Performance Coaching & Sports Psychology

Here at Rapid Online Therapy we have been providing performance coaching, with a focus on the principles of sports psychology and positive psychology.

A common reason for working with a therapist is to improve performance, whether in sports, work or just in daily life. Many of the best and most effective approaches and tools from the sports psychology world are easily transferable to different areas of live.

Another reason for someone to seek out an experienced coach or therapist is to manage anxiety associated with performance. Athletic events for example, where the stress levels and anxiety can massively influence the outcome of the event.

And from time to time, athletes, sports people or workers get injured and sports psychologist are a key part of the rehabilitation process.

Aristotle: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”

Key figures in the development of this field of psychology:

Ivan Pavlov (1849 – 1936). The Russian physiologist demonstrated through experimental work with dogs and people that all organisms learn through conditioning. His approach is know as classical conditioning.

John Watson (1878 – 1958). Most famous for his experiment with a young male child, referred to as ‘little Albert’. Watson demonstrated the conditioned nature of fear, a huge step forward in our understanding of innate and learned fear mechanisms.

Burrhus F. Skinner (1904 – 1990). A Harvard professor, his views on the interplay of reinforcement and punishment have influenced our understanding of animal and human learning. His approach is often referred to as operant conditioning, a view quite different from pavlov. Pavlov viewed learning as a largely passive process, whereas Skinner thought of the learning process as active process.

Emotional Arousal and Performance:

Epictetus said nearly 2,000 years ago: “Men are disturbed not by things, but by the way they think of those things.”

High emotional arousal is a state in which a person finds themselves reacting to stress bit physically and psychologically. The inverted-U hypothesis best captures the dual nature of arousal when it comes to performance. The law states that the relationship between arousal and performance can be visualised on a U shaped curve One will find that performance is worse at low and high levels of arousal and best at some mid-point or what some call the ‘sweet-spot’ For many top performers, much of their training and practice is about finding and cultivating this ‘sweet-spot’ between low and high arousal.

Perfromance Anxiety:

Anxiety is a sub-set of arousal and is experienced through uncertainty, discomfort, apprehension and fear of the unknown. This state anxiety can be linked to identifiable life events such as a job or a college application or the kick off before a big game or before an important speech. All of us are familiar with this state and sometimes how we ‘cope’ or ‘interpret’ this state and the accompanying sensations can mean the difference in the results and how we experience the moment of performing.

Four models for treating Performance Anxiety:

The Extinction Model: in this model individuals are exposed to their fears in a safe environment but one which they cannot escape or avoid. One such technique under the extinction model is known as ‘flooding’, in which the individual is inundated with his or her fears, thus being forced to comfort them head-on but in a supported environment.

The Counter-Conditioning Model: This model counters anxiety through the conditioning mechanism. the primary technique is known as systemic desensitisation, used with individuals to reduce and remove anxieties and fears. Based on the truism that we manage to come to grips with most of life’s anxieties and fears through trial and error, we build an environment and attitude towards embracing failure. Sometimes the imagination can be enough to start this process.

The Cognitive-Meditational Model: This model is developed following the 1970’s popularisation of ‘Cognitive Psychology’. People were no longer seen as just conditioned automations, but rather they were thinking, feeling organism reacting based not totally on what happened to them but rather on their interpretations of what was happening. this model is all about the mental interruptions of events.

The Coping Skills Model: This model aims to inoculate a tram or individual from high emotional arousal but gradually through a phased approach of every increasing doses to develop an immunity that will continue later and experienced during events. The most recognised technique is called Stress Inoculation Training, which involves conceptualising, rehearsal and application phases.

Walt Disney: “If you dream it, you can do it.”

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