Sports Psychology, Peak Performance and Overcoming Fears & Blocks

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As a sports psychology consultant Dr. Alan Goldberg works with rowers and other endurance sport athletes of all kinds, helping them develop mental toughness, better handle competitive pressure and perform to their potential. He has worked with high school, collegiate and Olympic caliber rowers from around the country. Dr. G writes on the subjects of sports psychology training and mental toughness for a number of national and international publications. He is the author of the revolutionary new book, "This Is Your Brain On Sports," "Sports Slump Busting," (Llumina Press), The Racer's Edge, The Sports Mind Program and his latest, 14 Steps To Mental Toughness, a 7 cd comprehensive mental toughness training program for athletes across all sports. Dr. G has presented at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs as well as at coaches' clinics around the country.

Is Your Head Getting in the Way of Your Performance?

What does it take for you to reach your potential as an athlete and rower? The true challenge in rowing and other endurance sports is the competition between you and the race course, you and the clock, but primarily between you and your mind. Success in rowing is all about your mental ability to handle the pain and fatigue of oxygen debt, about your ability to master the limits that you think you have. The endurance sport athlete's most formidable opponent can be found in the mirror. Look at yourself! You are both the problem and the solution!

Are you mentally tough as a rower? Is mental training an active part of your preparation or simply an after-thought? Do you know how to consistently harness the power of your mind to lift the level of your performance? Or are you your own worst enemy out there, the kind of athlete who beats him/herself up well before the race's finish? Perhaps you have that knack of always going faster in practice than in races? Maybe there are certain opponents who you should be beating, but you always seem to lose to? Do you always seem to choke when it comes to those important erg tests?   

 How’s your motivation as a rower? Do you have the inner drive to do what's necessary to achieve success? Do you have a meaningful goal that helps keep you focused and moving forward through the brutal and sometimes monotonous grind of daily training? Without a "big enough why" or a personally compelling goal your motivation will stall out. You have to be able to ask yourself on a daily basis, "how is what I’m doing right now going to help me get to my goal?” Far too many rowers make a “deal with the devil.” That is, they trade what they want the most, for what they want right now.

 

Becoming a champion rower also demands that you consistently practice "pushing the envelope." You have to be willing to regularly bust your butt. That is, you must live the winner's creed, “get comfortable being uncomfortable!" Your success in the boat demands that you continually move towards your physical and emotional limits. When you're tired and your body is screaming for mercy, you have to stay with the discomfort just a little bit more. When you don't like the training conditions or weather, you have to learn to embrace them. Finding adverse conditions to train in is simply being smart! Sooner or later you'll have to compete in them. If it intimidates you to train with or compete against much better competition, seek them out! They are your ticket to the next level! Get comfortable being uncomfortable and you'll become successful. The only way to really excel in your sport and in life is to get in the everyday habit of pushing your envelope.

Becoming a winner also demands that you develop the ability to handle competitive pressure. Does pre-race nervousness sabotage all your hard work and good coaching? If you can't learn to control your nerves, then you'll never race to your potential. Staying cool in the clutch is a mental skill that you can easily master with a little practice. If pre-race jitters have gotten the better of you before, then with the use of several reliable relaxation strategies and concentration techniques, even you can learn to consistently keep yourself at "good nervous."

Mastering pain and fatigue is another critical mental skill needed to achieve success as a rower. This means that you have to know two things: First, how to control your focus when you begin to hurt; Second, how to neutralize the negative thinking and self-doubts that almost always tag along with the pain. Much of your confidence comes from this latter sports psychology skill. If you think you lack the confidence that you should have, given your talent and success, then chances are good that you haven't been doing a good job controlling your negative self-talk. Training your "inner coach" is critical if you want to learn to feel good about yourself and believe in YOU!

Concentration is another master skill needed to achieve success as a rower. You must develop the ability to focus on what's important and block out everything else. Your mental skills in this area directly affect your ability to effectively handle pressure. In fact, the wrong focus before and during your races is the #1 cause of choking and psych-outs. The great thing about concentration is that with a little practice, you can learn to excel in this mental area.

How about your ability to deal with adversity, setbacks and failure? Winners build their success on their failures. They learn from their mistakes and then leave them behind. What kind of "reboundability" do you have? Do you know that sports psychology can teach you how to bounce back even better? To the successful person, failure is something that you do to get to success. It is the ticket that allows you to reach your goals.

Finally, becoming a champion depends on how well you mentally prepare ahead of time. Do you know how to use imagery, mental rehearsal or visualization to maximize your chances of success? Did you know that mental rehearsal can significantly help you stay calm in the clutch and build your confidence? Are their points in your races where you always fall apart? Mental rehearsal can help you turn these weak spots into areas of strength.

Remember, you can’t become a winner without first paying your physical dues. However, once you’ve put all that time into your physical training, you need to then work on systematically developing the mental toughness of a champion. Don’t leave this all important part of your sport to chance. 

The following articles highlight a new way of looking at and working with repetitive performance problems across all sports:

 

 

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