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A popular group of articles on what ‘is the difference that makes the difference’ in sporting success. The mental game and sport psychology is where true champions emerge. You may also be interested in our most popular, most recent and other categories of articles and videos.
In conversations I have, coaches often say to me: “So I have this athlete, and they have great physiology, they’ve got a massive VO2, and a really good motor. But they can’t concentrate, are undisciplined, doesn’t listen to me…but they could be such a success”. Often people put too much emphasis on the physical capabilities of an athlete, when the mental skills they lack are just as critical to an athlete’s success.
While Sport Psychologists can provide a valuable service in sport, sport coaches need a basic knowledge of Sport Psychology. Often though, coaches find the topic daunting and therefore put it in the “too hard” basket. Other coaches employ the services of a sport psychologist to assist their athletes and miss important benefits of a holistic coaching approach. In this article, we define what sport psychology is and what aspects are best incorporated into training and competition day by the sports coach.
Mental toughness and resilience is a key quality in athletes that are revered and successful in their chosen sport. The US Navy SEALs resilience is renowned, they are some of the most mentally tough people in the world. So when I was afforded the opportunity to spend time with the Navy SEALs and listen to their take on mental toughness, it was a real privilege and one of the most significant experiences I had during my coaching years.
This is a topic that has recently gained a lot of momentum as a critical issue in sport. For elite athletes, the large majority of their effort and energy is focused on their training and competition. Throughout their careers, athletes make personal, professional and financial sacrifices so they can pursue their dreams. This is where the concept of the ‘Athlete Transition’ comes into play. ‘Athlete Transition’ is all about dealing with the challenge of no longer being an elite athlete, whether from a sudden injury or retirement, or even after an athlete’s college sporting career is over.
One of the biggest misconceptions when it comes to Sport Psychology is that an athlete needs to have deficits in their mental game before they can seek support. But Sport Psychologist, Dr. Justin Anderson works with some of the world’s best athletes who just want to “be better”. Dr Anderson, a Licensed Psychologist who leads his Minnesota based practice, knows the value of this distinction.
Whether you have been coaching for years or decades you will know the struggle of week-to-week athlete up and downs. Often this fluctuation in performance is attributed to confidence, but is confidence the answer to getting consistent athlete performance? What if I told you it wasn’t confidence that needed development to reach consistent performance? Stop thinking about building athlete confidence, it is far more effective to look towards how you can build an athlete’s self-belief in their competencies.
Recently Sports Illustrated published an important article titled, ‘Is the era of abusive college coaches finally coming to an end?’. The article highlighted alarming issues with modern collegiate athletics based on surveys of 20,000 college athletes, as well as the latest research in psychophysiology, psychology, depression, health and abusive leadership. In reading the article, what becomes crystal clear is the impact the coach has on either magnifying or eliminating these issues.
Although emotional intelligence is still a relatively new term in sport, it is certainly not a new concept. For years we have marveled at how the great athletes are able to “switch themselves on” to create amazing performances with incredible consistency. We would describe them as being composed, mentally tough, having the right psychology, a great sports mind, emotionally controlled or simply determined or focused.
Have you ever noticed how some athletes “get” instructions immediately, while for others it takes a while for things to click? Many Coaches develop their own ways of working with their athletes’ learning styles and having a well-proven framework can be extremely useful. Being able to adjust how you “teach” to suit the individual needs of your athletes is a hallmark of great coaching.
How many times have you witnessed the heartbreak of an athlete faltering at a crucial moment? At these times, the terms choking or panicking are thrown around loosely to label the under-performance of the individual or team. But what do these terms mean? And can anything prevent an athlete from choking? In ‘What the Dog Saw’, Malcolm Gladwell’s thought-provoking chapter on The Art of Failure discusses the difference between the behaviour, brain processes, and psychological studies related to choking and panicking.
Athletes who have the ability to create truly great performances on the field or in a race have one very important skill in common. They are excellent decision makers – instead of letting things happen, they take control and make things happen. This article explains: The Athlete Decision Making Process, How to Improve Athlete Decision Making, How Your Coaching Style Effects Decision Making, and AthleteDISC & Decision Making.
What the best athletes, and the most successful people, have in common is not that they do not make mistakes. They all do. However, they have an incredible ability to recover from these mistakes. These athletes have a well-developed recovery strategy, whether it is conscious or unconscious. Defining the skills and behaviors of resilient people however is not as simple, as there are a range of skills involved. What is critical to realize, is that resiliency is not a personality trait or behavioral style. Resiliency is a skill anyone can learn.
There is always something interesting or inspiring to see on TED Talks and recently we saw a video which was such a stand out we just had to share it with you! Amy Cuddy is a social psychologist and an associate professor at Harvard Business School. In her TED Talks video she discusses how your body language shapes who you are. The application of this research has significant impact for those in sport. Some of her most fascinating findings were on how body language can alter the levels of cortisol and testosterone in your body.
In sport as in life there are times when we don’t deliver our best when called on to do so. At the elite level, a poor performance in sport is when you or your team are 1% off your best. This contributes to an unwanted result combined with the feeling of letting yourself or others down. Written for athletes and Coaches, this article explores the emotional aspect of a poor performance and result which occurs at the most important time of the season.
At some point in time most athletes have been (or should be) exposed to the Control and Influence Model also known as the Circle of Concern and Circle of Influence. This model is taken from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey, a fantastic book which we highly recommend. In your sporting environment are you spending too much focus, time and energy on the things outside of your control?
There are many infamous examples of brain snaps in sport, but what happens when something similar occurs to one of your athletes during a highly charged training session or in competition? The combination of a trigger, a strong emotion, an automatic reaction and feelings of regret are the sequence of events known as an Amygdala Hijack. Understanding how this process works, and how to ensure the safety of important relationships during a brain snap can be invaluable knowledge for both the athlete and coach in the heat of the moment.
With great feedback received on our article “Choking or Panicking“, this follow up article delves into more depth on how choking can be prevented at the highest level. Great champions and high performance athletes have their own tricks and distractions to allow peak performance under pressure, and these are often highly personal. So how can you ensure you “make it happen” rather than feeling the disappointment that comes with an unsatisfactory result?
In previous articles we have touched on the concept of goal setting. Whether you are a coach, athlete or in sports management, you can use your understanding of your DISC Profile to improve your Goal Setting and ensure your goals are being achieved. Goals are vital for success in life and it is even more important to specify your goals by writing them down as this enables us to be specific about your priorities to achieve.
This article was written during national team selection time for one of our clients. It reminded me of how I felt during my own selection for various national and Olympic teams, and inspired me to share the most important lessons I learnt about the connection between training and competition. At the end of this article, I’ve also included my top three coaching tips for helping athletes manage their nerves during competition.
What happens when all you have is sport? To be blunt, your performances (whether as a coach or athlete) can be adversely affected. From an athlete or coach’s perspective, your identity (who you see yourself as) and self-esteem needs to be attached to more than what sport you play, who you play for and the results you achieve. If sport is the only major part of someone’s life and as sport goes, it naturally has its ups and downs, then the coach or athlete’s self-esteem is also attached to this one dimensional “roller coaster”.
In this 14 Part Video Presentation Bo Hanson, 4x Olympian and Coaching Consultant from Athlete Assessments, discusses the critical topic of Resiliency in Sport. Following this presentation we have a written summary for your convenience. In Part 1 of this Presentation on Resilience, Bo discusses Hope, Resilience and living with Expectations.
It’s now accepted that it is the mental game that ultimately wins any race or competitive game. It is what distinguishes the very top athletes from the ordinary. So, why are mental skills so important for success in sport? Find out what Bo Hanson has to say on this critical topic in the below video. In the end, having solid mental skills can be more important for elite performance than an athlete’s physiological capabilities.
Video Presentation by Bo Hanson, 4x Olympian, Coaching Consultant & Director of Athlete Assessments. In this video Bo Hanson recounts his experience of spending a day with the U.S. Navy Seals and what he learnt from them about Mental Toughness. Resources for Teaching Mental Toughness are also included for your convenience.
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