More good stuff from Protex Sports

Here is another terrific post from our friend, John Ellsworth, of Protex Sports. He invites you to take his Mental Toughness Challenge #8: Confidence Building by Tracking Success. You can send John your request by filling out the “contact us” form at http://www.protexsports.com. He will then arrange time to talk with you on the phone and help you better understand the how mental toughness is built and how it can improve your performance. Take advantage of this great offer!

Get Psyched! (Part 2)

By Dr. Jim Taylor

Confidence

Confidence may be the single most important mental factor because you may have all of the ability to be successful, but if you don’t believe you have that ability, you won’t use it to perform your best. Confidence is about believing you can be successful when it gets tough, perform your best when it counts, and achieve your competitive goals.

Preparation breeds confidence. Preparation is the foundation of confidence. If you believe that you have done everything you can to perform your best, you will have confidence in your ability to achieve your goals. This preparation includes the physical, technical, tactical, and mental parts of your sport.

Adversity ingrains confidence. Your biggest challenge is to maintain your belief in yourself when you’re faced with adversity. To more deeply ingrain confidence, you should expose yourself to all experiences that take you out of your comfort zone, for example, bad weather and poor training conditions.

Success validates confidence. When most athletes think of success, they think about having great results and reaching their competitive goals. But every day you train, you’re scoring little victories. With each of these small “wins,” your confidence steadily increases until you have the confidence to achieve a big “win.” After every training session, be sure to acknowledge the small victory—give yourself a pat on the back for your effort and remind yourself of the goal you are working toward—and allow them to accumulate.

All of the previous steps in building confidence would go for naught if you did not then experience competitive success. Success validates the confidence you have developed in your ability. It demonstrates that your belief in your ability is well-founded. Success further strengthens your confidence, making it more resilient in the face of adversity and poor performances. Success also rewards your efforts to build confidence, encouraging you to continue to work hard and continue in your sport.

Positive self-talk. Perhaps the most powerful mental tool for building confidence is positive self-talk. The first step is to become aware of how positive or negative your self-talk is. Often, athletes say things like, “I stink” or “There’s no way I can do this” without even realizing it. The problem is that your negativity will become ingrained and will come out in competition. Positive self-talk is a skill that develops with practice. Identify the negative things you often say to yourself and figure out something positive you can say in its place. Then, be aware of when you’re negative and immediately replace it with something positive.

Intensity

When you’re in a big competition, it’s natural for your intensity to go up and for you to feel nervous. You have to take active steps to get your intensity back to a level that allows your body to perform its best. There are several simple techniques you can use to help you get your intensity under control.

Deep breathing. The most basic way to lower their intensity is to take control of their breathing by focusing on slow, deep breaths. Deep breathing ensures that you get enough oxygen so your body can function well; you will relax, feel better, and have a greater sense of control. This increased comfort will increase your confidence, calm you, and improve your focus. Deep breathing should be a big part of your pre-competitive preparations. If you take a few deep breaths, you ensure that your body is relaxed and comfortable, and you’re focused on something that will help your perform your best.

Slow pace of pre-competitive preparation. A common side effect of over-intensity is that you tend to do everything faster. You can rush before the start of the competition as if you want to get the race over with as soon as possible. So, to lower your intensity, give yourself more time before your start and slow your pace as you get ready.

Music.

Music is one of the most common tools athletes use to control their intensity before competitions. We all know that music has a profound physical and emotional impact on us. Music has the ability to make us happy, sad, inspired, and motivated. Music can also excite or relax us. Many world-class racers can be seen listening to music before they compete. Calming music relaxes you and makes you feel good physically and mentally.

Smile.

The last technique is one of the strangest and most effective I’ve ever come across: Smile! As we grow up, we become conditioned to the positive effects of smiling. In other words, we learn that when we smile, it means we’re happy and life is good. Second, brain research has found is that when we smile, it releases brain chemicals called endorphins which have an actual physiologically relaxing effect. When you begin to feel nervous, simply smile and I promise you will feel more relaxed immediately.

Dr. Jim Taylor holds a Ph.D. in Psychology, is an adjunct professor at the University of San Francisco, and blogs on politics, education, technology, popular culture, and sports for huffingtonpost.com, psychologytoday.com, seattlepi.com, and on his own blog at drjimtaylor.com.

Boosting Kids’ Confidence on Game Day

By Dr. Patrick Cohn

We often see kids who excel in practice, but freeze up during games. This can be frustrating and confusing for parents and coaches. What’s going on in the young athlete’s mind and what can sports parents and coaches do about it?

First of all, sports parents and coaches should help young athletes understand that they create their own confidence. If kids begin a game wanting immediate results (such as getting the first hit or basket of the game), they’re setting themselves up for frustration.

Many athletes have a fragile sense of confidence. They need to understand that it can take years to build up confidence in sports. Many only feel confident when they experience immediate success, especially during a game or performance. Don’t let them lose confidence by worrying about achieving immediate results!

What’s more, athletes need to understand that they’ll be more successful if they assume full responsibility for their own confidence before competition begins. Often, athletes unknowingly wait until the game starts before they decide how confident they should feel. If this is how your young athletes think, they need positive results before they feel confident. In other words, they need to make that great hit or basket before they can begin to feel confident.

If this is true of the young athletes in your life, you can help. Tell them they need to change how they think before entering competition. Tell them not to worry about making that first hit, goal or basket right away! Instead, they should draw on their many successes even before the game or competition begins. That means recalling positive experiences—great hits, blocks or assists. It means recalling how it feels to be viewed as a great team player.

Keep in mind that confidence develops over months and years of practice and play. Remind your child about this. In addition, confidence should come from within. That’s why it’s called self-confidence. Your kids should not have to depend on what you say to boost their confidence on game day. They should learn to take personal responsibility for their confidence.

Award winning parenting writer Lisa Cohn and Youth Sports Psychology expert Dr. Patrick Cohn are co-founders of The Ultimate Sports Parent. Pick up their free e-book, “Ten Tips to Improve Confidence and Success in Young Athletes” by visiting http://www.youthsportspsychology.com

Six Objectives for Mental Preparation

By John Ellsworth

I have been using mental preparation strategies for my clients for many years.  There are many places a mental preparation strategy can and will work.  Students use them to prepare for a critical exam. Athletes use them to prepare for a game or performance, and business executives can use them before they deliver a very important presentation.

Athletes use them in a number of different situations for pre-event, pre-practice, or pre-execution preparation for a specific skill whether it be a team sports or an individual sport.  It’s important to remember the overall aim of the mental preparation is to create a functional pre-game mindset that can carry you through competition. The overall goal is to achieve a focused, confident and trusting mindset prior to entering the competitive environment.  Below are a few primary objectives you will want to accomplish with your mental preparation.

1. KISS  – Keep the preparation very simple and specific.  The most simple objective of mental preparation is to to get your mind ready to compete and clear of distractions.  You have practiced all week long, have strengthened your confidence by working efficiently on the skills areas that require the most refinement.

2. Believing in one’s ability and skills.  It’s extremely important you go into competition with the right mindset, the right objectives, and without excessively high expectations for performance.  Confidence is by far the most critical aspect of the mental preparation.  Practice is where you develop the basic foundation for confidence. It’s about work ethic, and having the right practice plan focused on skills improvement.  Practice like you play and play like you practice.  There should be little difference between the two.

3. Execution, execution, execution.  The only things the athlete has absolute control are attitude, behavior and execution.  The first two are critical because they can make or break execution because execution is so much a mental game.  I incorporate focus drills, and exercises into everything I do with athletes and include tools to be used for refocusing when the focus gets cloudy.

4. Coping with the ups and downs.  I believe to adequately cope with adversity requires having a certain level of confidence as a prerequsite. Everyone is different so everyone knows where their breaking point is. Adversity can affect composure, confidence and focus (the 3 C’s as I call them).  It’s important to have a few generic coping tools for the  unforeseen situations.  Recovery from adversity, and the rate at which the recovery process takes place will directly affect an athletes performance and how they see themselves on the team or in the bigger picture.

5. Stick to the game plan.  I encourage and teach each athlete I work with to have a game plan for each and every competition.  It doesn’t have to be elaborate, but it should state intentions, and be focused on objectives for performance.  I did not say focus on outcomes!  The outcome is not what competition is about it’s more about having a basic understanding of how you plan to execute, and how you see yourself in the execution process.

6. Know your role.  As human beings we have many different roles in life. We are athletes, fathers, teachers, coaches, and wear many other hats. The key here is to be able to separate those roles from one another and be centered in the present when we are executing in whatever role.   There is a strategy I teach my client’s that helps them completely separate the role of the athlete from the other roles. Do well at the role when you are in that role, and prepare each day for the time when you enter the role of the athlete.

On some level every athlete aspires to these objectives some really never discuss them, write them down, put them into action and track their success against their objectives.  One of the things I give athletes is a system to first establish the objectives, and then to monitor and track them and their success.

One of the first things we do is to identify the challenges, roadblocks, thoughts, and feelings that support a belief system that is limited in scope and depth.  We also take the athlete through a process of recovery and re-engineer their belief system to support a level of consistent and repetitive success. If you believe you “can’t” based on past experience you will learn to dump the self-fulfilling prophecy and get back on a path of “I can do this.”

For more information about this article contact or for information on mental game coaching contact John R. Ellsworth – Mental Game Coach at Protex Sports, LLC. www.protexsports.com. You can also send your questions to Ask Coach John.