I was gathering more information on a story to write about here from the Olympics. It involves the two focal points in London for NBC and a good deal of the world. No it is not Field Hockey. I am referring to Phelps and Lochte. I'll finish the story when I get confirmation on one small factoid. It has to do with Lochte wanting to have a stare down with Phelps just prior to their race for Gold in the 200 IM. It highlights perhaps why I have athletes focus on what they can do, rather than try and "Psych-out" their opponents. More about that next time.
While researching this event I recalled the USOC Guidelines on mental training. I thought it would be good to lay them out there for you. I fully support these top ten, though you will note that they primarily focus on one area. The area is cognitive behavioral. How to control your thoughts basically. While this is of course part of what I do with athletes, it is not directly the bulk of our work together. My focus as those that have followed this blog is related to emotional intelligence and unconscious control. So I would add statements to that effect in the USOCs Top Ten. Another important part for you to note is #7. Coach involvement. I always involve coaches when working with teams. I try to as well just working with individuals but with teams it is critical. One goal, one team and that involves everyone.
So here they are. The U.S. Olympic Committee's Top Ten Guiding Principles for
- Mental training can't replace
physical training. An athlete needs to be talented and well
prepared physically for competition.
- Physical training and physical
ability are not enough to succeed consistently. Mental training
needs to supplement physical training for consistent success.
- A strong mind may not win an
Olympic medal, but a weak mind will lose you one. Although
mentally strong athletes do not always win medals due to a variety of
conditions (e.g., health, training), athletes with a weak "mental
game" virtually never win at the biggest competitions.
- Coaches frequently don't know what
their athletes are thinking. Although most coaches know athletes'
behavior and know that psychological factors are important for competition
success, few are aware of an athlete's mental state before and during
- Thoughts affect behavior.Consistency
of thinking = consistency of behavior. Understanding and controlling the
thinking process help athletes control their behavior.
- Coaches have a different view of
changing technical mistakes versus mental mistakes.Coaches work
with athletes for years trying to fix technical errors but don't spend
near as much time helping with mental errors.
- Coaches must be involved in the
mental training process.Although they don't have to be the prime
provider of mental training, coaches need to be involved and support
mental training for their athletes.
- Sometimes it is OK to force
athletes to take the time to do mental training. Just as coaches
"force" athletes to work on certain technical skills, at times
it is appropriate to "force" athletes to work on certain mental
- Like any other skill, mental skills
need to be measured in order to maximize performance of these skills. "What
gets measured, get's done." This saying applies to training mental
skills just as much as physical skills.
Coaches need to
think about their own mental skills.Coaches can benefit from the same
mental skills that help their athletes because they too need to deal with
pressure, maintain confidence, keep attention focused, and so on.
This is an excerpt from Foundations of Sport and Exercise Psychology, Fifth
Edition with Web Study Guide, by Robert S. Weinberg and Daniel Gould
There it is. You can use this as a guideline to help put in place a mental skills program for your team. Note #9. I'm not going to go into measurement, but I will tell you that if you do not plan mental training, it will not get accomplished. Besides being a sport psychology consultant I have been a soccer coach at the premier and high school levels. If I don't plan on using mental skills training during a practice, it does not happen. You have to have a plan. If you would like some help of course I am available. Just go to www.themental-game.com
By the way. Shameless Plug here. My book, The Athlete within You is now available on Kindle via Amazon. Please pick up a copy.