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Roger Federer is this year’s Grand Slam champion after winning the 2012 Wimbledon final on Sunday July 8th in four sets (4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4) against opponent Andy Murray. This is Federer’s seventh Wimbledon title, sharing the record with Pete Sampras. While some might credit his win to experience or practice or fitness, it was his mental toughness that made the difference.
At the start of the match, Murray was playing confidently and won his first ever set in a major final. The second set was very tight but Federer eventually pulled away. Federer’s coach Paul Annacone noted, “Roger did a good job in the second set, turning the momentum around, and really changing things a lot”. As the third set started, rain forced a 40-minute delay and the roof was closed. When play resumed, Federer had a much-improved game plan from then on and was more comfortable on the court. Federer attacked the net more and was aggressive on Murray’s serve. The 30-year old Federer looked much fresher than the younger Murray despite the six-year age difference. In the final set, you could see the loss of self-confidence in Murray. With his head hung low, he no longer looked like a winner. Federer closed out the game and reaffirmed his No. 1 ranking in the world.
Although Murray started strong, after the rain delay, the pressure became just too much to handle. It wasn’t the weight of a nation as some sportswriter suggested. Yes, as the first British man to reach the final in 74 years, there were a lot of people hoping Murray could win for Britain and end the nation’s 76-year-old Wimbledon drought but this fact served to energize Murray. He felt the support of the home crowd and had this to say in his emotional post-game speech, “Everybody always talks about the pressure of playing at Wimbledon. How tough it is. But it’s not the people watching – they make it so much easier to play. The support has been incredible.” The pressure did not come from the fans or from the history surrounding the game, but from his opponent.
The veteran, Federer, won the match thanks to his remarkable talent, incredible fitness, and his calmness under pressure. He understood it is not about how you start a game, but how you finish that matters. So he used the rain delay to mentally adjust to his opponent. He was also able to change up his game plan and tactics to face his opposition. This ability to adjust is crucial in being successful in any type of sport. Not only did he adjust well but also he believed he could do it. “This is, I guess, how you want to win Wimbledon – by going after your shots, believing you can do it,” Federer said, “and that’s what I was able to do today.” Having a strong mental game is arguably his greatest attribute and he showed it in this match. The ability to adapt and the belief in himself were the key factors that drove him to victory.
Federer is the first male tennis player over 30 years old to win Wimbledon since the great Arthur Ashe in 1975. If his mental game doesn’t stutter, Federer will be a force to reckon with in upcoming years and will continue to build on his impressive records.
by Mike Margolies
Bio: Mike is a sports psychology consultant with over 30 years of experience and has trained athletes for all levels of competition including youth, collegiate, professional, and Olympic.
Part of the goal in working with athletes either as a sport psychology consultant or as a coach is to produce confident athletes. We know both from practical application and research that confident athletes perform at higher levels than athletes lacking in this competency of Emotional Intelligence (EQ). However, it is important to look at confidence on a continuum from low self confidence to overconfidence. We know athletes fail on either end of this continuum.
Most psychological literature suggests that human beings are overconfident in their abilities. We tend to overestimate our ability to perform in given situations. This is part of human nature and perhaps related to our need to achieve and for survival. Lack of confidence certainly hinders effort; if someone believes they will fail, we know they will make less of an effort. That said, overconfidence can lead to failure, and it’s an issue that’s not covered nearly enough in the available literature.
Researchers believe evolution likely favors overconfidence (OC). People having an overly positive self-image tend to win out over others with more accurate assessments in sports and other activities. By making every kid a winner, sports educators have probably contributed to this notion. We need to remind ourselves even in a discussion about overconfidence that in order to achieve success, we must believe we can. Being OC may drive someone to believe they can achieve almost anything. Keeping in mind the adage “If you think you can or you think you can’t – you are right”. Overconfidence is often the information deficit between perception and performance. Objective feedback is the best independent variable to help athletes maintain balance.
Three issues stand out in talking about overconfidence. First, the drive for preparation is often lacking in those that are overconfident. This can be physical and mental. Athletes that are OC may not put in the effort needed to prepare for a contest. When this is the case, coaches must be aware and communicate the proper challenges for athletes. Often this is done by inventing scenarios about the opposition to create focus for the athletes. I recommend creating practice and contest challenges that require athletes to prepare as if they were getting ready to compete against equals or slightly better competition. Require skilled practices where a high set of goals need to be met.
After you’ve create a solid practice routine, the second issue is effort during a contest. Being OC may mean that athletes are willing to sleepwalk through a game. Again coaches can use goal setting to help athletes stay on task. It is an opportunity to play athletes that don’t often get the same playing time that starters have earned. This motivates everyone and can push OC players not wanting to find themselves on the bench because of lack of focused mental and physical effort.
Third, overconfidence is often linked to arrogance. Arrogance in an athlete can lead to conflicts on teams. A certain amount of cockiness is admired by coaches and teammates but it can also be an issue when it causes a disruption on a team and cohesion takes a beating. Of the two other issues, this requires a strong coach to guide the athlete, while not shaking their confidence. The old adage “A dogs bark is more often than not just a loud noise”. One good way of working with athletes like this is to discuss role models and have them describe the athlete’s temperament and not just their athletic prowess.
The primary ways we help athletes using mental training to teach them the emotional skill set to maintain proper balance. This involves goal setting, monitoring their self talk, helping them identify positive role models, and increasing their self awareness with accurate performance information. A runner gets accurate information, as the stop watch only speaks truths. On a team, an athlete is more likely to get false information, both positive and negative, from a game and practice because the information is more subjective. Coaches and others can help make information usable with good input.
The bottom line revolves around self awareness. Confidence is interrelated with other EQ constructs. Helping athletes develop a balanced understanding of themselves and their abilities enables them to find the proper competitive balance and perform at their highest levels.
For more information, please visit Themental-game.comRead More...
by Dr. Jennifer Gapin
Bio: Dr. Gapin is an Assistant Professor of Kinesiology and Health Education at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and is a Certified Consultant through the Association for Applied Sport Psychology.
“It’s this wave that you ride, and the greatest athletes in the world either make their peaks and valleys a lot less noticeable or they’re really good at hiding them.” – Mia Hamm
Being a confident athlete is easier said than done. Most people think that elite athletes are confident because they don’t doubt their abilities. Actually, the opposite is true. Interviews with professional athletes reveal that many have negative thoughts and doubts prior to performing. What separates the elite athlete is the ability to use mental skills to boost their confidence when they need to. It involves a constant internal struggle. Successful athletes are those that are able to maintain confidence despite the negative thoughts and doubts that enter their minds.
“Before the race, if I’m starting to spiral down some negative thought, I’ve trained my mind to recognize that immediately and be able to make the adjustment to stop thinking about that”
- Michael Johnson, US Olympian
Building confidence in players and the team begins with consistent coaching behaviors that demonstrate a positive attitude and support, regardless of winning or losing. As a coach there are a number of things you can do to boost confidence in your athletes.
Create Practice Situations that Align with Competitive Games
As a coach, preparation doesn’t just involve physical training and tactics. It involves putting your athletes through challenges and scenarios that are as close to competition as possible. This helps the athlete learn about strengths and weaknesses and feel prepared to adjust in competition when things don’t always go as expected. If your athletes enter competition knowing they have done everything to prepare for pressure situations, confidence will stick.
Create Highlight Reels
Watching videotapes of opponents can also be a great confidence booster. Most athletes feel more confident when they know about their opponents’ strengths and weaknesses and can mentally prepare for those ahead of time. If opponent tapes are unavailable, try creating an individual highlight real for each athlete to watch before competition. This mechanism allows the athlete to see themselves succeeding and is great for boosting confidence before competition.
Focus on Controllables
It sounds cliché, but one of the toughest lessons for young athletes to learn is how to focus on controllables. Too often athletes choose to focus on things related to competition that are outside their control: weather, opponents, field conditions, etc. By helping them turn their energy on to what they have control over (training, mental and physical preparation, attitude, self-talk, etc.); they are able to regain their confidence and use their energy to their advantage.
Don’t Lose Sight of the Big Picture
Remind your athletes of the big picture when you are discussing individual progress. It’s the sum of the parts that make up the athlete, and while the athlete may be too focused on one weakness, they are missing all the little successes and improvements in other aspects of their game. If an athlete is focused too much on mistakes, have them look at it from a different perspective. What things are they doing to help their teammates? How is that player contributing to the overall success of the team?
Recognize and Reward Good Performance
Players gain confidence when coaches notice where they excel and tell them publicly. If there is a weakness that needs to be addressed, try using the sandwich approval. Start with praise, insert constructive criticism, and close with more praise. Enjoying small successes make the criticism much easier to digest and to take action on.Read More...
by Dr. K.C. Wilder
Bio: Dr. Wilder is a performance consultant specializing in youth performance enhancement, overcoming sport performance anxiety, and balancing the freedoms of sport and life.
Mental Preparation and Sustained Confidence
Mental preparation and building sustained confidence for an individual and for your team takes time, effort, patience and perseverance. It is a fine art to balance control and freedom within a team practice. One of the keys to minimize your athletes’ performance anxiety is to focus on what your athletes are doing right.
What are Your Athletes Doing Right?
Focusing your attention on what they are doing right will build their sustained confidence and maximize their talent. The more they build on their self-trust, the greater their control on attentional focus, thoughts, and emotions. The consistency of their confidence will lead to less performance anxiety, fear of failure, fear of success, and fear of letting oneself or others down. The athlete with sustained confidence will accept mistakes, move on and not dwell on negative consequences. Similar to having consistent routines, sustained confidence will lead to more consistent performances.
Performance Anxiety Minimized
By focusing on what your athletes do right, you are contributing to their self-efficacy and reducing performance anxiety. In contrast, constant criticism of their performance will contribute to their frustration and self-doubt. Young athletes are highly influenced by parents, teachers and coaches. Your mission as a coach is to identify methods and strategiesto gain a more consistent level ofconfidence. Let your athletes know that making a mistake on the athletic field, court, track or arena does not make them a failure as a person.
Coaching Style Can Be Adapted.
As a coach, you have control over your approach with your athletes and your response to their execution of a skill. Provide positive, functional feedback and focus on what you want your athletes to do and not what you don’t want them to do. The notion is simple; however, the execution of building confidence can be challenging in the heat of the battle. Coaches can experience levels of frustration that is sometimes difficult to combat. Develop your own keen sense of awareness of what is right about you and the way that you coach.
Commitment To Sustained Confidence.
Make it your responsibility to make the commitment to have sustained confidence in your team and sustained confidence in each individual athlete. Design practice or drills that can provide some of the building blocks for confidence. Remind your athletes that anxiety is related to self-doubt and that they have a choice to have a little bit of self-doubt or a lot of self-doubt. Instill confidence by having your athletes learn how to fight self-doubt. After practice, devote 10 minutes to their mental preparation. This can include progressive relaxation exercises coupled with positive mental imagery. You can review the past successes of the team and all individual successes.
Key Concepts on Confidence For Coaches
1. Sustained confidence emphasizes the importance of consistency of assurance.
2. Sustained confidence is freedom from fear of failure in the face of obstacles or setbacks.
3. Identify what jolts an athlete’s sustained confidence. What turns their perception from self-belief to distrust?
4. When you have sustained confidence you have consistency of thought, behavior and performance.
5. You can instill sustained confidence with your team through your behaviors, feedback and practice design.
Questions to consider:
-What do you do as a coach to instill sustained confidence?
-Does your practice design instill confidence in your players?
-Are there certain drills that you can do to instill confidence in your players?
-Do you prepare your players for competition through positivity and trust?
For more information, please visit www.drkcwilder.comRead More...
by Dr. Randall Coeshott
Bio: Dr. Coeshott is a Sport Psychologist located in the San Francisco Bay area who teaches athletes how to achieve greater satisfaction out of their sport, health, and life.
Why it’s Great
In Coaching Wisdom, Mike Harrity, an Associate Athletic Director at the University of Notre Dame, highlights the common strategies coaches like Lou Holtz, Tom Osborne, and John Wooden use to achieve success. Harrity covers the topics of creating a caring environment, motivating and inspiring a team, creating a coaching philosophy, building team unity, and effective communication.
Readers are treated to excerpts from one on one interviews and are provided with direct examples of what the coaching greats have done to become successful. The author connects the dots between the commonalities in approach found across coaches. The strength of the book can be found in the lengthy individual profiles of coaches provided in each chapter. Here the reader is allowed the chance to to gleam a few points of wisdom from each master coach.
Where it Misses
Coaching Wisdom falls short at times when the author fails to elaborate or extend from the coaches comments to shed light on the finer details of a concept necessary for success. While the book does a good job outlining learning or leadership concepts for coaches to learn, some concepts could be laid out more clearly, particularly for those less familiar with the topics to begin with.
If You read Nothing Else
Readers should take note of the “Chalk Talk” provided at the end of each chapter. Here, Harrity expands upon the typical bullet point summary of each chapter by offering several useful tips and strategies coaches can employ to develop each leadership skill. Don’t miss the forward, as it gives a great insight into the mind of Butler Universities’ basketball coach, Brad Stevens, in particular his belief of the importance of learning from others who have been successful.
Rigor Rating: 7
Much of the information provided in Coaching Wisdom is repackaged work that you’ve seen before. That said, the package is well thought out and provides clear direction in applying the concepts to improving your coaching approach.