|Crunch time continued|
One coach who had gone through a game in which a couple of key players were having a “shooting slump” was quoted as saying we “we don’t need a sport psychologist--we just need to go out and do what we are capable of doing”. It seemed implied by the comment that the coach did not want to call undue mental attention by asking for the service of a professional “sport shrink”, a psychologist who works with mental processes because that might be a sign that the problem is significant. The truth is, that for the most part, this area of performance difficulty seems rather mystical or undefined as a phenomenon without an easy prescription or solution. However, this is exactly what a sport psychologist can offer to a coach—an understanding of the dynamics of what happens when a player “down shifts” under competitive pressure and specific methods that can be used to alleviate these situations.
Understanding the Concept of a “slump”, “shaken confidence” and “under-performance”. In order to offer solutions to this area of athlete performance we must first define and understand what is happening to them in terms of the mind/ body connection.
Principle 1: The mind, mental thoughts and reactions, have direct influence on physical behavior and actions.
Our most vivid demonstration of this principle is when we attach physiological sensors called biofeedback to measure the immediate changes, such as muscle tension, heart rate, perspiration, that take place at even the slightest verbal suggestion of an activity, person, or situation. Providing this mirror of very quick and exacting mind-body response heightens the person’s awareness of how dramatic the link can be and how quickly it can change. Even small physiological changes may have a significant impact on performance and subsequent outcome.
The reverse is also true: a physical body behavior can also affect one’s thinking. While we are most interested in the link of response pattern from the mind to the physiological response, it is also true that the link is reciprocal. Responses within the body return to and affect a thought response.
Principle 2: Nearly everybody will experience a situation in which thinking creates a “hiccup” that alters the physical response. It is when the pattern continues and grows that the problem becomes pronounced.
Principle 3: There are certain performance skills that are more likely to be negatively affected by the mental incident. These areas can be described as activities that require “fine tuning” and “focus”.
is very similar to the adjustment on a television set, which by being off
a very slight turn can make the picture distort. The basic components needed
for a television picture may all be in place…color, signal of the picture,
sound, etc—however, with the fine-tuning off, a relatively small detail,
the picture still becomes unsatisfactory. Other performance skill areas can
be unaffected and some may even be enhanced by the mental signal of “the
pressure is on, I got to perform”. These tend to be large muscle activities,
such as running, lifting, and jumping. So while a person’s foul shooting
ability goes down, they will see little if any deficit in their ability to
run the floor, jump for rebounds, or play defense.