Racket Throwing: How to Tame Your Temper

Saturday, October 23rd, 2010

The most recent TENNIS MAGAZINE was a personal story by Stephen Tignor about his life long struggle with throwing rackets. What it shows to me, a sports psychologist who deals with this common problem, is that negative behaviors are learned early on and don’t necessarily change over time and often require some active intervention to be able to overcome them. In fact, early research into anger and aggression clearly showed that violently expressing anger increases the chances of doing so in the future. 

In addition, angry outbursts most often result in you playing worse rather than better. In my book, “Anger Management”, I provide a number of coping strategies to help control temper. In the mental conditioning CD-ROM, program, “Dr.Heller’s TENNISMIND”, I provide specific hypnotic suggestions to manage and eliminate many of the common triggers that give rise to negative on court behaviors like racket throwing. 

The point is just because others do it doesn’t justify your doing it. Some may rationalize expressing frustration in violent ways is helpful, however the research shows otherwise. Learning to control your thoughts, emotions and behavior can be accomplished through serious mental training with a competent, experienced psychologist or “sports psychologist”. 

For comments on this blog or further information on this topic contact Dr.Robert Heller at www.mentalskillstennis.com

Sports Psychology for the Corporate Athlete

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

“Slumping at Work? What Would Jack Do?” That is the headline of a Wall Street Journal that focused on how sports psychologists apply the same mental toughness skills they use with professional athletes to businessmen and corporate executives. For example, the causes that lead to “slumps” such as self-critical thinking, loss of confidence, over analyzing and other types of negative thinking are commonly found in both the sports and business arenas.

Overcoming these problems teaching “mental skills” can restore or lead to “peak performance” whether it be on the playing field or in the boardroom. Teaching relaxation skills, guided imagery, focusing on past positive performances and practicing effective “self talk” are but a few of the methods sports psychologists use. Some specific strategies include: -After a mistake or failure, refocus immediately on a past success. -Visualize yourself succeeding on the next sale, meeting, play or game. -Record or refer to your past peak performances, on video or in writing.

In my own work with athletes, business people and performing artists, I use “hypnosis”, “cognitive behavioral therapy” and “mental conditioning” to restore and improve performance. My mental skills training program (TENNISMIND- Dr.Robert Heller) provides short lessons or suggestions to train effective coping strategies.

For additional information or comments on this article go to www.mentalskillstennis.com

WEIGHT ISSUES FOR YOUNG ATHLETES

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

The following is an excerpt from Dr. Robert Heller”s  book “Weight Management”. 

In America and many other countries having a great body is associated with being thin. A popular saying is “You can never be too rich or too thin”. When taken to an extreme, this obsession with thinness results in an unhealthy pursuit of excessive weight loss. 

Types of Eating Disorders

Anorexia Nervosa. A condition where individuals see themselves as overweight even though, objectively, they are quite thin. They tend to exercise compulsively, and eat very little. In some cases, they can starve themselves to death.

Bulimia. A condition where individuals eat excessive amounts of food and then cause themselves to throw up. They may stick their fingers down their throat or abuse laxatives, enemas or diuretics. 

Binge Eating. A compulsive behavior characterized by out of control and excessive periods of eating. For example, eating a gallon of ice cream at one sitting. 

Characteristics of Eating Disorders

–          90% are female adolescents

–          More commonly see in gymnasts, swimmers and figure skaters.

–          Anorexics tend to be perfectionists.

–          Bulimics tend to be impulsive.

–          Low self-esteem

 Sometimes a healthy desire to look good and feel fit transforms into an unhealthy obsession with food, the body and self-esteem. In an effort to be fit, fast and compete effectively in certain sports, teens may go to an unhealthy extreme. Parents and coaches need to keep a watchful eye and intervene early in the process. 

Self-help programs are NOT recommended. Seek professional help. Full blown conditions usually require medical, psychiatric and psychological treatment.

SHOULD KIDS COMMIT TO A SPORT?

Friday, October 8th, 2010

When my son was 6, I went to a local karate school to consider signing him up for lessons. In trying to understand the philosophy of the school to see if my son would fit in, I told the director that in discussing taking karate with my son, he was not terribly interested in the idea. The director told me that my son was too young to understand what was good for him and the decision should be made by me whether my son liked it or not! While I didn’t register for this karate school, it raised the question of if and when to give a child options, especially as it relates to sports.

Living in Florida, it’s important for kids to learn how to swim, because of the large number of swimming pools and the close access to the ocean. My son wasn’t particularly interested in taking swim lessons either. In this case, the decision was far easier: this was a safety issue and my wife and I weren’t giving him an option of whether or not to take swim lessons. We did take him to several places to “try out” and gave him the choice to decide who he would work with.

In my work with families and children, I have usually observed that if a child is exposed to almost any activity there are two main ingredients that determine if he or she will stay with it: fun and success! I recommend parents check out programs and facilities and watch a few classes, then put your child in the program for a trial period and see if he is having fun and learning. In this way, commitment to a sport will evolve naturally.

Childhood Obesity and Tennis

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010

Childhood obesity is at epidemic proportions and continues to spiral out of control. Many factors contribute to this program. The USPTA, the largest tennis teaching professional organization sees Tennis as a healthy outlet to help fight obesity. Obviously, enrolling more children at younger ages is also good business for the tennis profession, providing jobs and increased income. While staying and keeping active is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, there are greater long term opportunities in enrolling kids in a good tennis program. As a potential role model, the tennis professional could introduce and reinforce healthy eating and drinking habits for a healthy and strong body and be “alert” to attitudes and behaviors in children that are or could be problematic later on. 

Often times, obesity is connected to emotional factors such as low self esteem, anxiety, depression and related issues. Early detection and treatment might help in preventing the development of obesity when combined with a healthy lifestyle of exercise and eating. 

Troubled children are not that hard to spot: overly withdrawn, problems with peers, impulse control and so on. Being alert to these symptoms and a willingness to talk to kids and their parents can make a big difference in kids getting the help they need to get on track.

As a psychologist and sports psychologist I know it is much easier to prevent children from becoming obese than dealing with them later on as obese adults.

Aggressiveness in Sports

Friday, October 1st, 2010

Channeling emotions to create mental skills such as aggressiveness, competitiveness, persistence and tenacity is especially challenging in working with young athletes, particularly females. Girls are often conditioned to seek approval, avoid conflict and “play nice”. In sports like tennis, without an “aggressive attitude”, it is tough to be successful, even in a social game. 

As a sports psychologist and tennis teaching professional I often observe young female tennis players at both the recreational and competitive levels. Generally, they appear less aggressive than their male counter parts. As a result, they may be slower in taking their critical first step towards the ball, guide their strokes rather than accelerate and fail to put balls away with authority, even when they have the chance. 

In tennis, when playing doubles, they may let balls go that are theirs for fear of being a “ball hog”, they might not put balls away aggressively for fear of hurting their opponents feelings. Often times, these players are aware of these tendencies and even want to change them but don’t know how. 

In mild cases, I use examples, metaphors, imagery and gentle coaching to model better on court attitudes and behaviors. In more moderate to severe cases, especially with those who desire to compete at a high level, I provide more in depth counseling to free up their inhibitions so they can play with greater passion and intensity.

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