Suggested plan for interventions
Based on their 1994 review, Weinberg and Comar suggest that a psychological skills training (PST) program should involve teaching the basic skills and systematically practicing them during special training sessions. These training sessions should be the first or last 15-30 minutes of physical practice sessions; most new mental skills require 15-30 minutes training three to five times a week and it takes approximately three to six months, to fully learn new skills, practice, and integrate them. Most psychological training should be during supervised practice unless the athlete is fairly self-motivated. As quickly as possible the PST should be integrated with physical skills training and tried during simulated competition. A very specific and detailed pre-competition and competition plan for controlling emotions, developing a routine, and dealing with unexpected events should be part of each athletes training and PST should continue as long as the athlete is involved in a sport in the same way as physical skills training is conducted.
Serious martial artists devote a great deal of time to learning the physical aspects of their sport. Hodge and Deakin (1998) interviews with martial arts indicated that they practiced an average of 35 hours a week during the first year of training to approximately 58 hours a week the year prior to obtaining the black belt, which is very similar to the practice times reported by other elite athletes. Therefore, practicing psychological skills a couple of hours a week to enhance performance can be well worth the investment.
Comprehensive plans for interventions
Terry Orlick (1986), in his book Psyching for Sport, suggests setting performance outcome goals by imagining unlimited potential, setting realistic goals based on history, skill, and motivation for improvement, and setting a goal of self-acceptance no matter the outcome of the event. During competition, it is important to focus energy on what is under the athlete’s control and achievable and not to think of winning or losing. A pre-competition mental plan should include confidence that the preparation is adequate, methods of avoiding self-defeating thoughts, methods of developing an optimal arousal state, positive performance imagery and mental suggestions such as “I have prepared…I am capable…I am in control…I am ready.” During competition, the athlete should be prepared to push the limits and should have particular focus words to use during different aspects of competition. Often athletes do not pay enough attention to refocusing during pre-competition and competition. Orlick suggests that if the athlete is not feeling up to his or her usual level to “keep it secret from your body. Your body won’t know and it will perform as it has been trained.” He also indicates that based on his personal experience it takes one to three years to refine a psychological plan enough to help performance consistently; the athlete needs to evaluate the plan after each competition in order to refine it further.
In his book, Mastering Your Own Game, David Kauss (2001) suggests a plan to improve athletic performance. He suggests that when using imagery to focus on all five senses, that the imagery should not involve thoughts, but can be a visualization of actual past events or of participating in a planned event. In addition, it is useful for an athlete to find a “spot” that is a physical place that is private with easy access and only used for working on the mental game. When in this spot the athlete can build the right internal environment for practicing psychological skills. Once this spot is obtained, the athlete can assess factors affecting his/her sports performance by examining the influence of significant people in his/her life, reviewing the important sports-related events such as falling in love with the sport, peak performances, nightmare performances, obstacles that were overcome and growth events, and identifying places of power that are significant to the individual. The athlete can also assess his or her daydreams about their sport by engaging in self-guided daydreams, journaling about the daydreams and examining the themes that are found such as need for achievement, need for affiliation, and need for power. He also suggests that the athlete keep a daily event diary to include recording events, thoughts, feelings, and actions in order to examine the patterns. Finally, he recommends practicing techniques of relaxation, body awareness, mental rehearsal and visualization, concentration building, and cognitive skills and to develop a personal psychological skills pack based on the overall assessment and personal effectiveness of the different techniques; the techniques in the pack should be assessed and changed based on what works and what doesn’t.
To control anxiety, Kauss (2001) suggests a worry spot technique of providing a time and place for worry rather than it being out-of-control. He espouses the Rule of Peak Performance: “Compete with the maximum amount of arousal that you can control.” Prior to performance, Kauss (2001) recommends a focus on the following factors: the last practice should be clearly identified, the importance of a rest period, a psychological skills pack review, a normal sleep schedule, attention to nutrition, dressing ritual, use of the psychological skills pack, and a physical warm-up prior to the final “go” signal.