Here's a thought provoking article written by Jack Singer, Ph.D., Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Sport Psychologist which I thought would be of interest to all.
As they get older and put more mileage on their bodies, proactive thinking professional athletes look for an edge. Much of the training and coaching that professional athletes receive works on the logical brain, the left brain. Game plans, strategies, knowing what to do in a specific situation…all fire up the left brain.
Frequently, the right brain is ignored. Balance, music, emotions, visualization and self-hypnosis all involve the right brain.
The smart athlete practices skills that tap into both the left and right brains.
I receive calls weekly from professionals who recognize that their bodies will not always be able to support the wear and tear and therefore, they would like to learn mental skills to compensate. There are many techniques that Certified Sport Psychologists use to help such athletes, but by far the most powerful technique in my arsenal is Hypnotic Sport Psychology.
Those Sport Psychologists who teach hypnosis and self-hypnosis to athletes help them with such skills as intensity, focus, consistency, concentration and anxiety and anger control. Moreover, hypnosis can be used with teams to enhance team dynamics, intra-team communications, mutual goal setting and intra-team cohesion.
A favorite technique that I use with huge success, I call the hypnotic mental toughness game plan. I use this technique with athletes whose sport involves going up against an opponent(s), such as football, basketball, boxing, motor sports, tennis, soccer, wrestling, hockey, etc;
I ask the athlete to describe in detail everything he/she knows about her/his opponent. For example, for an NFL football player, I want to know what specific techniques and moves the opponent has used in the past against my athlete. Accordingly, what specific techniques and moves has my athlete used with success against him? For a tennis player, I want to know how the opponent has won games from my athlete in the past, what she/he does in certain game situations (such as moving toward the net), and what strategies have worked for my athlete against this specific opponent (even if only a few games were won against him/her).
The same data that would be obtained in breaking down film is very valuable for me (utilizing the athlete’s specific language) in designing a hypnotic program aimed at overcoming the opponent when they next meet.
This hypnotic technique goes well beyond “visualization” that is often taught to athletes. While under hypnosis, my athlete is not only visualizing success in his next game, but he is planting optimistic seeds in the beautiful garden of his subconscious mind that are each related to specific moves and strategies that are designed to work against a specific opponent, whom he can visualize defeating.
So, with the athlete’s help, we design a mental toughness game plan each week and (if the athlete is not local) I fed ex a CD series of that game plan each week for the athlete to master. This certainly gives the pro athlete an edge and I refer to it as the athlete’s “unfair advantage!”
(Obviously, these techniques are not simply reserved for professional athletes, but the use of game films, for example, to design my game plans are harder to come by with junior athletes. In such cases, I rely on the athlete and coaches to give me the information I need.)
Here we find ourselves again, at the end of a year, ready to start the next. How time has flown by!
About 45% of all of us will be getting ready to set our next Years resolution. The rest of us will not bother. It’s easy to see why so many people opt out of making resolutions, because statistically only 8% of people actually achieve their goals. As with most ventures, solid preparation in setting goals and resolutions will help people follow through on their goals. By the way, that figure of an 8% hit rate for achieving goals, applies to athletes and sportspersons as well.
In some ways this is the coaches domain and they will know that the process of setting goals guides athletes to understand their current level of skill and achievement and their ability to progress. Establishing goals may seem simple, but to do so effectively requires an understanding of the types of goals, especially related to athletics, and the process to set, monitor, and accomplish an objective.
Types of Goals
Outcome Goals are related to the big picture of athletics and competition, such as winning a game or making it onto a particular team. It is important to realize that oftentimes, athletes have very little control over the external factors that could affect their outcome goal. This type of goal is important as it can serve as motivation for an athlete as they may encounter obstacles in accomplishing the performance and process goals, which we describe below. An outcome goal is the “prize” in the saying, “eyes on the prize.” An example scenario for this would be for a young woman who decides she wants to be on her high school basketball team.
Performance Goals are excellent benchmarks for mapping one’s progress as they strive to meet their outcome goal. Let’s follow the illustration of the young basketball player who wants to be on her high school’s team. Tryouts involve a variety of challenges, such as running a mile in under 14 minutes or being able to make a certain percentage of free throws. The athlete would establish these measurable targets as her performance goals.
Process Goals relate to the everyday aspects of meeting the larger outcome goals, and they are the “how” in accomplishing performance goals. Unlike outcome goals, athletes are typically able to have complete control as they strive to accomplish process goals. In the case of the young basketball player, her stance when on the free throw line or her form when running, can impact the performance goals that will allow her to make it on the team. This is where practice, determination, and sometimes frustration come in. An athlete may feel discouraged if they have difficulties making progress with these goals, and that is why it is always important to help them realize these are steps in a bigger picture.
Preparation and visualization are two essential elements in successful goal planning. Dr. Steven Ungerleider, founding board member for GSD and sport psychologist, has spent over 35 years working with athletes to identify and achieve their goals. About his experience he says, “Since Olympians are very focused and disciplined, it was usually easy to write out a visualization plan, how to do it, when, practice, and implementation. Usually athletes reported good short-term and long-term results.”
Experts and researchers have identified an effective process in goal setting which can lead to more success. They’ve even come up with a clever acronym to help us through the process: SMART. Goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time specific. Keeping these guidelines in mind, there are also steps one should take in identifying each goal.
1 Write it Down – Try expressing your goal in present tense, for example, “I run two miles in under 14 minutes.” Doing so allows you to shift your reality and actualize your goal. Also, focus on positive and affirmative language, rather than negative tones. Instead of saying what you won’t do (“I won’t stay up late.”), write down what you will do (“I will be in bed by 9 pm each night.”).
2 Determine Measurement for Goal – In order to track success, it is imperative to define what “success” means. Whether you want to eat more nutritious meals before games and practices or if your goal is to be prepared for practice each day, there is a way to measure it. For example, if your goal is to eat better, you can track your nutrition by the numbers. If you want to be prepared for practice each day, set your measurement to be how early you arrive to practice or how long it takes you to get ready for practice.
3 Set a Time Limit – Sure, if your goal is to make the US Olympic swimming team, then your timeframe could be many years. But for EACH goal (outcome, performance, and process) set a deadline to meet it. Not only does this keep you on track, but it creates a challenge AND sense of accomplishment as you meet goals in succession.
4 Identify Obstacles – For the athlete whose performance goal is to be prepared for daily practice, what kinds of hindrances might he encounter? After-school club meetings, overwhelming school projects, illness, etc. In a perfect world our schedules would run without interruption. But reality requires us to recognize situations which could possibly get in the way of us reaching our daily goals.
5 Overcome Obstacles – Okay, so now you know that your lack of knowledge about the proper form during running is a bit of a hindrance to you shaving off some time from your two miles. How will you get around this? Several options await you, such as consulting a coach or professional to help you, researching on the internet, video recording yourself run to examine your current form, etc. With each hurdle you recognize, create a plan for leaping over it and moving forward.
6 Review Goals – Now that you’ve written everything down, read over it. Do the goals align and make sense? Is there anything missing from your list of obstacles?
7 Monitor Progress – Track your measurable objectives and evaluate your progress. If you are trying to reduce your two mile run time by 3 minutes, write down your time for each run. Figure out a reward system if that helps, too.
Other Tips for Setting Goals
• Prioritize goals
• Challenge yourself
• Be specific
• Involve others – tell your coach, parents, or teammates about your
Goal – maybe they can also help you achieve them
Keep it Together
Okay, you may be feeling overwhelmed at this point. Identifying the types of goals, working through all of the steps, and keeping other tips in mind – it is a lot. But it’s worth it. Coaches, parents, teachers, and teammates can be helpful in organizing your plan.
Give it a try, and see if your success is different when you map your goals out in a careful fashion, and above all: Keep your eyes on the prize, and do associated with the statistics at the beginning of this article.