Sports Psychology
Strategy Mainpage

    There are more strategies for overcoming performance problems than you can possibly name, so for our purposes, I organized them into families.  Your assignment is to look at each one carefully, and decide how you are going to incorporate it into your performance improvement program.  They are listed here in the order in which you might want to use them, though every person's situation is different, and so the timing will vary.  The link in the box will take you down the page to a brief description of the technique, then a link there will take you to a page that gives a more complete description.

It is important to set Goals, so we will know where we are going.
It is important to use Breathing exercises to maintain control and oxygenation.
It is important to learn to Relax when we are under stress.
It is important to be able to Visualize what we want to do and how we want to do it.
It is important to Affirm ourselves and our efforts regularly.
It is important to keep a Log of our progress.

Goalsetting has been shown to have some positive impact on our performance and our persistence.  Athletes with no goals have nothing to work toward in practices or games, and so waste a great deal of time and effort.  Goals allow us to focus on particular areas of our game we want to improve, and present us with an ultimate "finish line" to cross.  By setting goals, we show that we have explored our environment, analyzed our strengths and weaknesses, and made value judgements about items of importance to us.  Since you have already explored the Goals page, there is no need for a further link for this technique.

Breathing seems like such a natural function that we might wonder why in the world we'd even discuss it here, but the reality is that stressful situations affect our breathing in ways that is detrimental to our performance.  If you watched the final few holes of the 2004 British Open, you might have noticed something relevant to this.  Todd Hamilton, while holding on to win his first ever major title, in a playoff, against Ernie Els (who is ranked #2 in the world), was acknowledged by the announcers for two things: remaining amazingly calm, and taking deep relaxing breaths before each shot.  The mention of the two things in connection was not a coincidence. 
    Any action that helps us moderate some of the stress that intense competitive situations brings on has to be given respect if we are serious about improving our performance.  Breathing techniques that enable us to relax, or that help us focus on specific strategies for success, must be looked at as beneficial.  It is medically proven that stressful situations cause our breathing to become more rapid and more shallow than is helpful to us.  When we are exerting our bodies at a high level, we need more oxygen to give us energy, and good breathing techniques enable us to slow down our breathing and take deeper, healthier breaths.
    Most breathing techniques were originally formulated in the Far East, so some of the words or ideas may seem a little "foreign" to you, but try to see the benefit that they have for you, and not just the way the info is structured.
Check out some Breathing Strategies HERE.

Relaxation exercises are a natural outgrowth of Breathing techniques, and can follow them logically in your process.  We use these strategies to help us eliminate some of the nervousness that may accompany competitive situations.  Again, we find a wide variety of ways that we can get past our nervousness, so the key is to pick ones that will be most effective for us.  It can be beneficial to use these strategies before practices (to open ourselves to learning more) and games (to allow ourselves to calm down and play our very best).  Being relaxed may help us be more confident, controlled, and observant of our environment.  Since playing at our highest level is our ultimate process goal, we will benefit from being relaxed enough to pick up on the cues we need to adapt and adjust during competition.  You can even use these techniques after games & practices to help you put your competitive spirit or guilt over errors to rest.  Then you can get on with the rest of your day.
Check out Relaxation Procedures HERE.

Visualization (or imagery) is one of the most progressive, and therefore most misunderstood, practices of the high-level athlete.  Ironically, it is also one of the oldest techniques in use, but modern science and psychology have added terminology that may make it seem more "mystical" than it really needs to be.  Visualization is simply the practice of seeing within our mind the events that we expect to take place. 
    The martial arts make extensive use of visualization, to help us anticipate the movements and reactions of whomever we are in combat with.  Modern bobsledders at the Olympics visualize the entire run before they even get into the car at the top of the hill.  Baseball players as far back as Ty Cobb have discussed using their time in the on-deck circle to visualize the pitcher's throwing motion, and imagine what the pitches will look like coming toward them.  Arnold Palmer talked regularly about using visualization to help him hit some of the most amazing shots in golf - "seeing" the ball sailing high and long before he'd even stepped up to hit them.
    A current truism says, "If you can dream it, you can make it happen."  Well, visualization is like a controlled dream.
Check out the Visualization Process HERE.

Affirmation is a technique from Cognitive psychology (likely with Humanistic influences) that tells us we are more likely to accomplish what we set out to do if we think positively about our goals and about ourselves.  The process is to construct a set of positive statements we can recite whenever we feel negativity creeping up on us.  By repeating our, we can get ourselves back on a positive, successful track.
Read about Affirmation Construction HERE.

Keeping a Log of our goals, preparation, performance, and success is an excellent way for us to track our progress.  It provides personal positive reinforcement, and give us a written record of our process and progress.  It becomes our own case study, and leaves us with a basis for continuing improvement.  In your case, you already have a notebook that is just begging to have daily entries made to track your behavior.  Lucky you.
Learn about Log Keeping HERE.

    Now, when you feel like you've got all these strategies worked out and in process, and then things get a little tough to hang on to, don't despair, go on to the Perseverance page, where we'll talk a little about hanging in there.

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