Sunday, March 7, 2010
The mental half of competition will make a player whole
From the Evansville Couier Press, March 7th, 2010
Mental conditioning is as critical for an athlete's success as physical conditioning, but most athletes don't work on improving their mental strength nearly as much as needed.
Athletes will tell you that at least 50 percent of their sport is mental, but that they don't spend half of their time training those aspects.
More and more teams at the professional and collegiate levels employ mental conditioning coaches to help their players improve on areas of mental strength. Alabama coach Nick Saban makes coaching his player's minds, building confidence and cultivating a winning culture a priority in his college football program. To do so, he has mental conditioning coach Trevor Moawad work with their players.
At the University of Evansville, we recently had Rob Kehoe, a mental performance coach, work with our soccer team to stress techniques, methods and themes for our conditioning.
The key points stressed:
— Process Goals versus Outcome Goals: Most teams talk about winning, but what is most important is to stress the actual process. You can't reach your competition goals without having specific character qualities such as dedication, perseverance and resilience.
— Make practice an investment: The idea of investing of yourself to your team at practice is different from sacrificing by being there. When you sacrifice your time, you are giving something up. Special players and teammates invest their time — using their time at practice to get something back, whether that's being a part of a team, getting healthier or fitter, getting better as a player, or helping their team be successful.
— Team standards and habits are critical to a team's success: Opposed to being a slave to rules or regulations with a negative connotation ("don't do this"), our players came up with a list of standards to follow in all facets of their lives (practice, games, personal, academic, social). In this setting, they think a lot about how they can affect their teammates and program from a positive connotation ("University of Evansville players do this"). It has empowered our players a lot in how they live their lives, from how they take care of their bodies to how they want to carry themselves in public.
— Balancing their time for the good of the group: We talk a lot about how they will use their time during the course of the week to help make our program better. There are 168 hours in a week, and we broke their schedules down by the hour. Take out sleep, academics and practice/games, and the less structured times will determine a lot of the individual and team success.
— Win the moment: Too often we have players who allow things they can't control to affect the things they can. Do not to let things that have happened in the past affect our performance. There is a reason that the windshield is a lot bigger than the rear view mirror. Everyone will make a mistake during the course of a game, and the really mentally tough players will stay in the present and play on.
— Defend without fouling: We watched a lot of video of players committing fouls that resulted in goals off free kicks, and most were careless and poor one-on-one defending opposed to tough, tenacious defense. A tough defender can focus on the act of winning the ball, and not to commit careless fouls.
A lot of what we talked about had to do with physical actions in the course of the game, but in reality it is the players that are mentally the strongest that prove to have the greatest success.
Posted by Mike Jacobs at 5:01 PM