Psychology In Sports Essay, Research Paper
Psychology in Sports
The mind-body connection is a very powerful one. 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. With this premise, it becomes unmistakable how necessary it is to train both the mind and body for peak performance .
It was neat to see that, at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, there were approximately 20 Sport Psychology Consultants there working with athletes. It has also been noted that 1/3 of the golfers on the major tours work with a Sports Psychologist or Consultant. Slowly but surely athletes, teams, coaches and managers are not only saying that they feel sports is mental, but also they are doing something about it. They are hiring Sports Psychologists, reading books, and devoting time to team building and mental training.
In sports, so many things are left to chance. Sports are predictably unpredictable. Why let your mental mindset be another one of those things? There s no reason for your mental game to be your one weakness! You have the power to control that. These tools and resources will help you remove psychological barriers that can get in the way of peak performance and give you some control over your own performance. Mark McGwire has worked with a Sports Psychologist since 1991, saying that the sessions help him find inner peace. He said it was totally his decision and the best one he made.
Up until about a decade ago, a Sports Psychologist or Consultant was considered a person who athletes went to see only when they had a problem, not someone who healthy and productive athletes and teams spent their time with. Luckily, this stigma is changing; the change is slow, but it is evident. You see Sports Psychologists everywhere now; recreational athletes, colleges, professional teams, Olympic athletes, businesses, and corporations all seek them out. People are realizing that no matter how good you are, you can always improve, and one way to improve yourself is to become well-versed in performance enhancement techniques. There is no room for complacency; the complacent ones get left behind. This philosophy holds true not only in sports but in business as well.
Athletes spend so much time physically practicing to get an edge on the competition. Yet what teams and athletes can really do to get the edge is right in front of their nose, or more accurately, right above their shoulders! You hear the same thing all the time, Sports is 90-95% mental. Athletes and coaches at all levels say it, but how many of them do something about it? Unfortunately, not nearly enough. It may be common knowledge, but it is not always common practice. Maybe they don t have the time, maybe they don t have the resources, or maybe down deep they don t really believe it. Whatever the reason, the fact remains the same, they are not utilizing their most powerful resource, the mind. Most athletes fatigue mentally before they fatigue physically, due to the fact that their mind is not in as good of shape as their bodies
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. Still, many coaches are blind to the importance of mental skills in their athletes. 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. Unfortunately, many times one aspect of your game is magnified at the expense of the other. You should give equal attention to both; that is the ideal approach. You are given the talent, it s your job to develop it and watch it flourish by combining physical and mental training with a great work ethic. Oklahoma State University s Baseball Coach Gary Ward says, Combining the two elements [mental training and technical training] gives the players an opportunity to establish a consistent, peak performance every time they step on the field . You want you and your team to be prepared mentally and physically to the best of its ability to increase the chance of success. If your mind is always working, why not have it work for you?
I also think it is important to talk about peak performances because this is what athletes are trying to achieve and what experts in the field of sports psychology are trying to help athletes and teams obtain. It s imperative we examine some of the universal characteristics of that best performance. This way you will have more control and awareness about these peak performances and they won t seem as mysterious as they once might have.
In the flow, in a grove, on a roll, in the zone – whatever you call it, it s all talking about one thing. It s that special feeling of playing like you can do no wrong and everything goes your way. It s great! You are so involved in what you are doing that nothing else seems to matter because you are so connected to your task. Unfortunately, these peak performances don t seem to happen often enough. In fact, every time it does happen, it is usually by chance, it just happened to be a day when everything fell into place, clicked for you, and you got a taste of what it s like to be in the zone. Maybe it was something you ate! It s kind of like getting a taste of the good life. Hopefully this occurrence will motivate you to do everything you can to have more peak performances .
By implementing mental training skills and working effectively as a team, you can increase the chances of this transpiring on a more consistent basis and you will be able to be in the zone as one harmonious unit. Being in the zone means doing more than anyone else thought possible, even superseding your own expectations at times. This zone is the definitive reason why many people are motivated to participate in sports.
Here are six characteristics of being in The Zone :
You are relaxed. The days of getting psyched up to play are over. Research has shown over and over that the best performances occur when you are just slightly above your normal state of arousal, not at the extreme end of the spectrum as once thought. You are energized; yet relaxed it s a subtle balance of quiet intensity. Your mind is calm and your body is ready to go. You feel relaxed, but you are able to move with great strength and ease.
You are confident. Not letting a lapse in performance undermine your belief in your overall abilities is at the core of this characteristic. When you are playing well, you feel confident that no matter what you are up against, you are going to come out on top. You just exude with confidence and pride, and it is evident in your performance. There is no fear. Confidence on the inside is outwardly shown by way of your presence, your walk and your facial expressions. You should expect to be successful, not hope or wish to be successful. You must adopt a confidant, winning attitude. It is trusting your instincts and intuition to do the right thing at the right time; and if you are prepared, you can be confident that this will happen. This complete faith allows you to just know that you are going to do everything necessary to be successful without the conscious use of reasoning or analyzing.
You have to be completely focused. You are totally absorbed in the moment. You have no memory of the past and no qualms about the future; you are here now. The only thing you are concentrating on is the task at hand. You are oblivious to everything else going on around you, consumed by the moment. Like a child playing with his toys, you are so absorbed in the moment that nothing outside can effect you. You have no real sense of time, and before you know it, the game is over. The game seems to have flown by, and at the same time, everything you did seemed to happen in a slowed-down pace with great precision and concentration. Having the ability to stay in the moment is a gift that all of peak performers have.
Performance feels effortless. Things just sort of happen with little or no effort whatsoever. All your moves are smooth and for that time, your sport seems like the easiest thing in the world. You are in a state of mind and body where you can accomplish great things with little effort. Your mind and body are working with one another in perfect unison. The grace and ease that you display make everything you do seem like the simplest task in the world. You have a sense of finesse and grace, even when the task is very grueling and demanding. That sort of connectedness and moment of greatness is an awesome thing to both witness and take part in.
Everything is automatic. There is no interference from your thoughts or emotions. Things are just happening, both without protest and without consent. You are on autopilot – just reacting to whatever comes your way. Your body just seems to know what to do without any directive from you. There is no conscious thought involved; you re going strictly on your instincts. If you think less, you will achieve more.
The key is fun. When you re in the flow, the enjoyment is incomparable to anything else. You feel like when you were a kid enjoying your sport with pure and innocent delight. Anyone can see in your eyes the satisfaction and fulfillment the sport gives you. You feel like your sport is giving you back something that you can t get from anyone or anything else. This is a key factor because if you don t enjoy your sport, your future in it will be limited.
Be in control. You feel that no matter what, you are in control. What you think and want to happen will. You have ultimate command over your emotions as well – you are controlling them, not the other way around. When you are in control, you are in charge. You control your own destiny. When you feel this strong of a command over your game, great things are sure to happen. The authority is yours, and no one else s. Success in sports requires your mind and your body and as an athlete it is very important to have a clear mental picture of what it is you are striving for. By taking some time to think about peak performances you have had in the past, it can aid you in making sure they happen more often!