By Doug Gardner, Ed.D., ThinkSport Consulting Services
One of the most overused clich‚s in sport is that 90 percent of performance is mental. The problem is that 90 percent of coaches and athletes spend 100 percent of their time working on the physical and fundamental aspects related to their sport. They often neglect and ignore the one area that ultimately separates successful athletes from those who do not reach their full potential.
In reality, sport is 100 percent mental. Our thoughts influence our actions and our actions influence our thoughts. This never-ending cycle often leads athletes and coaches to attribute poor performance in practice and competition to thinking too much.
Athletes hear comments all the time like:
"Stop thinking and just play."
"Clear your mind."
"Relax, don't worry."
"Concentrate! Focus! Pay Attention!"
What do these statements really mean and how do you, as an athlete try to accomplish these difficult feats during the rigors of practice and in the heat of competition?
Can someone really stop thinking? Can you simply clear your mind? How do you relax? When someone tells you to concentrate, focus and pay attention, what are you supposed to focus on, concentrate about, and pay attention to?
Let's talk about Pink Elephants.
Don't think of a Pink Elephant.
Come on - don't let the picture of a Pink Elephant creep into your mind.
Don't think of a Pink Elephant.
You think of a Pink Elephant.
Now try and clear your mind of that big, bright Pink Elephant.
Stop thinking of that...Pink Elephant.
You still have that image in your mind, I know you do.
Well, the brain does not know how to process and interpret the word "Don't".
The brain only understands what comes after don't, which in this case is think of a.
In sports, a baseball or softball hitter often times tells themselves not to strike out before an at-bat, especially when they are in a slump and not hitting well. A quarterback may tell himself not to throw an interception on a critical play and then goes out and does exactly that. A soccer goalie will tell herself that she can't let the opposing team score a goal, and they do.
Has this happened to you? Have you told yourself not to do something in sport and then it happens. Well, you are not alone.
Over the next several months, I will be sharing with you many of the concepts and applications related to the field of Applied Sport Psychology.
My work with athletes is guided by one simple principal: For every physical and fundamental act in sport, there is an equally important and equally-related mental component which must be addressed.
In upcoming articles, we will challenge the simplicity of the clich‚s listed above related to not thinking.
It is my hope to help you learn how to think correctly, deliberately, purposely and with intent.
It is my goal to assist you in learning how to create consistency between your thoughts and actions and to gain confidence in your abilities by developing and maximizing your mental, physical and fundamental competencies.
How much of your sport is mental?
Dr. Doug Gardner is the founder of ThinkSport Consulting Services, an Applied Sport Psychology Consulting Firm in Lafayette, California. ThinkSport provides educational workshops and individual mental training services for athletes, coaches, teams and professional sport organizations. Dr. Gardner is a recognized Certified Consultant through the Association for the Advancement of Applied Sport Psychology (AAASP) and is a member of the United States Olympic Committee's Sport Psychology Registry.
For more information about the services provided by ThinkSport Consulting Services please visit us at www.thinksport.com.
Dr. Doug Gardner: (925) 284-7506 or firstname.lastname@example.org.