The Learning Process
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Mental Aspects -
of Skill Development and Performance

Mental Rehearsal
       Many athletes mental rehearse the physical skills of their sport without any involvement of body movement. Some athletes use limited body movements, Both methods as effective for skill learning and performance preparation for testing and competing.

       There are two methods athletes can use:

  • Internal imaging approximates the real life situation of the competition.
  • External imaging is when the athlete views themselves as an observer.

       There is evidence that the visualization of performing a skill followed by the physically performance of the skill works better than just its physical execution for acquiring memory skills.

       Coaches and athletes should utilize mind preparation strategies as a key component to peak for a test or competition. Mental and physical rehearsing in anticipation of events is a key strategy for optimizing performance.

       There are four primary mental qualities that are important for successful performance in most sports:

  • Concentration - ability to maintain focus
  • Confidence - belief in one's abilities
  • Control - ability to maintain emotional focus to avoid distractions
  • Commitment - ability to establish and pursue achieving goals

       The techniques widely recommended to assist an athlete in achieving their goals are:

  • Relaxation:
    • The state of rest, recovery, and recuperation
    • Minimizing stress related reactions and muscular tension, etc.
    • Achieving a physical and mental state that is receptive to positive mental imagery
    • Establishing an acceptable set level of physical and mental activity prior to warming up for competition
      • In a competitive situation an athlete will be in one of three states:

    1. Under excited; low energy level; disinterested, etc.
    2. Over excited; very high energy level; nervous; anxious; scared; ill caused by worry; way over the top; etc.
    3. Optimally excited; high energy level; looking forward to the competition with some apprehensive; thinking positively; feeling good; nervous but in control; etc.
  • Centering requires the mind to focus its attention inward by using self-hypnosis techniques to visualize an image that you associate with relaxation and a state of being calm.  Sometimes it is helpful to use relaxing music or pleasant sounds to learn the technique. This is also refereed to as meditation.
  • Mental Imagery does not focus on the outcome but on the actions to achieve the desired outcome.
    • Mental Imagery is used to:

      • Familiarize the athlete with complex play pattern or routine, etc.
      • Motivate the athlete by reviewing their goals for that session, or of past successes.
      • Perfect skill sets or sequences in the process of being learned or refined
      • Concentrate on positive thoughts and outcomes.
      • Refocus if performance is feeling sluggish, or not going well by focusing on a previous successful performance.
      • Visualize successfully performing skills correctly to achieving the desired outcome.
      • Running through key elements of the performance to establish the athlete's desired pre-competition mental and emotional status.

Mental Practices
       There are two suggested explanations for the effectiveness of mental rehearsing.
  • The neuromuscular explanation is that electromyographic (EMG) activity is produced in the muscles. It provides sensory information that can be used to learn a skill.
Imagery in Sports    Thus, both mental and physical excitation of neuromuscular patterns associated ...explanations of mental practice are debatable.

Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association Clinic       (neuromuscular explanation). When you imagine performing a particular sport ... Visualization and mental rehearsal can be carried out virtually any time.
  • The schema explanation is that sensory consequences are critical for strong recall. Rehearsals in the mind can be considered a form of response preparation that aids in this process.
Schema Theory, Automation and Mental Rehearsal

Applying Cognitive Psychology Principles to Education and Training

Synergy - Issue 19    Oct. 28, 2003 Other terms for MP are mental or covert rehearsal, or imaginary practice. ... Recent advances in Cognitive Load Theory (Cooper, Tindall-Ford, ... may happen relatively quickly, schema automation is a much slower process.

       The cognitive explanation is that early in learning, athletes are figuring out what to do. Because they are beginning to understand how a skill should be executed, thinking about the skill can be as effective for a novice as physical performing it. Later, it can assist learners in consolidating strategies as well as correct errors.

Application of Visualization Techniques
  • Ask a skater to visualize their body's movements early in the learning process to facilitate skill acquisition.

  • Encourage skaters to engage in rehearsal strategies and problem solving activities.

  • Stress techniques where the skater imagines how movements should be correctly performed.

  • Encourage skaters and parents to visit the rink of a important competition prior to the event.

  • Encourage the skater to visualize him/her self skating at their peak performance in the competition.

  • Perform imagery exercises in a relaxed state when the subconscious mind is more active.

Recommended Reading:

AASP - Association for Applied Sport and Exercise Psychology  Common Psychological Skills in Applied Sport and Exercise Psychology ... for enhancing motivation, focusing attention on the aspects of performance that are ... several common components, including: emphasis on skill development.

Mind Over Matter in the Delivery Skills  The simple remediation is the coordination of your mental aspects and ... Skill development; this means having mental and physical coordination with ... action of a particular shot that improves the performance and production of playing skills.

Competitive Advantage: Sports Psychology and Mental Toughness  It is possible to learn the mental skills to be calm under pressure and develop mental toughness. ... If you leave the mental side of performance to chance, then you're more likely to be unsuccessful.

Athletic Insight - Mental Skills Training For Sports  Mental Skills Training For Sports:
A Brief Review by Luke Behncke,  RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia.

Facts and Questions -  How is the coach involved in the mental skills training/ performance.


The Learning Process

Skill Development Environment:

Mental Training:

Developing A Training Plan

Physical and Mental Training Considerations

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:

Fitness Training Considerations 
Kirkpatrick's Evaluating Training Programs
Skating Training Environment
Figure Skating Training
Group Classes
Fitness Training
Skating Training Environment
Developing A Training Plan
Constructing Annual Training Plan
Annual Training Plan
Advanced Training Plans
Age Training Guidelines
Planning Training Sessions
Skating Skills & Training
Training Stages or Phases
Training Approaches
Training Strategies
Daily Training Tasks
Constructing Annual Training Plan
Competitive Training Strategies
PDF  Core Body Training
PDF  Endurance Training Plan

All materials are copy protected. 
The limited use of the materials for education purposes is allowed providing
credit is given for the source of the materials.

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