Self-Evaluation as a Tool to Create Understanding

Much of the ability to get anything out of sport psychology is rooted in the willingness to self-evaluate.  Self-evaluation involves looking at both strengths and weaknesses as an individual or as a performer.  Are you truly willing to take an honest look at who you are and how you do things?  If so, you will develop a better understanding of yourself that will increase both your performance and enjoyment of the sporting experience.  This is true both as an athlete and as a coach, but today the blog's focus will be from the athlete's perspective.  We talk a lot about how great athletes are consistent.  A great amount of that consistency is rooted in a true understanding of one's self.

One simple staple in the sport psychology field is to ask athletes how they feel and what they are thinking about in their best and worst performances.  The goal then is to create the feeling and thought process conducive to the best performances and to limit or eliminate what is happening during the worst performances.  For example, a hitter in baseball may say that in his best at-bats he only thinks, "See the baseball."  We would talk about what happens when he tells himself to see the baseball both in his head and as a result in the at-bat.  What may be recommended for that hitter is to actually tell himself to see the baseball prior to stepping into the box for each pitch.  This is called self-talk and is taking control of the thought process as a hitter.  Conversely, the hitter may say that in his worst performances he is thinking about the mechanics of his swing.  Maybe he is telling himself not to step out and leak with his front side.  The two questions I would look to help the hitter work through are "what" and "why."  What is going on when he thinks this way?  We would talk about the result of the at-bats and how he feels at the plate.  Then we would focus on the why.  When he tells himself not to step out, what immediately goes through his head?  The answer would be himself stepping out.  Accidentally, the hitter is practicing a negative form of visualization because the mind doesn't process the "don't."  Consequently, he is decreasing his chances for success.(Side note: It is the old "pink elephant trick."  Whatever you do as you read this, don't think of a pink elephant.  Do not think of a pink elephant.  Of course, everybody thinks of a pink elephant.  Our minds do not process the don't.)  I would also discuss with the hitter how attempting to change mechanics of the swing is a no-no because you are not going to be able to change them within a game, and worrying about them is only taking focus away from what you are trying to do as a hitter.  You only have so much focus.  Spend it on the task at hand.

As someone who works with hitters in baseball, I like to take the evaluation process a step further.  I want hitters to know what they are doing in good at-bats and what they are doing in bad at-bats.  What pitches are you hitting?  What counts are you getting in?  Where are you hitting the ball?  All of the questions and evaluation are designed to create an understanding of why they are successful and to ultimately help the hitters find their identity.  One of the goals is that the reflection ultimately leads to the building of more trust in abilities and preparation, and the trust helps to react in games.

In closing, the major takeaway I am hoping you get from today's blog is that self-evaluation helps you understand who you are as an athlete.  The goal is that through that creation of understanding we are able to take away some of the "chance" involved with success.  Understand who you are to create a plan for being successful more often.

Again, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me if you have any feedback at all!  Thanks for reading.

Coaching The Pink Elephant Way: Focus on telling the athletes you coach what you want to do instead of what not to do.

Examples: Instead of telling hitters, "Don't be late!" tell them to, "Be on time!"

Instead of telling fielders "Don't come up on the ball!" tell them to "Stay down."

Instead of telling baserunners "Don't get doubled off right here," tell them, "Watch a line drive on the infield."

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