Playing Your Ideal Sport: A Sports Psychologists Guide

Playing Your Ideal Sport A Sports Psychologists Guide
Written by Juliet Walmsley

Part of what separates human beings from animals is our ability for high functioning. Although we have core behaviors known as trait personality. The many facets of our personality display themselves in different ways in different situations.

This is known as state personality. What helps us in one situation may not exactly help or be beneficial to us in another situation. Being in sports psychology has made me aware of the different behaviors I display and whether or not they help or hurt me in the sports area of my life regardless of how beneficial/detrimental to me they are in other situations and aspects of my life.

Mental and Physical Behaviors

These behaviors are both mental and physical behaviors I exhibit co-react and the tools and techniques I need to increase my strengths and decrease my weakness in a way that is beneficial to myself in my sport. There are strengths in my sports that I have always been aware of. My ability to make critical decisions under pressure has always been one of them. A trait characteristic of mine is over analyzing and in sports, this helps me because it allows me to anticipate the different situations that could occur while participating in my sport.

So, more often than not when something does arise I am able to react quickly since I have already thought about it and what I would want to do about it. The visualizing technique that I have learned in sports psychology helps me to maximize this ability because when I get to a difficult situation I not only know what I’d like to do but I feel like I’ve already done it so it makes the transitioning even smoother.

This also maximizes my strength at exercising strategy because my confidence is increased when I am able to properly and smoothly execute critical decisions based on my visual strategies. Effective planning is another ability that I have because of using it in so many other areas of my life. Sports psychology has given me the technique to make this more effective by showing me how to write things down in a way that I get the most out of my planning. It allows me to combine my planning with goals so that I can figure out what I what in the long run importantly.

Focus is the Key

I can focus on what needs to get done now to achieve that end goal. So that I can plan based on the step goals that will end me at that point. It’s also taught me that I need to be more lenient with those goals. If they don’t go to plan then I need to adjust them but keep them. Like with the other example of being too firm with my goals. There are many other things that I am good with but did not realize the importance of to my sports. I use disappointment in other areas of my life to get me to work harder. I do so by talking negatively to myself.

This generally works for what I need with my school work, work, and chores. However, with sports, I’ve learned in sports psychology that if we focus too much on our negative thoughts that our bodies will more often than not find a way to make those negative thoughts/concepts a reality. So whereas I do need to use disappointment to push myself to work harder in my spots. I need to use it in a positive way. I have learned to do this in order to maintain self-esteem. So that I don’t get into any negative cycles of self-prophecy fulfillment where I feel that I did bad. Focus on it too much and do poorly because of it. The feeling that I am right and continue in this pattern. I’ve learned that I can avoid this by talking/thinking to myself using positive talk and not negatives.

For example, if I hit a shot that arcs right rather than telling myself that I clipped the ball with the heel of my club.

Always Remain Positive

I need to not do that. I can tell myself that keeping my back straight will correct this problem. Then I can move on having learned a lesson. I also know that remaining positive and enthusiastic are important qualities. I normally am but have not expressed this in my golf game too often. Working with children shows me that the environment that my feelings and personality create do affect situations. Even if it’s just from affecting others around me. Who then, in turn, attune with my mood and reflect that back on me.

Meditation techniques that I have learned in class help me to release their negative emotions. I reflect on these within my golfing atmosphere. The technique of pumping myself up to my ideal activation levels will also help me to remain enthusiastic and positive in golf situations. I have learned in this class that this will actually increase my enthusiasm. Because if my mind believes it, it will trick my body into believing it and acting it as well. Of course, there are also negative mental and physical behaviors that I display.

The sports psychology had helped me to recognize and given me the techniques to minimize or turn into something positive. I am not a very competitive person by nature. So when people are watching me in competitive situations I find myself having troubles focusing on more narrow points of my golf game. Such as what I need to get done to achieve what I want. This normally causes me to mess up and then leads to lower self-esteem. Which keeps this cycle alive. Through trigger words learned in sports psychology. I have been better able to let the crowds and other external distractions ebb out of my mind.

Minimise Distractions

This has helped my physical ability in my sport as well. Dealing with external distractions lead to minimizing internal distractions that pop up and I am better able to execute my swing based on feel and without having to focus on it too much. Focusing too hard leads me to execute it poorly. It is harder to do when focusing on the numerous different parts of the swing that are supposed to occur at the same time. The step by step activity that we did in class about imagery before, after and during our game also helped me out immensely.

It gives me something else to focus on that I am comfortable with and installs triggers in me that I wasn’t even aware of that help me to relax. I’ve put a great deal of effort into my swing. Knowing this while conducting my mental imagery helps to transfer this over when I am actually practicing my swing. It lets my body remember what it’s supposed to do. Negative self-talk is also something that seethes over into every aspect of my life including my sport.

The thought-stopping technique that we learned in class has not only helped me to minimize it and perform better in golf. But has also helped me to reduce stress and other problematic situations in my life because I have become more positive. This helps my golf game because if I’m more relaxed with the rest of my life I play better. Although I have realized then when participating in a sport. It is better to leave the rest of your life and things that do not contribute to your game ‘at the door’. That step is even harder for me to work with.

Be Patient

So even though I am using the visual technique of the hot air balloon to have it float off at a distance until I’m done playing. I know that it is going to take me a while to master this. I am very appreciative that the stress reduction techniques make these easier to deal with while they do remain in the foreground. Although we use a small capacity of our brains, the part that we do use greatly affects our physical actions.

Sports psychology helps you to recognize this and find the techniques needed that suit the individual. Maximizing our mental strengths and turning our mental weaknesses into positives. So that we can affect our bodies in a more positive was and play our ideal games.

About the author

Juliet Walmsley

Juliet is a Michigan University graduate of 2003 and a former lead fashion design manager for Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger. Between writing on her blog, Juliet and Co, she loves shopping, chocolate sprinkles and walking on sunny beaches.

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