Mile 134: What my goddaughter can teach us about working with mental training

If there were two “elite” sport psych practitioners on either side of a competition, we all know that one team must lose right? Does that mean that the other sport psych guy didn’t do his job?

Coaches often would only deal with sport psychology coach if they feel it will help them win. Unfortunately they’ve gotten that idea from the marketing messaging that is seen when an elite athlete wins and proclaims that their mental training was extremely beneficial.

Thinking about winning misses exactly what sport/performance psychology is all about. Take for example my goddaughter, Apple.

Her name is Marlena aka Apple. She’s 6 years old and awesome! She plays softball and has been introduced to performance psychology through The Core 4 Sequence(C4S). Every game day, on her way to the field, she’s guided by her parents through her C4S to prime her mind for play while doing mindful breaths. She’s able to manage her focus because of it. But what is it that we’re actually teaching her about? This clip is a great example of what we’re teaching.

It was the last inning and the score was tied of the championship game. Apple hit a shot up the middle and it was enough to take all the bases. But at the end she forgot to touch home plate. You can see a coach visibly emotional, understandably. But not Apple. Her team found a way to hold the other team off in extra innings and scored in the final frame for the championship and Apple was on the sidelines cheering them on, even after making that error. She never put her head down.

When is performance psychology seen? It’s found in the moment when Apple is focused enough to hit a dinger and it’s also found in the moment when she made that mistake and still stayed focused on what matters most…cheering her team on.

  • Performance psychology is about how you process information, situations and circumstances for which wins, losses, injuries, being ahead or behind in a competition are a few that are found within the sport context. In a life context, the situations could be poverty, abuse, or being bullied.
  • Performance psychology is about how we can behave at our potential while in the face of adverse situations or competitive forces that are actively fighting against our ability to do so. Some of these forces are external to us and others, internal; performance psychology’s aim is to have you be aware of those and equip you with understandings and tools to help you manage yourself wherever you are presently.

The question is how do you get youth, young adults and adults to care about this psychological skill-set in the same way that academics care about it?

Specific to a sport context, I’ve seen within athletic departments, speakers come and go but what did they actually leave? I’ve never seen athletes continue with what was shared even though they were excited while listening to the talk. And after a while the information vanishes from their ability to retrieve it.

It’s not the information that is lacking or not understood. I believe that it’s the method of communicating our information and the memorability of that effort. We need to infuse design thinking around our insights. It’s why we at JOC have come up with The Core 4 Sequence; it’s simple enough that Apple can understand it, remember it and most important have it in poster form to cue the insights embedded within!

We’re not trying to change our industry, We’re just carving out our niche and making it plain. As a Performance Psychology Educator, it’s my work to make sure we at JOC are communicating simply. Both for the sake of kids like Apple and young adults in collegiate programs.

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