Not long ago I heard a short speech that still resonates with me:
"Why is the lion the king of the jungle? It's not for his size... that would be the elephant. It's not for his speed... that would be the cheetah. It's not because he's the smartest. So he's not the biggest, the fastest, or the smartest. So why is the lion the king of the jungle? It's because of his mentality. That's the only difference"
So I ask you are you a queen of the gym? Does your mentality suggest that you strive for greatness every day that you walk through that door? Even if you don't have the strongest skills, the fastest vault run, the least shaken beam routine, or the least fear of the high bar.
And how can that mentality be changed or adapted? The simple answer, you. But, we are all here to help you if that mentality is something that you want to achieve.
When an athlete gets injured it creates a ripple effect through their gym. Other athletes will think to themselves: 'I'm glad it wasn't me'. Injures are plagued by negative thoughts and feelings. Avoiding the pain and the daunting challenge of returning is the average response from athletes. Coaches and parents fixate on the correcting the physical deformity or issue, and most stop there. But what about the psychological deformity that any injury could leave an athlete with? Who is supposed to stop and think about that?
Recovering from an injury and healing from an injury are two very different statements. If an athlete heals from an injury that means that they physically have healed the wounded part of their body. If an athlete recovers from an injury that means that physically and mentally they are past the injury. Recovering has a much longer time table, and sometimes is never achieved. That is called fear-avoidance behavior. Behavior that inhibits the athlete from recovering mentally, and possibly even physically. Athletes create a negative spiral while healing and recovering that leads to low self-confidence, anxiety, and panic. So how do you avoid fear-avoidance behavior?
The simple answer for teammates, coaches, and parents are honesty and support. An athlete has to be honest about how they mentally are processing an injury. Furthermore, they need the positive support system to feel safe about being vulnerable. These easy two changes in a gym environment can help steer injured athletes in a more positive recovery direction.
This week we are going to take a different approach. We are going to not look at sports from the perspective of an athlete, but that of a coach. Many of the upper team girls at Revel are Junior Coaches, some of you may even want to pursue it as a career in the future, or maybe you just want to help give your child their best sport opportunity. Attached below is a link to a Ted Talk with Benjamin Zander that was given to me for my own learning purposes. Please check it out before finishing the article!
Even though Zander is not looking from specifically a sport point of view, it is still performance based and therefore relevant to sport performance psychology. Zander's quote of: "Now, I had an amazing experience. I was 45 years old, I'd been conducting for 20 years, and I suddenly had a realization. The conductor of an orchestra doesn't make a sound. My picture appears on the front of the CD, but the conductor doesn't make a sound. He depends, for his power, on his ability to make other people powerful." A coach has the same experience, a coach never gets on the equipment or throws a routine. It is the job of a coach to make his or her athletes powerful and prepared. It is their job to make an athlete's eyes shine, as Zander stated.
So, I ask you... Do you make your athletes' eyes shine? What could you do to make more shine? Find what makes them feel powerful, what inspires them, what drives them to train day in and out. If you are able to find this you won't need fame or money, you will have changed at least one life for the better.
When discussing the idea of motor learning, the most common saying to pop into your head is most likely: "Practice makes perfect." It is a time old saying that every athlete has heard at least once. I even said it to many of my own athletes in my time of coaching. But, what no one really seems to know is when. When does practice make perfect? Is it after one day, one month, one year? Perfection in the realm of sports is called the autonomous phase to scholars. This means that an athlete has reached their maximum level of proficiency with a specific skill. (It is important to remember that every athlete is going to have a different maximum level.)
According to studies done in the field of motor learning, professionals say that on average it takes 10 years or 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to truly reach perfection or one's maximal proficiency. However, this is not a completely accurate measurement, as you must also think of an athlete's innate ability or natural predispositions towards an activity. For some it may take only 5,000 hours, but others it may be 15,000.
So, a better way to explain to an athlete of when practice makes perfect is to simply expand on the saying. "Practice only makes perfect when the intention is to improve." If an athlete is only going through the motions of a skill and is not focused on constantly improving, no number of hours of practice is ever going to make perfection. There has to be drive, grit, and determination from even the most successful and best athletes to ultimately achieve their perfection. This means not only does an athlete have to prepare and train their body, but also their mind.
A great perspective on this combination of mind and body to create success and perfection with a skill is not an even split. Physical preparedness accounts for approximately 90% of success or perfection, leaving only roughly 10% accountable for mental preparation. "However, it's the most important percentage because it is what controls the 90% of the physical component. It's like owning a Ferrari but not knowing how to drive a manual. You have all the physical power in the world, but no way to control it" (Dr. Marc Cormier, 2020).
Practice makes perfect when you constantly want to improve, and when you have physically and mentally prepared for the task at hand. That is when practice makes perfect.
Please feel free to ask questions or leave comments below!
During the uncertain times that we live in today socialization can be difficult, especially for children and younger individuals. The spread of distance learning and quarantine has effected people in greater ways than typically thought of. Without the usual social outlets and experiences, social skills already learned and being learned can fade away or even fail to finish developing. Specifically within the sport environment, learning to appropriately communicate one's thoughts and feelings can partially dictate the emotional connections among teammates and coaches; as well as, creating a safer environment for training. Although this is only one of two components when discussing people or communication skills, the next is learning to become a good listener by acknowledging and considering others thoughts and feelings. Without this second component the sport environment can become chaotic and toxic for all members involved.
Once these two components are mastered by an individual it creates the ability for that person to effectively deal with conflict, difficult opponents, or negative teammates and staff within the sport environment.
There are ways within a practice setting that these skills can be developed with the cooperation of coaches, athletes, and families. One of the simplest ways to integrate people skills training is to address previous or current conflicts and discuss: how they were resolved (if they have been); how they could be resolved; and the pros and cons of all possible solutions. Families can help facilitate more open, positive communication between a coach and athlete by encouraging their child to use their own voice and communicate with their coach in more of a one-on-one style. Coaches can help teach their athletes better people skills just by leading by example, and with encouragement to the athletes to speak up for themselves.
The consistency of socialization and the development of people skills is necessary for the proper psychological and social maturation of a person. Sports are a fantastic way to practice and incorporate these skills in our current day and age, while also encouraging physical fitness amongst the younger generations.
Please feel free to ask questions or leave comments below!
Articles are generalized information for all athletes. Sport psychology is an amazing tool to help take an athlete to the next level of training and competition by incorporating a new perspective on sport performance.
If interested in private sessions regarding mental performance training, please contact Alisha Barnes.
West Virginia University graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in Sport & Exercise Psychology and Master of Science degree in Sport & Exercise Psychology from University of Kentucky. She currently works with REVEL Gymnastics and extreme sport athletes.