A former colleague of mine once said: “The craft of sport psychology is about determining which skills and strategies make sense for a particular athlete in a given moment of time” (Joe Whitney, 2011).
Coaches interested in optimising their athletes’ performance might likewise consider matching their coaching strategies to certain key factors. Important ones to consider are the person, task and setting. The diagram to the left illustrates how these three factors interact to influence performance.
In my work as performance consultant and rowing coach, I have spent many hours listening to individuals’ shared accounts of performing different tasks in various settings. To better understand their experiences as performers, I often ask them to describe a time when they performed really well and then to describe a time when they performed really poorly. This approach allows me to better understand what stands out when individuals perform well or when they do not perform well.
Next, I typically encourage performers to identify and scribble down feelings, thoughts and focus they have associated with great and poor performance. The diagram to the right illustrates how these notes might look. Based on recognised mental state, I then collaborate with the performer to come up with feelings, thoughts and focus cues that seem to spur better performance.
Finally, I talk with the performer about how he or she could begin incorporating identified feelings, thoughts and focus cues in training leading up to specific event. My rational for doing this is to influence performers so that when they are about to perform they basically approach events the same way they handle practice.
EXERCISE: Think of a time when you were performing really well and then think of a time when you were performing really poorly. On a piece of paper, scribble down feelings, thoughts and focus cues that stood out at these occasions. When you have identify feelings, thoughts and focus cues that seem to enhance your performance, try to incorporate them into your practice and daily routines.