Archive for the 'Sports Psychology' Category

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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


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…


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!


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.


Perceptual Distortion

We have all had that experience playing a sport when time slows down and you see everything bigger, better and slower than it is… It’s called being in Flow, “the Zone”…

A recent article in The Economist Magazine was fascinating if only to shed some light on the concept of perceptual distortion

FLIES live shorter lives than elephants. Of that there is no doubt. But from a fly’s point of view, does its life actually seem that much shorter? This, in essence, was the question asked by Kevin Healy of Trinity College, Dublin, in a paper just published in Animal Behaviour. His answer is, possibly not.

Subjective experience of time is just that—subjective. Even individual people, who can compare notes by talking to one another, cannot know for certain that their own experience coincides with that of others. But an objective measure which probably correlates with subjective experience does exist. It is called the critical flicker-fusion frequency, or CFF, and it is the lowest frequency at which a flickering light appears to be a constant source of illumination. It measures, in other words, how fast an animal’s eyes can refresh an image and thus process information.

For people, the average CFF is 60 hertz (ie, 60 times a second). This is why the refresh-rate on a television screen is usually set at that value. Dogs have a CFF of 80Hz, which is probably why they do not seem to like watching television. To a dog a TV programme looks like a series of rapidly changing stills.

Having the highest possible CFF would carry biological advantages, because it would allow faster reaction to threats and opportunities. Flies, which have a CFF of 250Hz, are notoriously difficult to swat. A rolled up newspaper that seems to a human to be moving rapidly appears to them to be travelling through treacle.

Mr Healy reasoned that the main constraints on an animal’s CFF are its size and its metabolic rate. Being small means signals have less far to travel in the brain. A high metabolic rate means more energy is available to process them. A literature search, however, showed that no one had previously looked into the question.

Fortunately for Mr Healy, this search also showed that plenty of people had looked at CFF in lots of species for other reasons. Similarly, many other people had looked at the metabolic rates of many of the same species. And size data for species are ubiquitous. All he had to do, therefore, was correlate and repurpose these results. Which he did.

To simplify matters he looked only at vertebrates—34 species of them. At the bottom end of the scale was the European eel, with a CFF of 14Hz. It was closely followed by the leatherback turtle, at 15Hz. Tuataras clocked in at 46Hz. Hammerhead sharks tied with humans, at 60Hz, and yellowfin tuna tied with dogs at 80Hz. The top spot was occupied by the golden-mantled ground squirrel, at 120Hz. And when Mr Healy plotted his accumulated CFF data against both size and metabolic rate (which are not, it must be admitted, independent variables, as small animals tend to have higher metabolic rates than large ones), he found exactly the correlations he had predicted.

The upshot is that his hypothesis—that evolution pushes animals to see the world in the slowest motion possible—looks correct. Flies may seem short-lived to people, but from a dipteran point of view they can thus live to a ripe old age. Remember that next time you try (and fail) to swat one.


Willpower is like a battery…

Every once in a while I learn something new that I know will change my life from this day forward…

Until recently, I did not know that willpower was affected by what we eat and what we do. For example, you decide you want to do exercise or are watching what you eat. You have the willpower to make the decision and stick to it… But then something happens to reduce your willpower – not a threat or obstacle to your goal, but sometime to reduce your WILL to stick to your plan!

For example, if you are working really hard intellectually, using your mind on a highly focused task – your willpower for your exercise or diet will decrease!

The more we use our minds, the less minding (will) power we have.

Are you as shocked as I was?!?!?


So whatWillpower and batteries do we need to do when we create a (willpower) deficit? Recharge it! Simple as that. Have something healthy to eat, do some exercise, do something you enjoy and like doing, rest and recuperate. Recharge your willpower and you’ll quickly notice it’s easy to stick to the (your) plan.

Contrary to popular belief, it is not obstacles or your desire to achieve your goals that wanes – it’s the willpower that ebbs and flows throughout your day. As you would expect, left unchecked, your willpower will diminish as your day progresses. If you are committed to your goal(s), you need to plan to recharge your willpower as much as you do getting your running shoes out and/or cooking that healthy meal.




Winners and losers quote

Losers visualize the penalties of failure. Winners visualize the rewards of success.

Losers - Winners Quote

Sometimes a quote says it all, but often you’re left with the feeling that you’d like to make a change, but you’re not sure how to make it.

One sure fire way is to read books on mental toughness. Click on the hyperlink for a list of the best ones I’ve read, including biographies and autobiographies of sport champions and legends. It helps if you can Speed Read, but that is a topic for another day.


Can you tie your shoe laces?

Can you tie your shoe laces? Are you sure? Watch this TED TALK video and you might realise you are part of the 80-90% who don’t tie their shoe laces correctly!

It’s totally normal to wonder why a video on tying your shoelaces would be on a blog dedicated to the Mindset Of A Champion…

The reason is simple: A Champion makes sure he/she eliminates ALL sources of error or potential problems. The all-time greatest Basketball Coach John Wooden would teach ALL his new recruits how to tie their shoe laces as part of their initiation because in his words “the last thing I want is to lose a point because your shoe laces come untied at the worst possible moment.”

Without becoming superstitious, you can establish a disciplined regimen to remove as many imponderables as possible. For example, I cut about 4″ or 10 cm off my squash shoe laces IMMEDIATELY when I unpack them from the box. I have 3 to 4 shoes that I rotate at any given time so that I am never stuck competing or training intensively with new shoes that aren’t broken in.

These are some of the many details that make a difference.


Mental Toughness

I recently read an article in the Virgin Australia Inflight Magazine that quoted Brisbane-based performance psychologist Dr Phil Jauncey as saying that

“Mental toughness isn’t the ability
to get your mind right before an event,
it’s being able to execute when your mind is saying you can’t.”

Mental Toughness, No Pain No Gain, Threshold Pressure, ChokingThis is of primary importance to anyone who is competitive in sports and/or in a performance environment (musician, public speaker, etc.)

If you want to learn more about mental toughness, click the hyperlink or the image above to access a list of books I’ve read and reviewed on the subject.


From breaking rackets to breaking strings

Today’s discussion is one of those topics that appears self-evident but really isn’t – to most people.

That is, the transition from one performance level to the next.

As a squash player, I’ve transitioned from breaking rackets to breaking strings. With the level of intensity and high frequency of play, I used to break more rackets than strings. As I was acquiring my skills, I would often hit and scrape the wall as I got to more balls and played increasingly better players.

Without the consistency in my racket skills, the contact point with the ball would vary widely on the racket strings. Eventually, the racket frame would give way and a replacement racket had to be purchased.

In 2010, that changed. With increased focus and attention on my racket skills, I stopped hitting/scraping the wall and the contact point with the ball narrowed to become the center of the racket (sweet spot). You can see it in the centre of the blue racket.

Squash Racket, Sweet Spot

That meant I started to break more strings than rackets. At one point, I was re-stringing rackets every week! (Averaging 10-15 hours of play with brand new strings!)

That’s when I raised my game to the next level – hitting with 60-80% pace instead of “bashing the ball” at 80-90-100%. It’s a widely held (false) belief that hitting hard and faster is better…

There are multiple lessons to be learned – the sports lesson is that if you are a competitive athlete, you need to assess where you’re at. I discussed this with my squash coach. We purposefully focused on improving my racket skills and strokes – primarily with direction to the ball and foot placement.

Many (most?) athletes are not aware of the distinctions involved here and therefore have no clue where they are nor where they should be.

The most important lesson to become a champion in sport or business is to…

Establish what I call Management By Metrics. Specific targets and milestones and focus on improvement. In today’s blog post, it’s about breaking fewer rackets and more strings, not to save money because it’s a trade off and about the same price when it all works itself out.

Management By Metrics requires that:

  • You determine WHAT you’re measuring and
  • WHY you’re monitoring that specific characteristic.

Once the measurement takes place, then you can gauge, assess and analyse progress or development.

Without measurement, you’re blind and hoping for the best. You won’t be a champion in sport with that approach and you certainly won’t have an optimally profitable business without systems and procedures in place to create SPECIFIC OUTCOMES.

Too many people still believe that champions are born rather than made. Champions are made – manufactured with metrics.

Every single Champion’s biography reveals (at least some of) the secrets that made the SUPERIOR at what they did.

The key is for you to identify where you are to close the gap between that and where you want to be.


Exercise, ANY exercise is good…

I know this blog focuses primarily on elite athletic strategies and techniques, but the video below is a MUST WATCH to remind us all of the benefits of exercise.

If you have a family member or friend who is not exercising at all, make sure you send them a link to this blog post…

Thank you to Ray Keefe of Successful Endeavours who forwarded this to me.

When you come across anything like this, “pay it forward” and send it to me so I can share it with others.