Psychological strategies to enhance motivation – Improving PDHPE
Study Notes

– Concentration/ attention skills (focusing)

It’s extremely important for athletes to focus on what they’re doing to ensure they perform at their optimum level. This means they need to ignore the distractions and forgo the non-important clues. What kinds of distractions could interfere with an athlete’s performance? These can include:

– Movement

– Weather

– Noise from crowds

– Even a minute distraction can become a huge mistake.

So, how can an athlete train themselves to ignore the distractions and to focus on the game at hand? They can create routines, listen to music, employ focus training, set goals/targets, positive self talk. Athletes, practicing on their focusing, will often replicate the distracting environment to make sure their attention is placed on the vital clues when it’s called for. They can also often set themselves routines to help with focus. For example Jamie Soward (Penrith Panthers) goes through the same routine before every kick at goal.

– Mental rehearsal / visualisation / imagery

This technique involves the athlete using their imagination to see an upcoming action or skill. It allows a person to see their success before it happens and to feel self-assured that they can make it happen. An athlete can feel as if they’ve done it before and can picture themselves with a successful outcome. It is about familiarising themselves with the success of a movement.

People who mentally rehearse can think of negative situations and picture ways of getting out of those situations. It can help them to feel less anxious for when the time comes.

Now, there are all kinds of ways to do mental rehearsals. One such technique is to be a spectator watching themselves carry out the action. Another technique is to visualise themselves doing the skill or action. It is reliant on the power of imagery from an individual. Seeing clearly what is required in terms of body movement.

For it to be successful, mental rehearsal needs to be realistic. In order for the event to be replicated, the setting and timing needs to be perfect.

Importance of mental rehearsal:

– Elevates body to optimum arousal level

– Provides a clear awareness of what is required

– Intensifies concentration

– Focuses thoughts on task at hand

However, to increase effectiveness, mental rehearsal requires:

– Intense, realistic pictures at match speed in mind

– Multiple rehearsals

– The feeling of ‘experiencing’ – seeing colours, feeling the movement, hearing sounds, and noticing the crowd

– Seeing a successful performance as well as visualise failure/experience failure

– Relaxation Techniques

People who are over anxious or over-aroused should take advantage of any kind of relaxation technique they can. When a person is relaxed, their blood pressure lowers, the heart rate slows down and the tension in their muscles eases up. It allows them to focus on the job at hand and be more in control. Some of the techniques that athletes use include:

– Listening to music

– Watching TV or movie

– Massage

– Controlled breathing exercises – Pilates, Yoga, hypnosis and meditation

They also use:

Progressive muscular relaxation – relaxing specific muscle groups with light exercises (good technique if arousal is excessive)

Mental relaxation –controlled breathing to relax the body and mind It can be different in each individual athlete

Mental rehearsal –rehearsing the routine of a task in your mind over and over so that when the time comes, the athlete is ready to perform the task/skill

Meditation – Focussing on your thoughts by using repetitive images/sounds

Centred breathing – tension can be released by controlling breathing before the athlete has to perform

– Goal setting

An athlete who creates short and long term goals can benefit themselves, as it allows them to stay focused. An athlete has one of two major goals – to better their performance outcome or better the process. There’s no doubt that short-term goals can be beneficial in meeting long-term ones.

Goals are targets used to aspire to achieve. They can relate to either performance or behaviour. Goals allow athletes to target areas of training and give reason to persist with training over a long of time (also give direction/targets to focus energy towards performance). Goals need to be refined and re-evaluated over time and must be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely (SMART).

Types of goals important to athletes:

Short-term goals – should be set to be achieved in days, weeks or a couple of months and can be stepping stones to achieving long-term goals (e.g. improve 10m in discus in 3 months)

Long-term goals – are set to be accomplished only over longer period of time (e.g. complete city to surf fun run)

Behavioural goals – Relates to improving an athletes behavioural expectations in either training, competition or both (e.g. Athlete may aim to control temper on field)

Performance goals – Relates to an athlete’s wanted level of success in sport (e.g. winning medal)

Full Written Notes

Critical question 2: How does psychology affect performance?
Psychological strategies to enhance motivation and manage anxiety

Concentration/ attention skills (focusing)

It’s extremely important for athletes to focus on what they’re doing to ensure they perform at their optimum level. This means they must concentrate and ignore all distractions.

The types of actions which can interfere with concentration include:

– Movement
– Weather
– Noise from crowds

Even a minute distraction can have serious and negative consequences for an athlete.

Athletes can train themselves to ignore distractions and improve their focus by creating routines, listening to music, employing focus training, setting goals/targets and engaging in positive self-talk. To improve focus Athletes will often replicate a distracting environment to ensure they are able to maintain their attention levels and recognise opportunities. They may also set rituals or routines to facilitate or trigger improved focus. For example, Jamie Soward, who plays for the Penrith Panthers, performs the same routine before every goal kick.

Mental rehearsal / visualisation / imagery

Athletes can also use mental or visual techniques to imagine and anticipate actions or movements. Visualisation can also give people the skills necessary to imagine their success, before it happens, and improve their confidence. An athlete can picture themselves having a achieved a positive outcome, increasing their familiarity with success.

People who mentally rehearse are able to assess negative situations and picture solutions. This can decrease anxiety and improve responses to negative occurrences. There are a number of ways to mentally rehearsal. One technique involves an athlete picturing themselves as spectator, watching their own performance. Visualising the performance of a particular skill or action is another form of mental rehearsal. This technique relies on the power of imagery; picturing in detail the most effective way to move the body or counter an action.

Mental rehearsal is only effective if the imagined scenario is realistic in order to be effective. In order for the event to be replicated, the setting and timing must be perfect.

Mental rehearsal can improve performance by:

– Elevating the body to optimum arousal levels
– Providing a clear idea of what has to be done
– Heightening concentration
– Narrowing thoughts to a single task

To be completely effective, mental rehearsal must consist of vivid, realistic pictures of the performance speed and, ideally, multiple rehearsals. Athletes should feel a sense of ‘experience’ when they visualise an action. Imagined scenarios should contain colours, sounds, movement, crowds, and the feeling of motion. Most importantly, athletes should only visualise successful performances; picturing failed actions can lead to negative performances.

Relaxation Techniques

People who are over anxious or over-aroused can utilise a range of relaxation techniques to calm them down. When a person is relaxed their blood pressure lowers, their heart rate slows down and the tension in their muscles eases up, allowing them to more effectively focus on a task and control their own movements.

Some of the techniques which athletes use include:

– Listening to music
– Watching TV or a movie
– Massage
– Controlled breathing exercises
– Pilates, Yoga, hypnosis and meditation

They may also use:

– Progressive muscular relaxation: relaxing specific muscle groups using exercises; an effective technique to counter excessive arousal.
– Mental relaxation: relaxing the body and mind through controlled breathing.
– Mental rehearsal: repeatedly visualising the performance of a task to prepare
– Meditation: focussing your thoughts using repetitive images and sounds
– Centred breathing: releasing tension before performance through controlled breathing

Goal setting

Creating short and long term goals can benefit an athlete, providing them with goals and objectives to focus on. An athlete typically has at least one of these two major goals: to better their performance or to better their process. Setting short-term goals can be help individuals in meet long-term ones.

Goals are achievement based targets used to direct drive and focus. They can relate to either performance or behaviour. Setting goals can help athletes to target specific areas of training while also providing purpose and motivation.

The SMART method is an effective tool for setting goals, ensuring they are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely. All goals must be refined and re-evaluated regularly.

There are several types of goals which are important to athletes. For example:

– Short-term goals can be achieved in limited period of time and are stepping stones to achieving long-term goals (e.g. improve 10m in discus in 3 months).
– Long-term goals are larger objectives which require a greater investment time and energy (e.g. complete city to surf run).
– Behavioural goals relate to improving behaviours when in training, competition or both (e.g. Athlete may aim to control temper on field).
– Performance goals detail the athlete’s desired level of success in sport (e.g. winning a medal).