October 27, 2010
The Nine Mental Skills of Successful Athletes Part II by Jack J. Lesyk, Ph.D.
The Performance Pyramid
Although each of the nine skills is important, its primary importance will occur during one of three phases: long-term development, immediate preparation for performance, and during performance itself.
Level I - These mental skills constitute a broad base for attaining long-term goals, learning, and sustaining daily practice. They are needed on a day-by-day basis for long periods of time, often months and years.
Level II - These skills are used immediately before performance to prepare for performance. They maybe used just before competition begins, or immediately before a specific performance action, such as a golf shot or a free throw in basketball.
Level III - These skills are used during actual performance behavior.
Detailed Descriptions of the Nine Mental Skills
1. Attitude Successful athletes:Realize that attitude is a choice. Choose an attitude that is predominately positive.
View their sport as an opportunity to compete against themselves and learn from their successes and failures.
Pursue excellence, not perfection, and realize that they, as well as their coaches, teammates, officials, and others are not perfect. Maintain balance and perspective between their sport and the rest of their lives.
Respect their sport, other participants, coaches, officials, and themselves.
2. Motivation Successful athletes: Are aware of the rewards and benefits that they expect to experience through their sports participation. Are able to persist through difficult tasks and difficult times, even when these rewards and benefits are not immediately forthcoming. Realize that many of the benefits come from their participation, not the outcome.
3. Goals and Commitment Successful athletes: Set long-term and short-term goals that are realistic, measurable, and time-oriented. Are aware of their current performance levels and are able to develop specific, detailed plans for attaining their goals. Are highly committed to their goals and to carrying out the daily demands of their training programs.
4. People Skills Successful athletes: Realize that they are part of a larger system that includes their families, friends, teammates, coaches, and others. When appropriate, communicate their thoughts, feelings, and needs to these people and listen to them as well. Have learned effective skills for dealing with conflict, difficult opponents, and other people when they are negative or oppositional.
5. Self-Talk Successful athletes: Maintain their self-confidence during difficult times with realistic, positive self-talk.
Talk to themselves the way they would talk to their own best friend. Use self-talk to regulate thoughts, feelings and behaviors during competition.
6. Mental Imagery Successful athletes: Prepare themselves for competition by imagining themselves performing well in competition. Create and use mental images that are detailed, specific, and realistic. Use imagery during competition to prepare for action and recover from errors and poor performances.
7. Dealing Effectively with Anxiety Successful athletes: Accept anxiety as part of sport. Realize that some degree of anxiety can help them perform well. Know how to reduce anxiety when it becomes too strong, without losing their intensity.
8. Dealing Effectively with Emotions Successful athletes: Accept strong emotions such as excitement, anger, and disappointment as part of the sport experience. Are able to use these emotions to improve, rather than interfere with high level performance
9. Concentration Successful athletes: Know what they must pay attention to during each game or sport situation.
Have learned how to maintain focus and resist distractions, whether they come from the environment or from within themselves. Are able to regain their focus when concentration is lost during competition. Have learned how to play in the “here-and-now”, without regard to either past or anticipated future events. Application of the Nine Mental Skills to Non-sport Performance Situations
The nine mental skills associated with athletic success are the same mental skills associated with performance in a wide variety of non-sport, performance situations. Let’s take a look at some of these Characteristics of A Performance Situation:
The situation is often scheduled or anticipated in advance.
The situation usually has a defined beginning and an end.
The circumstances are known in advance.
The rules and constraints are known in advance.
The results are evaluated by standards (or natural consequences) that are usually known in advance.
The results are uncertain and may involve psychological risk and/or danger.
The results are important to the performer.
The performer’s behavior is goal-oriented.
The results are influenced by the performer’s skillful behavior
At the Ohio Center for Sport Psychology we help people develop the important skills necessary for high-level performance in sport and non-sport performance situations.
Check Back next week for another great article to improve your coaching skills.