This article was provided by Training-Conditioning
Tone Lanzillo is a mental skills coach to athletes. He works with athletes in such sports as softball, boxing, field hockey, football, soccer, basketball and lacrosse and writes for FirstDown Playbook, Coaches Training Room, Ultimate Hockey Source, Lax Playbook, Online Soccer Coaching, World of Basketball, Lacrosse All-Stars, Coaches Clipboard and Coach Book. He welcomes questions and comments through email at: email@example.com
An important goal of any mental skills training program is to help athletes become more self-confident and believe in themselves. To do that, they need to be able to have and hold on to positive thoughts about themselves—as a person and as an athlete. Yet, there are athletes who have a difficult time doing this because they are carrying around negative thoughts and beliefs that they don’t want to acknowledge or can’t let go of.
Many athletes forget to identify and address the negative thoughts or beliefs they are holding on to. And what these athletes don’t realize is that they will have a very difficult time constructing positive thoughts about themselves if they are still walking around with negative thoughts. If an athlete believes that he is a failure and thinks he will keep making mistakes in practices and games, then no matter how often his coaches or teammates try to encourage him or to build up his self-confidence, the positive comments or feedback won’t stick.
Here is a simple exercise you can use to show your athletes how to address and release negative thoughts or beliefs, and at the same time, identify the positive thoughts or beliefs they want to keep. This exercise is called “Pull and Plant.”
First, ask your athletes to picture a garden that has been overrun with weeds. Then ask them what would happen if they planted some flowers but didn’t take out the weeds. You want them to start thinking and talking about how the weeds obstruct the view of the flowers and how roots sap energy and leave no space for the flowers to grow.
Explain to your athletes that their mind is like a garden. If they want to plant positive thoughts and beliefs in their mind, then they have to pull out the negative thoughts and beliefs—especially if they want the positive thoughts and beliefs to take hold and grow. If they don’t pull out the weeds (negative thoughts and beliefs), then the flowers (positive thoughts and beliefs) won’t survive.
Invite each athlete to identify any negative thoughts or beliefs they currently hold. Then, ask them to find the “root” of that thought or belief. At what moment in time, or during what situation or experience, did the negative thought or belief take root?
Maybe a pitcher has come to think or believe that he is a terrible player because in one game he couldn’t strike out any batters and gave up three home runs. Or maybe a wide receiver dropped several balls in a playoff game and now thinks that he can’t perform in key games. These athletes have to change their perception of that difficult or challenging experience.
Let’s say a baseball player is going up to bat in the ninth inning and his team is behind by one run. As he walks up to the plate, his batting coach reminds him that he will be fine. The coach tells him to just focus on the ball, make contact, and follow through on his swing. But the player is telling himself that he is going to strike out because he struck out in the first inning. What this baseball player has to do is to take what he thinks is a negative experience (striking out) and put it into a positive frame of reference (I’m a smarter batter because I now know this pitcher’s best pitches).
The overarching idea is to teach athletes how to take what they perceive as a negative situation and put it into a positive frame of reference. When they do this, they are essentially pulling the weed out of the garden so they can plant flowers that will live and grow. They are pulling out the negative thoughts or beliefs so the positive thoughts and beliefs can become a stable part of the athlete’s mindset.
Director of Education for Advanced Sports technology
This presentation by Nesby Glascow states that anything is possible and it begins with mental toughness and the psychological edge that enables a person to cope better than their opponents with the many demands that are placed on competition and in life as explained by Mr. Glasgow. This presentation discusses the aspects for training the mind which is just as important as training the body using self-efficacy which is a person’s ability to appraise one’s self followed by collective efficacy that deals with a groups and teams.
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Do you want to help the athletes become more confident and self-assured when they find themselves in different game-time situations? Do you want them make better decisions? Perform at a higher level? Learn how to teach your players visualization or mental rehearsal.
This article was provided by Coaches Network
By Anthony Lanzillo
When you are coaching athletes, it’s very important to provide mental skills training along with the physical conditioning program and overall development of their athletic skills. One essential tool for all athletes is what we call visualization or the mental rehearsal. It’s showing your athletes how to use mental imagery and using such senses as sight and sound to mentally practice how they want to perform in the actual game. It is a fairly simple process to teach and learn.
This process will strengthen their mental skills, and thereby, help the athletes become more confident and self-assured when they find themselves in different game-time situations. It gives the athletes a stronger mindset, and assists them in making smarter decisions. By mentally practicing how they plan to perform, they will be focused on themselves, on what they control, on being task-oriented and what they want to accomplish.
For athletes who don’t use this process, they are often distracted and overwhelmed by negative feelings or fears. They can easily think about things they don’t control and worry about what they don’t want to do or have happen to them in the game.
The mental rehearsal is something that you can introduce and incorporate into team practices. Let’s say you are at a football or lacrosse practice, and running through different plays on offense or defense. After you have the offensive unit physically run through a play, you have the players get back into their positions at the beginning of that play. Then you ask the players to do the following five-step exercise:
- Take a deep breath and slowly close your eyes.
- Identify the play you just ran through.
- Identify your primary role and responsibility in this play.
- Identify a personal strength that will help you in this play.
- Identify the performance objectives during the play (a short series of visual and verbal cues that highlight specific moves you are making in the play).
- Identify a positive feeling from a successful performance.
You can even give your players a “mental prep playbook,” a notebook with single-page forms called “mental prep playsheets” where they can take a moment to write down their answers to the five steps for each play. After writing it down, you want to encourage your players to review their mental rehearsals of the different plays on a regular basis. They need to understand that the more they do their mental rehearsals of these plays, the more confident they will be when they find themselves playing in the actual games.
Also, during the team practices, you can talk to your players about how to plug into a short list of visual or verbal cues during a game. The moment a player finds himself in a particular play he can simply focus on:
- Personal Strength
- First Performance Objective
- Positive Feeling
In fact, during practice when the team is scrimmaging, you can blow the whistle to stop the scrimmage, yell a player’s name, say “cue” or “plug in,” and have that player verbally state his five steps in his mental rehearsal for that play. You want your players to immediately go to the key mental prompts or cues when they find themselves in different plays during competition.
A mental health professional for over 20 years, Anthony “Tone” Lanzillo has more recently been exploring how athletes can use mental skills in their practices and games. He works with athletes in such sports as softball, boxing, field hockey, football, soccer, basketball and lacrosse and writes for FirstDown Playbook, Coaches Training Room, Ultimate Hockey Source, Lax Playbook, Online Soccer Coaching, World of Basketball, Lacrosse All-Stars, Coaches Clipboard and Coach Book. Click here for more information on his ideas and services.
Are our emotions something that help us when it comes to sport, or do they hold us back? The answer? Both. Learning how to balance and control your emotions is what matters.
In our first part of this two part series, we covered five strategies to help regulate emotion ranging from facing your fears head on, to listening to inspiring music to get you in the zone. This was based on research by Professor Marc Jones at Staffordshire University on how athletes can better manage their emotions when competing. In this second part, we cover tips 6-10.
Relax Your Body: Try tensing your muscles for a few seconds and then consciously relaxing them to feel a sense of calm, physically as well as mentally. Research shows that this leads to a reduced heart rate, lesser feelings of physical exhaustion, and diminished anxiety.
Learn From Others: Try to emulate athletes that deal with emotionally difficult situations well; this is an effective strategy to manage anger and stress. For instance it has been shown that Role-playing exercisesoff pitch reduce angry behavior on pitch. The ability to learn from others is a hallmark of developing a growth mindset and a very important life skill.
Develop Self-Awareness: Keep a journal or review film of situations where strong emotions arise during play and how you dealt with them. This allows you to identify which emotions are healthy, competitive ones for you and which are not. This is important to know so that you can get the best from your emotional state. Keeping a diary to improve self-awareness is a simple and effective way to improve metacognition.
This can be incredibly effective when combined with challenging self-handicapping thoughts (check out part one of this blog), as your newfound awareness can help you identify which thoughts and emotions need challenging.
Reframe The more important you believe the situation to be, the more likely you are to have a strong emotional response to it. Research suggest that reminding yourself that “it’s just another match” can help reduce the noise and intensity that emotions can bring.
Reframing our ideas of failure and success can also be effective. In the earlier mentioned research by Professor Jones, he details an example where a Premier League striker was struggling to score goals, and feeling down because of it. Helping him reframe his definition of success to include all the other things he was doing well helped raise his spirits and find his goal scoring form again.
Take Deep Breaths: Much like muscle relaxation, focusing on taking deep slow breaths can be an important factor in regulating emotion. These breaths increase feelings of relief and lead to lower physical symptoms of negative emotions such as muscle tension. It also provides a sense of control of the situations, slows things time and gives you space to consider how best to proceed.
Final Thought: Every athlete no matter their level needs to learn how to balance their emotions. There is no perfect formula. What works well for someone else is no guarantee that it will work well for you. Using some of the techniques described in both parts of this blog series will provide a strong platform to explore what works best for you.
This article was provided by InnerDrive, is part 1 of a two part post.
What does it take to really excel in the world of elite sport? The ability to deliver your best when it matters the most is a fundamental part of performing under pressure. Can this ability be taught, learned and developed?
We have previously explored why some athletes perform better under pressure than others and what it takes to thrive in a pressurized environments. However, what makes emotions in sport so complicated is that no emotion is truly good or bad during competition. For example, anger can make you try harder, but it can also make you lose focus on the task at hand.
Even two people experiencing the same emotion can react in different ways. So a footballer who is embarrassed about missing too many shots may shy away from receiving the ball, whereas another might react by calling for it more to get a chance to redeem themselves.
Research by Professor Marc Jones at Staffordshire University offers fascinating insight into how athletes can better manage their emotions when competing. In this two part blog series, we are going to look at 10 tips to control emotions in sport based on his research.
Music: Listening to music is a great way for an athlete to get into the zone. Upbeat or inspirational music for example improves an athlete’s confidence and motivation, leading to better on pitch performance. Music acts as a way to boost arousal levels whilst also helping to block out distracting thoughts.
Self-Talk: Negative self-talk leads to a poor emotional state, which in turn hurts athletic performance. Replacing it with positive self-talk such as “I played really well in my last match” or “I’ve succeeded at this before, I know I can now” counters negative emotions and creates positive ones too. This positive self-talk creates helpful emotions such as happiness. As many as 76% of elite level figure skaters utilise this technique to cope with the stress of competition. For more tips on how to talk to yourself, check out our blog on it here and how self-talk is linked to growth mindset.
Relaxing, Positive Imagery: If you find yourself stressed out over competing or are worried about failing, try imagining positive scenarios like scoring a goal. As a young athlete, Wayne Rooney used to lie in bed imagining himself scoring goals and dribbling around defenders. He uses these visualization techniques this day and credits them for his accomplishments.
It has been found that Imagery focused on toughness, control, and confidence leads to increased motivation, emotion regulation, and self-belief. This is a great technique to do the night before a match or just before you go out to compete.
Challenging Self-Handicapping Thoughts: It’s important to consistently review your behavior both on pitch and off to ensure it is helping, not hindering your performance. If you are exerting energy and focus on behavior that is hurting you, you’re wasting energy.
One elite tennis player in this study was asked how many times in her career she argued with the referee and how often it had actually resulted in a call being changed (very rarely). The massive difference in the energy wasted compared to the result she gained, helped her realise there were better things to choose to focus on.
Face Your Fears: As discussed in our blog on The Fear of Failure, psychologists believe that there are three ways people cope with situations. These are Avoidant, Emotional and Problem Focused. Let’s say you are worried about snakes in your garden. You could decide to never go into your garden again (avoidant focused), or convince yourself that having snakes in your back garden isn’t that bad (emotion focused) or go into your garden and get rid of the snakes (problem focused).
Whereas avoidant and emotional focused coping may provide a short relief, problem focused coping addresses the issue head on, allowing you to make long term gains. Don’t be an ostrich and bury your head in the sand. If something is worrying you, work out how you can make it better.
Make sure to check back in a few weeks for part two of our blog on how athletes can better manage their emotions. We would like to massively thank Professor Jones for allowing us to blog about his research.