Psychology & Performance Training for Athletes & Gamers
What is it and why is it important?
Psychology and performance training are two sides of the same coin. Traditional counseling is focused primarily on a spectrum of concerns ranging from more mild/moderate issues (i.e. identity concerns, post injury mental health, motivation enhancement, etc.) and more severe, diagnosable concerns of mental illness. More mild concerns typically come with a focus on different facets associated with R.A.M.P. © (relationships, autonomy, mastery, and purpose) as they pertain to the athlete/gamers individual needs, concerns, and sport. Severe concerns require more traditional methods of therapy. All levels require a broad and thorough understanding on the clinician’s part of what is expected of athletes in today’s culture. In addition, clinicians should be well versed in research of health psychology, sports psychology, exercise psychology, etc., to provide an understanding and conceptualization of concerns.
The Missimo Motivation Model: R.A.M.P.©
R.A.M.P.© stands for: Relationships, Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose
A brief outline of why they are important:
-Everyday, we are each indirectly impacted by the overall feel of our relationships. For an athlete, performance is directly influenced by the health of their intimate, academic, interpersonal, and professional relationships. Therefore, understanding the complex web of human interaction is important for maintaining, growing, and eradicating relationships in our lives to better prepare us for mental acuity, performance, and satisfaction of life. While the depth of what is discussed is beyond the scope of this paragraph, the synopsis of R in RAMP is ensuring healthy relationships are present for the athlete within family, school, professional, and other interpersonal settings.
-Autonomy briefly summarized in this case is one's ability to think, perform, and act independently of parents, coaches, bosses, and friends. For an athlete, it's their ability to make decisions on their own for mental and physical progress without requirements being set fourth for them. This also requires parents to allow their children to become more independent from them, which is very difficult in many instances as parents tend to overprotect and coddle. Unfortunately, this can greatly hinder their ability to succeed, particularly in college and post college. We often must dig through self-esteem issues, confidence concerns, and other facets to improve upon the athlete's autonomy level.
-Another word for mastery can be efficiency. The idea behind mastery for athletes is ensuring that they are making the most out of their time. Since this encompasses both mental and physical health, it's beneficial to have a clinician that is also familiar with training methods. Assisting the client in becoming the most efficient person possible academically, in the gym, and mentally is the goal here. Therefore, this often comes with techniques, coping skills, and homework assignments that they athletes are expected to engage in behaviorally. This is the most technical pillar of the model.
-Purpose is often seen as another way of stating your "why" which has become a common reflecting point for athletes today. However, purpose runs deeper than a "why" as a why is often unintentionally connected to a passion rather than a purpose. To better explain, think of passion as motivation. They are both fleeting and often heavily connected to emotion. In contrast, purpose rarely changes. Purpose is more directly associate with discipline than motivation. By processing through values and passions, we can arrive at a overarching purpose. This is the driving force behind the decision making process of the athlete. A great purpose leads to better long-term decision making. In addition, it leads to more clearly identifiable goals, and thus more success as milestones compound on one another.
Mental performance training is geared towards creating more efficient processing of the brain. We are working on a variety of fronts, including greater bi-lateral brain connection, quicker processing of the occipital lobe, more efficient processing under intense stimuli, etc. It combines physical and mental training/processing and usually takes place at a field or other location. The focus is still on the mental training and thus should not be confused with strength & conditioning. Nevertheless, there are some physical techniques that require movement and mimic S&C drills in some way. An additional benefit to this type of work is that many athletes are naturally more receptive to it than typical therapy sessions within an office space.
What are the facts?
Collegiate student-athletes face many of the same mental health risk factors as their non-athlete peers. However, their role as student-athletes often presents additional risk factors. These risk factors can be more direct stressors (e.g., performance anxiety, issues with coaching styles, time expectations), interactions with others in their environment that encourage risk behaviors and discourage help seeking behaviors, or belittlement or discrimination based on race/ethnicity or sexual orientation.
Common Conceptions of Athlete Needs:
o 1. Most believe they are less susceptible to mental health concerns – FALSE
Although physical activity can reduce stress and increase well-being, more elite athletes often over train, thus losing out on those benefits and only adding to the additional concerns of being an athlete.
o 2. Similarities between depressive symptoms and over-training due to strenuous physical expectations lead to a lack of assistance – TRUE
It can be difficulty for coaching staffs to identify the differences between depressive symptomology and over training fatigue. This often leads to many going without preventive or current care.
o 3. If an athlete receives additional mental training or mental health assistance, it will negatively impact their self-confidence – FALSE
As most athletes become more self-aware, confident, and insightful.
· According to the NCAA, “About 30 percent of the 195,000 respondents to a recent American College Health Association (ACHA) survey reported having felt depressed in the last 12 months, and 50 percent reported having felt overwhelming anxiety during the same period.”
· Again, according to the NCAA in 2016, 37% of female and 25% of male track athletes’ have experienced depressive symptoms. In addition, 31% of female and 13% of male soccer players, 30% of female and 18% of male softball/baseball players have experienced depressive symptoms.