MENTAL SKILLS - STRATEGY
STRATEGIES FOR ENHANCING PERFORMANCE...by Ng Lee Ling.
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- Shane Murphy, PhD, former sport psychologist for the US Olympic team once said, "At the level of the Olympic nowadays, there's not a whole lot of difference among the athletes in terms of physical talent and training. Ultimately, it's going to come down to what's between their ears."
The mind and body cannot be separated. To win, both must work in perfect harmony. Whether you are a beginner just picking up the sport of windsurfing or an aspiring Olympic One-Design sailor, you can learn to harness the incredible power of the mind to help you achieve peak performance. Some mental skills you can use in the learning of techniques and in achieving sports excellence are described below.
Have you ever set any goals for yourself in windsurfing? Is it to become the best competitive sailor in your windsurfing class? Is it to learn how to carve gybe or water-start before the end of the windy season? Or is it simply to continually challenge and race against yourself and be the best that you can ever be?
Goals can be both long-term and short-term. They can come in the form of a beautiful dream. Whatever it is, it is important to have a goal so you can work out a plan or a series of steps to achieving it. There are a few things though you should remember when setting goals for yourself.
Firstly, break up your long-term goals into achievable short-term goals. Short-term goals are more effective because they provide the direction to the immediate action that you could take. For example, if you're a short boarder who is aiming to learn a duck gybe, you could break down that task into progressive and specific steps like: proper strong-wind sailing stance, smooth carve gybing skills, simulation of duck gybing techniques on land etc. before actually getting down to execute that skill.
Or you are a beginner just picking up the sport, and you have a goal of learning how to sail properly with a harness. You might want to break that up into a series of steps like: searching for a proper harness that fits, learning how to wear it the right way, knowing the correct way to set your harness lines in different wind conditions, correct harness lines length, proper posture and stance when hooking on, etc., before finally learning how to make use of your harness to obtain maximum speed and power from your sail.
Goals should be measurable. If the wind is good the next time you get down to the sailing club and learning how to carve a perfect gybe is your goal, then you might want to set a target of practicing 20 carve gybes for that day and aiming to get 10 smooth gybes right out of the carve.
Goals should also be time-bound. Give yourself a dateline. This will ensure that you focus all your energy and resources to achieving that particular goal or set of goals.
Set goals that keep you focused on specific actions rather than the end-results. Instead of setting a target of winning a certain colour medal in a regatta (of which you have no control over), set controllable action-based objectives like doing physical training 5 times a week, working on your mark rounding skills for an hour daily, clocking a 10-hour water-time weekly or getting good starts in all your races.
Finally, remember to set challenging goals instead of easy ones. Challenging goals are more effective because they make us work harder. We achieve a higher standard in the sport and we also derive more satisfaction from our effort.
IMAGERY / VISUALISATION:
Imagery uses the five senses - visual, auditory, kinesthetic (feeling), olfactory (smell) and gustatory (taste), to create or re-create an experience in the mind. Imagery can be practiced any time, anywhere. This is because the mind cannot differentiate between what is real or imagined. Research has shown that the areas of the brain being activated when physically performing a certain skill is the same as simply imagining them