Archive for the 'Mental coaching' Category

The psychological skills of winning athletes

The psychological skills the athletes must show in competition and in training are often difficult to list, because the risk is to do a very long and too generic list. Nevertheless, today I would like to try to identify, from my point of view, the skills that can represent milestones in the athletes’ sport careers.

  • Self-control - it means knowing what are the behaviors to put in place to address the competition requests. The self-control requires respect for opponents; at the same time the athletes must be the leader of themselves, to overcome the difficulties posed by the races and opponents with the aim of providing the best performance.
  • Readiness for action - the athletes are persons oriented to act and therefore they must be ready to kick a ball, pulling a shot, to run in a precise rhythm, to anticipate opponents, to start rather than conclude effectively a race and so on. Readiness goes with high levels of situational awareness: the athletes have to know what to do at any given time and do it at their best.
  • Toughness and resiliency - I did not completely understand the distinction between these two psychological concepts, but I believe the athletes should continue to do the best even when they are tired, when all seems lost, during the decisive moments, at the end of the race, when they feel confused but know they have prepared an action plan for those moments.
  • Attention - Robert Nideffer said the attention is the only important thing in the decisive moments. I agree and, that is the reason, I consider it as the ability allowing to lead the mental commitment. The athletes have to know what to look for, knowing when to use a broad attentional style oriented toward the environment rather than a narrow attentional style, more focused on very few external factors. Without proper attention they cannot understand what is going to happen and to move in advance.
  • Optimism - The explanation of the performance results is an important factor, because it determines the expectation in relation to the future competitions. Humans are often engaged to explain their positive and negative results. It is therefore essential, the athletes develop an optimistic perception of their performances, because if they explain the positive results in term of luck or lack of competent opponents is unlikely they improve and gain a winning mind.

Webinar: Consulting with athletes with disabilities

American Psychological Association, Sport Psychology Division organizes first FREE webinar of 2019.

Please join us on March 19 12PM-1PM EST or 5:00 PM – 6:00 PM CET for the webinar on Consulting with Athletes with Disabilities! Great panelists and a great topic!

Registration:

https://register.gotowebinar.com/REGISTER/4936894466465835522

What to do when you are losing a match

Focused under pressure in tennis

Risultati immagini per concentrazione nel tennis

Which is your zone?

Miyazaki Yoshifumi forest therapy

shinrin-yoku? ”It’s an activity where people relax by synchronizing, or harmonizing, with the forest. The term was coined in 1982 by Akiyama Tomohide, director of the Japan Forestry Agency. The agency wanted people to visit Japan’s forests and relax. It was a way to increase the value of these lands.

I led the first experiment to study the effects of the practice on the island of Yakushima in 1990.

A new technique had just been developed to detect the levels of cortisol, a stress-related hormone, in saliva. We used that to measure stress and relaxation. “Forest therapy,” meanwhile, refers to shinrin-yoku backed by scientific data, and is a term that I coined myself in 2003.”

There are two reasons why we need it today. One is the shift to an artificial society. Although human beings and their direct ancestors have existed for approximately 7 million years, we have spent over 99.99 percent of that time living in nature. Our genes are adapted to nature, and they have not changed over the two or three centuries since the industrial revolution. Because we have bodies that are adapted to nature, living in modern society places us in a condition of stress.

The second reason is the shift to an information technology society based on computers. Interestingly, two years after the word shinrin-yoku was coined in 1982, the word “technostress” appeared in America. We have entered a secondary stage of stress.

Book review: Running flow

Running flow

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Philip Latter and Christine Weinkauff Duranso

Human Kinetics

2017, pp.189

As long distance runner I know very well the difficulties to maintain the focus on my run, refreshing in the same time the kind of mood which represents the positive background where to design the pleasure to run also when I am mentally and physically tired. So I learned that what happens in those is what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has called mental flow, the running flow.

For these reasons, I have been immediately captured by this book, Running flow, written by him with fellow psychologist Christine Weinkauff and running journalist and coach Philip Latter. It’s the first book devoted to this state of mind for runners, to learn how to reach and coach this mind condition and most important how to maintain it during the worst moments. Till some years ago, the flow experiences was studied only in the top level performances and it were described as something which happens spontaneously and difficult to replicate in a voluntary manner. Now we know, that it is something we can train through specific exercises not only to improve our performance but also, and maybe more important, to live more enjoyable experiences through the running.

“Flow refers to an optimal experience during which the mind and body work together while honed on a task. Flow is often associated with peak performance” (p.16). I remember when running 100km Ultramarathon “Il Passatore” I reached the 79°km and in that moment I started to think: “Ok; focus on the light of  your lamp in the road, and run till the end.”  I have had only this unique thought for the next 21km. For me this has been my flow experience. This is what it’s written in the book when the authors talk about the 9 components of flow (clear goals, challenge-skills balance, unambiguous feedback, focused attention, merging of action and awareness, sense of control, loss of self-consciousness, distortion of time and intrinsic motivation). The first four dimensions represent the flow antecedents and the other six the outcomes of the flow process.

In the book, it’s well explained that the flow state it comes out when the athletes live a condition of optimal self-control associated to an efficient arousal level.

Csikszentmihalyi and his colleagues describe five ways through which one athlete is able to cultivate one’s self into an autotelic person: set goals with a clear and immediate feedback, become immersed in the particular activity, be focused to what is happening in the here and now, learn to enjoy immediate experience and proportion one’s skills to the challenge at hand.

In my opinion the strength of this book is evidently to be applied to one specific sport (long distance running) but the stories of the athletes and the practical information the runners can find to improve their focus and running with this state of mind are absolutely important.

Football: money is not the only thing to have a happy life

Almost 40 years ago Terry Orlick wrote a chapter titled “From Hero to Zero”: “The challenge is not only in pursuing excellence but in doing so without destroying the rest of your life.” How many top athletes has been committed to pursue this positive goal? That is to say, be aware and committed to distinguish between “my career is the only thing” or “my career is the most important thing I have” or better “my career and my life out of sport are both important.”

Today it seems that many football players in UK do not live following the goal to pursue their personal wellbeing.

  • The average career of a footballers is 8 years
  • 5 years after the retirement 40% of the players declare bankruptcy
  • After 1 year, 33% of footballers get divorced
  • Today the average salary in Premiere League is 2,5 millions of pounds, not sufficient to guarantee a happy life

Mindfulness can reduce the burnout

Chunxiao Li et al., (2019).Mindfulness and Athlete Burnout: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(3), 449.

This review aims to identify, appraise, and synthesize studies reporting the relationship between mindfulness and athlete burnout and the effects of mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) on athlete burnout. few variables may account for the relationship between mindfulness and athlete burnout.

Gustafsson et al. (2015) found that mindfulness had an indirect effect on athlete burnout through negative/positive affect. As negative affect has been viewed as an indicator of burnout susceptibility (Lemyre et al. 2006), mindfulness is likely to prevent burnout through adjusting athletes’ affect. Zhang and colleagues (2016) proposed another possible mechanism. They claimed that athletes with high levels of mindfulness tend to have low levels of experiential avoidance (i.e., willingness to avoid negative experience because of the distress brought on by the experience, which may in turn minimize the maladaptive influences of stressors and other negative factors on burnout.