Archive for the 'Sports Psychology' Category

Listen up babies!

Champions aren’t born, they’re made.

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September 13th

For some, the number 13 is unlucky, not for me. In fact it’s a very special number.

When it comes to sports psychology, there is a fine line between rituals and superstitions and what I call “routines” for success. The former create a false sense of certainty (with no benefit) whereas well designed “routines” significantly improve your chance for success because YOU control them and they are directly tied to the outcome you want.

A superstition can be:

  • Not walking on the white lines of a tennis court after a rally is over
  • Placing your water/juice bottles with the labels all facing one direction
  • Not leaving the squash court without hitting a nick
  • Always being the last player on or off the court
  • Tying and untying your shoes 3 times each time you put them on

A routine can be:

  • Making sure you have no less than 3 wristbands in your sports bag
  • Having 3 or 4 rackets strung at the same tension
  • Warming up for 15 minutes at least an hour before your match
  • Getting up 2 or 3 hours before a morning match to be fully awake.
  • Taking the time to tie your shoes properly

When superstitions get out of hand, you’ll slip into Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)… That is something you want to avoid at all costs. It IS preventable, but breaking the superstitions as soon as they “Start”.

Coaches and parents should STOP this behaviour immediately in young, junior players who don’t fully understand the long-term ramifications of developing OCD tendencies. Many top players now afflicted with OCD readily admit (in their published biographies) that they shouldn’t have started them in the first place, but are now “stuck” with them.

 

 

 

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Concentration Of Focus

I just presented sports psychology principles to squash players at Vancouver’s prestigious Jericho Tennis Club. One of the many excellent questions asked was “With all the books available on the subject, how do you know what to ‘listen’ to as good versus bad advice to avoid confusion”

First, you need a framework to work with – a set of guiding principles that you believe in and that you KNOW work for you. Consider them the corners of a puzzle. One example of a guiding principle is “Positive self talk”, another is “Having an outcome or goal for your performance of development”.

Puzzle Pieces - FrameworkWithin those guiding principles, you start to read and assemble the pieces of the puzzle IF THEY ARE CONGRUENT within the “four corners”.

For example, in squash, there are two schools of thought: (1) you should always try to hit the ball with your FRONT foot in front of you, versus (2) ‘back footing” the ball in certain circumstances.

You need to PICK which one YOU believe works for YOU, then discard, ignore the contradictory suggestions. You MUST make sure you coach(es) are aware of this so they don’t give you conflicting directions!

Dabblers – people who read anything and listen to everyone’s suggestions get quickly confused and dissipate their focus to their detriment they are interested in superficial knowledge.

Knowledge is deep when it concerns the central ideas of a topic or discipline, which are judged to be crucial to it. Deep knowledge involves establishing relatively complex connections to those central concepts. Thin knowledge is shallow or superficial when it is not connected with significant concepts or central ideas of a topic or discipline and is dealt with only in a simplistic or procedural fashion. Knowledge is also shallow when important, central ideas have been trivialised and simplified to an extreme.

It is acknowledged that information and knowledge is extensive and wide-ranging. There is a balance to be achieved between trying to know everything about everything (A Jack of all trades) versus “everything about one thing” (a specialist).

Admittedly, this is not an easy concept to grasp. It’s a skill and aptitude that I developed over 10+ years when I was also confused by all the conflicting information I was reading in all the books I read. (I am a speed reader and have read over 1,000 business books and over 100 on mental toughness and sports psychology alone).

Here are some steps you can start to use to CONCENTRATE YOUR FOCUS when it comes to your learning and development.

  1. Establish your guiding principles (the 4 corners of the puzzle)
  2. When something new “comes up” – determine if it fits “withing the puzzle”. I suggest you  stick to what you are doing until someone gives you a COMPELLING reason to consider switching.
  3. If it sounds promising (in that you think it could help or assist you to achieve your goals or outcomes), then give that option a MINIMAL assessment and if that MINIMAL assessment provides a positive outcome only then should you consider it. Otherwise, I ignore it.
  4. Most people assess, evaluate to death each and every idea they hear about and most turn out NOT to be worth it. By NOT getting distracted, your concentration of FOCUS will increase instead of dissipating. It’s hard to explain, but if it does not serve you to ACHIEVE YOUR GOAL, don’t let the distraction “in” – if you do ADD it to your arsenal, it has to ADD to your EXISTING framework of strategies. It needs to “FIT INTO” the puzzle so-to-speak if it doesn’t, discard it and wait for the next one – WHICH WILL COME AROUND.

The best advice I can give you is to make sure you have a coach or mentor to assist you in your quest. There is no better way to achieve your ultimate outcome.

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Two secret words to win the British Open Golf Championship

Rory McIlroy looked out at a room packed with reporters and knew he was going to disappoint them.

All week, he had talked about two secret words he used as his trigger for the shots he played. Even as he stretched his lead to six shots going into Sunday, he said he would only reveal them if he were to win the British Open.
Rory McIlroy

In the hours before he teed off, the media put one pound ($1.70) in a pot and tried to guess the two words. “Very simple,” McIlroy said, the claret jug at his side. “It’s going to be a big letdown for everyone. It was ‘process’ and ‘spot.’ That was it.”

And the meaning? “With my long shots, I just wanted to stick to my process and stick to making good decisions, making good swings,” he said. “The process of making a good swing, if I had any sort of little swing thoughts, just keeping that so I wasn’t thinking about the end result, basically.”

The “spot” was about his putting. “I was just picking a spot on the green and trying to roll it over my spot,” he said. “I wasn’t thinking about holing it. I wasn’t thinking about what it would mean or how many further clear it would get me. I just wanted to roll that ball over that spot. If that went in, then great. If it didn’t, then I’d try it the next hole.”

I highlight this because non-champions (1) don’t do this, (2) try to make it more complicated than it is, (3) are not quite sure how ‘this’ works, and (4) don’t educate or inform themselves on how to develop their mental game.

That’s why they aren’t the ones holding the trophies, standing on the podium, accepting the awards, winning the championships.

 

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Success is a lousy teacher…

…It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose. This is true in sport as it is in business and life in general.

Bill-Gates-Success-is-a-lousy-teacher

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Minutes make a difference

If you weren’t sure if practicing makes a difference, here is an interesting chart showing that minutes make a difference.

Minutes-hours-in-a-day-chart

Of course if you are going to practice, you need to use Deliberate Practice techniques to make sure you are improving while you are practicing.

Practice does NOT make perfect – Practice makes permanent.

Only perfect practice makes perfect

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Turning negative self talk into positive affirmations

Negative self talk is hard to stop, but at least now you have a fun way to stop it!

Sports psychologists have known for decades that the mind can:

  1. Only have one thought at a time and
  2. It cannot focus on the REVERSE of an idea or thought.

What that means if you are a squash player, is that if you say “don’t tin the ball, or don’t choke or don’t boast“, the brain only hears “tin the ball, or choke or boast.”

You need to replace your negative statements with positive affirmation statements, as suggested below.

Worrying

 

Negative self talk Positive Affirmation
Damn it! OK, next point.
F$@##$#%#!!! FOCUS!
Idiot /Stupid C’mon, you can do better!
Bad shot Think of the RIGHT shot
Shot is too good Next time I will be ready
Can’t get there I almost got to it
Lucky shot I’m next to get lucky
Bad call (by the ref) The next call will go my way
No let?!?!? Next time I will strike the ball
Stroke?!?!? OK now I know how he’s calling it (the ref)
It was up! I know it was up, the next time he will too!
(Serve called down/out) Focus – this is an EASY error to fix!
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Willoughby Squash – Motivational Messages

If you play squash at Willoughby Squash Club, you’ll notice new motivational messages at the entrance to the men’s and women’s changing rooms. It’s a fantastic reminder to focus on the mental side of the game – inspiring positive thinking and enhancing mental toughness.
Willoughby Squash - Messages -2

What additional motivational messages or Words Of Wisdom would you want to add?

Willoughby Squash - Messages -1

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Negative Self Talk: Stop It!

I recently presented mental toughness strategies at the East Coast Squash Academy‘s Adult Squash camp organised by squash professional Aaron Frankcomb at Willoughby Squash Club in Sydney. Attended by a wide range of squash players, it became quite obvious that squash is a very demanding sport physically and technically where attention to stroke execution, shot selection and court movement can provide beneficial results.

While focusing on technical improvement can yield incremental results over time, today’s lesson can produce INSTANT results and in some extreme cases, a quantum leap forward!

Please watch this video and then scroll down.

The next time you are on the squash court and hear yourself talking negatively about something you just did or that just happened…

STOP IT!

Think back to this video as your pattern interrupt.

The first step is to Stop it – then you will need to replace the negative self-talk with something positive.

Sports psychologists have known for decades that the mind can (1) only have one thought at a time and (2) it cannot focus on the REVERSE of an idea or thought. What that means is that if you say “don’t tin the ball, or don’t choke or don’t boast“, the brain only hears “tin the ball, or choke or boast.”

First things first – Stop It and come back to this blog for more on how to replace negative self talk with positive self affirmations. There are a few “tricks” to getting this right…

Just like today’s distinction – most players don’t know this stuff!

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Games are won or lost mentally or technically

I recently presented mental toughness strategies at the East Coast Squash Academy‘s Adult Squash camp organised by squash professional Aaron Frankcomb at Willoughby Squash Club in Sydney. Attended by a wide range of squash players, it became quite obvious that squash is a very demanding sport physically and technically where attention to stroke execution, shot selection and court movement can provide beneficial results.

Many players readily admit the mental side of the game is something they struggle with, in large part because they don’t know much about it and also because once they do learn about it, implementation is a very personal thing.

The first step in adopting what I call the Mindset Of A Champion is the admission that games are won or lost either technically or mentally.

Once that has been realised, then a player can start to self-assess him/herself on both dimensions.

Determining which one will yield the quickest result is simple.

Think back to your most recent match. How many points did you lose because of mental lapses (choking, nervousness, poor shot selection, going for a winner when under pressure, missing a shot you can easily make, tinning ‘easy’ shots, etc.) versus technical errors (poor racket preparation, no follow through, incorrect contact point, improper racket head speed, hitting the ball off-centre ball on the strings, etc.)

Chances are, quantum leaps are available to you with mental toughness training.

The benefit of mental toughness training is that it is often EASIER and QUICKER to improve mentally than it is physically. Technical improvements can take weeks and months to become natural within your “muscle memory” whereas mental strategies can have an IMMEDIATE impact as of your next game, match or tournament.

The first step is for you to determine how many mental mistakes you are making, as a percentage of the points you are losing…

Do that and stay tuned for future blog posts that will start to lay the groundwork for mental toughness within the context of the Mindset Of A Champion.

Not sure how to determine if a point was lost mentally or technically? Here is an example from this year’s 2014 Australian Open Tennis Championship. The last 2 points played by Novak Djokovic… that cost him the match in the fifth set.

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