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Psychological techniques can be used to help people perform more effectively— this concept represents a major focus of sport psychology throughout its history. Psychological Skills Training, including, Arousal Regulation, Imagery, Self-Confidence, Goal Setting, and Concentration, provides the coach and the athlete with a choice of “tools” to apply in a given situation. Our chief focus is on teaching students how psychological skills can be trained or developed in sport and exercise participants. 

How are psychological techniques used to help people perform more effectively?

The chief focus of the prior four weeks centered on teaching how psychological skills can be trained or developed in sport and exercise participants.

By using the tools discussed in weeks 1-4 individuals can use the power of their mind to build mental toughness and take sport performance to new levels.

Have you ever wondered why athletes with so much talent never come close to reaching their potential, while other athletes with far less athletic ability achieve great success?

Many experts believe that sport performance is 75% -90% mental.  This gives a clear indication that athletes who are better prepared mentally are the ones that are successful.  As sports continue to evolve, it will be even more important for athletes to spend more time training their minds.

Key Point:

Through the methods discussed in this course, athletes can develop confidence and have razor sharp focus, have a fearless approach, enhance your athletic skills, end performance anxiety, remain calm and relaxed while playing or competing, and access inner resources of strength and power.

By tapping into the mind’s tremendous power, athletes are more able to simply allow their body to operate on pure instinct.  As a result, you will be more consistent in your play and have more opportunities for peak performances.

We may encounter many defeats, but we must not be defeated……….Maya Angelou

Psychological skills training (PST) is the systematic and consistent practice of mental or psychological skills for the purpose of enhancing performance, increasing enjoyment, or achieving greater sport and physical activity self-satisfaction (Weinberg & Gould, 2011, p.248).  Some of the methods and techniques for PST include, goal setting, attentional control, relaxation and stress management, and attribution training.  Coaches and athletes know how important physical skills are and how they need to be regularly practiced and refined through many repetitions but psychological skills need to be practiced as well.  Psychological skills help an athlete to maintain focus and concentration, regulate arousal levels, enhance confidence, and maintain motivation.  These skills are just as important as physical skills.  Psychological skills training is often neglected because of a lack of knowledge, perceived lack of tie, or a belief that psychological skills are innate and can’t be taught (Weinberg & Gould 2011, p. 251).

Psychological Skills Training Tools:

  • Attentional Control
  • Attribution Training
  • Feedback
  • Goal-setting
  • Imagery
  • Pre-performance Routine
  • Relaxation
  • Self-talk

Key PST Concepts

  • Psychological skills training refers to learning to systematically and consistently practice mental or psychological skills, such as maintaining and focusing concentration, regulating arousal levels, enhancing confidence, and maintaining motivation. Psychological skills can be learned, but they must be practiced over time and integrated into a person’s daily training regimen.
  • Psychological skills training is not just for athletes, but for anyone who desires to improve performance.
  • A number of myths survive about the development of psychological skills training (PST), for example that PST is only for “problem” athletes, is only for elite athletes, provides “quick fix” solutions to complex problems, and is hocus-pocus and does not really work.
  • Three general phases of PST include education (learning the importance of PST), acquisition (learning mental skills), and practice (using the mental skills during training before using them in competition). The learning of psychological skills progresses from practices and simulations to actual competitions. Mental training should continue throughout an athlete’s sport participation.
  • The ultimate goal of PST is self-regulation, the process by which athletes learn how to effectively function on their own by working toward long- and short-term goals and effectively monitoring and managing thoughts, feelings, and behavior. The five stages of self-regulation include problem identification, commitment, execution, environmental management, and generalization.
  • There are a number of potential problems to be aware of in implementing PST programs. These include an athlete’s lack of conviction, a perceived lack of time to fit in the training program, a lack of sport-specific knowledge (when the program is administered by a sport psychology consultant), and a lack of follow-up and evaluation.

Achievement Motivation Model

Key Point:

Going back to the achievement motivation program, it is visually apparent that the compilation of the different psychological methods (i.e. behavior modification, goal setting, working on attentional control—concentration skills, etc.) have a strong impact on achieving success.  Not being able to differentiate between the method and the means to the outcome can be confusing. For example, “mental toughness, confidence, self-efficacy” are all examples of psychological skills.  But this represents the desired goal of the PST program.  How does one achieve that state? They do it via the Psychological methods that are the components of the program itself (behavior modification, cognitive evaluation, evaluating emotional responses, setting goals, etc.  These are all examples of psychological methods that can be used to achieve desired psychological skills.

“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.”
– Mahatma Gandhi

Research on elite athletes demonstrates that more successful athletes were characterized by higher confidence, greater self-regulating of arousal, better concentration and focus, an in-control but not forcing-it attitude, positive thoughts and imagery, and more determination and commitment.   Successful athletes also achieved peak performance by using the mental skills or goal setting, imagery, arousal control and management, thought control, competitive plant, coping strategies, and mental preparation routines (Weinberg & Gould 2011, p. 253).

A PST program consists of three phases: education, acquisition, and practice.  The educational phase is the first phase of the program where athletes learn how important it is to acquire PST and how the skills affect performance. This phase may last for an hour or for as long as several hours over the course of a few days depending on the individual (Weinberg & Gould 2011, p. 254-255).

The second phase is the acquisition phase which focuses on strategies and techniques for learning the various psychological skills. Each athlete reacts differently to similar situations so you need to tailor specific strategies to each athlete’s unique needs and abilities.  Psychological skills should be learned and practiced.  People should expect improvement as they develop skills and refine them over time (Weinberg & Gould 2011, p. 255).

The final phase is the practice phase which has three primary objectives: to automate skills through over-learning, to teach people to systematically integrate psychological skills into their performance situations, and to simulate skills people will want to apply in actual competition. (Weinberg & Gould 2011, p. 255).      

The first thing to do when developing an effective psychological skills training program is to assess and identify the athlete’s psychological skills weaknesses and strengths.  This can be done through an interview or a series of PST questionnaires.  Every program is different and only needs to include the PST methods required to meet the athlete’s PST requirement (BodyBuilding.com, 2011).  Not every athlete needs to develop all of the skills; they just need to work on their weaknesses.  I would ensure that he keeps a journal to record the frequency and perceived effectiveness of the arousal control strategies that he used in practice and competition.  If he includes how the felt, what relaxation procedure he used, and whether the technique helped or not, this will help him handle situations the may come across during game time.

Education Phase…  During the education phase, inform and educate the individual about the importance and benefits of PST to performance. 

Acquisition Phase…  During the acquisition phase formal practice sessions are scheduled to teach the relevant methods for acquiring and developing the different psychological skills. 

Practice Phase…  The practice phase is the longest phase where extensive practice of relevant psychological tools occurs until they are learned; automate psychological skills though over learning.

“You measure the size of the accomplishment by the obstacles you had to overcome to reach your goals.” —Booker T. Washington

References:

Body Building.com (2011) Psychological skills training: Critical to athlete’s success. Retrieved from http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/psychological-skills-training.htm

Weinberg, R. S., & Gould, D. (2011) Foundations of sport and exercise psychology (6th ed.) Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics

 

sychological Skills Training

This lesson will focus on how psychological techniques can be used to help people perform more effectively in sports activities, which has been a major focus of sport psychology throughout its history. This lesson will first focus on defining and discussing the history and important components of psychological skills training (PST) programs to enhance the mental aspects of an athlete, in order to increase performance. The remainder of the lesson will then define, discuss research, and discuss how to establish an effective PST program in the following psychological skill areas: arousal regulation, imagery, and self-confidence.

Learning Objectives: 

  • Define and describe PST, the myths surrounding it, and the scientific and professional practice knowledge base for it.
  • Discuss the three phases of PST programs  and how to develop and implement an effective PST program.
  • Describe key aspects of arousal regulation programs and apply those aspects to develop a training program for various athletes.
  • Define imagery and the characteristics of imagery, and explain how to develop an imagery skills program.
  • Define self-confidence and the characteristics of self-confidence, and explain how to improve athlete self-confidence.
  • Analyze how program components from arousal regulation, imagery and self-confidence fit within the constructs of PST programs.

 

PSYC460
SPORT PSYCHOLOGY
LESSON FIVE

Psychological Skills Training

Introduction

This lesson will focus on how psychological techniques can be used to help people perform more effectively in sports activities, which has been a major focus of sport psychology throughout its history. This lesson will first focus on defining and discussing the history and important components of psychological skills training (PST) programs to enhance the mental aspects of an athlete, in order to increase performance. The remainder of the lesson will then define, discuss research, and discuss how to establish an effective PST program in the following psychological skill areas: arousal regulation, imagery, and self-confidence.

Learning Objectives:

  • Define and describe PST, the myths surrounding it, and the scientific and professional practice knowledge base for it.
  • Discuss the three phases of PST programs and how to develop and implement an effective PST program.
  • Describe key aspects of arousal regulation programs and apply those aspects to develop a training program for various athletes.
  • Define imagery and the characteristics of imagery, and explain how to develop an imagery skills program.
  • Define self-confidence and the characteristics of self-confidence, and explain how to improve athlete self-confidence.
  • Analyze how program components from arousal regulation, imagery and self-confidence fit within the constructs of PST programs.

CONTINUE

The Mental Aspect of Sports Performance

Many sport psychologist professionals indicate that around 50 percent of an athlete’s performance is dependent on mental aspects of the game. Some sports such as golf and tennis are said to be more like 75 to 80 percent mental. Mental and emotional components often overshadow and impact the physical and technical aspects of sports. As a result, it is very important for sport psychologist professionals to understand this aspect of performance and understand how improving athletes’ ability to handle the mental aspects of the game will translate into increased performance.

Psychological skills training (PST) is a system of consistent practice of mental and psychological skills for the purpose of enhancing performance, increasing engagement, or achieving greater sports and physical self-satisfaction. Over the years, PST programs have seen several approaches including behavioral modification, cognitive therapy, rational emotional theory, goal setting, attentional control, progressive muscle relaxation, and systematic desensitization. The focus on improving psychological factors usually focuses on improving the mental skills that are part of mental toughness, which is often referred to by sport psychologist professionals. Mental toughness can be defined as an athlete’s ability to focus, rebound from failure, cope with pressure, have determination, persist in the face of adversity, and possess mental resilience. Overall, psychological factors account primarily for the day-to-day fluctuations in performance.

Myths About Psychological Skills Training and Why Some Reject It

Although changes are beginning to happen somewhat in the field of sports and exercise science regarding the focus on psychological skills improvement, there are still a large group of professionals that ignore this aspect of performance. There are several reasons for this:

  • Coaches and trainers feel they have a lack of knowledge to be able to help athletes improve in mental toughness. They are more comfortable with improving physical skills.
  • There are still several misunderstandings about PST. One such misunderstanding is that great athletes are born not made. This is not true, in that all athletes regardless of sport and level of play, can realize growth and development in mental toughness.
  • Coaches often cite that there just is not enough time to focus on the mental aspect of the game. Considering that researchers say that the mental aspect of the game determines almost 50 percent of performance, this argument seems puerile.
  • MYTH ONE
  • MYTH TWO
  • MYTH THREE
  • MYTH FOUR

MYTH ONE

Sport psychologists only work with athletes with severe mental illness.

This is not the case. Clinical sport psychologists do tend to focus on mental illness but educational sport psychologists do not. The following is a quick comparison of the two and their focus with athletes.

Educational Sport PsychologistsClinical Sport Psychologists1. Goal Setting1. Eating Disorders2. Imagery2. Substance abuse3. Arousal regulation3. Personality disorders4. Concentration4. Severe depression and anxiety5. Mental preparation5. Psychopathology

Psychological Skills Training Knowledge Base and Effectiveness

Knowledge of PST comes in the same way that all knowledge is obtained in sports: both from scientific knowledge from research studies and professional practice knowledge from coaches and athletes (refer to Lesson 1).

RESEARCH STUDIES

Successful athletes do tend to have certain mental skills in common as compared to less successful athletes. Research has also indicated that athletes can reach peak performance by employing the following strategies:

  • Goal setting
  • Imagery
  • Arousal control
  • Thought control
  • Competitive planning
  • Coping strategies
  • Mental preparation routines

PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE

The effectiveness of PST has been studied in various competitive situations and has revealed several important findings that have helped shape program development. These findings include that educational based psychological interventions improve competitive performance in collegiate and adult athletes; the more recent studies conducted show even more positive effects of the training programs most likely due to the development and improvement in skills training programs; and that PST interventions need to be applied in an individualized, systematic manner over time.

The application of this work can be seen in professional practice throughout the sports and exercise world. Chee (2010) states in her article on PST to improve performance in bodybuilding, that PST is just as important as physical training and can provide a large performance boost. She further states that it is important to know if you need work on foundation, performance, or facilitative skills. Effective PST methods include goal setting, self-talk, imagery, mental rehearsal, and relaxation.

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