Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sport Psychology for Junior Rowers

Psychological Skills and Rowing Performance
Sport Psychology for Junior Rowers
By Dr Greg Mondon Presented at the 2000 US Rowing Convention
What percentage of rowing is mental? What percentage of mistakes you’ve made in practice or competition were “mental” mistakes? How much of your practice time do you spend on mental skills?

Your answers to these questions will help you determine whether you need to improve your mental approach to rowing. All sports performance is 100% mental. Your body litarally does not move a muscle without input from your brain. Negative emotional states, anxiety, fear, poor concentration, tension, pain, and outside distractions all interfere with performance.

Elite athletes already know this fact. They have developed, and consistently practice the mental skills needed for optimal performance.

Mental skills are just one part of the performance triad. Physical factors include conditioning and nutrition. Tactical factors include technique and race strategy. Mental skills are the psychlogicasl tools athletes can use to enhance their learning, training, and performance. These skills do not replace physical training, but the can help you ti increase your ability to stay focused, handle adversity, control tension and anxiety, and stay confident in your abilities when performing under pressure.

Once you have developed a program of skills and tools you can use to improve your performance, all you have to do is…

Skills for Finding Peak Performance
Developing skills in the following areas can help you consistently achieve a mental state that is ripe for peak performance.

Self Awareness of ones strengths, limitations, thoughts and feelings teaches you about your performance and yourself.
Clear Goals that focus primarily on the process of performance rather than the outcome.
Energy Management Skills allow you to regulate your energy, aousal, and tension. Learn and practicing effective relaxation and “psyching up” strategies.
Imagery Skills, when done effectively can enhance technique development, competition preparation, and self confidence.
Cognitive Skills such as self talk, focusing skills, and cue words can help you handle distractions and stay in the present.

Once learned these skills can be applied to any performance situation. This program of mental skills will include an honest assessment and evaluation of your current mental strategies and your commitment to improving.

Set “SMARTER” Goals for Better Performnce
What is your mission for the coming competitive season? What vision do you have for the success you want to achieve? What do you like about rowing competitively? What are you going to do today to accomplish this mission?

Top athletes have learnt to stay motivated and focused through a long season, through winter conditioning and through those periods where things just don’t seem to be going their way. One of the tools they use is goal setting. There are a few basic principles to use when setting goals.
OUTCOME GOALS focus on results. Winning a race or qualifying for a regional or national event are outcome goals. These goals can motivate and guide you, but they are not completely under your control.
PROCESS GOALS are the action goals that focus on specific aspects of performance. Process goals are what you fall back on day-tp-day, week-to-week to stay focused. These goals are the core of your mental game.

Use this guide when setting your goals.
S – Specific
M – Measurable
A – Action-oriented
R – Realistic
T – Timely
E – Exciting
R – Recorded

Specific gaols describe exactly what you want to occur. What do you have to do in order to row fast (i.e. what is the process gaol for rowing fast)? That should be your goal. For example, a goal of moving to the start line feeling confident and relaxed (which shall enable you to row better) is more specific that saying, do my best.
Measurable goals can be objectively measured by you or by someone else. Using the above example, you can rate your feeling of confidence and relaxation on a 1-10 scale. Some athletes choose to monitor their pulse as a way of tracking their tension level.
Action-Oriented means that your goal dictates that you do something to achieve an end. Example, if you’re not relaxed at the start line, taking a deep breath and using your self-talk to calm down.
Realistic goals look for a balance between ability and challenge. Easy goals wont motivate you and goals that are too difficult will discourage you.
Timely eans keeping focused on something current that is related to your goal. If your goal is nationals in May, have intermediate, short term and daily goals that take you there.
Exciting! Set goals that have some meaning for you. Let yourself feel good about your performance without regard to outcome.
Record your goals in your mental log. Review. Evaluate and adjust them as needed.

More Goals Setting Basics
Here are some more tips to follow when setting goals.
· Remember that goal setting is a process that takes time, thought and effort. Try to avoid coming up with all your goals in one night.
· Be flexible. If a goal isn’t working make an adjustment.
· Make your goal public. Tell mom, dad, friends, coaches and teammates. Be sure to tell people who will be supportive of your working towards your goals.
· Focus on process goals that are related to directly improving your performance.
· Set goals for practice and competition.
· Use positive language. Only state what you want to do (row well) instead of what you want to avoid (don’t catch a crab).

The Most Important Goal
The absolute most important goal you cans set yourself is self acceptance. No matter how you perform this season, no matter what anybody says about you or your performance, make it your personal goal to accept yourself as a worthy person.

Time Frame for Goal Setting
Long Term goals cover the season or the year. You’ll only need one or two.
Intermediate Goals should cover a week, a month, or a pre season
Short term goals are clear specific and action orientated process goals covering 2-4 days
Daily goals. What are you doing today to achieve your vision? What are you doing right now?

Make fun your goal too!!!

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