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Saturday, April 02, 2011

Psychological Skills Training

http://www.open2.net/olympicdreams/psychologyvideo.html
This clip shows some athletes and a sports psychologist talking about the value of psychological skills training.

After training, the other day, I had a discussion with Sleeve and Slippers, my training partners. The discussion orientated towards the value of PST and what can be expected out of it. One moment of the talk focused on a hypothetical point about Mike Tyson and how PST could or could not help his opponent. One of my training partners was skeptical as Tyson's skills are untouchable and out of the equation. PST would not be of value here. (I hope this reflects the point being made).

I tried to counter saying that PST would be of value to the practitioner in achieving their potential, in order to maximize their chance against even world class opposition.

I sensed the debate was talking in parellel as there were different standards being applied here to the point or 'needs' of the althetes using PST.


Maybe these concepts help: In terms of goals, it is possible for an athlete to be outcome orientated. That is be just concerned with 'win / loose' scenarios.
Winning and losing is the point in sport and this is fair. It has been said that this type of outcomes only type goal causes pre-competition anxiety. And is not the best goal to have alone. Better is to include or replace this with ....

Process orientated goals, where the 'doing' of a specific skill is perfected - as you can be in control of this; and the same for performance orientated goals - where you seek to maximize your behavior in competition - so Sleeve gave the example of a personal best time for a runner.

The point is these latter two goals are in control by the athlete but the outcomes oreientated goal is not controllable, as the opposition has something to say about it and want to mess up your chances.

  • Slippers once told me that you have to be in control of yourself to be in control of others. In this last respect maximizing and optimizing your performance is a valid focus for training *IF* removal to mental barriers to performance exist. [We all have off days in training, where we leave that jab out - but do not normally, or get tired sooner than usual etc.].

Examples of where practitioners are not in control of themselves is in choking, where they underperfom and that memory of a missplayed technique haunts them and reurfaces in their play to mame other skills and the vicious cycle continues. That is the self - defeating the self - not just the competition. A way of controlling choking is needed, to eliminate bugs in the software.

In the video link above, you hear about techniques such as
  • self-talk or 
  • pre-competition routines
These serve some value for practitioners to be in control of themselves in their question to optimize their performances.
Weinberg and Gould (2007) in their book, do note studies that show that the more successful athletes do practice PST, than those who are less successful, who don't.

The issue is PST is a skill and like physical skills, it needs repetition to hone as you are mastering the way the mind is habituated, which is as hard as a physical skill. Plus, training the mind to learn new ideas and new routines is not something that we are taught at school or easily picked up without some help. Adhering to acquiring these skills is as hard, I assume, as keeping up the physical training.

Do you agree / disagree with this, anyone ?