The Mental Game

Reply Fri 7 Jun, 2013 01:29 pm
I have a daughter (well I actually have two) - but this is my younger one - you know the one that used to run funny?

Well her athleticism has improved greatly. She actually now has more trophies than her older sister. But she has problems with her mental game.

For example in the past few years she has competed in a free throw contest. She has won the state championship that past two years (this past year she even won for highest score among all age groups). So she is pretty good. She goes to the Regionals (which if she wins she competes nationally) and both years did performed significantly below her abilities. You can tell it is nerves. This past year she improved slightly came in second, but her free throw score was significantly less than her abilities.

And more recently in softball there was an issue in the playoffs some sort of error (that didn’t work in her team’s favor). To be honest it wasn’t really a big deal game as this a recreational – but she went in to pitch and it completely threw her off. Her team was a head and she walked a couple and then made a bad play --- end result the other team came back and won.

Now I really don’t care about the game, but I am worried that she mentally hurts her performance. To me this isn’t just about sports, but could carry into other things. She is very emotional – wears her heart on her sleeve – no doubt how she feels about anything. It just would be sad that she doesn’t perform to her potential because she lets things, pressure, anger, disappointment get in the way of a goal.

I guess my question is – is there a way to help her get over this hump? Is this something she just needs to work out for herself? Are there mental exercises, ways to teach someone to focus and close out everything but their goal?
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Reply Fri 7 Jun, 2013 01:52 pm
I read an interesting article the other day about how golfers can get over the "yips". I've got to run out for a bit but I'll see if I can find it for you.

Basically it talked about engaging the other side of your brain -- if you're right handed, doing something with your left hand can improve your concentration.

We've been trying to figure out how Mo can use this information when he pitches but the baseball glove seems to get in the way of doing much with his left hand.

Edit: Just remembered it was in Scientific American Mind so it was easy to find: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=why-top-athletes-suddenly-develop-yips-choke-under-pressure
Reply Fri 7 Jun, 2013 02:10 pm
Thanks I'll take a look at it. The funny thing is her older sister is the opposite - she has nerves of steel. Her older sister has done back up pitching, but she has too slight of a build to be a regular pitcher. She doesn't get rattled. If she throws 3 balls, she can just shake it off, refocus and then proceed to strike the girl out. She is also much more reserved and the opposite emotionally - I mean you can't sometimes figure what the heck she is feeling.

The younger the opposite - they are both good players - the older just better built and better for motion - about the quickest short stop. But the younger one has the power to be a pitcher and the skill. But her emotions get in the way.

Even aside from the usefulness of the mental skill - I find it fasinating.
Reply Fri 7 Jun, 2013 02:44 pm
thanks - I've not heard of the yips before and I found this on webmd


Maybe we will give it a try and see if something so simple could help.
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Reply Fri 7 Jun, 2013 02:51 pm
This sounds like anxiety to me. Problems with elevated anxiety can be addressed by a process known as flooding and/or exposure therapy. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flooding_%28psychology%29)

Since it would be difficult to expose her to high-stakes environments, I would suggest visualization exercises.

Something else to consider would be changes in routine. Performance could be impacted by lack of sleep, or some other environmental factor.
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