Friday, January 11, 2008

Inner Game of Sailing Part 2

Photo Acura
Part two - Tips for developing ‘Mental Toughness’ in sailing

In part one of our four-part series, Dr. Ben Chell, Skandia Team GBR’s Psychologist explained what performance psychology means to the average sailor and exactly what it means to be mentally tough.

Ben gives us some top tips on how we can develop our own mental toughness by focusing on the first of the Three C’s - Confidence.

Building and protecting your confidence
Sailors that remain at the top of their class for long periods of time are able to build and protect their self-confidence by using strategies to stay positive even when they are not sailing well.
These sailors prevent their self-confidence from fluctuating significantly. Even when not performing well, these sailors still manage to grind out wins. Sailors who base their self-confidence on winning and losing don't have strategies to build and protect their self-confidence. Often, their self-confidence is based on uncontrollable factors and therefore tends to fluctuate like a roller-coaster and their performance becomes inconsistent. So, what is Self-Confidence?

Self-confidence is:
· An inner belief. A trust in yourself.
· The ability to see certain tasks as challenging rather than threatening.
· The feeling that keeps you calm and poised when under pressure.
· Being able to think correctly, make decisions and race your own race under pressure.
· The feeling of being in control, not being controlled.
· Having no psychological limits.

To help you develop and maintain your self-confidence, remind yourself of your achievements in sailing by going through the following simple exercise (try to describe specific events or behaviours) (Butler):

Strengths – Highlight three statements describing your strengths, attributes or positive qualities in sailing e.g." I have good concentration and a clear focus during competition".
Improvements – Highlight three statements describing your improvements during the last 6 months e.g. "my race starts are getting better by…"
Achievements – Highlight three statements describing your accomplishments / best performances e.g." winning the nationals".
Preparation – Highlight three statements relating to elements of your preparation that has gone well recently e.g. "I had quality training sessions during the build up to the regatta. My training was organised and planned".
Edge – Highlight three statements (where possible) relating to an advantage you may posses over your counterparts e.g. "I have better boat handling than my counterparts".
My Goal - Highlight three statements relation to your sailing goals e.g. "What I aim to do is… give 100% throughout the race. (These statements should set achievable but challenging targets and direct the sailor to required behavior not the outcome. Statements should also control the control-ables, i.e. ‘give 100%)

Keep this sheet of statements somewhere where you will see it on a regular basis and keep it up to date. Sailors often find that reading through their reminders before a regatta enables them to switch-on, focus on the right stuff and feel ready to race.

Catch up with us again next week, when in part three, we talk about the next C – Concentration and ways we can remain focused on the job at hand.