Aspects of PST – Psychological Skill Training

1) Arousal Regulation:
     It is important to regulate arousal because athletes that don’t cope effectively with stress may experience decreases in performance and have physical and mental distress. It is important to them in order to stay focused and in control. In order to control arousal, you must increase your awareness of your psychological states, and by doing so you will be able to control your thoughts and feelings. Once you are aware of your optimal arousal you can use certain techniques to control it.

There are certain techniques that can be used to reduce and handle attention and arousal:

* Progressive relaxation: With this technique you learn to feel the tension in your muscles and let go of this tension.
* Breath control: With this technique you learn to control your breathing in stressful situations. When you are feeling calm and confident your breathing is smooth, deep and rhythmic. When you are under pressure and tense your breathing becomes short, shallow and irregular.
* Biofeedback: This technique causes one to become more aware of their nervous system and to control responses through feedback from ones body.
* Relaxation Responses: Individuals learn to quiet the mind, concentrate and reduce muscle tension by basic meditation.
* Autogenic Training: This is a series of exercises designed to produce physical sensations – warmth and heaviness, in order to produce a relaxed state.
* Cognitive affective stress management training: This teaches a person specific coping responses, using relaxation and thought to control arousal.
* Stress Inoculation training: This kind of training involves a person being exposed or taught to cope with stress by imagining, thinking about stress and making self-statements and doing this in increasing amounts in order to gradually increase their immunity to stress.

2) Coping:
     Coping is the process of changing thinking and behaviors in order to manage specific demands (from yourself and from outside sources) or conflicts that are more than one can handle. There are different types of coping strategies. Problem focused coping is efforts made to alter and manage a problem that is causing stress. Emotion focused coping is the controlling of emotional responses to the problem that is causing the stress.

Relaxation is one type of way to cope. Here are some relaxation tips:

* Smile when you feel tension coming on * Have fun, enjoy the situation * Set up stressful situations to practice * Slow down and take your time * Stay focused on the present

* Come prepared with a good game plan

3) Imagery
     Imagery is the same thing as visualization, mental rehearsal and mental practice. It involves creating or recreating an experience in your mind. All the senses are used – visual, kinesthetic, auditory, tactile and olfactory. It involves moods and emotions. There are certain things that are involved if effective imagery is used:

* The Nature of the task: Imagery affects performance on thinking tasks
* Skill level of the performer: Imagery helps performance for both experienced and non-experienced performers.

How Imagery Works:
There are theories that attempt to explain the effectiveness of imagery:

a) Psychoneuromuscular Theory: Imagery helps the learning of motor skills, because by imagining movement, the neural pathways in the brain that control that movement are used and then strengthened.
b) Symbolic Learning Theory: Imagery is a sort of mental blueprint of movements that help people to understand them and use them.
c) Psychological Skills Hypothesis: Imagery develops and refines mental skills such as concentration and confidence, and reduces anxiety.
d) Bioinformational Theory: Images are made up of certain stimulus and responses to these situations. It is important to imagine the situation and also the response that one would have in that situation.
e) Triple Code Model: Imaging is made up of the image, the response and the meaning. It is important to understand the three parts of the image.

Imagery can be used to:

* Improve concentration * Build confidence * Control emotional responses * Acquire and practice sport skills * Acquire and practice strategy * Cope with pain and adversity

* Solve problems

There are different types of imagery: * Internal imagery: This is the imagining the execution of a skill from your own vantage point.

* External imagery: This is the viewing of oneself from the perspective of another person.

Keys to Effective Imagery:
a. Vividness: Use all the senses to make images as vivid and detailed as possible.
b. Controllability: Learn to manipulate your images so they do what you want them to.

Developing an Imagery Training Program:

* Tailor imagery programs to athletes’ individual needs, abilities and interests. * The first step in developing an imagery program is evaluating the athletes’ imagery skills. * Imagery must be tailored to each individual and practiced. It should be built into an athlete’s daily routine. * A proper setting is needed. * Concentration should be relaxed. * Expectations should be realistic and motivation sufficient. * Images should be vivid and controllable. * Have a positive focus. * Videotapes can me used. * Execution and outcome should be imagined.

* Imagining should be done in real time.

Imagery Can be Used:

* Before and after practice. * Before and after a competition. * During breaks in action. * During personal time.

* When recovering from an injury.

4) Self Confidence:
     The level of self confidence that you have is important – if you are under-confident then you will not take the risks that need to be taken, and if you are over-confident then you can end up not trying hard enough. Good self-confidence comes from realistic expectations of success based on well practiced physical skills, a good knowledge of the sport, respect for you own confidence, adequate preparation and good physical condition. Success should be measured in terms of achieving ones personal goals not achieving goals such as winning.

     Those who are under-confident suffer from fear of failure, self-doubt, lack of concentration, self-blame, damaged flow, disrupted enjoyment of your sport and negative thinking. Those who are overconfident are often led into situations that they do not have the ability to get out of, could experience serious failure (which can in turn devastate self-confidence), be the result of pushy parents or coaches, or would be caused by ego or vanity and even positive imagery that is not based on fact.

     Goal setting is the most effective way of building self-confidence. By setting measurable goals, achieving them and setting further new goals and so on, you can prove your ability to yourself. You can recognize and enjoy achievement and feel self-worth.

Related Links

Sports Psychology
Strategies & Success
Arousal, Stress & Anxiety
Intrinsic Motivation
Team Dynamics
Enhancing Performance – PST