Mellissa Berry gives us more answers, and this time we learn about her opinion of performance psychology, perfectionism, and the transferable skills that sport brings.
What is your knowledge and perspective of importance of performance psychology?
I believe there is a place for it. People spend hours on their technical, physiological and tactical elements of their performance but my belief is that you can have all those, however if you do not have the correct mind set you will struggle to be the best that you can be. Have I ever used or needed a sport psychologist? No. But that is because I have developed a strong mind set, have a very good understanding of myself, and have a bank of strategies stored for anytime I need them.
However, there are so many athletes that perhaps do not understand how powerful mind set can be, do not have experience or expertise to understand how their mind set and thoughts can impact their actions, particularly if it is a negative thoughts; And more significantly don’t have a bank of strategies or tools that they can draw on to help them. A performance psychologist can be that person who can provide direction to those athletes, provide them with understanding of mind and how they work, and provide them with the tools to support a positive mind set. But I am a strong believer that a good performance psychologist is someone who can always be called upon by an athlete after working with them but there is not a reliance on them 24/7.
I am interested in perfectionism, based on definition, would you say you were a striver or perfectionist?
Interesting question. And of course there are a few different types of perfectionists! But using it in its simplest form; Ok so to many, they may very well say I was a perfectionist in terms of the way in which I tried to incorporate developing my skills into every day life.. for example when I was younger I would brush my teeth with my left hand, stir with both hands, try to do everything equal with both left and right, because I believed it would enhance my cognitions. Everything I did had a purpose to improve myself as a player, my skill set, my technical, tactical, physical and mental skill set. I could and would related everything I did to my sport. However, and fundamentally, I believe I did not allow this to negatively impact me in any way. I have always been about continual improvement and striving to be the best I could be, and that along the way means making mistakes and learning from them. I would say that goes for all my domains i.e. sport, work, personal.
What life lessons have you learned from sport?
Ha my god, how long do you have? Sport provides so many life lessons. About winning and losing. How you are not always going to win and how do you react to that. In life you are not always going to get everything you want but how you react matters. How important perseverance and effort is to achieving what you want, and understanding mistakes happen, but you need to learn from the mistake. How to build relationships with different people, and understand that people are different, that people think differently and work differently but that doesn’t mean their way is any better or worse than the way you work. A key lesson from what I have seen throughout my sport is also that even though I excelled in my sport I have never let it define who I am. I never got so narrow focused in my sport that I forget that is just one aspect of who I am, and having other interests and focuses actually make me the person I am and made me a better player.
What are the key components of the ‘best playing / training environment?’
AUTONOMY, RELATEDNESS, COMPETENCE – INDIVDUAL, TEAM / UNITS, OVERALL MAMANGEMENT & PLAYERS ENVIRONMENT. UNDERSTANDING HOW ALL IMPACTS ONE ANOTHER.
What advice would you give a player who had anxiety that was effecting their performance?
Oh is this where I plug your services as a performance psychologist? Haha Advice.. I have been lucky enough to be very self aware, reflective and understand what specific tools I need to enable me to be nervous but harnessing that to optimise my performance without it having a detrimental effect. It would be easy enough for me to say remember it is YOU that control your thoughts, but many individuals may not understand that link or have any coping strategies or tools to help them deal with it. Don’t be afraid to tell someone, because if they really care about developing you as a person and an athlete then hopefully they can support you and direct you to the people who can give you the tools to optimise your performance
More so now there is more and more pressure on individuals to perform but it important to remember that your performance does not define who you are, strive to be the best you can be through your effort. Yes mistakes will happen, but you know what, embrace mistakes, see them as a positive because you learn from them. Remember why you play the sport you do in the first place – because you enjoy it.
Can you tell me something you are passionate about?
Well, I am passionate about a lot of things! I am passionate about food and love to cook. Passionate about reading (research), learning and writing (all three of which go hand in hand) but I guess, and to many people who know me I will sound like a broken record, I have a huge passion for the benefit and transferable life skills and life lessons that sport and physical activity can give to any individual involved; whether that be through participating or coaching. The health benefits can speak for themselves but it is the wider skills you can develop, for example leadership, decision making and particularly mental skills and mindset which can be taking into any other domain of your life. I am a believer in the importance of physical literacy and the importance that it can play in contributing positively to individuals lives from a young age. And yes finally, I believe very strongly that whatever domain you are in, and whatever role you have within that domain, the environment will have a significant impact on the success of those people in it. To this day, I have always said, I have taken the leadership skills and lessons I developed through sport into my leadership role in a work capacity.