Chlorine Chronicle (Archive)NMSC Mar/99 Newsletter
Mental Skills Seminar
Get ready for the Nationals!
Improve your performance through mental training!
Presented by Jennifer Allen (Jenallen@mondenet.com)
(BA, MA in progress)
University of Ottawa
March 28, 1999
Overview of seminar:
- What is sport psychology/mental training?
- 4 aspects of sport
- Elements of excellence
- Goal setting
- Anxiety management
1. What is sport psychology/mental training?
Mental skills training involves providing practical, tangible ways to help athletes achieve their goals and maximize their potential.
In this seminar I hope to provide you with some tools that can help you improve your performance!
2. The 4 aspects of sport:
Physical: the physical conditioning involved in swimming; the laps, the time spent strength training, etc.
Technical: sport-specific skills; for example having an explosive and clean start, smooth execution of turns.
Tactical: any strategies involved, such as conserving your energy so you can give a burst in the last 25 metres.
Mental: the thought processes involved with all of these other areas, the glue that holds it all together! This is where you can gain the edge over your competitors!
3. Elements of excellence
(Adapted from Terry Orlick)
Commitment: to working hard and doing well in practice and competition.
Quality practice: you spend more time training that competing; make it count!
Goal Setting: set clearly defined goals each day, and for every training session.
Imagery: use imagery to improve on a daily basis
Pre-competition plans: plan ahead to be in your best focus; recognize, expect and prepare to deal with pressure situations.
Competition focus: know how to focus only on what's relevant to your training or race
Distraction control (refocusing): plan to be able to get your best focus back quickly if you become distracted!
Constructive evaluation: take lessons from things that go well and not so well, to help improve!
Rest: make sure you get adequate sleep and eat a balanced diet!
4. Goal Setting
"Excellence is a combination of BIG vision and little steps"
Why set goals?
- Goals give us direction, and help to keep us on track;
- Stimulates thoughts of where we can go;
- Step by step way to get there!
- To track progress which provides inspiration, motivation and confidence!
Have a Long-Term goal: for example, to beat your best time at the Nationals
Have a Short-Term goal: what can you do today, and in the next few training sessions, to work towards your long-term goal?
- Clearly define your goals-make them measurable
- Break them down into manageable, achievable parts
- Make them positive (say what you will do, not what you won't do)
- Make them challenging, yet flexible
- Write them down as a great way to keep track of your progress
- Try to have process goals as opposed to outcome goals
Process goals: are targeted to specific behaviors within your control, like what you need to do in order to do well-be focused, give 100%, have good technique, etc. Think less about what you want to accomplish and more about how you will get there!
Outcome goals: are targeted to uncontrollable elements, such as results. When you are focused on winning (results) you're no longer directly focused on what you need to pay attention to in order to win!
***Have a self-acceptance goal*** Know that you are a worthy person regardless of the turnout. This can help you deal with unmet goals. If you don't meet your goal, blame the goal and not yourself! You can always adjust and refine a goal if it's too difficult or unrealistic!
I set my goals on trying to improve a time, or trying to improve part of a race. I concentrate on improving in small ways, rather than improving by large amounts. After attaining each goal, I feel totally satisfied and I can go on to another goal. Setting small, short-term goals has really helped me. You just have to take it one day at a time and think about that.
-Alex Baumann, 1984 Olympic Gold Medalist
WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS ???
"Where the mind goes, everything else follows"
To prepare mentally for anything, you must know what you want to do and have a plan for how you are going to do it. This gets you ready, and then you just do it. Decide on the state of mind and the focus you would like to carry. Then act on it!
What is focus?
- The uninterrupted connection between two things: you and your performance.
- When your concentration is locked in the experience of what you're doing, you will most likely perform to your physical abilities. When you step into 'the zone', you are totally absorbed in what you're doing, while you're doing it, without thinking or analyzing.
- When you're in the experience, you pay attention to what's important right now and completely block out everything irrelevant. This concentration on the unfolding action is called a 'process focus'. WHAT ARE THE COMPONENTS AND CUES YOU NEED TO FOCUS ON TO SWIM YOUR BEST? (e.g., you feel the looseness and extension of each stroke and your body rides high in the water. This lets you know your form is perfect and you're going fast).
- When you focus properly, your concentration allows you to relax, have fun, and perform to your potential!
How can I get and stay focused?
- Be process focused and focus only on what you can control-your thoughts and actions.
- Look and listen only to those things that are relevant to your performance. What keeps you calm, confident, and ready to perform?
- Learn what 'time zone' you're in mentally BEFORE and DURING your race/practice.
- Don't let your mind leave your body and jump into the next lane where your competitor is, or ahead to the finish line-challenge yourself to stay in the HERE and NOW. It's the only time zone where you have complete access to your skills and training.
- Use positive sayings to motivate yourself. Remind yourself of your strengths and how well you have been preparing and training. You've earned the opportunity to be here, and you're ready!
- Practice getting and staying focused in practice. Then it will come easily at the meet!
- Understand what events cause you to lose your focus. Take the next step and challenge yourself to get it back. What works well? Do you count strokes? Use a verbal reminder to 'stay in your lane!'? The important thing is to know what works and to be consistent in using it to bring your focus away from distractions and back to being on you.
- Develop a pre-race ritual. Take time before the race to prepare mentally. Take time during your physical warm-up to get focused-use this time to your advantage! This will help you narrow your focus as well as keep it on yourself (instead of competitors or the crowd).
- Are there cue words you can use to get focused? ('focus', 'stay loose', 'trust yourself', 'I'm powerful and strong", 'I'm going to have a great race') WHAT WORKS FOR YOU??
6. Anxiety Management
What is anxiety?
- Anxiety is the emotional or psychological response to the physiological feelings of arousal. This arousal occurs quite often in pressure situations like athletic competition. You see yourself as being nervous or stressed. This can be a good or bad thing!
- It's not this arousal that's the problem, but rather what you do about it!
- Nervousness or fear is a natural response. It shows that the event is important to you! Being nervous will not negatively affect your performance, as long as you can keep your focus on what you must do to perform. Your fears cannot impact your performance without your permission! Their power over you comes directly from the power you give them! Don't let them have it!
- Your fears are a huge uncontrollable because they are in the future. Bring your focus back in to the 'here and now' where you can control it!
What can I do about it?
- TAKE CONtrOL AND FACE IT! Do what you're afraid of over and over. It's hard to fear the familiar, and fear can only have power over you if you continually avoid it! If this is your first major competition, relax! With experience things will get easier! We all fear what we don't know!!
- CHANGE YOUR PERCEPTION! Use the butterflies to help energize you for the race. See them as extra energy to help your performance. Get them to fly in formation in the same direction you are!
- BEliEVE AND ACHIEVE. Remind yourself of your strengths every day! The National Meet is being held on your home turf, so you have the advantage! You've been training long and hard for this meet, and you deserve to be there just as much as anyone else! When you doubt yourself, you hold yourself down!
- MENTALLY PRACTICE (visualize) being successful in the fearful situation (e.g., large crowd, stiff competition) See what you want to happen, not what you're afraid might happen! Start doing this today! Just by being here you've shown a great commitment to yourselves.
- CHANGE YOUR SELF-TALK: reframe negative thoughts to positive thoughts. Ask yourself what benefit your feelings are having on you right now. Your perception is different when you have positive beliefs. You deal with obstacles and setbacks differently and see them as challenges instead of roadblocks! Notice the time frame you use.
- ANTICIPATE POSSIBLE DIStrACTIONS (delay in race start, false start, a big crowd, etc.) and how you will handle them. Challenge yourself to stay focused! Having a focus plan will help you have control over your environment, neutralize fear and boost your confidence! Make it a habit!
- BE MORE CONFIDENT: When you lack confidence your head droops and your shoulders sag. Lift your chin, straighten your shoulders, take a deep breath and smile! Do this whenever you feel stressed. IT WORKS!!
"You develop confidence by training well, doing well at meets, improving your times and by winning. You just have to feel good about yourself and feel that what you have done is a big accomplishment. Normally I am always confident, and I feel that I can do whatever split times I have set out to do."
7. Mental Imagery
Why use mental imagery?
- To see success: see yourself beating your best time at the Nationals.
- To motivate: imagine your goal for the training session or race.
- To perfect skills: see and feel yourself performing the skill (i.e., executing a smooth and strong turn).
- To familiarize: prepare mentally if you travel to compete in a swim meet.
- To set the stage for competition: prepare your mental focus and stop negative thoughts from entering or interfering.
- To refocus: imagine previous good performances in order to retain your focus in training, warm-up or competition.
- To relax: think of your happy place, imagine it, feel it.
The same way negative thoughts can lead to negative experiences, positive thoughts can lead to positive experiences! YOU are in control of the thoughts running through your mind. Change the picture! When you view an internal 'disaster film', guess what?
- Your anxiety increases, and this disrupts your performance
- Your confidence is decreased, also not good for your race
- Tension in your muscles increases, and you cannot get the maximum output from them!
How can I use imagery?
- Start with a familiar skill, something you already do well. Really get a feel for all the senses involved-sight, sounds, smells, tactile information and especially your body sensations (kinesthetic). The more complete you can imagine it, the more beneficial it will be.
- If you have difficulty, alternate physical practice with mental practice.
- Be relaxed and calm. If you're distracted or anxious it will be hard to conjure up good images
- Start off slowly, just doing imagery for a few minutes. A good time is before bed. Do 5 minutes of relaxation and 5 minutes of imagery.
- Try to do it every day! Remember that perfect practice makes perfect!
- Have a specific, realistic goal. You can make it a performance goal, or a mental goal, like performing without anxiety, or tuning out the crowd. Make sure you focus on yourself!
- Be persistent. Like physical skills, imagery requires practice. If you can't get it right away, keep trying!
REMEMBER, SEE WHAT YOU WANT TO HAPPEN, NOT WHAT YOU'RE AFRAID MIGHT HAPPEN!
Why must athletes have the ability to relax?
- To be able to get a good night's sleep, especially prior to competition
- To clear the mind and relax the body to prepare for a race
- To open the mind to confidence enhancing thoughts
- To re-energize and rejuvenate the body and mind between events
- To be able to relax body parts during competition to minimize tension and conserve energy
- Progressive relaxation: tensing each muscle group and feeling the tension release
- Deep breathing: focus on each breath-breathe in 'confidence' and exhale 'tension'
- Body scans: useful anytime to scan your body from head to toe to feel tense spots and relax them
- Cue words: words that remind you of how to relax, even the word 'relax' itself
- Imagery: picturing yourself performing well before a meet or training session can help you relax and refocus
- Most athletes don't need to get more 'psyched up' prior to a competition, but there may come a point in time where fatigue becomes a factor (a meet that lasts a few days, where you compete in multiple events).
- You may need to energize!
- Use your powerful mind to convince your body that it's full of energy!
- Use cue words like power, strong, speed and push. Practice using these during training so you are familiar with what works!
- Remind yourself of your goals. Remember how hard you worked to get where you are! Enjoy the moment to its fullest! You deserve it!
POSITIVE THOUGHTS AND REMINDERS
Have confidence in your abilities (both physical and mental) and your training
Stay within yourself and do what you do best. Swim your race, don't try to be someone else or do what they are doing. Stick to your plan and compete the way you practice!
You've put in at least as much effort as anyone else. You deserve to be here! You've worked hard and paid your dues. Tell yourself this every day!
Reframe negative thoughts into positive thoughts: " Ah, the optimist and the pessimist, the difference is droll. The optimist sees the doughnut, the pessimist sees the hole". See the doughtnut!!
Learn from setbacks. Look back on practices and races to see what was good. Draw from this for your next practice or race. Mistakes and shortcomings are part of this process too. Accept them, and accept yourself. Ask yourself how much it really matters if you don't win. Draw out the lessons, and adjust your goals if needed.
Trust yourself, let it happen
Think "YES I CAN!"
Stay in the here and now: Yesterday's history and tomorrow's a mystery. Today is a gift. That's why they call it the present!!
Keep it all in perspective
DON'T FORGET TO HAVE FUN!!!!!!!!!!!