Sport Psychology Sports Theory (Fall)
Mind and body link • Part of the reason that human children take so long to reach maturity relative to animals is that we have many more nerve cells in our brain. • Initially our brains are very disorganized.
Much of the process of growing up, being educated, and becoming mentally mature is the process of organizing the vast chaos of the interconnectedness of the nerves in our brain into useful pathways. Much of the process of learning and improving sporting reflexes and skills is the laying down, modification, and strengthening of nerve pathways in our body and brains.
Mind and body link • Some of these nerve pathways lie outside the brain in nerves of the body and spine. • These need to be trained by physical training. • Many of the pathways, however, lie within the brain. • These pathways can be effectively trained by the use of mental techniques such as imagery and simulation.
Mind and body link • For everything you think in your mind, your body has a reaction, regardless of whether it is real or imagined. • For example, have you ever had a bad dream? • Usually, you will wake up and your heart is racing, you are sweating and very agitated, even though all you were doing was sleeping. • But, in your mind there was something bad going on and your body was reacting to it.
Here’s another example: if you are home alone and you hear a noise and interpret it as the wind, you are fine; but if you interpret it as a prowler, your fight or flight response takes over and you become fearful, your heart begins going a mile a minute, your eyes dilate and you are scared. • These are just a few examples of how strong the connection is between your mind and your body.
Sport Psychology (SP) • Scientific study of behavior, affective, and cognitive reactions to sports settings for both participants and fans
Objectives • Understand the effects of psychological factors on physical and motor performances (how does anxiety affect free-throw shooting) • Effect of participating in physical activity on psychological development, health and well-being (does running reduce anxiety)
Role of sport psychologist • Research • Teaching • Consulting • Writing for major academic journals
History of SP • First study was done by Norman Triplett in 1898 • International Society of SP was formed in 1965
Why study psychology for sports? • The difference between elite athletes finishing in first or sixth is sometimes as little as two-tenths of a second. • During these types of sports (100 yard dash) and others, psychological advantages can be the difference between winning and losing.
Why study psychology for sports? • Competition is tight, athletes are physically fit, and the margin for victory is slim. • Managers, coaches and players are realizing that to get ahead they need an added resource, and that resource is a trained mind.
Why study psychology for sports? When there are two teams that are physically equal, it is the team that works together smoothly and is mentally prepared and confident that will come out on top. Keep in mind, though: no mental training will compensate for ineffective technique. You need to be strong, technically and mentally.
Buzz words and theories • Motivation: direction and intensity of one’s effort • Self efficacy: belief you can perform a certain task • Instinctual theories: behavior is motivated by innate predispositions • Drive theory: behavior is motivated by biological needs
Buzz words and theories • Task goals: gain skill, do your best for personal improvement • Ego (outcome) goals preoccupied with the demonstration of superiority compared to others • Arousal: physiological state of readiness • Stress: non-emotional response to an environmental demand
Buzz words and theories Eustress: stress viewed positively Distress: stress viewed negatively
Psychological skills training (PST) • The act of practicing mental and psychological skills • WHY ARE THEY NEGLECTED • Lack of… • Time • Conviction • Follow-up
Myths of PST • They are for elite athletes only • They are for problem athletes only • They are a quick fix solution • Not useful
How to implement PST programs • Who: a sports psychologist or coach • When: In off season or pre-season • How long should training last: 10-15 minutes 3-5 times a week
Stress and athletic performance • The increased stress of competitions can cause athletes to react both physically and mentally in a manner which can negatively affect their performance abilities. • They may become tense, their heart rates race, they break into a cold sweat, they worry about the outcome of the competition, or they find it hard to concentrate on the task at hand.
Imagery • Imagery is the process by which you can create, modify or strengthen pathways important to the co-ordination of your muscles, by training purely within your mind. • Involves all senses; visual, kinesthetic, auditory, tactile, moods and emotions
Imagery • Imagery affects cognitive tasks the best (what type of sports would this work best on/in) • Helps both novice and experienced performers, but somewhat more for experienced athletes • Imagery should be used with physical practice • You can manipulate your images so they do what you want them to do
When you can use imagery • An athlete is injured, and cannot train in any other way • The correct equipment is not available, or practice is not possible for some other reason • Where rapid practice is needed
When you can use imagery When you are physically tired, or do not want to tire yourself before a performance Before or after practice and games, or during breaks in the game
Imagery guidelines • Relax • Include all senses • Cover all aspects of your event • Practice it in real time • Practice from an internal perspective and through your own eyes
Implementing Imagery • Initially start using only 5 minutes of imagery a day, perhaps when you have just got into bed, or when you wake up in the morning. • The number of minutes can be expanded as time goes on: typically many champions will do 15 minutes/day, although this may go as high as 1 hour/day just before a major competition.
Implementing Imagery Similarly, start using imagery in a quiet, relaxed environment in which there are few distractions. Slowly experiment with using it in increasingly disturbed situations until you are comfortable with using imagery in the most distracting environments such as high level events.
Watching elite athletes perform • Imagery and simulation can be used effectively in improving technique, particularly when used in conjunction with close study of the technique of high level performers in your sport. • By selecting athletes whose performance you admire in a particular exercise, and either watching or video-taping them executing technique, you can see how they execute every stage of a skill.
Watching elite athletes perform • Using a video recorder you can slow the action down so that the components of the skill can be isolated. • Once you have done this you can practice these components of the skill being observed, and can build them up into a complex action or a good image of the skill as it should be executed.
What imagery can do for you • Imagery allows you to practice and prepare for events and eventualities you can never expect to train for in reality. • It allows you to pre-experience the achievement of goals.
What imagery can do for you • This helps to give you confidence that these goals can be achieved, and so allows you to increase your abilities to levels you might not otherwise have reached. • Practicing with imagery helps you to slow down complex skills so that you can isolate and feel the correct component movements of the skills, and isolate where problems in technique lie.
What imagery can do for you Imagery can also be used to affect some aspects of the 'involuntary' responses of your body such as release of adrenaline. This is most highly developed in Eastern mystics who use imagery in a highly effective way to significantly reduce heart rate or oxygen consumption.
Simulation • Simulation is similar to imagery, but is carried out by making your physical training circumstances as similar as possible to the 'real thing' - for example by bringing in crowds of spectators, by having performances judged, or by inviting press to a training session.
Simulation In many ways simulation is superior to imagery in training, as the stresses introduced are often more vivid because they exist in reality. However simulation requires much greater resources of time and effort to set up and implement.
Buzz words and theories • Self-fulfilling prophesy: what you think will happen, will happen • Ringlemann effect: individual performances will decrease as the amount of people participating increase (examples)
Self-confidence • Benefits of self-confidence are increased concentration, effort and emotions • Optimal confidence: just right • Lack of confidence: self-doubt creates anxiety, causes indecisiveness • Overconfidence may cause you to prepare less (why)
Goal Setting • How it works: • Creates attention and focus • Provides an incentive to reach • Affects psychological factors such as anxiety, confidence and satisfaction
Goal Setting 101 (again) • WRITE DOWN GOALS • Specific goals • Challenging but realistic goals • Long term and short term goals • Set practice and competition goals • Set individual and team goals • Arrange for support (from others, how?)
Common problems in goal setting • Convincing people to set goals • Failing to set specific goals • Failing to adjust goals
The 4C's • Concentration, confidence, control and commitment (the 4C's) are generally considered to be the main mental qualities that are important for successful performance in most sports.
The 4C's Concentration - ability to maintain focus Confidence - believe in one's abilities Control - ability to maintain emotional control regardless of distraction Commitment - ability to continue working to agreed goals
Concentration • This is the mental quality to focus on the task in hand. • If the athlete lacks concentration then their athletic abilities will not be effectively or efficiently applied to the task.
Concentration Research has identified the following types of attention focus: Broad Narrow continuum - the athlete focuses on a large or small number of stimuli Internal External continuum - the athlete focuses on internal stimuli (feelings) or external stimuli (ball)
Concentration • The demand for concentration varies with the sport: • Sustained concentration - distance running, cycling, tennis, squash • Short bursts of concentration - cricket, golf, shooting, athletic field events • Intense concentration - sprinting events, bobsleigh, skiing
Concentration • Common distractions are: anxiety, mistakes, fatigue, weather, public announcements, coach, manager, opponent, negative thoughts etc.
Concentration • Strategies to improve concentration are very personal. • One way to maintain focus is to set process goals for each session or competition. • The athlete will have an overall goal for which the athlete will identify a number of process goals which help focus on specific aspects of the task.
Concentration • For each of these goals the athlete can use a trigger word (a word which instantly refocuses the athlete's concentration to the goal) e.g. sprinting technique requires the athlete to focus on being tall, relaxed, smooth and to drive with the elbows - trigger word could be "technique"
Concentration Athletes will develop a routine for competition which may include the night before, the morning, pre competition, competition and post competition routines. If these routines are appropriately structured then they can prove a useful aid to concentration.
Confidence • Confidence results from the comparison an athlete makes between the goal and their ability. • The athlete will have self-confidence if they believe they can achieve their goal. "You only achieve what you believe.”
Confidence When an athlete has self confidence they will tend to: persevere even when things are not going according to plan, show enthusiasm, be positive in their approach and take their share of the responsibility in success and failure.