C for Enthusiasm!

You may be asking C for Enthusiasm what does that even mean? Well today in Consulting we learned the 5 +1 C’s for working with clients! We are learning about consulting with athletes both individually and on the team level, and today’s class mainly focused on making contact and getting clients!

I realize while I have said what I am getting my master’s in I probably haven’t actually explained Sports Psychology!

So to explain what I am studying I thought I would share with you and article I wrote a few weeks ago for a Master’s Swim Team Newsletter!  Keep in mind that I focus on swimming but the skills I talk about can be used in any sport or performance aspect! I use mental skills during long runs all the time!

Mental Skills: The Best Way to Perform Like a Champion

Involvement in sport, especially a lifelong sport such as swimming, can be extremely beneficial later in life. Maintaining a practice schedule and participating in competition can increase health and longevity. However, as your body ages it can be harder to maintain the same level of competition and practice as you once did. Developing a mental toolbox of skills that enhances performance can be highly beneficial for an athlete of any age. Greatness comes from maximizing talent in every aspect of the sport, including being as mentally fit as you are physically fit. Most likely, you have tried mental skills such as self-talk and imagery without being conscious of it. Mental skills can improve swimming, and create a better “whole athlete”. These skills can be used on your own, or with the work of a sports psychology consultant who has been trained in each of these skills as well as much more in order to help athletes perform. The goal of this article is to describe mental skills, and how beneficial and necessary they can be to enhance performance.

The first question you may have is what are all of these mental skills and how do I build a mental toolbox? It’s simple, once you have an understanding of these skills you can rehearse them during practice, at home, driving, or anywhere else to get them in the same shape as your physical skill. Once your mental skills are sharp and you feel comfortable implementing them, you can use them during competition to benefit a race. I believe the following mental skills are necessary tools for any athlete to have in their ‘mental tool-box.’

Relaxation: Who doesn’t love relaxation? This is a key skill for athletes to develop. Deep belly breathing is the bare basics of this tool, as it helps to calm and relax the muscles. Deep breathing before you get onto the block will steady your heart rate and help increase your focus before your race by reducing your nerves. For more intense relaxation, Progressive Muscle relaxation is often used by Sports Psychology Consultants in order to teach athletes what it is like to tense and relax every major muscle group.

Another relaxation technique is body scanning. Body scanning creates mindfulness by focusing attention on different parts of your body. Start by moving from the toe up, but instead of tensing each muscle, you simply focus on the way each part of your body feels without labeling the sensations as either “good” or “bad”.

Motivation: Intrinsic and Extrinsic motivation. Recognizing and understanding where motivation comes from is important to make sure that as an athlete you are participating in sport for the right reasons. Winning, an extrinsic motivator, can become negative if it is the only reason for why you continue to swim. Some internal motivators (not limited to) include: health, enjoyment, and satisfaction. is different. Knowing the optimal arousal (energy) level that you need to be at to have a successful race is pivotal. If you are a swimmer who needs lots of energy for pre-race, then it is important to have a pre-race routine that builds energy and motivation. Part of getting to this optimal state is to moderate anxiety, which can effect energy and ruin a race.

Self-Talk: Self-talk is my favorite mental tool. Without realizing, we engage in negative self-talk all the time. This can be disastrous for an athlete in competition. Consciously, changing negative thoughts to positive  thoughts will reinforce self-confidence and positivity before a race. I would also stress the use of cue words or a simple action, which can be used to snap out of a negative thought or to focus attention. “Boom” or another power word may work to get you in a particular zone, or a word such as stroke in order to cue your stroke pattern. The word you choose is completely personal and up to you, try out as many as possible during practice to find what works best!

Goal Setting: Everybody needs goals, and almost every athlete has goals. Some goals may include: how many races they want to win, what times they need to get in order to qualify for certain meets, and even practice goals. Long and short-term goals are important, as well as process and outcome goals. While every athlete has outcome goals, not everyone focuses on process goals, which are actually the more important ones.

Imagery: Many people are familiar with the imagery tool. How many times have you imagined a race before you have swam it in order to see every aspect of what you wanted to do? Imagining a race allows athletes to see all the possible outcomes of the race, and to better mentally prepare themselves. A simple way to practice imagery on your own is to go through your upcoming race in your head from start to finish every night. Imagery can help strengthen physical routines and help overcome a training plateau.

Using these tools within practice and competition will increase focus, confidence and an overall more complete performance. It is necessary to work these concepts into any existing pre-race routine. During warm up you should be in training mode (mental state that you usually employ during practice to help focus on technique, how your body feels, etc. Take a few moments after the warm-up to reflect on your body and reset your mind for the upcoming race. Utilize music, active stretching, a cue word that gets you into the zone such as “Boom” or anything that gets your energy levels to the necessary point for your race. Right before the race do a quick run-through over in your mind, as well as a few deep breaths to focus your mind and prepare your body. Quiet everything once you are on the block, letting the entire outside world melt away because it is just you, the block, and the water at that moment.

Whew that was long! Sorry about that! Anyways I wanted to share this on here because school and what I am learning is a huge part of who I am- or at least who I am becoming! I will most likely share a lot of tidbits from my classes so now you guys can have a bit of understanding of what I am talking about!

Now… Lunch! I was feeling lazy so I picked up lunch at Garbanzo on my way to get the little munchkin from school! I got a plate with lettuce, extra veggie salad, steak, falafel and tahini sauce! Of course on the side a fluffy fresh from the oven whole wheat pita!

I love Garbanzo… and their falafel is probably the only slightly fried thing I will actually eat!

Wrigley wanted some too!                        Fresh Strawberries on the side!!!

I love fresh strawbs! Juicy, fruity, and just wonderful! So glad it is spring and they will be in season soon!

Ok now that this has been the longest post ever I’m off! Enjoy!

What sport did you participate in?

Do you ever have a mental block?

xxoo

Peace, Love, and be Sperry!

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