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Mental Agility

Success in Sports
       Many prospective athletes lack the natural skills, but with training and perseverance to they can overcome many physical limitations.  Being shy, nonassertive, generally lacking a desire to perform in public can be a major hurdle to overcome. The mind is a powerful tool that can help to overcome many obstacles.

The Automatic Response to a Mental Confrontation

       Mental Agility is usually thought of in reference to the ability to deflect or rebut statements in a discussion, debate, or confrontation.

       In sports there are four periods that the term Mental Agility plays an important role:
  • Throughout the training season
  • In the week immediately prior to competing
  • On the warm-up of the competition/Game
  • During the actual performance
       Sometimes these experiences are referred to as: nerves, choking, lack of emotion, inexperience, loss of focus, going mentally blank, bad luck, etc.

       The physical, mental, and emotional skills combined with an athlete's personality may influence their decision to compete as an individual or as a member of team. Not performing at full potential applies equally to the athlete that participates as an individual and as a member of a team.

Playing Against Opponents in Direct Competition
      During the heat of competing, athletes often make instantaneous decisions to respond to the actions (play action) of their opponents. Making good mental decisions is the direct opposite of making "bonehead" (poor mental) decisions. Mental errors is the most frequent cause of loosing games by talented players and teams.

      Coaches in team sports, like football, basketball, and baseball, develop offense and defense plays that are designed based on scouting reports and videos of their games. In the case the mental preparation is referred to as "strategy". During the actual game, the coaches will revise their offense and defense to counter the plays of the opposition.
 

Is it possible to improve natural agility?

       Anyone can improve their natural agility, but they need to consciously participate in exercises designed to improve their mind's ability to make the best decision in fractions of a second.  Mentally preparing for a wide variety of possible situations is possible through visualizations (a mental rehearsal)

       The amount of improvement will vary according to the amount of effort expended, the frequency of mental exercising, and the amount of elapsed time training.

       Make good decisions can be viewed as an essential skill generally described as "Leadership". Those individuals in business who can make timely and well considered decisions will be able to lead their team to success. No matter how many good decisions you may make, it only takes one major mistake in judgment on your watch and your time as a leader will be abruptly short. 

Can you benefit from taking psychometric tests?

       In the last six decades of research has developed tests for educational and psychological measurement. Examples of such tests include: Intelligent Quotient (IQ) Mental agility, Manual dexterity, Aptitudes, Occupational Interests and Personality.

      Frequently underestimated is an athlete's need to be mental tough. What will they do when encountering adversity? Are there traits that be identified at a young age of development?

      Mental toughness is an aspect of every sport. The ability to be mentally tough allows an individual to face challenges with confidence, and having the mindset that mistakes are bound to happen, but a champion is able to overcome adversities.

      While identifying physical talent is fairly simple, determining a player's mental capacity to perform is not! Observing individuals, who have attained athletic success, found ten specific mental attributes they have high positive scores in common in the following areas:

  1. Game intelligence,
  2. “Team Player" qualities,
  3. Focus,
  4. Self motivation,
  5. Self discipline,
  6. Mental toughness,
  7. Coachability,
  8. Self confidence,
  9. Self awareness,
  10. Personal accountability.

     The challenge is to develop a reliable profile that scores each of attributes capacity for decision making allowing a picture of the athlete overall positive and negative qualities.

Measuring Mental Agility
        The goal is to measure a person's mental horsepower to determine how quickly an individual can learn and retain new skills/procedures. The objective is to develop a reliable prediction of an individual's potential to learn and adapt to training.

       Testing assessments provide information to questions about the individual, including:
  • Can this person think on their feet?
  • How adaptable is this person to change?
  • Can they cope with the mental demands of the situation?
  • Is the person a team player?
  • Is the person a leader or follower?
  • Is this person a problem solver?
  • To what extent can training develop this person?  
  • Is this person challenged or overwhelmed?
  • What is their capacity to handle greater mental demands?
  • Could this individual be a leader in the organization?

Making Good Decisions

  • Train your instincts. We make quick decisions when we drive at high speed on highways. Driving experts recommend that every driver learn how to handle their car skidding, out of control car because it can save your life and others in the car.
  • Improved decisions result from concentrating on one topic at a time. The brain has a difficult time managing more than 7 different thoughts in at once, and it is impossible to concentrate on two of them simultaneously. Fortunately we can switch between tasks quickly, but this takes valuable seconds and our accurately in reduced in comparison to dealing only with one train of thought.
  • Rephrase the question. The secret to making good decisions is to "ask the right questions".  Forcing ourselves to think about the problem in different ways allows for different possible solutions, one of which may provide the best possible option for a difficult situation.
  • Consider Historical Approaches  How did other people to make a decision when faced with a similar problem? Was it the decision, the plan, or the execution of the plan that resulting in previous failures. Remember that there are always external factors that can unexpectedly cause even the best ideal to fail.
  • Try to be emotionally removed from the situation  Separating yourself from the emotions of the moment is excellent advice, but in reality it is almost impossible to do instantly.
  • Think of every decision as you would a school test. Imagine that you're going to be graded for the decision. Outline the reasons for making the decision and follow this by thinking and you more likely to weed out poor decisions.
  • Common knowledge isn't always based on scientific research and investigation.  Question the assumptions that are the basis for making your decisions.
  • Time is frequently limited - Don't Procrastinate! Make a decision. Not all decisions are equal so don't waste your time on irreverent choices.
  • Make the decision final and don't equivocate. It is possible to endlessly re-analyze and agonize over your decision. Once your decision is announced,  you can get onto with the next task.

Ideas for Making a Good Decision

  1. Identify the decision to be made as well as the objectives or outcome you want to achieve.

  2. Research the problem and gather information that allows you to consider all of the options.

  3. Determine what options are available and rate them according to your values, interests and abilities.

  4. Do a worst case scenario given the possibility of success for each possible outcomes.

  5. Prioritize each option based on a list of desirable considerations and match the pros against the cons. The comparison should make it much easier to demonstrate why you support one decision over another.

  6. If time allows, attempt to forge a consensus by soliciting opinions and obtaining feedback by using a focus group. They may expose some aspects that has not been considered.

  7. Make the decision and monitor your results. Make sure an objective evaluation is performed to use the experience can be applied toward providing solutions to future problems.

Remember - 

There are no guarantees in life. Certainly you can never know in advance whether a decision will be correct, therefore, you must be prepared to take risks.
  • Look for the opportunities. If you make a mistake, view it as an opportunity to learn what didn't work and why. Many times decisions are reversible and you can change your mind.
  • Hindsight is 20/20. On occasion, you might discover in hindsight situations that may have affected your decision had you known about them earlier. This is normal and typical but should not stall your decision making process.
  • Do not get stuck and end up doing nothing. If you've done everything you can to make a good decision and still can't make up your mind, do not delay making an important decision for fear that you don't know enough or will make the wrong choice.
  • Don't let fear stop you. Sometimes people become so paralyzed with the fear of making a wrong decision that they panic and lose sight of what they're trying to accomplish. This hinders making any decision.
  • Don't second guess yourself. In the end second guessing yourself also undermines what you're trying to accomplish. Once you've made the decision, let the chips fall where they may. At the very least, you will have learned important lessons.
  • When all is said and done, all you can do is the best with what you have to work with. Incidentally, do not underestimate the power of intuition (a gut feeling). After all the facts are weighed and evaluated, your "nagging feelings" can make a difference in the decision. Quite often your "feeling" may be all you have to make an important decision.
Recommended Reading:

Making Good Decisions In this lesson, students practice balancing different interests involved in solving social problems, looking for the most realistic solution.

PDF Understanding and applying tools to identify and Develop Learning Ability  Choices Architect® is a validated measure of learning agility. The 81 items in Choices Architect® measure four distinct factors of learning agility: Mental Agility is the ability to learn from experience and subsequently apply that learning to perform successfully under challenging, first time conditions.

A Coach's Responsibility: Learning How to Prepare Athletes As the primary individuals tasked with developing athletes and helping them achieve ... can assist coaches while physically and mentally training their athletes . ... of training: stamina, strength, suppleness or flexibility, agility, speed and skill. ..... in the game) can be vague and difficult for coaches and athletes to measure.
References:

PDF Metal Agility Test You have three minutes to complete the following test of mental agility. Read all the instructions before doing anything else.

Learn more about mental agility  Science news articles about 'mental agility'. Mental workout 'boosts the brain'. Everyone can improve their mental agility with a few daily exercises.

Do You Have A Healthy Brain? The Secret to Mental Agility Jan. 21, 2005 ... It is vital to keep your brain active. activities can be divided into - Passive activities, which include watching TV, participating in social activities, and listening to music; Intellectual activities are reading, painting, playing a musical instrument, woodworking; Physical activities, for example, gardening, playing sport, working out at the gym, walking, jogging.

Aptitude and ability By measuring mental agility, you will have an accurate and reliable predictor of a person's ability to adapt to change. Thomas' aptitude assessments measure

PDF Using Learning agility to identify high potentials  After determining the relevant factors, how do we measure them? Learning .... Mental agility refers to individuals who are comfortable with complexity,

A Point Scale for Measuring Mental Ability A Point Scale for Measuring Mental Ability. Robert M. Yerkes. Psychopathic Department, Boston State Hospital. Full text.

PDF The Development and Validation of a Self Assessment Mental Agility, (b) People Agility, (c) Change Agility, (d) Result Agility, and (e) Self Awareness.

Resources:

The following internet links have been gleaned from personal communications
combined with information from public institutions and athletic organizations/
associations that have a web presence with information concerning team and
individual sports programs:
    
   
   
    
Off-Ice Training
PDF  Cool Down Exercises
PDF  Warm Up Exercises
PDF  Off-Ice Training For Figure Skaters
PDF  USFS Training Program


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