Sixth Formers Learn the Winning Way
Thursday, 16 June 2011
Sixth Form students enjoyed a fascinating lecture by eminent Sport Psychologist, Professor Ian Maynard of the Centre for Sport Performance at Sheffield Hallam University. The talk was part of their Gifted and Talented Programme.
In a lively and interactive session, enjoyed by Sixth Formers and staff, he opened his presentation by asking what is the difference between a skill and a technique? He said this can be summed up by the word "pressure". If an athlete can perform a technique well under pressure then this makes it a skill.
Athletes have to be able to deal with pressure and it is imperative that they develop a professional attitude. One quick way to establish confidence is to control the controllable. Ed Moses, Olympic 400m hurdles gold medallist, once said: "Ain't no use worryin' bout things beyond your control, cause if they're beyond your control, ain't no use worryin'…." There is a lot of truth in this axiom; controllable factors include your diet, who you listen to before a performance, the preparation of your equipment and thoughts; the uncontrollable factors, which teenagers particularly, worry about are winning, losing and the opposition.
Professor Maynard also talked about anxiety and stress management. He stressed the importance of avoiding negative self-talk such as: "You idiot, how could you miss such an easy shot?" and keeping your self-talk positive, such as: "Everyone makes mistakes - just concentrate on the next point." It is also wise to have contingency plans in case things go wrong in the first few minutes. He felt the English football team often only plays one way, whereas other European teams have a second or third game plan in reserve should they need it.
The presentation also touched upon positive visualisation and how athletes are encouraged to see themselves making the successful pass or shot or run - to visualise themselves being successful. This is an excellent technique for learning new skills. He cited Nike's "Just Do It" catchphrase as neatly summing up the way an athlete has to think.
Much of sport psychology can be transposed across to life situations, including dealing with exam and work stresses.
Professor Maynard worked with Olympic athletes at the Barcelona and Athens games and in a wide variety of sports including lacrosse, rugby, cycling, diving and boxing; he is currently undertaking work with Premiership football referees.