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Sports Psychology

Mental Toolbox: Achieving Success Through Mental Excellence - From USA Swimming Web Site

How Do You Build a Staircase?

Have you ever tried to build something out of wood? Imagine a carpenter preparing for a challenging new project such as building a staircase in a house. First the carpenter would make sure she has the blueprints for the job. Next she would call the lumber store and order the necessary lumber and building supplies. Finally she would gather together all of the essential tools for the job then commence with the project. Can you imagine a carpenter trying to build a staircase with only a screwdriver? In sport, we are making a similar mistake if all the tools necessary for success are not "on hand".

Season after season swimmers spend time at the pool working on their strokes, swimming lap after lap, doing drylands and lifting weights. It is often the case, however, that the mind is not trained along with the body.

This season it may be beneficial to start using the Mental Toolbox to help develop mental skills. The Mental Toolbox is designed as a resource for coaches, swimmers and parents. The information included in the upcoming chapters should be both a useful, practical tool for coaches, parents and swimmers who are training and competing at the club, regional, national and international level.

Included in each edition of the Mental Toolbox will be educational information related to the given skill, basic teaching instructions, and exercises/ handouts to help develop these skills, and a guide for coaches.

Chapters: Click on the links to read each article

  • GOAL SETTING/KEEPING TRACK OF PROGRESS - Goal Setting is an effective way to add direction, feedback, motivation and support to everyday practices and competitions. In addition, this chapter will outline a system for Introduction keeping track of progress through the use of both practice and competition logbooks.

  • IMAGERY – This installment will focus on the skills necessary to create and recreate athletic performances and images in the mind. Imagery is especially helpful when learning new skills and focusing in on success.

  • SELF-TALK – Self-talk, the internal dialogue that goes on in your head, can be positive or negative and either help or hurt performance. This chapter will teach swimmers how to identify self-talk and how to control it.

  • CONCENTRATION – Concentration is the ability to pay attention to the right things at the right time. If swimmers can recognize their own concentration strengths and weaknesses and where their attention should be focused, they can better anticipate and prepare themselves for critical performance situations.

  • TEAM COHESION – Swimming is an individual sport, right? Why team cohesion?

  • SELF-CONFIDENCE – One common characteristic of top athletes is they have a high level of self-confidence. Self-confidence, which is the swimmer’s belief in her abilities to succeed, is usually displayed in the way she walks, talks, behaves, thinks and feels. This chapter will demonstrate ways to help boost a swimmer’s self-confidence.

  • ENERGY MANAGEMENT – Often at big meets swimmers complain of being too nervous or sometimes even too relaxed. This chapter will help swimmer’s identify their current energy levels, define what energy level is best for them, and learn strategies to manage their energy.

  • MENTAL PREPARATION – By race day, swimmers should be physically "ready to go." But what about their mental states? Because the "mind" goes to the blocks with the body, it is equally important to mentally prepare for competition as it is to physically prepare. This chapter is a culmination of the seven previous chapters, with swimmer’s mental toolboxes full, mental preparation for race day should be a snap!


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