Performance Psychology at NSWIS is taking significant steps forward with the creation of a training facility where athletes can learn to quieten distracting, attention snapping thoughts in order to improve decision-making and performance.
Known as the Mind Room, there have been Advances in technology and science has made it possible to allow athletes to start to see and learn to control thoughts and associated physical components.
It’s an innovative sports science that combine’s psychophysiology and sports psychology to enhance athlete performance. This is the first time this approach has been utilised with athletes in Australia.
Q: Psychophysiology, it’s a big word…what does it entail?
Mike Martin: In performance and in life your mind leads your body, your thoughts you’re your actions. This is really important component in sport, especially when it comes to major competitions. For athletes to be able to maximise their performance results, they need to have very specific messages going through their mind and that’s where Psychophysiology comes into it.
Q: What has led to thought control only now becoming a focal point of athlete preparation?
MM: Controlling focus has always been an important part of athlete preparation. It is only recently with advancements in technology that we have been able to provide athletes with training tools that can assist and maximise their psychological skills training. In the NSWIS Mindroom we can train athletes to effectively focus, and we can also train them to deal with the negativity, fear and self-doubt that can destroy focus.
Q: It’s a first for NSWIS to use this approach, are you pioneering the direction of this in Australia, or implementing knowledge that has had success elsewhere?
MM: The use of thought technology is still relatively new. However around the world some high performance teams have jumped on the concept – Navy Seals, AC Milan, Chelsea FC, NHL But we have structured the NSWIS Mindroom in a new, different and specific way that makes it a world first.
Q: How unique does thought control need to be from athlete to athlete? Is it possible for everyone to achieve success in controlling their thoughts or are there limitations?
MM: High performance thinking is essential about two skills – how well can you focus, and how well can you deal with the distractions that destroy focus.
Yes every athlete has different things to focus on and different distractions to deal with, but the skills that underlie those two areas of high performance thinking are the same. And we deal with those two skillsets both inside the NSWIS Mindroom and with the rest of the Performance Psychology team.
Q: Is it more effective in individual or team sports, where athletes can rely on each other to mentally prepare?
MM: Athletes should never rely on anyone else for their mental preparation – even team athletes. It creates too much variability when athletes need consistency. We’ve had athletes from both individual and team sports use the Mindroom, and each athlete is able to develop their focusing and distraction-busting skills.
Q: Is thought control something that needs to be practiced daily, perhaps during a training session, or only during specific sessions or competition simulation?
MM: There’s a wide range of psychological skills that are needed to maximise performance and results, and there’s a wide range of scenarios that they need to be practiced in. One of the things that athletes and coaches really love about the NSWIS Mindroom is that we have made a lot of the mental training and skills development tangible – and that is very motivating for the athletes.
Q: How important is it to liaise with coaching staff, strength and conditioning and others to implement thought control?
MM: We are now starting to incorporate physical and mental training together. For some programs the NSWIS Mindroom is part of their conditioning circuit. Athletes literally come from the gym to the NSWIS Mindroom and do some mental training, then head back into the gym to continue their physical training.
Q: Will this be available to all NSWIS supported athletes?
MM: All NSIWS athletes have access to the Mindroom, but they don’t all train on the same programs. We create bespoke mind-training programs depending on the physical, technical, tactical and psychological demands of their sport.
Q: How is success measured?
MM: We are already running a number of case studies within sport. But the real success feedback is from the athletes and coaches and how their training in the Mindroom is impacting their competitive performances.