This" wouldn't be enough to sustain these athletes over four years or more of highs, lows, good training days, bad training days, missteps or injuries, honing skills, practice, practice, practice.
What else besides the thought of "This" do I believe has to be there?
Number One: Passion. Passion for the sport. Passion for the feelings sport participation brings.
Number Two: Desire. Desire to be better than you ever thought you could be. Desire to see what your body and mind are capable of.
Number Three: Enjoyment. There has to be a feeling of joy and fun, or why do it?
Number Four: Reward. Rewards all along the way. One long-term goal of "This" and the thought of a possible reward of a medal of gold is not sustaining. There must be short-term goals and rewards to maintain motivation. Each and every small success should be celebrated.
Number Five: Positive Attitude. See success, feel it, live it before it's even there. Feel like a winner every day.
Number Six: Perspective. Realize when considering international competition, the odds are not exactly in any one person's favor. Pinning one's hopes and the idea of success or failure on one competition (considering there are always some variables outside of your control) is not just foolhardy, it is detrimental. Yes, it is an honor to represent one's country. Yes, the build-up to the Olympic Games is out-of-this-world, over-the-top phenomenal. But maintain perspective. Understand that if you are skilled and fortunate enough to get to that level, you cannot let the results define you as an athlete or as a person. See the bigger picture. Your Olympic experience began the first day of training. Every bit of blood, sweat and tears has been your Olympics all along. Know that, appreciate it, enjoy the whole experience of it.
How does this relate to the weekend warrior? Every time you step onto the field, the rink, the court, the treadmill, the aerobics studio floor, you are training for your personal Olympics. Push yourself, enjoy yourself. Live the experience fully. That is what "This" is. Go for gold, whatever that may be for you.
Here's to enjoying and living "This."
Excerpt from: Ohno, A. (2010) Zero Regrets: Be Greater Than Yesterday. Atria Books.
As soon as I reveal my occupation here in the DC area, I am inevitably asked, "Can you save the Redskins?" I wish it were that simple. I could just go to Redskins Park, meet with the team in their super-cool practice "bubble," flash a smile, say something magical and that would be the difference. But unfortunately, sport psychology is not magic. There is no one thing that anyone can do or say to completely transform a team in an instant. Working with a team is a process, and involves many facets. Could I ultimately save them? The good news is, I know in time I could make a difference, absolutely. How would I go about it?
I have been reluctant to comment on the Redskins this season. It just seems there is so much going on beneath the surface, so much that is not being revealed, that it would be folly to attempt to say definitively what is needed and how to solve all of the issues. Having said that, here is how I see it.
I see a team in turmoil, from both the top-down and the bottom-up. There is a lack of trust, a lack of team cohesion. There are egos involved; the almighty dollar and the business of it all are factors. There is a genuine and pervasive lack of respect between players and coaches, but also between players themselves. Many comments by players to the media appear laced with passive-aggression, daring us to read between the lines.
It has been questioned whether there is even any talent on the team. Whether the play-calling has been sufficient. Whether players are playing to their strengths, their potential.
The functioning of the team as a whole can only be considered as the sum of its parts. Each part must be in working order for the whole to achieve success. Individual efforts can be recognized and celebrated, but for a team sport, must be integrated appropriately into a team effort.
Here is my plan of action:
If I were able to attend practices at Redskins Park, I would look for several things. I would look for the existence of an effective practice and talent development environment. I would look for practice drills that are purposeful. The coaches would know why certain drills are useful, and this information would be relayed to the players. There would be learning, not just doing. The players would be encouraged to make decisions on the field.
I would observe the feedback coaches give. Is it well-timed, productive, effective? How do the players react to being coached? Do they encourage each other? Is there tension, or are there some light moments as well? What happens when mistakes are made?
I would go to the training room, often where we find the heart of the support staff, the caregivers. Mental skills can help injured athletes rehabilitate more efficiently, and prepare them mentally to return to the field. This is vitally important to keeping them confident, motivated, and to avoid re-injury. Healthy athletes are key to consistent high-level production on the field.
I would observe strength and conditioning training. Mental skills such as imagery, can produce huge increases in the training effect over physical training alone. Stronger players perform better. They are more resilient, confident. They can perform beyond their comfort zone.
Much of what I do involves a lot of observation, listening, asking questions that help define issues and subsequent interventions. In talking with coaches, staff, players, yes, even Dan Snyder himself, I could formulate intentions for impact and appropriate interventions. With everyone's cooperation, commitment and dedication, we could, together, make a huge difference. So...Super Bowl win? While there can never be guarantees, the newly transformed Redskins would have one heck of a shot.
This week I wrote an article for coaches on this site about feedback. It addresses the basics, how to give feedback, how much to give, when to give it, how often. As I was writing I reflected upon my own experience with my figure skating coach, Pavel.
I know I've written about him before, and his role in my saga from scared-to-death-of-ice to pretty decent skater with a dream or two. He is old school Eastern European, meaning compliments and encouraging words are few and far between. At times it is frustrating, because I wonder why I am paying him when he doesn't say too much. But actually, I know now I am paying him for one big reason--he's good. Really good.
Whether he realizes it or not, his style of providing feedback is right in line with the research which says "less is more." He has an allowable "bandwidth" of movements within which I can perform. If I stray, he is on me immediately to correct what I have done. As I have improved, the bandwidth has narrowed. He allows fewer deviations from proper form than he did when I started. For example, when I was just starting, the focus was on balance and gliding. It didn't matter quite as much at that time whether my knees were bent as much as they should have been, only that they were not perfectly straight. My arms could be out to the side, not necessarily at the perfect angle, but mainly to help me learn how they could help me maintain balance and direction. Now, however, I have noticed that if my knees are not bent enough, I am corrected quickly. He has given me more specific detail about where my arms should be, which way I should be looking, keeping my shoulders square to the short wall. With each new skill, the bandwidth for that movement is widened at first, then narrowed appropriately.
I complained to him once that he wasn't giving me enough detail about how to perform a movement, what I should be feeling, which muscles to tighten or relax. I am a "thinking person" and like to have as much detail as possible. He is opposed to thinking while skating, but will indulge me if I ask. That is the key. He is holding out, waiting for me to internalize the movement, to get the feel of it myself, to experiment, adjust, and finally learn how to do it all on my own. He notices the adjustments I am making. If he doesn't see any improvement, he will offer suggestions. But mostly, he waits until I ask, which is usually when I haven't been able to figure it out by myself. The learning taking place internally for me, is vital to my success in skating.
So the other day at my lesson I mentioned to him how good he is, how his style matches what research suggests brings the most success. He smiled sheepishly and said, "I know this already." Well, he certainly knows it is reflected in his pairs skating team, who recently qualified for Sochi to compete for Estonia! His lessons with me, I'm sure, bring him back down to Earth and check any ego fluctuations.
How many of us "know this already" about how to get the most out of our performance? When I talk with people about what I do as a sport psychology consultant, I get a lot of comments such as, "Right! That makes so much sense!" It should. It is, as my mentor from Penn State, Dr. David Collins, used to say, "Common sense not commonly applied." I help people discover what they already have at their disposal, their brilliant and strong minds, and offer ways they can apply mental skills to improve physical performance.
We are constantly adjusting to one another, Pavel and I. He gives me a few more "very goods" to keep me happy, and I ask more pointed questions when I need them but not all the time. I am learning, internalizing, and that is the point. Pavel offers a successful learning environment. I apply the mental skills I have learned over the years, and it really helps me improve day to day.
Oh, and I have fun, too.
What diehard Caps fan didn't hold his breath or shake her head in disbelief watching super goalie Braden Holtby allow 8 goals on 45 shots as this season started? Who can we count on now? What is going on?? But one person wasn't worried, and that was Holtby himself. Confidence intact, this student of the mental game of hockey understands exactly what is happening, and knows that in a short time he will be all he ever was and more.
Even the greatest athletes can find room for improvement, though often are reluctant to make any tweaks or modifications, for fear it will interfere with their continued success. In fact, the changes, if applied, practiced consistently and internalized, will only enhance success in the long run. But the resistance persists for many. An athlete may look to a coach, veteran teammate or professional such as myself, for something they can do to improve, to get the edge over the competition. But if that "thing" is a change in style, position, anything the athlete has been doing for a long time, the walls can go up.
It is true that initiating change means what has become a habit needs to be "unlearned" in favor of something new. Research has suggested for anything to become a habit it must be consistently applied for at least 6 weeks. Most athletes say, and rightly so, that they don't have 6 weeks to experiment with their performance. So timing is indeed a consideration. Ideally when an athlete is performing, he wants the movements to be automatic. He shouldn't have to think, just do it. When something new is in the mix, inevitably thinking goes along with it. "Wait, I have to do this instead of that." "Now how was I supposed to stand?" So we need to remove the conscious thought in favor of automatic responses.
Holtby has been fortunate to be able to work with goaltending coach Olie Kolzig, himself an outstanding netminder, who has made some "tweaks" to Holtby's game--mainly footwork and positioning. Holtby says, "I think any changes you make that you haven't used your whole life take a little bit of work." And of his slow start, "It's just one of those things that when you start to struggle you go back to your old ways and get in even more trouble." Old ways, old habits, former automatic moves. The key is to make the new moves automatic, to completely replace, write over the old ones. Holtby is an amazing athlete, and fortunately also a willing student, eager to soak up expertise wherever he can find it. Obviously the new elements make sense to him; he has bought in to them. This is a very important point. You need to trust the source of the new information, believe that the changes will indeed work, and completely understand the reasons behind them. Now it is just a matter of making the new elements automatic. Holtby gets it, and will be that much better for embracing the changes. There is no need to fear change in your game if you plan for it, devote yourself to practice it and internalize it to make it automatic. You'll know when you're there, because suddenly there will be no "old ways" to fall back on in a critical moment. I like the saying, "Don't practice until you get it right. Practice until you can't get it wrong." Pure automatic.
Have you read the Sports section of your newspaper lately? I have. I do every day. I am always amazed by how much of what I read refers to mental aspects of a player's or team's performance.
Try it sometime. Read an article in that section and see if you can spot it. An athlete, a coach, the writer, inevitably someone mentions something about what is going on beyond the physical aspects of the sport performance. That's because the mind plays such a powerful role in ultimate behavior. The possibilities of success for an athlete who learns these techniques, and how and when to apply them, are endless.
While you may not have heard specifically of "sport psychology" before, you have most certainly experienced it whether you knew it or not. That is why this is so exciting for me, and why I love what I do. I get to point out, put a name to, common sense that is not commonly applied. My clients inevitably experience that "a-ha moment" and there is a noticeable improvement in every aspect of their performance.
Consider your own performance, be it in sport, business, or elsewhere. When you were successful, how did you feel? How did you prepare for a meeting, a presentation, a game? What went through your mind? When you made an error or even failed entirely, what thoughts appeared? Did you have a good talk with yourself? Replay what happened? Tell yourself you won't do it that way again? You were using mental techniques to affect physical behavior. Whoa! Breakthrough! We all are capable of great success and improvements in state of mind and behavior. The key is knowing which techniques are most effective, learning how to use them, and when to apply them.
Back to the newspaper articles. Golf is in the headlines here in DC, as the AT&T National is in full swing (pun intended). Considering the actual physical effort in golf--swing, hit--takes mere seconds of the player's time, there is an awful lot of time out there when the player is left to think. In today's Washington Post, writer Barry Svrluga writes,"The walk from the ninth green to the 10th tee at Congressional Country Club cuts across the pristine practice green...There is, in those few hundred paces, a chance to think, be that productive or destructive." (emphasis added)
Young golfer Jordan Spieth, just 19, felt he just needed "one break" to rebound from less stellar play. His outward appearance along the course reflected his inner voice. His shoulders slumping, eyes unfocused, he looked like a beaten man. "Maybe lost a couple of shots with my emotions there, which is upsetting," he says. He let some shots affect his thinking about future shots, a big liability in this or any game.
On to London, where Wimbledon finished its opening week. Here we find more than just physical play at work for Serena Williams, number one seed. What could she have to think about when she is already so successful? Remember a rule of thumb in competition is to take each moment, each play, set, match, win for itself. Learn from it and move on. So for continued success, the mental training cannot end. "I feel like I try to play better as each match goes on," Williams said. "I try to find out something I can improve on from each match."
From calming nerves to self-talk to refocusing to self-evaluation, ultimate performance depends not only on physical skill and strength, but on command and application of mental tools as well. The importance cannot be overstated. Still unsure? Open the Sports section, and read all about it.
"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.