Mind Over Sports

A NEW PARADIGM IN MENTAL TRAINING FOR ATHLETES.

Posted on: March 2, 2014

About every fifty years, science seems to come up with a new approach to performance enhancement training for athletes.  The last one happened in 1960 when Dr. Maxwell Maltz wrote a book called Psycho Cybernetics that has subsequently sold more than 50 million copies worldwide.   Many consider Maltz’s book to be the bible of the self-image industry

However, I’ve found that Dr. Maltz was not exactly on target.  When he introduced his book, it became the prototype of visualization techniques and has since been adopted worldwide by colleges, universities and even the Olympics.

According to a book review by Michael C. Gray, “One of Maltz’s key concepts was the Theater of the Mind, or synthetic experience. Here is an example of how it works. There are three teams of basketball players. One team practices making free throws. The second team doesn’t practice. The third team sits on a bench and mentally practices making free throws. When the three teams are tested, the team that practiced out-scores the team that didn’t practice. However, the team that mentally practiced performs nearly as well as the team that actually practiced. Maltz found he could actually improve performance by helping an individual mentally ‘see’ himself or herself doing the activity perfectly.”

But here is where Dr. Maltz and I differ.

While he felt that performance could be improved for everyone by helping individuals to mentally “see” themselves doing an activity perfectly (otherwise known as visualization), I’ve found that this type of exercise is totally ineffective if individuals are keeping their feelings and issues bottled up inside themselves.  These feelings and issues must first be addressed and resolved (or begin the process of resolving them) before visualization will be effective.

Few are aware of the dominant role self-esteem plays in achieving the results you want to achieve in your life.  People with high self-esteem are effective “visualizers” while those with low self-esteem are not.  Individuals with high self-esteem are not encumbered with psychological baggage and unresolved issues because they confront their issues directly, while those with low self-esteem do not.

There’s even a correlation between high self-esteem and wellness, and low self-esteem and illness.

One of the main issues affecting self-esteem and preventing effective visualization, and probably the most common, is when individuals withhold their feelings. This “withholding” is a form of lying that demeans them and lowers their self-esteem.  As their self-esteem is lowered they take fewer risks in interpersonal relationships, creating psychological baggage that affects their ability to focus and process information.  This is often found in young school children who come from dysfunctional home environments.

So the first step in this new paradigm is to vent your feelings and not keep them bottled-up.  And the next step involves the use of “Power Videos.”  Simply put, Power Videos are highlight videos of an individual athlete or an entire team presented in real time with portions in slow motion to create a dream effect, accompanied by a music soundtrack that has highly emotional lyrics that have special meaning to the athlete.

In order to provide an example, following is a link that shows a Division I men’s basketball team’s Power Video that was used before their first game in an NCAA post-season tournament.  One player is featured in the video (along with his teammates) and in that first game the team shot 52% accuracy and the player scored 36 points.   The link is: http://youtu.be/CKLmxV5Bkyw

So in closing, the secret to this new paradigm is to first make sure you’re unencumbered with personal and team related baggage, and then create your own Power Video to enhance your performance.

When you’re happy and your life is in harmony, you’ll perform better.  But when you’re unhappy and your life is in disharmony, you won’t.  And this applies, not only to sports, but to life itself.

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N. V. I.
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