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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:

  1. What is sport psychology/mental training?
  2. 4 aspects of sport
  3. Elements of excellence
  4. Goal setting
  5. Focusing
  6. Anxiety management
  7. Imagery
  8. Relaxation

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?


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?

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


5. Focusing

"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?

How can I get and stay focused?

6. Anxiety Management

What is anxiety?

What can I do about it?

"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."
-Alex Baumann

7. Mental Imagery

Why use mental imagery?

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?

How can I use imagery?


8. Relaxation

Why must athletes have the ability to relax?

Relaxation Techniques




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


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