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INTRODUCTION TO MENTAL SKILLS TRAINING Damon Burton & Bernie Holliday Vandal Sport Psychology Services University of Idaho
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS • What is Mental Skills Training (MST)? • How important is the mental side of competition? • What factors would increase or decrease your motivation to actually use mental training?
Same as Psychological Skills Training (PST). Systematic and consistent practice of mental skills. What is a skill? What % of your success on the day of competition are do to physical __% and __% mental factors? What % of your weekly practice is devoted to MST? Mental skills versus mental training tools. MST uses mental training tools and additional strategies to enhance athletes’ mental skills. WHAT IS MST?
Mental Training Tools Goal setting Imagery Self talk Relaxation & energization Mental Skills Motivation Energy management Stress management Attentional control Self-confidence MENTAL TRAINING TOOLS VERSUS MENTAL SKILLS
Have you ever “played down” to a lesser-skilled opponent’s ability level? Have you ever choked at a critical point in a game or match? Have you ever thought about non-sport-related activities during practice or competition? Have you ever skipped a workout because you didn’t feel motivated, energized, or focused? WHY MST IS IMPORTANT
Preseason Season Postseason WHY MST IS IMPORTANT This graph is for a typical performance pattern.
Preseason Season Postseason WHY MST IS IMPORTANT The yellow lines are for someone using MST. DQ 5: What does this graph say? Do you agree with it?
Lack of knowledge about MST and sport psychology. “You have to be confident!” “Concentrate!” and “Relax out there!” Belief that mental skills are innate and unchangeable. “That Bernie’s just a head case under pressure” The “person-in-the-box” phenomenon. Lack of time. Buying into all of the MST myths… WHY ATHLETES AND COACHES DON’T USE MST
MST is for problem athletes only. Only 10% of athletes require the services of a clinical sport psychologist (Weinberg & Gould, 1999). MST is for elite athletes only. Youth athletes to professionals. Athletes, business folk, actors, performers, musicians, and surgeons are just a few of the occupations benefiting from MST . The “magic wand” myth. MST doesn’t work and isn’t useful. MST MYTHS
Research on elite-level performers. Anecdotal reports from athletes and coaches. Athletes’ and coaches’ subjective experiences. Intervention studies: Greenspan & Feltz (1989) Weinberg & Comar (1994) DOES MST WORK?
Old School… Education Concentration: Lecture. Acquisition Concentration: Activities. Practice Automate concentration by performing activities daily. Problem: Athletes had trouble integrating MST into competition. New School… Education Acquisition Practice Implementation Skill-transfer strategies. Performance Less well-learned skills break down under pressure and old habits resurface. 3+ PHASES OF MST
Sport psychologist Problem(s): Coach/exercise leader Problem(s): Athlete Problems(s): WHO SHOULD PERFORM MENTAL SKILLS TRAINING?
When to begin… Ideally, off-season or preseason. More time to learn and automate new skills. Less pressure to win. How long… First exposure is 3 to 6 months. Then, lifetime commitment. Needs assessment Oral interviews. Written psychological inventories. Performance profiling. WALKING THE WALK: IMPLEMENTING THE PROGRAM
Needs assessment: beware the “canned” MST programs! Identify critical mental skills and mental training tools for each individual athlete. Provide vision and long-term goal setting. Develop systematic practice routine and schedule. WALKING THE WALK: IMPLEMENTING THE PROGRAM
WALKING THE WALK: IMPLEMENTING THE PROGRAM 1. Develop and implement the MST program based on 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 above. • Systematically evaluate and revise MST program. • Develop a strategy to monitor progress (e.g., logs, etc.). • Reward goal achievement regularly.
Lack of conviction: Sell, sell, sell! Lack of time: Coaches must commit to a set time. Lack of consultant’s sport knowledge: Learn, learn, learn! Lack of follow-up: Schedule 2-3 regular follow-up meetings prior to implementing MST programs. SOME COMMON MST IMPLEMENTATION PROBLEMS