Sport Psychology – Do You Know What Your Athletes Are Thinking?

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Athlete Psychology Results Graph

Improving The Sport Psychology Mental Game

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For my latest project, I decided to create an app that helps competitive athletes diagnose and improve their mental approach to their sport. I did a lot of research to build this diagnostic. Also, I built on the work that I had done on the 3D Mental Fitness Diagnostic and modified it to make this tool. I received some feedback from the 3D Mental Fitness Diagnostic and made some improvements to this version. This focused tool aims to guide competitive athletes who are actively training and competing on a regular basis. The diagnostic focusses on six major areas.
drive

Drive

This category measures an athlete's ability to self-motivate when undertaking a rowing program. An athlete with a high score is accustomed to working hard at the immediate moment training begins and can bounce back from setbacks with relative ease.
confidence

Spirit and Confidence

This category measures the belief to achieve competition goals successfully. It also measures an athlete's perspective and how they view themselves against their opponents.
selfmanagement

Self-Management

This category measures an athlete's ability to self-analyze and target areas of their mental model that could cause problems when training or racing. An athlete with a high score can manage their anxiety and learn from challenges.
concentration

Concentration

This category measures an athlete's ability to maintain focus during training and racing. An athlete that scores highly in this category can maintain a relaxed state and can make effective decisions and work well under pressure.
external

External Motivation

This category measures to what extent external factors contribute to an athlete's motivation.
internal

Internal Motivation

This category measures to what extent internal factors contribute to an athlete's motivation.

Feedback

I have found that it is important to provide feedback, but not too much feedback. The diagnostic report produced provides scores for each of the categories. The analysis presented identifies an athlete's top strength and most important development area. The tool provides suggested worksheets that an athlete can complete to help them improve a particular competency of their mental approach. Also, the report includes information on internal and external motivation. As a result, an athlete can see if they are primarily motivated by external sources or by internal sources. It is usual that an athlete's mental approach is a combination of both sources.

Applications For A Team Environment

I've asked a few coaches how they gauge the mental toughness of their athletes. The answers that I receive indicate that the way they measure this is a "gut feeling." However, I think we can do one better here and dive into what makes an athlete perform well on race day or not.

It is possible to configure the system to allow a coach to administer the diagnostic to the athletes on their team. Analysis tools are available to calculate averages for select groups of athletes. These statistics can be used to plan activities to help develop aspects of the team's mental approach to their sport.

The information provided in the reports can be the basis for meaningful conversations between the coach and athlete. In turn, this dialog can be the impetus for strategies and goal setting. The system can target what is going on with the athlete under pressure. For example, does the athlete have a focus issue? Does the athlete have a productive pre-competition routine? Does the athlete need to address negative self-talk?
When understanding the motivation, it is important to know what drives an athlete. These could be internal motivators such as the love of learning or enjoying building relationships with teammates. Alternatively, external motivators might be present. For example, does the athlete put too much value on trying to earn a scholarship or attaining approval from others? Competitive athletes usually have both internal and external sources of motivation. I think that it is important to know and understand what these are. If external rewards primarily motivate an athlete, it is likely that self-worth may be too tightly related to results. When things don't go as planned, then self-esteem becomes a problem.

In conclusion, I am pleased with this project and have enjoyed bringing it to life. However, the real value of the tool is the enhancement of the coach-athlete relationship. This dialogue compliments the physical and technical training regime and enhances preparation for athletic performance.

If you are interested in finding out more about this diagnostic or would like to trial, please contact me at neil@coachbergenroth.com.

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