Mental Toughness Digest for Sport & Performance.
Practicing What We Preach
By Gareth J. Mole (PSY0001372747)
As most of the loyal readers of the “MTD” would know this free monthly email is authored by various sport and performance psychologists that we are lucky to have working for us at Condor Performance. What you will not be aware of, however, are a number of ‘behind the scenes’ processes that we have in place to ensure we’re not suggesting various strategies to our clients and then not using them on ourselves. In other words that we’re both helping others to perform better whilst working on our own performance, that we’re not only helping others to improve their mental toughness but that we’re concurrently working on our own motivation, confidence, communication, confidence and emotions – essentially practising what we preach.
As recent “monthly” clients of ours are aware we typically start with a mental method we call “Wanting It” which asks those we work with to lock in 5 x “annual outcome goals”, about 7 x “monthly checks” and then about 15 or so “weekly blocks of effort”. All of this information is then converted into a visual that resembles a three ringed target but that we refer to as ‘the wheel’ (preferring the mental image of a wheel in motion rather than the hit and miss notion of a giant target). For us, just as it is with the sporting teams we work with, the starting point is the Condor Performance TEAM Wanting It Wheel which sets out what we’re looking to achieve collectively over the next half decade. I’m often amazed at how few elite sport teams have good long term collective goals. In many cases, the team managers incorrectly assume that these goals are obvious and yet when you ask all the individual members of that team what the long terms goals are, you either get blank looks and / or a myriad of different answers.
Once the long term team goals have been agreed upon it’s time to create individual goals off the back of the collective ones. Not having team goals established first would be a bit like sending a bunch of tradespeople into a house without a blueprint of what the house is supposed to look like. Each “tradie” will probably do their best but the house will end up disjointed, full of flaws and a giant waste of effort.
So, each of our sport and performance psychologists (including me) has their own Wanting It Wheel which has the TEAM one factored in but which is personalised for that particular person’s circumstances (typically; stage of career, competing work / life interests and how long they’ve been working for us). Just like the Wanting It Wheels we use with clients, ours are dominated by a series of Monthly Checks and weekly Blocks of Effort. The Monthly Checks are the ‘key performance indicators’ and tend to be related to areas that are being targeted for improvements (quite literally tests and calculations done once a month in order to ‘check’ if we’re on track). There tend to be two types of Monthly Check – Benchmarked and Observed. Benchmarked are called as such as the owner sets monthly targets he / she is working towards whereas Observed ones don’t have any such ‘ideal milestones’ associated with them.
Examples of Monthly Checks for some of our clients of the more popular sports would be current handicap (golf), percentage of first serves in (tennis) and Beep Test Stage (all sports). Of course all these can either be benchmarked or observed. Examples of Monthly Checks for the individuals of the Condor Performance team are things like number of sports we know very well (self assessment and / or via an exam), number of happy monthly clients and number of days per week consulting for CP (not all our team work for us full time yet – but we’re working on that).
In order to benefit from the same kind of accountability that our clients get from us when we review these Monthly Checks, the CP Team try to meet once every two months to review our collective and individual progress. In my role as “Chief Improvement Officer” this is one of the best experiences that I am involved in, as a group of very smart people with shared ambitions help each other out with ideas, suggestions and advice.
As detailed as this might seem, it’s important to remember (or become aware) that all Monthly Checks are results which are therefore only influenceable, so the majority of our enthusiasm and energy wants to go towards planning our weekly blocks of effort. Effort, one of very few controllable aspects of performance, is best thought of as ‘time spent trying to improve X, Y and Z’ followed by a list of ways to do this in order to ensure a) variety (the antidote to boredom) and b) the only two things that would stop you from doing at least one of these would be if you didn’t want to or were dead!
The combination of quality and quantity of each person’s 15 (plus or minus) weekly blocks of effort really is 90% of the puzzle in the pursuit of both our own professional goals as well as helping our sporting and non-sporting clients to reach theirs. As it should be, we keep the specifics of this effort under lock and key as if it got into the wrong hands it could quite literally be used in order to make an extra replica of the ‘winning cake’.
Now having read this it is time for you to consider your own sport and performance goals and the way you currently track these. If part of a team, does everyone involved have a clear understanding of the goals you are working on as a collective? If not, it would probably be worth spending some time focusing on this with everyone present. As an individual, do you have a solid picture of what you are striving for and different monthly checks that indicate whether you are on track to achieve these goals? If not, then it would be worth putting aside some time to focus on teasing this out and putting yourself in a better position mentally to work towards your ideal. At the end of the day, this becomes part of the effort that helps people work towards success. As always, if you want assistance doing this then please get in touch by simply replying to this email which will then be forwarded to one of our senior sport psychologists.