Tag Archives: coaching

Mind Control

Image

The mind controls the body and not vice versa.  Manage the mind and you compel the body to follow.  Lose the mind and the body is lost as well.  For the athlete:  Perception is the reality. 

Four reasons why coaches must manage the mind of their athletes:

1)      Limits to exercise tolerance are controlled by the mind not the body.  Recent research has shown that the mind can put the brakes on exercise well before the body is at a point of exhaustion.  Fatigue has been found to be derived from thoughts which are aimed at preserving the safety and stability of the body.  Players who can control their mind and suspend thoughts of quitting can be compelled to go farther, faster, and harder.  Coaches who help and encourage this will improve the performance of their players and teams.  This has obvious implications for training, match performance, and general habit-forming.

References:

2)      Mental imagery and visualization is widely regarded as beneficial and an important tool to improve performance across a wide array of sports, disciplines, and environments.  Many professional and Olympic athletes use mental imagery as a matter of course to prepare for a match or event.  In fact, it has been shown that mentally rehearsing a skill, if done properly, is equivalent to actually performing the skill.  Learning requires myelination, or the thickening of the myelin sheaths inside the brain which facilitates improved transmission of information in the brain.  Your brain, however, does not differentiate from actually performing the task or just thinking about it.  Mentally rehearsing can also alleviate performance anxiety and fears, increased focus and awareness, and lead to automaticity in performance.  That being said, the skill of mental imagery and visualization is rarely, if ever, discussed in youth sports, let alone practiced.  Coaches would be advised to educate themselves about mental imagery techniques and learn how to apply them properly so their athletes can benefit from this wonderful and powerful tool.

References:

3)      Verbal and visual feedback has been shown to change hormone levels in subjects and improve or worsen performance depending on the type of feedback.  Positive feedback, either through phrases delivered by the coach or video clips showing great performances, increases the testosterone levels of subjects, thereby improving performance.  Negative feedback had the opposite effect.  Importantly, these effects were found to linger up to one week after the feedback.  What does this mean for the coach?  Control the training and match environment.  Do not let negative thoughts have any air to breath.  Instead ensure that your athletes are thinking and feeling positive and have no anxiety or fear.  This will allow the maximum potential for performance to exist.

4)      So what does a coach do if a negative performance or result occurs, as it inevitably will?  Lie about it and get your athletes to believe it occurred differently!  Actually, this last bit of advice is the most challenging and tricky to apply, for many reasons, but researchers have found that reconstructing a negative event into a positive event can have a profound impact on future performance.  In other words, the actual event is not important, but the memory of the event in the athletes mind.  And if the memory of the negative event can be nudged to a positive, then that’s what the athlete will remember, and it can prevent the athlete from being over-encumbered by self-defeating negative thoughts concern the event.  Obviously, it is not beneficial for anyone to live in state of denial, and truthful investigation and analysis of a poor performance is critical to learning and improving.  However, there are many instances where a poor performance, whether by a team or individual, can lead to a spiral of decay.  Self-defeating thoughts can stand in the way of performance improvements and create real fear.  In these instances, the coach should intervene to begin to re-cast the negative performance and nudge it more positively.   The tricky bit is obviously when and how to do this.  Learning from your mistakes is good, being frozen with fear is not.

The mind controls the body.  What the mind believes occurred is the reality.  Coaches must learn to manage the training and game environments so that negative thoughts and feeling do not limit performance, but instead allow the athletes to develop and maximize their performance potential.

Advertisements

A Question of Tactics

In November of 2008 sports columnist and author Jonathan Wilson began The Question, a series for The Guardian newspaper in the UK exploring all facets of tactical issues in professional football.  The breadth and depth of the articles, and Mr. Wilson’s knowledge on the various subjects, was astounding.  The articles were always excellent and gave real insight into the tactics and systems found in professional football today, as well as the past.  In particular, the articles during the 2008 European Championships in Austria-Switzerland, the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, and the 2012 European Championships in Poland-Ukraine provided background and understanding to the matches and teams that enabled readers to follow and enjoy the tournaments at a much deeper level.  The articles were unique in mainstream media for their high level of discussion of football tactics.  In fact, I found that the series regularly provided me with a deeper level of tactical understanding which informed my coaching and allowed me to explore new tactical ideas and concepts, especially because I could reference the specific matches, formations, and teams of which Mr. Wilson was writing about.  For this, I found the series invaluable.  I wanted to keep the articles that I found particularly relevant, interesting, and insightful so that I could reference them regularly, if needed.   So I took the time one night to download my favorite articles from the very beginning until the current day, November 20, 2012.  I formatted them to be more readable and use the paper more efficiently.  The result was a 104 page document compiling my favorite articles from The Question series, by Jonathan Wilson.  The articles focus on tactical topics that I found helpful from a coaching point of view.  Enjoy! THE QUESTION DOCUMENT