For those who know me, they will know that I am very passionate about the mental side of performance, and also how this can be applied in different aspects of life. I believe that the mental side of the game is something that we don’t train as much as any other aspects. 10,000 hours to become an expert, however, how many hours of that are mental skills training? How often do we hear elite athletes talking about the
mental aspects of the game to make them either perform successfully or crumble under pressure?
If you listen to athletes competing in the Olympics, Wimbledon etc, they will mention the things like “effort, dealing with pressure, motivation”, but how often do we actually consciously train those things? When I teach performance psychology skills, I aim to give athletes strategies to help them improve performance but also self-awareness, skills to self-evaluate and build confidence. Mental preparation is vital success, and I think sometimes the stigma attached to “psychology” stops people seeking help to be ready in the mind. I believe you can have all the skills and talent in the world, but if you are unable to manage the psychological demands of performance, then their skills and talents will suffer. For example, a performer who suffers extreme anxiety may not be able to reach peak performance due to the strain on their body from being constantly stressed. Therefore, the role of performance psychology is to assist this person in dealing with anxiety.
Are there differences between male and female athletes?
I believe so. According to research, women are more likely to attribute their success in sport to effort or luck, e.g. “I tried hard; I put in the effort; I was just lucky on the day!” Whereas men are more likely to attribute success to their talents, “I am talented, I won because I am good!” How can we teach women to be more confident about their ability. A study completed in the USA asked men and women to predict their exam results. Women predicted grades lower than they received, whereas men overestimated and said they would do better than they actually did.
What can we do to make women more confident?
First of all, by motivating females to stay in sport could be beneficial to overall confidence and self esteem.
According to the Women’s Sport Foundation:
High school girls who play sports are less likely to be involved in an unintended pregnancy; more likely to get better grades in school and more likely to graduate than girls who do not play sports.Girls and women who play sports have higher levels of confidence and self-esteem and lower levels of depression.
Girls and women who play sports have a more positive body image and experience higher states of psychological well-being than girls and women who do not play sports.
“Girls lose confidence, so they quit competing in sports, thereby depriving themselves of one of the best ways to regain it.”(Confidence Gap, 2014)
Whilst continued involvement in sport has significant benefits to females confidence, I think by teaching women to be proud of their talents and their participation in sport we can further increase confidence. Just like learning how to catch a ball, or develop skills in sport, mental skills take time and training. To build confidence is a journey, and there will be situations in which an athlete’s confidence is high and others in which it is low, but how can we get athletes to have high confidence in more situations?
I believe that it is important to teach females to be proud of being different, and being proud of who they are. In many cases, I feel like sports define athletes, and their self confidence is based on results or sports performance. My favourite quote is “sport is something you do, not who you are!”. It is important we make females aware of their positive personality traits, and not just have their self esteem built upon the things
they are good at. Emphasising uniqueness, and be the best person you can be. Can we teach that it is okay
to be different? And that in fact, more successful athletes are those who aren’t afraid to be different? To be brave and be the one to stay later at training, to skip parties, to choose healthy foods when friends aren’t. Can we teach that being different is something you should be proud of and be confident about? To have the confidence to be different?
Lastly, the reason I love my job helping athletes in gaining psychological skills is because when we can instil
confidence in young people and empower them to be “their own coach”, it is the most rewarding feeling to see them progress, not just in their sport but in their self acceptance. For me, this is the most rewarding part of my job. Even the smallest of changes, can bring around the biggest results, and that is why I love helping people to be more confident and gain psychological skills to help them in life and competition.
I am running a series of workshops as part of the Festival of Sport in September.
Culture of Club: Creating a Female-Friendly Climate
It is important to understand the impact a club environment and climate can have on female coaches, female club leaders, female participants and those females outwith the club itself. This workshop will identify what makes a female – friendly climate and look at how the characteristics of different team and individual sports can, in turn, meet athletes’ needs and demands by working with coaches to develop young athletes. In order to maintain and increase females within our clubs at all levels, we must be able to create an optimal environment in which all females thrive upon and develop.
Club personnel and Coaches can expect to leave the workshop with the ability to:
Identify ways to increase female participation.
Create a sporting culture where females feel confident and valued.
Identify key principles in promoting a female friendly environment.
Female Coaching: Challenges and Solutions
By the end of this workshop, you will have an understanding of the following:
The challenges faced as a female coach e.g. confidence, communication, stress
Sport and gender differences for coach consideration.
Solutions and strategies to overcome challenges.
This workshop offers an interactive opportunity to share good coaching practice, and gain ideas that can be implemented in a coaching capacity.
Understanding the Mental Barriers of Female Coaches
Coaches can expect to leave the workshop with knowledge of:
Factors and common problems that female coaches may face.
Simple guidance on how to overcome the barriers.
Why, what, when and how coaches can become more self aware.
This workshop offers an interactive opportunity to share good coaching practice, and develop ways to become more self awareness, and reflective as coaches.
Coaching Young Females – The Mental Tools
This workshop will provide ideas for managing potential psychological issues
that may arise when coaching young female athletes.
Coaches can expect to leave the workshop with the knowledge and understanding of:
The psychological differences between males and females and the implications for coaches.
Basic psychological principles which are key for peak mental performance.
Understanding ways to implement mental skills training within the coaching field.
An important aim of the workshop is to provide an opportunity for exchange of ideas based on both the attendees’ and the presenters’ experiences.
Feel free to sign up:
Music is a wonderful part of our world that can have many purposes. Whether it be motivation to run; to dance to on your wedding day; or just to listen and enjoy. The feeling you get when you hear words that mirror your thoughts, or a beat that gets you on your feet. Music is an amazing tool because no matter your circumstances you can find a song to fit your mood, make you feel better or make you feel worse.
Inspiration, love, hatred, heartbreak. Songs that have lyrics which capture your feelings, and make you feel like you are not alone. That someone understands. Lyrics of real time, and lyrics of nonsense. Both can serve a purpose. Sometimes to get lost in the words, or sometimes just to get lost in a sound, in a beat, or in a moment with music in the background. Music as a soundtrack to your life. How many songs do you hear that remind you of a time in your life?
Music connects people. Whether its talking about music, or whether it is the freedom of just being at a concert or a festival. Whether its about having words to attach to feelings and situations or whether its being able to express feelings by using someone's words. Whether is sending someone a song to tell them how you feel about them, or having songs that trigger special moments. Music can be used as a connector. When I have spent time with Courtney Lynn (see Courtney Lynn Music), and have hung out with her artist friends, it has been an eye and heart opening experience. To be around people with open views of the world, who speak poetically, and who are quite happy to sit around and play music together. To be in that world, was a privilege to me, and to see people who expose their souls on a daily basis through their music, and showcase their talents which gives something to others. Courtney Lynn Music is featuring for free at various venues in Edinburgh for the Fringe. This week you can see her:
THURS AUG 14, 2PM @ COWSHED, COWGATE
THURS AUG 14, 5PM @ MALONES, FOREST ROAD
FRI AUG 15, 1PM @ TRON KIRK, ROYAL MILE
SAT AUG 16, 2PM @ COWSHED, COWGATE
People with amazing voices inspire me. If I had a good voice, I would probably speak with song. I love to sing even with my "sounds like a cats dying" singing voice. Last week, I took 21 young people along to a outdoors leadership residential, and two of whom were really talented as far as singing. Nobody wanted to show their talents in "Abernethy's Got Talent" but when a young girl sang with the encouragement of the group, it was really amazing. She has a great, unique voice. So first of all, she enjoys singing so I am sure she felt enjoyment in the experience of singing to a room full of people. Secondly, it brought the group together; everyone encouraging each other, and clapping along (maybe not in time haha) but all together. Being at the leader, I was trying to make sure I didn't let all of my happy tears go in order to gain composure for giving directions after. I did tell them, that it did make me tear up. The beauty of it all. The happiness for her, and her talent, and everyone's appreciation :)
On the bus back, the girl sang again at the front of the bus, and then a girl who had been quite reserved throughout, also after cheering and encouragement, sang on her own. Another great talent. But the tipping point and amazing thing for me was when they sang together. They both had their different "groups" they were part of and were very different as far as personality, but all of that was put to the side when they sang together. Working as a two, and laughing when they forgot the words. It was beautiful.
Singer/Songwriters amaze me! Not only so they showcase their voice talent but their souls. Words that come from deep inside and experiences. Singer songwriters bear their souls. They let the world see the words that they feel. The pain they've endured. Do you think singer song writers are more healthy than those who keep their emotions inside? They have a place to displace their feelings? Their deepest emotions. They take courage to put their feelings out to the public. This is inspiring. Do you think the world would have less angst if we were better at writing our feelings, and letting them out through words?
I find it quite ironic that singer/songwriters who put in effort, create magic in their lyrics, and show the world their beautiful voices, yet we are seeing more and more today, that sometimes making it 'big' in the music industry is not about that. Sometimes, its the luck of the draw or whats 'hot' in the moment. I encourage to get other there and be part of the music industry that hasn't quite made it to the 'big stage' of massive concerts and tv gigs. To listen to your local bands, and support upcoming future artists. I love the intimate gigs where you are close to the artist, and can feel what they are singing. You should check out live@theloft at OutHouse on a Wednesday night! https://www.facebook.com/events/181542395330660/?ref=22&source=1 Also, my friends Shaz and Jules play on regularly on a Sunday night at Boda and they are brilliant. I always feel so happy when I listen to them. Shaz is amazing on the keyboard, and Jules has the ability to brighten up the room with her character and strong voice!
Tracy Donachie, MSc in Performance Psychology.