Recently there has been
some discussion on mental skills training among some of us that are
practitioners of the dark arts. (You will need to read my book "The Athlete within You" to get the inside joke, as I often refer to my
transition from wanting to be a college coach to being persuaded by my mentors
to come over to the dark side (Academia and Sport Psych).
Much of the discussion has been about quick fixes vs. long-term
results. Too many people, not just athletes are looking for instant
gratification and instant results. When I work with athletes I am helping them
get long-term results, but quickly. No this is not an OxyMoron. It is
simply that in traditional psychotherapy progress takes place over the long
haul. Sport Psychology and mental skills training are not traditional psychotherapy,
so I believe we must look at our area a bit differently. Sport Psych is an
educational process that uses psychological research, philosophy and technique
to help athletes learn to perform at a higher level. It is a process and
contrary to some beliefs, magic is not involved.
am making this point because while I do believe helping hockey players is a
process, I also believe it is an accelerated one. Think of it from the
perspective of the professional hockey player. If they are not performing to
their own or the management's expectations, very shortly they are going to be
looking for a new job. So mental training needs to have an effect rather
quickly or the player might not need our services. There is not much difference
if we consider youth players trying to make the team they want to play on or
the adult golfer that would just want to break 85 to make them a more popular
business partner on the golf course.
I have helped many athletes get past issues in single sessions. I recently
worked with a gymnast that could not release from the uneven bars. It took me
just 10 minutes to help her with that. She was off and competing at the state
level the next day. We spent another 5 weeks making sure that her mental skills
were where they needed to be for her journey to Nationals after that. My point
is that we can get some instant results, but in order to maintain and yes
perform at a higher level, work must be done over a longer period of time. I offer
programs in six session packages because that is economically viable for most
of my clients. I also offer year programs. The only time I see someone on a
single session is to make sure that we are the right fit for each other.
reason I work with athletes for longer time periods is because it is easy to
give lip service to mental training, but it requires commitment and conviction
to make it work for you. Everyone buys into the fact that a huge part of
performance at every level is mental, but commitment to following a plan is
hard. Go back and re read my "Remember
the Coin" offerings posted a little
while ago. And that is a seven-day
test. Skill improvement takes time and it takes time to see real
often used an analogy to explain resistance to sport psychology by comparing it
to physical training with a personal trainer. You use a personal trainer. To
make it simple they give you a 10 pound dumbbell and tell you to do 3 sets of
10 twice a week (bicep curls) for two weeks. At the end of the two weeks they
hand you a 15 pound dumbbell. Wow you just got stronger. Real results in a
relatively short space of time. You see others doing it and they are getting
stronger and fitter. Easy!
you work with a sport psychology consultant like me. I give you an exercise to
practice for the next two weeks (metal exercise). During the week that follows,
you notice you are starting to play better. But because you can't draw a line
connecting the dots, your improvement is more difficult to rationalize.
thing I find interesting is that when you stop doing bicep curls you will
shortly get weaker again. Depending on the mental exercise you were being
taught, if it had the impact we were looking for, your performance will likely
continue in the direction you wanted it to go, given that you stayed with the
training long enough for it to have an impact. Very subtle difference I
think you will find. Let's say it was getting over a small fear. Once you have
gotten past that, you are unlikely to head back in that direction.
thing with mental training programs to be effective they have more components
than one on one consulting sessions. Sometimes there are sessions at practice.
Sometimes there are sessions at competitions. There will always be homework
exercises to work on until the new mental skills become habituated and the
athletes thought processes have improved.
other benefit of this type of program is accountability. With your coach you
are held accountable for what you do during competition and practice. Coaches
rarely are in a position to really monitor or focus on an athlete's mental
training and so for the time that an athlete is in a mental training program
they are held accountable. This is very important because it reinforces the
importance to the athlete to be ever vigilant that they are focused on their
mental skills, as well as their physical improvement. In the end this can have
a great impact on the athlete's entire career.
I'll try and post
something before I leave to spend a week working with the Cheyenne Stampede. If
you are interested in my working with your team just check in with me at The Mental Game .