Relaxation: helps us to remove muscle tension, to concentrate, and to control arousal levels. There are two categories of relaxation, one works from muscle-to-mind (e.g., breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation) and the other one is from mind-to-muscle (e.g., certain visualization and meditation exercises). The best time to learn relaxation exercises is when the muscles are tired after exercise.
Pre-performance routines: are sequences of behaviors designed to optimally prepare athletes by helping them concentrate, making them feel in control and preparing their neuromuscular system. Without practicing a pre-execution routine, the athlete may not pay attention to relevant stimuli and may not be able to keep thoughts or emotions under control. These pre-performance routines are not to be confused with superstitious rituals. Some of the situations in which athletes can benefit from this strategy are those in which they have time to prepare, eg.:
• Shots (basketball free kicks, soccer penalties, archery, golf)
• Serves (tennis, badminton)
• Race starts (BMX races, sprints, swimming)
• Unexpected events! (false starts).
The steps to include could be:
-Preparation: of the specific previous movements of the action.
-Creating a calm mind: by breathing at a certain pace, or using positive keywords to encourage confidence.
-Visualization: with as much detail as possible of the successful result.
Pressure: although sports commentators often talk about pressure as something coming from the competition environment (e.g., having an important rival, being in the last stage of a competition); actually pressure are the feelings created by the athlete about her/his performance. Pressure is not necessarily something negative since feeling under pressure can make us motivate ourselves more and concentrate better. We ourselves create our pressure – usually in situations where the result has an important meaning for us -. Knowing this is important because if we realize that we can manage how we feel this gives us control to choose how we perceive aspects of the environment.
Self-esteem: Is the positive, negative or neutral evaluation about ourselves, and it is developed from our life experience, culture and values. This concept is not fixed, and cannot be directly measured or observed. Individuals with high self-esteem are more likely to have better physical and mental health. It has been argued that self-esteem could be both a determinant (i.e., those who have positive views about themselves are more likely to engage in physical activity) and an outcome of physical activity (i.e., through practicing physical activity one can shift positively or negatively the views about themselves). Relevant terms and theories on self-esteem are: self-image, self-concept, self-confidence, self-efficacy, self-compassion, positivity bias and Johari’s window.
Self-image: is the mental representation of ourselves made from past and present opinions and facts. We actually do not have just one image of ourselves but multiple self-images. For our sport, we develop several self-images according to our skills, so for instance we can have self-images about our ability to serve the ball, to handle pressure during difficult moments, or about our capacity to concentrate. The way we play reflects our self-image so that is why it is important to develop a positive one. Related concept are: self-perception, individual’s identity, self-confidence and self-esteem.
Self-regulation: is the conscious regulation of thoughts, feelings and behavior in line with one’s standards. This is relevant to sport psychology in many situations, for instance managing the thoughts about stopping during a long distance run, or regulating feelings when loosing, or resisting not swearing at the referee when perceiving that s/he has been unfair. The capacity to self-regulate decreases over time when faced with tasks requiring to self-regulate. Glucose and sleep play important roles for self-regulation. Relevant theory: The strength model of self-regulation by Roy Baumeister et al.
Team building: is the process of increasing the effectiveness of the team by creating cohesion within its members. Some of the benefits of team building interventions are: clarity and acceptance of roles, better communication, higher athlete satisfaction, and enhanced collaboration. Some of the approaches for the interventions can be:
-The Values-Based Approach: to help identify individual and shared values, and how can these assist the team in goal setting and cohesion.
-Goal-Setting: everyone identifies long-term goals, and progress is monitored.
-Personal Disclosure Mutual Sharing: by sharing personal views on values and motivations understanding within the team members is nurtured.
Winning vs. Succeeding: winning is not the same as succeeding because winning only focuses on the outcome (e.g., scoring more points than the opponent) and involves factors beyond the athlete’s control. An athlete can win without much effort if for instance winning is the result of an opponent being disqualified or injured. Succeeding is about giving your best, having fun and learning. In the end, the winning is a by-product of success. Related theories: outcome vs. process orientation / goals. Difference between winning and succeeding by John Wooden.
‘Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable.’ – John Wooden.
Photograph by Magic Bowls on Unsplash