Have a Good Crappy Day

I first heard this from Dr. Ken Ravizza. A lot of times we show up to the “big” competition with heavy legs, a nagging injury, a cold or flu or worse, a recent breakup, relationship stress, jet lagged, tired, stressed, or just in a bad mood. Then there is bad weather, bad food, bad officiating, nasty fans, and teammates that are distractions. And it is tempting to think, “This just isn’t my day.” It is just a fact that sometimes we are less than 100%. In fact, we are almost never at 100%.

However, many times we show up with 80% to give, but think it is just not enough and so end up giving only 60%. The self-fulfilling prophecy that it was not your day comes true. But what if the prophecy only came true because you gave 60%? What if 80% was enough that day, but you didn’t give yourself the opportunity to find out?

And here’s the real catch: we never know ahead of time how much we truly have to give! We may think we have 80%, but if we give ourselves a chance find that we feel better as the performance progresses. Developing a mindset of giving all you have on any particular day starts with training. Get the most out of training sessions when you don’t feel great. Like everything else, this will show up in competition as well.

Have a good crappy day!


Trust: Competition Mindset

In most domains of performance, much more time is spent practicing and preparing for competition than actually competing. This is obviously helpful for skill development. During practice, our mindset is analytical, focused on error detection and correction, and self-monitoring. This mindset is essential for skill development, but as discussed earlier is counter-productive to skill execution.

In order to successfully perform the skills we have trained, we must be able to shift to the competition, or trusting, mindset. In the competition mindset, we let go of conscious control of the movements necessary to perform and allow our learned skills to be automatically executed. The competition mindset is a skill in and of itself (and a difficult one at that), and thus requires practice just as any other skill we wish to develop.

The spectacular performers of Cirque du Soleil at times deliver over 400 performances in a single year. They are masters of the competition mindset, and this is part of their stunning showmanship. For the rest of us, we must intentionally cultivate the competition mindset by dedicating time to practicing in the mindset. This means setting aside time to simulate competition and performing skills without technical feedback, self-monitoring, and coaching. Similar to a physical periodization regimen, how you incorporate the different mindsets will vary based on the time of year. Typically, it would be effective to spend a greater proportion of practice time early in the season to the practice mindset. However, some time, perhaps 5-10%, should still be spent in the competition mindset. Later in the year as skills have been developed and refined and physical training is tapering, the majority of practice time will be in the competition mindset. These sessions will likely be shorter in duration and higher intensity (with some variability depending on the performance) and focused on developing trust in executing the skills already mastered.

No matter what your performance area, spending time in the trusting mindset can be a welcome relief from our tendency to be overly critical and caught up in our own heads. Give yourself time to enjoy performing the skills you have developed. It will result in more effective and consistent performances while fostering confidence and motivation.

Coalition for Training in Sport Psychology

I spent the day today as a participant in the 2nd meeting of the Coalition for the Advancement of Graduate Training an Applied Sport Psychology (I didn’t come up with the title). It was gratifying to see the presence and influence of the University of Denver Sport & Performance Psychology Program there with fellow faculty Artur Poczwardowski and alum Dolores Christensen participating today and several other DU faculty and alum members of the Coalition.

We are working to resolve the longstanding questions of what appropriate training and preparation for the practice of sport psychology consists of, and what will these practitioners be called?

Thus far, we have made some progress, and it will be interesting to see where things end up at the end of the meeting tomorrow.