Managing Fear in Sports

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

In very physical sports like football and basketball, fear can be related to getting injured or re-injured. In individual sports like tennis and golf, there is far less of a fear towards physical injuries and much more worry regarding psychological fears like fear of embarrassment, over concerns about what others may think and self-criticalness due to perfectionism.

As a sports psychologist who works with both children and adults, I believe these common beliefs develop early in children and just grow stronger in adults unless they receive specific mental training to change their attitudes and beliefs. 

This seems to be especially true for many non-athletes who take up sports later in life. They are often successful in other areas of their life and don’t understand why they are struggling to shift from a beginning level to an intermediate level performer. Often times, it is their fear of failing which is getting in the way. For example, someone learning tennis typically finds it easier to hit a forehand then a backhand. Because they are initially successful in running around the backhand so they can hit the forehand, they can often win against weaker or equal opponents. However, as the competition improves, they can no longer hide and their weak backhand gets exploited. 

Becoming successful in sports requires you to work on your weaknesses and being willing to lose in the short run in order to prevail in the long run!

How to Select a Coach

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

As a sports psychologist who works with a lot of kids and parents, I am often asked about how to pick a coach, when to change a coach and how to talk with coaches.

In team sports, it is the coach who selects the player. In individual sports, expecially tennis and golf, it is the students and in most cases the parents who selects the coach. Since parents are investing time and money, they naturally are looking to see results. Unfortunately, parents are too eager to see results in terms of winning games and matches, rather than improvement in skills, attitudes and behaviors. At the youth level, it is often easy to produce wins early on. For example, in tennis, a player with a weak backhand may be taught to run around it and hit a forehand. This short term fix won’t last very long as better players will find the backhand anyway or hit rather easily to the open court on the next shot. Parents need to be patient and not switch coaches too quickly based largely on results. Over time, the athlete who patiently and systematically works on improving their underlying fundamentals will overcome the athlete who puts wins and results ahead of improvements.

Consider these questions: Is your child enjoying the training? Has the coach outlined a specific developmental plan based on the needs, goals and abilities of you child? Does the plan and methods to achieve it make sense to you? Sports parents need to keep in mind that to develop in a sport to compete effectively at a high level takes upwards of 10 years of training. So, it is most important to enjoy the journey.

Mental Skills Toughness for Tennis

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

When sports announcers talk about mental toughness in individual players, they usually speak in generalities as if mental skills was a single attribute or skill, which it is not. Mental skills refer to a variety of attitudes, behaviors and coping skills which are usually taught and not inherent to the individual. Just as tennis skills consists of various shots along with strategy, foot speed and endurance, mental skills consists of techniques like relaxation and emotional regulation, concentration and imagery training and a host of other skills and training methods which might borrow from hypnosis, cognitive therapy and counseling. 

Sports psychologists help athletes to identify their mental strengths and weaknesses and develop a systematic plan to strengthen skills essential to success in competition. In this way the sports psychologist is like a mental coach or mental trainer and can support the work of the individual or team coach. 

In today’s highly competitive athletic arena, mental toughness often determines the outcome more than raw skills. Working with a competent mental conditioning coach give the player and the team, “the winning edge” when it counts most.

Anger Management at the US OPEN Tennis Championships

Monday, September 13th, 2010

I would like to offer my services as a sports psychologist to a number of professional tennis players on the Pro tour. Watching the #3 player in the world (Djokovic) hitting himself in the head with his racket after missing a shot and beating various other body parts was both funny and sad to observe. He must feel so embarrassed at throwing a “hissy fit” in front of millions of viewers. Not to be out done, in the finals of the women’s singles, Vera Zvonareva had several meltdowns during her thumping by Kim Clysters. These poor displays of behavior and demonstrations of lack of emotional control and regulation support my long held contention that there is little relationship between physical skills and mental-emotional skills. Many of the world’s top athletes in spite of years of physical training and coaching receive almost no help in learning how to manage their emotional reactions effectively in response to perceived stress. Sports psychologists could provide a great service to these individuals and to the fans who are exposed to these infantile displays on lack of emotional control. The title of my course could be, “Anger Management for Professional Athletes: Secrets Your Mother and Coaches Never Told You”.

Coping with Pressure in Tennis and Golf

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

Individual sports, especially in tennis and golf, are sports that require a high degree of self-reliance and self-confidence since you are out there alone with no support from teammates or coaches. The spotlight is solely on you. The bigger the venue, the more people are watching you and the more self-imposed pressure to perform well. This often leads to excess tension in the muscles which interferes with smooth movement and stroke production. Successive mistakes often leads to rushing and /or poor judgment and further mistakes. 

To manage pressure in tennis and golf, players need to care less about the outcome, what others may think about them and their own highly self-critical natures. This kind of mental toughness requires commitment and training, usually with a sports psychologist familiar with the demands of your sport. Training through lecture, discussion, drills and simulation training help players cope more effectively with pressure and perform at their best.

Advice to Tennis Parents and Juniors

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

In an interview reported in Tennis Life Magazine, John Isner, the tennis pro now in the history books for competing in the longest tennis match ever (11 hours!) had some great advice for parents of juniors wanting to play competitive tennis: Let the kids have fun and participate in different sports like basketball. Both strategies will certainly enhance performance and reduce the risk of burnout.

However, if one is thinking about becoming a serious competitor, fun must be paired with good teaching and coaching that is developmentally sound and individualized to the needs and talents of the youngster and the demands of the sport.

There is a popular say, “All work and not play makes Jack a dull boy.” An alternative extreme is “All play and no work makes Jack a happy loser.”

It’s important to find a coach and a program that can make learning fun, motivating and challenging while enabling the youngster to progress to his/her maximum potential. 

A good coach/program will include cross training like basketball, soccer and swimming; activities that improve coordination and endurance while decreasing mental and emotional burnout. 

When I evaluate youngsters in my role as a sports psychology consultant I look at the fit of the sport, program and youngster. At times, I do make recommendations to the parents that allow help kids maintain their enjoyment and enthusiasm for their sport while developing consistent with their goals.

doing assignment on line purchase speeches online i need help wrting a personal essay essay college psychology assignments