There is an intense mental toll of reaching—and remaining—at the pinnacle of a sport. “The top six inches of the body matter just as much the rest,” says Matthew Cunliffe, a sports psychologist, who spoke with Quartz about what goes through the minds of elite athletes and how psychologists can help them win. The conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Organizations must be in favor of and agree to provide resources to support the executive coaching, and recognize that it requires a long-term investment in order for the coaching and change to succeed. “Executives need follow-on coaching and reinforcement in order to sustain changes in behavior. In addition, professionals’ development should be kept separate from performance because the high level of trust and openness required for development would be compromised if these two essential processes are mixed.”
After just a few weeks of working with Bernstein, I realized that he had a serious narcissistic personality disorder. His behavior was symptomatic of a sense of entitlement run amok. It is not at all uncommon to find narcissists at the top of workplace hierarchies; before their character flaws prove to be their undoing, they can be very productive. Narcissists are driven to achieve, yet because they are so grandiose, they often end up negating all the good they accomplish. Not only do narcissists devalue those they feel are beneath them, but such self-involved individuals also readily disregard rules they are contemptuous of.
It’s important to know how the individual likes to be rewarded, and then respect his/her wishes. (It’s the platinum rule, Do unto others as they would have done unto them.) Don’t assume that how you would like to be recognized is how they would like to be recognized. Some people thrive on public recognition, while others prefer to be recognized privately. When in doubt, just ask.
The coach is accountable to the client (the individual being coached), the client’s direct manager, and human resources (if applicable, as HR is not always involved in the process). The single most important element of the coaching is confidentiality between coach and client. A coach should never reveal the content of their coaching conversations to the client’s manager or any other party without the client’s prior consent. The coach may, at times, facilitate three-way conversations between the coach, client, and the client’s manager.
If coaching fails to cure a problem in six months, it can become very expensive indeed. Take the case of Tom Davis, the coach who worked with Rob Bernstein, the executive VP of sales at an automotive parts distributor. Let’s assume Davis charged a relatively low per diem of $1,500. Over the four years of his engagement—which ultimately did not solve Bernstein’s problems—he would have picked up at least $45,000 in fees. That sum would have purchased 450 hours with a competent therapist—about ten years’ worth of weekly sessions.
Self-talk refers to the thoughts and words athletes and performers say to themselves, usually in their minds. Self-talk phrases (or cues) are used to direct attention towards a particular thing in order to improve focus or are used alongside other techniques to facilitate their effectiveness. For example, a softball player may think "release point" when at bat to direct her attention to the point where the pitcher releases the ball, while a golfer may say "smooth stroke" before putting to stay relaxed. Research suggests either positive or negative self-talk may improve performance, suggesting the effectiveness of self-talk phrases depends on how the phrase is interpreted by the individual. However, the use of positive self-talk is considered to be more efficacious and is consistent with the associative network theory of Gordon Bower and the self-efficacy tenet within the broader Social Cognitive Theory of Albert Bandura. The use of words in sport has been widely utilized. The ability to bombard the unconscious mind with one single positive phrase, is one of the most effective and easy to use psychological skills available to any athlete.
Although descriptions of psychic disorders date back to antiquity, the practice of psychiatry in its contemporary form only began to take shape in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when psychiatry split off from neurology as a distinct medical specialty. Modern psychotropic medications first emerged in the 1950s, ushering in an age of “biological psychiatry” wherein mental suffering was medicalized and increasingly understood from the vantage point of neuroscience and related fields.
Preperformance routines refer to the actions and behaviors athletes use to prepare for a game or performance. This includes pregame routines, warm up routines, and actions an athlete will regularly do, mentally and physically, before they execute the performance. Frequently, these will incorporate other commonly used techniques, such as imagery or self-talk. Examples would be visualizations done by skiers, dribbling by basketball players at the foul line, and preshot routines golfers or baseball players use prior to a shot or pitch. These routines help to develop consistency and predictability for the player. This allows the muscles and mind to develop better motor control.
Coachability, in my opinion, is the number-one success factor to consider. The reason is that no matter how experienced or effective the coach might be, no change of the executive (coachee) will occur if the executive does not want to change, recognize the need to change, or does not take responsibility for the change needed. The executive needs to be open to feedback, willing to use the feedback to commit to change, and be willing to be held accountable to the commitment.
In 2003, the American Psychological Association (APA) officially recognized sports psychology as a specialized area, or proficiency, in psychology, with the goal of providing uniformity to the development and practice of sports psychology. Several key elements were identified, including the specific knowledge needed in order to be considered specialized in sports psychology; the groups of people that would benefit from this specialty; and the problems or issues addressed through its practice.
It has been 48 days and counting without burning a single cigarette, and it is all thanks to Rita Black. The first 2 to 3 days were definitely the hardest, but the freedom and the confidence I gained after I saw her has been far more rewarding. After a single session with her, I am now empowered to be healthy, I took back control of my life and I will continue to do so for years to come. Thank you Rita for helping me want to burn calories and not cigarettes.
Arousal regulation refers to entering into and maintaining an optimal level of cognitive and physiological activation in order to maximize performance. This may include relaxation if one becomes too anxious through methods such as progressive muscle relaxation, breathing exercises, and meditation, or the use of energizing techniques (e.g., listening to music, energizing cues) if one is not alert enough. The use of meditation and specifically, mindfulness, is a growing practice in the field of arousal recognition. The Mindfulness-Acceptance-Commitment (MAC) Theory is the most common form of mindfulness in sport and was formed in 2001. The aim of MAC is to maximize human potential for a rich, full and meaningful life. It includes specific protocol that involve meditation and acceptance practices on a regular basis as well as before and during competition. These protocol have been tested various times using NCAA men's and women's basketball players. In a study done by Frank L. Gardner, an NCAA women's basketball player increased her personal satisfaction in her performances from 2.4 out of 10 to 9.2 out of 10 after performing the specific MAC protocol for several weeks. Also, the effect of mental barriers on her game decreased from 8 out of 8 to 2.2 out of 8 during that same time period as a result of the MAC protocol. Another study of the MAC protocol performed by Frank Gardner and Zella Moore on an adolescent competitive diver showed that when the MAC protocol is tailored to a specific population, it has the potential to provide performance enhancement. In this case, the vocabulary and examples in the protocol were tailored to be more practical for a 12-year-old. After performed the MAC protocol for several weeks, the diver showed between a 13 to 14 percent increase in his diving scores. This finding is important because previously the majority of tests performed using the MAC protocol had been on world class athletes.
While there are many variations, executive coaching usually involves a series of phases, starting with intake, assessment, goal setting, and development planning, and then progressing through the development plan, with periodic check-ins with the executive’s manager. The process is over when the development goal(s) is achieved, or when the coach and/or coachee decides that it should stop. The typical duration of a coaching engagement is seven to 12 months.
“I was blown away with the outcome of my sessions at the Miami Hypnosis Center. I met with Gina [Goodwin] for a consult to quit smoking. I wanted to kick the horrible habit and get myself into tip top shape. Heath & nutrition is a big part of my life so I wanted to practice what I preach! Well after just 3 sessions with Gina I feel like I have never smoked a day in my life. I’m going to the gym 4 times a week and at 43 I’m in the best shape of my life!! I’m full of energy & so much more positive. I cannot believe how easy it is to be around smokers or even drinking a few glasses of wine and have NO desire or urge at all to light up. THANK YOU GINA! You have changed my life and I’m forever grateful. I highly recommend if you want to say goodbye to bad habits & have positive changes in your life that you go see Gina NOW!” – Jodi DeJesus
Hypnotherapy is guided hypnosis, or a trance-like state of focus and concentration achieved with the help of a clinical hypnotherapist. This trance-like state is similar to being completely absorbed in a book, movie, music, or even one's own thoughts or meditations. In this state, clients can turn their attention completely inward to find and utilize the natural resources deep within themselves that can help them make changes or regain control in certain areas of their life.