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Whether you are a high school player, professional coach or top executive, Winning the Mental Way provides...
Whether you are a high school player, professional coach or top executive, Winning the Mental Way provides the tools necessary to help you achieve peak performance on a more consistent basis. No matter what your endeavors are, the goal is the same - peak performance. The mind plays such an important role in whether you will be successful or not. This practical guide will help you first develop a sound working team; and second, give you the skills to keep your team on its road to success.
The way a team performs is contingent on many group dynamics. Group dynamics is an area dedicated to advancing knowledge and the nature of groups, the laws of development, and their interrelations with individuals (Cartwright & Zander, 1968). Research in group dynamics has focused on such topics as group performance, interpersonal relations in teams, leadership and cohesion. Being in a group involves interaction, awareness of one another, relating to each another and some interdependence. The skill of winning involves the right attitude, quality performance, teamwork, a feeling of accountability to someone besides yourself, and a sense of competitiveness. It's a commitment to something bigger than yourself - a commitment to a team. You must lose any self-centered attitudes and become team-minded, playing not as an individual but as a unit. Teamwork is an attitude that you have to develop as a team and something you must be motivated to work on. Being a part of a team is a privilege not a right, you need to have respect for your sport and be committed to preparing to the best of your ability. Tom Seaver, "If you don't think baseball is a big deal, don't play it. But, if you do, play it right" (Dorfman & Kuehl, 1989, p. 46). Thinking in those terms, it becomes very clear, if you love your sport so much, have respect for it. Do everything in your power to showcase how spectacular the sport can be.
Your mind is always working, why not have it work for you? An athlete and a teams' strong will, determination and mental approach are of the greatest importance when it comes to how successful they will be in the heat of competition, and their ability to sustain their success over a long period of time. The reason a team plays great one day and bad the next can be explained in two words - mental approach. Their physical skills didn't change, but their mental approach did, which has a direct effect on the way they interact with one another. Since it seems that athletes use only a small fraction of their mental potential, it becomes obvious on the days when they are using those skills, and the days they are not, as stated by NBA player Charles Barkley, " ... in the pros, one player is as good as another so you have to have a mental edge in order to reach your peak every night"(Barkley & Johnson, 1992, p. 147).
Athletes spend so much time physically practicing to get an edge on the competition. Yet, what a team can really do to get an 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. Charles Barkley succinctly puts it, ". . . I learned the secret of NBA survival: conditioning of the body and mind" (Barkley & Johnson, p. 164).
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. Another example is one in relation to ulcers. Ulcers are manifested through stress, worry and negative thoughts. The chemical imbalance allows enzymes to eat through the wall of your stomach, destroying the tissue, thus causing an ulcer (Curtis, 1989).
You don't get ulcers from what you eat. You get them from what is eating you. Vicki Baum
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 very encouraging to see that, at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, there were approximately 20 Sports 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 they are doing something about it. They are hiring Sports Psychologists, reading books, and devoting time to team building and mental training. The way I look at it is this - 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 Achilles heel! You have the power and authority 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 (Fernandez, 1994, A-10).
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.
Competition is so tight, athletes are so physically fit, and the margin for victory so slim, that managers, coaches and players are realizing that to get ahead they need an added resource - and that resource is a trained mind. Yet still, many coaches are blind to how important the mental skills of their athletes really are. 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. In The Mental Game of Baseball, Tom Seaver talks about the differences between the team that wins and the team that loses as, "the effort they give, the mental alertness that keeps them from making mental mistakes. The concentration and the dedication - the intangibles - are the deciding factors" (Dorfman & Kuehl, p. 1). You need to be strong, technically and mentally. Unfortunately, many times one aspect of your game is magnified at the expense of the other, instead of giving equal attention to both, which 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 gives the players an opportunity to establish a consistent, peak performance every time they step on the field" (Brennan, 1990, p. 252). You want your team to be prepared mentally and physically to the best of its' ability to increase the chance of success. It all comes down to Darwinism - survival of the fittest: learning the necessary skills to survive in your environment.
Now, here comes the tricky part. Even if all the athletes on the team are physically and mentally prepared, if they do not function as one unit, they can fall prey to the opposition. That is where this book comes into play. Because before you can work on performance enhancement skills such as relaxation, imagery, focusing, and confidence; you must first and foremost build a solid, working team. One that has a mission, common long and short-term goals in mind, a strong bond, excellent communication and good leadership. A team is much more than the sum of its parts. The dynamics within the group play a significant role in its' success.
This book provides practical tools to help teams gain awareness, control thoughts and behaviors and be prepared, both as individual players and as a team. The information is presented in an easy-to-understand format that can be applied immediately. It is based on research, personal experience and interviews. Most players, coaches and managers are eager to know how to build and maintain a sound, mentally tough team. The key is to establish the team, then teach the mental training skills. Mental training is a way of reprogramming the mind to achieve more positive behaviors and outcomes, capitalizing on your natural abilities to reach peak performance. This book doesn't put the cart before the horse by teaching the sports psychology skills and then leaving it to chance that the team will function well as a group. The objective is to provide information that educates you on the importance of team building and mental training; and to give strategies and techniques that will help your team reach the performance level desired. This book helps you build the team -then enhance it.
The first part of this book will be geared towards characteristics of peak performance, how groups are formed, and the stages it has to go through before it can start doing meaningful work. Then, defining what constitutes a cohesive group, how to achieve this and how to be a team player will be given a great deal of attention. The importance of leadership, effective communication and how to give and receive feedback properly will finish up this part.
Once a working group is established it can then go on to the performance enhancement techniques that can, and should, be applied to the individual athletes as well as the group as a whole. Topics such as motivation, mission statements, goal setting, relaxation, imagery, concentration, positive self-talk and confidence will be covered. All of these sport psychology techniques are interwoven, the development of one helps with the growth and proficiency of another. Just like with mathematics, you need to be proficient in adding and subtracting before moving on to multiplying and dividing, the same holds true here. You need to have the motivation before you can set goals. You need to be proficient in relaxation skills, before you move on to imagery, etc.
Unfortunately, there can be, and usually are, some hitches in sports. Nothing is guaranteed to be smooth sailing the whole time. Teams are going to face rough waters at times by means of choking, slumping, and dealing with an injury. That's why there is a section designated to trouble shooting some of the most common problems that athletes and teams may experience during the course of a season.
This book provides the strategies necessary for developing a solid foundation to help your team reach peak performance in any of its endeavors, be it in the board room or in the sporting arena. Keep in mind that these sports psychology skills are life skills as well, and can be applied to any undertaking - job, family, school, etc. A philosophy of sport is almost identical to a philosophy of life - a strong commitment to one aspect of your life will have a ripple effect into other areas of your life. You can use the skills to improve your "game" and to contribute more to the "team" you are a part of to produce the desired results.
A sound mind in a sound body is a short but complete description of a happy life. John Locke, English Philosopher