Psychological skills training (PST) is the systematic practice of psychological skills to enhance performance. It has been noted that psychological factors are the reason behind performance fluctuations (Lewis-Clark State College, n.
d. ). Psychological skills can improve performance at elite levels, and every person, not just athletes, can gain from this training (Sinibaldi, n. d. , p. 2).
On the other hand, the importance of PST, especially in sports, is often overlooked due to a lot of reasons ranging from lack of knowledge to lack of time (Psychology Campus, 2008).
The effectiveness of PST can be seen in how developed the psychological skills are of successful players. A research study showed that with PST, successful athletes were seen to possess higher confidence, self-regulation of arousal, improved concentration, control over their attitude, determination, positive thoughts, and commitment (Krane, 2001, cited in Lewis-Clark State College, n.
d. ). In addition, the study found out that successful athletes were able to achieve the highest level of performance through mental skills of goal setting, thought control, competitive plans, and mental preparation and coping skills (Lewis-Clark State College, n. d. ).. For any athlete who wants to achieve enhanced performance, he should learn, practice, and integrate PST into his daily training (Lewis-Clark State College, n. d. ). Psychological skills have to be developed in accordance with the needs of the sport.
There are sports where one has to employ aerobic and anaerobic endurance, gross motor skills, and decision-making skills under mental stress (Sinibaldi, n. d. , p. 2). In some cases, athletes lack the psychological competitive edge when competing against other teams.
If only they have learned mental skills, they can further improve them with consistent practice and training. Athletes can also gain from PST by studying through the three phases of the training, each of which can be applied to sports (Hollenbeck, n. d. , p. 1). Education Phase
The first phase of PST is educational because many athletes are generally not familiar and knowledgeable with the fact that mental skills do enhance performance (Weinberg & Gould, 2007, p. 256). This phase is suggested to take place in team and individual meetings during the training period (Sinibaldi, n. d. , p. 3). Education phase will enable athletes to recognize and acknowledge the importance of acquiring PST to enhance their performance. To achieve this goal, it is important to ask participants how they view the mental side of sport performance.
It is also essential to let them know that psychological skills can be learned over time (Weinberg & Gould, 2007, p. 256). This phase is also the best stage for the team’s councilor to perform a needs assessment. This assessment aims to find out which mental skills of the athletes are the most important to develop. Aside from this, the assessment is a helpful tool in determining what mental training tools will be used in developing those skills. This should be conducted so that the athletes know their strengths and weaknesses and the councilor can help them to maximize their efficiency towards success.
If athletes are more aware of their potential, they can further develop their skills while at the same time improving the areas of their weaknesses (Burton & Raedeke, 2008, p. 44). The education phase can last a day or a week and consists of meetings ranging from one hour to three hours (Smith & Bar-Eli, 2007, p. 238), depending on the differences of athletes in using PST. This is because, as one research suggested, athletes who have higher task orientation use more psychological skills in their training compared to athletes who have higher ego orientation.
The most important thing that the councilor should explain to the participants is the essence of developing and further improving their psychological skills. The councilor can also share to the athletes that anxiety can affect one’s performance in relation to arousal (Weinberg & Gould, 2007, p. 256). Arousal at this stage refers to the “energizing function that harnesses the body’s resources for intense and vigorous activity. ” It will be helpful for the athletes to know that facilitative arousal can aid them to improve their performance (Sinibaldi, n.
d. , p. 6). Furthermore, the councilor should employ educative techniques that are based on reinforcement. In addition, athletes who show desired responses should be given rewards while those who do not should be given punishment. Biofeedback should also be given to the athletes so that they can achieve more control and discipline (Cashmore, 2002, p. 148). Acquisition Phase Acquisition phase is used for strategies and techniques needed to learn psychological skills. Formal and informal meetings should devote time to learn these skills.
This is also the stage where strategies are applied to suit the specific needs and abilities of athletes (Lewis-Clark State College, n. d. ). The primary goal of this phase is to aid the athletes in developing their desired skills (Burton & Raedeke, 2008, p. 45). This phase can be conducted during team meetings and training sessions incorporated with the implementation of skill and method. This can also be facilitated through personal practice and homework assignments (Sinibaldi, n. d. , p. 9). Formal and informal meetings must be devoted to how athletes can learn psychological skills.
For instance, the councilor can facilitate discussions on positive coping statements to eliminate negative statements under stressful conditions as a way to teach athletes about the development of arousal regulation skills. The councilor can also teach them on how to use positive coping as applied to actual settings (Weinberg & Gould, 2007, p. 257). The team can also focus on relaxation training during this stage. This session should be followed up by sessions wherein the councilor or councilors work with individual athletes. In lieu of the specific needs and abilities of athletes, these individuals have differences in adapting to training.
Thus, the councilor must take into account these differences (Smith & Bar-Eli, 2007, p. 238). As with the relaxation techniques, the councilor must be aware of the different reactions of athletes. Some athletes may experience mental anxiety or tension. Others may experience body type anxiety. This shows that the councilor should use different relaxation techniques for the athletes who experience different types of anxiety. Clearly, the councilor should apply a cognitive strategy for the athletes experiencing mental anxiety and a physical relaxation strategy for those experiencing physical anxiety.
The councilor can only make this kind of judgment once he knows the different characteristics of his athletes (Smith & Bar-Eli, 2007, p. 238). In addition, the acquisition phase is the best stage to teach the athletes of the ability “to create vivid and controlled images” using all the senses. However, the visual and the kinesethic senses are the most important in some sports. To develop the imagery ability of athletes, they should start with a simple skill which they gradually improve until they include complex skills as they become efficient in using imagery (Burton & Raedeke, 2008, p.
79). The session for imagery is not necessarily a long one. Just a few minutes allotted for each day will be beneficial for athletes. At the start of using imagery, the athletes can focus on imagery in a shorter time so that it is more appealing and user friendly. The role of the councilor in helping the athletes develop the imagery skill is important. He can teach them to involve all senses and use vivid cues. Furthermore, the athletes can use props, focus on the situation, and do partial movements. The most important in this is that the athletes will be able to use imagery into practice.
Aside from this, the athletes will be able to do imagery skill on their own to further enhance it (Burton & Raedeke, 2008, p. 79). Practice/Implementation Phase Once the athletes have understood and incorporated their desired skills, they have to move to the next phase (Smith & Bar-Eli). This phase has three primary objectives: 1) to automate skills through overlearning; 2) to teach people to include and apply psychological skills to real settings; and 3) to simulate skills that one wants to apply in actual settings (Lewis-Clark State College, n.
d. ). These can be done during meetings and physical training sessions and through personal practice (Sinibaldi, n. d. , p. 15). In lieu with the first objective, the practice phase indicates that mental training tools and skills are only effective when athletes have overlearned them. This means that the athletes can use these tools and skills automatically without consciously thinking of when and how they will use them. Thus, the councilor should aid the athletes in practicing the tools and skills until they overlearn it.
To achieve this goal, the athletes must use the tools and skills through different ways such as simulations and competitions which eventually become like full competition. Athletes can simulate adverse situations during practice in order to help them deal with these situations during competitions. Through simulation, this phase can assist the athletes in applying mental skills in their game plan while at the same time dealing with challenges (Burton & Raedeke, 2008, p. 45). In addition, the councilor must lead the assessment of the effectiveness of the mental skills training program.
He must also determine if the program should be revised to improve it. As athletes have different needs, PST should be modified according to these needs (Burton & Raedeke, 2008, p. 45). In lieu of the relaxation technique and use of imagery skills, athletes, in the practice phase, can use imagery before competing while other athletes never use it before the competition (Smith & Bar-Eli, 2007, p. 238). Once the athletes execute this skill or other skills well, the councilor or other superiors should continually encourage them to “take a moment to form an image of that execution” so that it becomes automatic.
Councilors can also encourage their athletes to use imagery wherein they accomplish their goals. If an athlete is experiencing life stress during practice, it is best to advise him to imagine a calm place so that he can relax and be mentally prepared for the challenge (Burton & Raedeke, 2008, p. 79). In order to meet the desired results, imagery practice needs to be systematic. This is one thing that athletes generally fail to do. Most of the time, they use imagery a few times days before the competition. However, they do not execute this on a regular basis.
Athletes need to understand that imagery will only be effective if practiced systematically. To facilitate them with imagery practice, athletes must first conduct practice of physical skills and strategy. Then they can use imagery to develop their psychological skills such as stress management and motivation. These mental skills must depend on the specific needs of athletes. After then they can incorporate imagery during competition. The councilor can encourage the athletes to use imagery before competition (say, in the locker room) and during competition (on the bench).
Imagery can also be used for arousal control whenever time permits it. Also, athletes competing in individual events can use imagery between rests to handle stress (Burton & Raedeke, 2008, p. 80). In addition, there are athletes who can use relaxation techniques during the competition. On the other hand, there are athletes who cannot use relaxation while competing. The most important in this phase is that these differences among individuals are allowed to appear. The councilor must take into account the fact that skills should meet the needs and personality of the athletes (Smith & Bar-Eli, 2007, p.
238). In general, psychological skills training is essential in enhancing performance, especially in sports. PST has three phases, including education phase, acquisition phase, and practice/implementation phase. Education phase is where the athletes learn the importance of incorporating PST into their training. Acquisition phase, on the other hand, will assist the athletes in acquiring their desired skills. Lastly, practice phase indicates that mental training tools and skills are effective once the athletes overlearned them. Athletes can use techniques to enhance their performance during competitions.
References Burton, D. and Raedeke, T. D. (2008). Sport psychology for coaches. United States: Human Kinetics. Cashmore, E. (2002). Sport psychology: The key concepts. United States: Routledge. Hollenbeck, L. (n. d. ). Psychological skills training and mental preparedness. Minnesota Youth Soccer. Retrieved April 20, 2009, from http://www. mnyouthsoccer. org/coaches/articles/mental. pdf Lewis-Clark State College. (n. d. ). Psychological skills training (PST). Retrieved April 20, 2009, from http://www. lcsc. edu/mcollins/psychological_skills_training. htm
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