Something we did not discuss on Monday is the whole range of ‘mental skills’, and which ones people consider to be most important. In this article we look at one way to do this, i.e. mental skills that have been found to be essential in a study by Daniel Gold in 2001. He studied the US Olympic Champions to find out which psychological skills are the most important to be successful.
As you can imagine, it is not enough to pick talented sports people and provide them with financial support and a team to compete with. If you look around among your team mates, you can probably identify some that have shown early talent in some sports but have not developed it much and over the years fallen behind others, – who had maybe less talent but were more ambitious, trained harder and made more effort to improve.
This study was designed to study top Olympic athletes, who were all talented and trained hard. It’s aim was to find out which specific psychological or mental skills were the most beneficial and made a difference between top athletes who were very successful and those that were less successful.
Before you read on take a minute and think what characteristics you think are most important?
Now, here is what they found :
Athletes who were more likely to win a medal had the following characteristics. Some might seem logical and to be expected, some you probably haven’t heard about or didn’t think were important:
- Ability to concentrate / focus
- To be hopeful: Here this means to have several ideas how you can reach your goals and believe in your ability to follow your plan/ ideas
- Adaptive Perfectionism: Big word, what it means is this: Not to be perfectionistic about making no mistakes in your game, but to be well organize in your every day approaching of your sport: your training schedule, your punctuality, how you follow your preparation routine etc. It means to be perfectionistic in everything that is completely under your control
- Motivation that comes from within yourself (not your parents, friends,…)
- Mental Toughness
- Ability to cope with adversity
- Emotional control
- Coachability : yes yes, – listening to your coach is important 🙂
- Sport Intelligence
- Automaticity : This means that certain aspects of your sport are so much ingrained that you do not need to think about them
That’s it. Quite a list.
What ‘s next?
What you might want to do is to get some idea where your relative strengths and weaknesses are. This could help you identify what you might want to work on and improve.
I attach a spreadsheet with these characteristics. If you are keen, you can download this, print it 3 times and do one rating yourself, and have one done by your coach, and a third person such as a parent, a friend or someone else who knows your well in your sport.
If the ratings are all very similar you can start thinking what you might want to do about it. If they are very different discuss and try to understand why.
Then you can discuss some of your findings with your coach, – or here.
Remember: This is not an exact science, and the scores are somewhat subjective. All it is is a starting point to think about your psychological skills and what you might want to do about it.
Look forward to your questions and discussion!