Richard Stockton College Athletic Training

Sport Psychology Newsletter
A monthly Newsletter that will address the "mental" aspects of athletic competition. The topics will deal with athletic injury and general competition concepts and strategies.

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Doreen Greenberg is a Certified Sports Psychology Consultant, she obtained her Doctorate from Temple University in Psycho-Social Interaction in Sport and her Master's degree from Villanova University in Counseling and Human Relations. She is an Assistant Professor at Stockton. She has experience with collegiate, olympic and professional athletes. Doreen is also a member of the USOC Sport Psychology Registry.
Mind Power- Part 2

By Doreen Greenberg, Ph.D

You can get MIND POWER for your sport performance. It is all about training your mind - just like you train your body. You definitely need to practice these mental exercises. They should become second nature to you, just in case you need to use them.


Losing focus lately? Feeling lost? Do you sometimes feel that you are unable to concentrate? It probably seems like you are also losing control. Enhancing your concentration and focus skills is a way of getting your control back.

Two key elements are:
Getting rid of distractions
Learning to focus on the moment

There is a lot to think about when you are training and competing. When you are anxious or distracted by irrelevant thoughts, you are not operating at your highest level of attention.

Mind power - Concentration Goals
Learning a "relaxed focus"
The ability to screen out immaterial thoughts
A quick return to full focus, when distracted

It's a four step process to better concentration levels:

1. Awareness- This is the first step on the road to success. Pay attention to what typically disrupts your attention. Is it something external -a noise or a distracting vision; is it the weather? Or is it something inside of you - negative thoughts or physical sensations? Keep a journal of what bothers you.

2. Distraction control- Once you have figured out your personal pattern of distraction you need to try out some of the exercises below to help you get rid of them.

3. Mental readiness- Relaxation and concentration go hand in hand. You can try a mental rehearsal of your athletic performance, in a relaxed and focused state.

4. Full focus- Concentrating only on the moment. Letting go of what happened last week or thoughts of what might happen after the game.

MIND POWER- Concentration strategies

1. Deep, Rhythmic Breathing
In the last column, breathing was discussed as a great relaxation method. Breathing can help you with a much higher level of concentration, too. It is an easy way to gently bring your mind back from wandering - without much effort. The center for breathing is located in the part of the brain where all the centers for life are located. The heart, the blood flow, the muscles, your emotions and concentration are in the same brain area. So, changes in breathing can affect all of these things.

Concentration breathing may include picturing your breath as a color (wisps of purple) going in and out; or repeating the words "out" and "in" with each deep, slow, full breath.

2. Sitting Still Exercise
This is an exercise to quiet the mind and body. It will only take a few minutes. You might want to have someone read the instructions to you the first couple of times.

Assume a comfortable sitting position
Keep your neck, spine, and head aligned with each other.
Rest your hands on your knees, with the thumb lightly touching the tip of the forefinger.
Close your eyes, but not squeezed shut.
Release the tension . . . tension is an obstacle to concentration
Sit still steadily. Do not move. Your mind and body are one. When your body moves. Your mind moves. Become aware of your thoughts-let them come in and out. Notice how your thoughts are connected. Then let them slip away.
Be aware of your natural and calm breathing that lets your thoughts slip away.

Now you are ready to focus on the job at hand.

3. Cue Words
These are special words or phrases that you discover, and repeat to yourself to bring back your full attention. They might represent a special event or place where you were very successful (Wimbledon!). The words might be symbolic of the way you want to feel ("faster than a speeding bullet"). They might be instructional (smooth, calm and swift!)

4. Yoga Stretches
These stretches are deliberately slow and gentle. They are done with careful, deep rhythmic breathing. As you stretch each body part (hamstring, for example), you repeat the message in your mind, "I am stretching the (hamstring)". In this way, it is a focused stretch- where you let the stretch happen. Then you are ready to concentrate on your performance.

Concentration is often the deciding factor in athletic competition. It takes most athletes a long time to develop good concentration skills to be able to consistently perform under pressure. So think patience and persistence.

Next time- MIND POWER NUMBER 3- Imagery power
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