Want the Mental Edge of an Olympian?
Mental training opportunities abound
Kids don’t need sports psychologists, personal athletic trainers or controversial Speedos to get a confidence boost and mental edge similar to that of an Olympic athlete. High-quality mental training comes from a lot of different places – you just need to know where to look.
The Mental Edge
Olympic athletes spend years trying to get it. Hundreds of books have been written on it. And coaches often say it’s the difference between winning and losing. It is the mental edge — having the mental and emotional skills needed to excel.
These skills generally include: concentration, focus, attention, goal setting, energy management, self-confidence, commitment, poise under pressure and visualization.
Olympic athletes spend years honing these skills, and go to great lengths: The U.S. Olympic women’s softball team has performed Navy SEAL training. The Chinese swim team practices yoga, is learning English and spends hours in group problem-solving sessions. Others commit to biofeedback, hypnosis and extremely strict routines to try to get mentally tough. However, the mental edge can come from a lot more common outlets.
It was Karate, that Michelle Wiesman, the parent of the Appleton East Karate America student turned to in order to help her son. “We noticed improvements at home and in our son’s grades after just working with Mr and Mrs McMullen (owners of Karate America East) for a few months in karate. He is now a second degree black belt and is leading his life with confidence.”
Jeff McMullen of Appleton East Karate states “We have numerous pediatricians in the Fox Valley area who recommend our Karate Academy prior to using drugs for ADHDchildren. Karate is such a wonderful environment for young people to achieve goals. Many ADHD children are challenged in the classroom with reading or math. Team sports are often difficult for them as well because of the “team” concept. Karate allows for individual achievement while in a group environment…. this all adds up to increasing self confidence, self respect and discipline which carries over to family life and school.”
Logan Kline of Berlin got a surprising boost in sports while building his mental skills for academic growth. His mother Bonnie says she saw the changes not only in reading, focus and overall academic improvement but also on the basketball court.
Kline stated that the biggest difference was that Logan could focus much better on what was going on out on the court and on the one-on-one directions from his coach. “Even though there was so many distractions going on around him, he was able to work through these and could focus and concentrate on the game. When the coach yelled directions from the sidelines he was able to respond whereas before brain training, with the distractions, this went right over his head. He could remember directions and was able to carry them out better than he ever had before (training).”
“But even more than this”, says Kline, “was that he seemed to work harder and set higher goals for himself. The focus and confidence he gained allowed him to better handle the coaching and working with his teammates”.
Logan’s brain training was through LearningRx, a cognitive skills training company that specializes in building mental skills to make people smarter.
Brain training helps in all areas of life,” says Tanya (Gibson) Mitchell, Appleton native and LearningRx Vice-President of Research, now a resident of Colorado Springs, CO. “We use it to improve focus, attention, memory, visual and auditory processing skills and even hand-eye coordination. Our training builds better, faster more efficient brains, permanently. Of course that helps people become better athletes.”
“Another nearly universal side effect of our brain training is an extreme boost in self-confidence,” says Mitchell. “That obviously will help athletes get the mental boost they need to thrive. Any Olympic athlete will tell you, confidence is key.”
Coaching to Change Lives
Former Green Bay Packer and Green Bay Southwest football coach, Bryce Paup, agrees that the mental aspects of the game and how players are able to deal with and process life issues is so important that he developed a program called Coaching to Change Livesand devotes a half hour of classroom time every day during the summer to preparing his players mentally.
“The program helps them to deal with everyday life, what they think about and how they process life issues”, says Paup. He believes that his players need to be able to successfully handle life and the difficult decisions teens have to make off the field or they won’t be able to focus on the field. “If they can’t focus, it doesn’t matter how many reps we’ve done in practice, they won’t be playing their best”.
His attention to preparing his athletes mentally is paying off. “We didn’t have any superstars on our team but we were able to play well as a team”.
Paup also relies on what he calls speaking out. When things are said out loud, the brain hears and players start to believe what they hear. This can be good or bad – he is trying to get his players to use if for good. “If you’ve been told bad things about yourself like you are stupid, you can turn that around and say out loud to yourself, ‘I’m not stupid, I’m smart’. If your opponent is bigger than you, you can say ‘I can control my opponent with good technique’”.
Paup uses his own experiences and the experiences of people he knows to bring these concepts to life. He creates situations in which he can guide older players to mentor younger players and impress upon them that it is good to have high standards for yourself and that you don’t have to engage in bad behavior or choices to be cool.
So if you want to be a better athlete by getting that mental edge, but you just can’t justify the sports hypnotist, brain scans, or military training, look around. Great opportunities may be closer than you think.
Dr. Jedlicka is an audiologist, master brain trainer and director of LearningRx of the Fox Valley. Contact her directly with questions about learning and the brain by phone at (920) 267-4551 or by email.