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Intimidation Tactics: Capture Your Opponents MIND!

By Jeffrey Hodges B.Sc. M.Sc.(Hons) B.Ed.

The most talented player doesn't always win the match - it's the player who has the mental edge on their competition. How many times have you seen top seeds down two sets to love, being absolutely thrashed by an unseeded player ..... only to win the next three sets? How many times have you personally been defeated by someone you 'know' you should be able to beat, but they somehow always seem to have the wood on you?

The above scenarios are all about intimidation - being able to affect your opponent with your own intent, and of course, learning how to 'immunise' and shield yourself against such attacks.

Intimidation is not just about physical size, emotional outbursts, or verbal sledging - in fact the best intimidation tactics are the strong silent type that insidiously gnaw away at your opponents confidence, expose their weaknesses and undermine their abilities.

The best way to think of this concept is to begin with an example from the martial art of Aikido. When someone attacks you, there is a moment in which they gather their energy prior to expending it in the form of an attack. So there is a very small window of opportunity prior to an attack, in which you can take control of the situation.

This is identified physically in the person attacking by their taking an 'in-breath'. Before we can expend energy, we have to first gather energy in. Try it yourself - draw back your fist and arm as if you were going to punch someone, and notice how as you do, it's natural to take a breath in. Then you expel it as you punch.

This concept doesn't just apply to combat - in order to achieve anything, to do anything, there is a period of gathering energy first - then the expenditure of energy. For example, think of a tennis forehand or a golf swing - you first take back the club or racquet in order to develop the power to hit the ball. In Nature, and even in business, there are periods of withdrawal prior to bursts of growth or activity.

The idea for the Aikido exponent is to be aware of the movement of 'energy' in your partner, (through attention to their breathing and other non-verbal signals), and to blend with their attack at the point just prior to it happening, so as to re-direct their movement and energy to your purpose.

However it's not just the physical action that happens in someone attacking - a worthy opponent will also attack with their mind.

So we take action to 'catch' an opponent's arm or wrist in that window of opportunity before the completion of their in-breath and their attack, but it also means 'capturing' their mind; to blend with their attack at the point of intention.

What I do when I 'capture my opponent's mind' is to enter into their thought space and take control of their point of intention. So that just as they intend an action, I have already blended with that intention and turned it in another direction.

While this may sound very esoteric, I'm sure you've already experienced it, many times. Every time you've competed or interacted with someone and been able to somehow know - beyond logic - what they were going to do, is an example of this.

Also you may have been on the receiving end of the process! If you've ever felt totally controlled by someone else, or totally unconfident around them to the point where you're not acting or performing in your normal manner - they've captured your mind; or rather, you've allowedthem to capture your intention point.

Try the following exercise :

EXERCISE : Capturing Your Opponent's Mind

1. Begin with a short relaxation and imagine around yourself a bubble of positivity. [ An excellent six-step format for doing this is outlined in all the Sportsmind audio tapes ]

2. Now picture your opponent, see them in your mind's eye and associate into them: get a feel for how they move, what they see, and what they hear or say to themselves when they're playing.

3. Now simply intend to capture their intention - to know their plans, strategies and intentions.

4. Return to yourself and reflect on the exercise.

CASE STUDY : Cyclist

The above exercise is excellent for taking charge in a competitive interaction - and you will also want to know how to shield yourself against it, if someone applies it to you! A professional female cyclist asked me for some help in dealing with a situation in which her opponent was staring her down just prior to the start of a race - and this was putting her off.

Through using this process she was able to block her opponent's attempts to psych her out, and shield herself from her influence.

To some people, this concept of 'capturing your opponents mind' and the exercise I've just described may seem 'evil' or dishonourable. If this is the case, let me ask you two questions: Firstly, if it's OK to compete and struggle against someone physically during the game, then why is it any different to apply such mental pressure? What makes it all right to compete physically, but not mentally?

Secondly, when does the actual competition begin? Does it begin when the officials blow the whistle to begin, or while you're warming up, or when you first step onto the playing field? Many people think of a competition starting at the 'official' starting time of the first serve, or play, or whatever - but I would argue that it begins days, or even weeks before.

Give yourself an advantage in every competition by starting the game well before your opponent.

Deliberately smile at them and then ignore them. Prior to the game deliberately imagine them as puny, unfit and clumsy, then forget about them. They aren't important - YOU are.

Focus on the most important person - that's YOU. Remember all the training and hard work you've done to get here. Deliberately recollect and relive the best matches you've ever played: come from behind victories; easy closeout wins; times you served aces and returned powerfully; the cross court and line winners you've made; confident put-away volleys; etc. Highlight your best performances, and make them large and close in your mind's eye.

Now picture capturing your opponents mind. See yourself as an intimidating player.

[ The above article has been excerpted from my new book, Champion Thoughts, Champion Feelings, that shows you how to develop the thinking and feeling strategies and techniques of champions. For more information see www.sportsmind.com.au or contact Jeffrey Hodges at jeff@sportsmind.com.au Phone (07) 5445 7994 ]

About Jeffrey Hodges B.Sc.(AES) M.Sc.(Hons)
Jeffrey Hodges is a performance consultant to elite athletes, sporting teams and corporate clients. He is the author of the widely acclaimed "Sportsmind - An Athlete's Guide to Superperformance Through Mental & Emotional Training" and "Champion Thoughts, Champion Feelings"; creator of the Sportsmind performance enhancement workshops and audio tapes; and Director of the Sportsmind Institute for Human Performance Research.

He is a NLP Master Practitioner and Associate Trainer, and his Sportsmind programs have been endorsed by the NSW Dept Sport & Recreation, and recommended by top sportsclubs and successful athletes. Jeffrey has competed in many sports, notably Volleyball, Squash, Soccer and Golf, and currently trains in Aikido, holding a black belt.

Some of his clients to date include :
Australian Rugby Union
St. Joseph's College
Woodlands Golf Club
Financial Institutions Remuneration Group (FIRG)
Societe Generale
Qld. Swimming
Network for Fitness Professionals
North Sydney and Penrith Rugby League Clubs
Qld. Athletics Assn
NSW Netball Assn
Northern Inland Academy of Sport
Victorian Soaring Assn
Orange Agricultural College Equestrian School
Qld and NSW Departments of Sport and Recreation
Qld Academy of Sport
and the RAAF.

For more information, contact :
SPORTSMIND , 77 FLAXTON MILL ROAD
FLAXTON Qld. Australia. 4560.
PHONE 61 7 5445 7994
email : jh@sportsmind.com.au
website : www.sportsmind.com.au

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How to Maintain Focus Under Pressure Part 1

By Jeffrey Hodges B.Sc. M.Sc.(Hons) B.Ed.

A two-part series on concentration and mind calming techniques for successfully coping with pre-performance nerves, anxiety and competition pressure.

Part 1 : Positive Emotional States Positive emotional states - such as one-pointed concentration, enthusiasm, tenacity, motivation, and even happiness - are influenced by three important factors: your physiology, your ideology, and by the environment. Your state is under your control, and if you want to prepare yourself - emotionally - for competition, you will want to understand these three factors.

STATE

One of the most important concepts in performance psychology that every tennis player and coach wants to know about, and master, is the idea of state. State is all about how you're currently experiencing the world, emotionally. You know, and have experienced many different states : anger; sadness; boredom; jealousy; happiness; determination; excitement; and so on. Yet states don't just 'jump' on you out of the blue, do they? You don't suddenly experience violent rage, or deep loneliness, for no reason do you?

States are effects - they are a consequence of something you're doing in your mind. States are also processes, they're not static - you change 'state' regularly throughout the day don't you?

Now we can ask two questions about state that are particularly important to all sports people: Firstly, what states are most useful for success in tennis?; and secondly, how can we deliberately create those states in ourselves? Think about those questions for a few moments.

Some examples of states that sportspeople usually mention are : Relaxed; Confident; Positive; Focused; Determined; Aggressive; and Hungry to Win. Feeling a sense of Enjoyment, and Happiness or Fun when playing also rates highly for most successful players.

However, few people ever answer the second question - how do I create those states in myself? This is because, for many people, their state is not under conscious control. They just 're-act' to external circumstances and situations rather than choosing a state that would be most useful to them in a given context, and deliberately building that state in themselves, prior to performing. They just leave their state to chance, and 'hope' they perform well.

This just isn't good enough. It's important to know how to create states in ourselves, so you can manage your state .... so you can deliberately build the most resourceful and capable states in yourself before you even step onto the tennis court. So let me ask you to stop and think again - how do we create states in ourselves ..... what are the 'building blocks' of state?

BUILDING BLOCKS OF STATE

I've identified three major building blocks of state, and whatever answers you came up with, you'll probably find that they fit into one of the following three categories : Physiology; Ideology; and Environment.

The building blocks of our emotions - our states - are our physiology, or body posture, breathing and movements; our ideology, or what you're imagining, and saying to yourself; and the environment around you, both the physical and social environments. Lets look at each of these in more detail now.

Physiology . It's easy to recognise how our physiology - our body posture, breathing, facial expressions, and the way we move - affects our state. For example, think how differently you feel if you hang your head, breath shallowly, slouch, and slowly shuffle around ........ compared to holding your head up high, breathe deeply with an erect posture, and move quickly.

How is your state right now? Are you feeling energised and enthusiastic about your life, and about your tennis? If you're not, try changing your physiology now. You can change how you feel, quickly and easily simply by changing how you move, how you breathe, and how you use your facial muscles - the habitual facial expressions you hold.

Take a few moments right now and stand up straight .... take five deep breaths .... and walk briskly around for a few moments. It's a simple thing, but changing your physiology is one of the quickest and easiest ways to change your state, isn't it?

Let's move on to ideology. Your ideology is the combination of what you're imagining and saying to yourself in your mind - and again, this has a powerful impact on your state. For instance, for someone to feel nervous and unconfident about asking someone out on a date, what kinds of things would they imagine? What would they say to themselves? If you imagined being rejected, or worse still, laughed at when you asked them out, and you said to yourself "Oh, they'll never want to go out with me ... I'm not interesting enough", it's easy to see how you could quickly create that negative state, isn't it?

Now relate this concept to your tennis. Think of a time you were playing really well, and were feeling confident and focused. What kinds of things were you saying to yourself? What did you imagine? Why not do these things deliberately to create the kinds of positive states you want to experience in your game, every time you play?

What could you imagine and say to yourself to create more confidence? More hungriness to win? More relaxed and positive states? What could you imagine and say to yourself to feel more enjoyment in your training and competition?

Recognise that changes in your thinking don't just relate to changing the content of your thoughts, but changing some of the visual, auditory, or kinaesthetic submodalities you use in your thinking can have a profound impact on your state. It's not just what you say, or imagine, that affects your state, but also how you imagine the pictures, and how you hear the words.

For example, I'm sure you have at one time or another, criticised yourself for something ... a silly mistake, an oversight, a poor performance, whatever.

Take a moment to recall that critical voice, and as you do, notice the direction it comes from. Do you experience it from your left or right, from in front or behind you? How far away is the voice - does it seem close, or far away? How loud is the voice, and what is its tone like?

Now, just as a bit of an experiment, change each of those submodalities and hear your voice say the same thing in a different way. For instance, if the voice seems to come from just behind your left ear, up close ..... then move it further away, and hear it coming from out in front of you. If the voice is loud, make it softer. If it has a high pitched, whining tone .... change it to be a deep throaty voice. What happens when you do this? It's hard to still feel lousy when your internal critic sounds like a sultry paramour out in front of you, doesn't it. I mean, if you're going to critique your performance, why not have it sound like Tina Turner or Demi Moore?

Likewise, if you have a poor performance and you continue to picture that up close, big, bright and right in front of you .... how do you think it will affect your state? Or if you put in a personal best performance, and you remember that as a tiny, black and white, postage stamp sized picture, behind you .... how much effect will that have on your state?

One of the consistent things I've found in all champion performers - whether they be athletes, or business people - is that they do just the opposite to this. Champions remember their good performances as big, colourful, bright pictures, up close and nearby to them. And of course, this gives them the confidence to attempt their next big goal - and succeed. When they have an off day, they let it go by seeing it small, and dim, and they deliberately push it away and out behind them so it no longer affects them.

How do you think about your good and not-so-good performances? Realise that how you're thinking may very well be holding you back. Deliberately choose the type of words and pictures that are going to build those positive states I spoke of earlier.

Lets move on to Environment. Environment consists of all the other things around you that can influence your state. It includes the weather conditions; the venue; your opponents; the officials; the audience; your coach and team mates; your equipment; your clothes and personal grooming; and so on.

To give you an example of how environment can affect performance, imagine competing in a place and it's a cold windy day .... and the venue is dirty, and littered with papers .... and the equipment is old and poorly maintained .... and the officials disorganised and inefficient .... your team mates slovenly and disinterested .... and there's half a dozen bored looking spectators barracking for the opposition. Maybe you've even experienced times like that!

Compare how you would feel in that situation, to another day ..... where its warm and sunny with a light breeze blowing .... and the venue is clean and fresh looking .... all the equipment is new and well maintained .... and everything is run like clockwork by the officials .... and your team mates are sharp and dressed smartly ..... and there is a huge crowd of your supporters buzzing with excitement. It makes a difference doesn't it?

Another example of how environment can affect your state is given by the person who is playing really well ... until they notice one of their relatives, or close friends, or someone they really want to impress, in the audience .... then their game falls apart!

I think it's important to also recognise that, while environment can affect your state, it does so only in as much as you allow it to affect the other two - your physiology and ideology. Really, the environment can only affect your state through its influence upon your posture and your thinking - and by attending to building positive states using strong physiology and a positive ideology, you can maintain peak performance states regardless of the environment.

Having said this, I think it imperative to point out that the effect of the environment is often very subtle and unconscious, and so giving some attention to building a positive environment for peak performance is a good way to encourage positive states - particularly in those athletes who have not yet developed the ability to consistently self-manage their own state.

This is precisely what the English Rugby Union team did when in Australia for the last world Cup: their dressing room was decorated to look just like their home dressing room at Twickenham, so wherever they played, it 'felt' like a 'home game'.

TRIGGERS

One of the best ways to develop this personal facility of control over your own state is through the use of what are known as sensory triggers. A sensory trigger is simply a physical stimulus that you train your body to associate with a particular state, and which you can use to 'switch on' that state in yourself as required, by using the trigger. It's what is know as simple 'stimulus - response conditioning', and it works in the same way as a light switch. You train your neurology to automatically respond in a precise, positive way to a specific stimulus - in the same way that flicking the light switch turns on the electric light.

In the second part of this article I will discuss how to build these positive triggers for yourself.

About Jeffrey Hodges B.Sc.(AES) M.Sc.(Hons)
Jeffrey Hodges is a performance consultant to elite athletes, sporting teams and corporate clients. He is the author of the widely acclaimed "Sportsmind - An Athlete's Guide to Superperformance Through Mental & Emotional Training" and "Champion Thoughts, Champion Feelings"; creator of the Sportsmind performance enhancement workshops and audio tapes; and Director of the Sportsmind Institute for Human Performance Research.

He is a NLP Master Practitioner and Associate Trainer, and his Sportsmind programs have been endorsed by the NSW Dept Sport & Recreation, and recommended by top sportsclubs and successful athletes. Jeffrey has competed in many sports, notably Volleyball, Squash, Soccer and Golf, and currently trains in Aikido, holding a black belt.

Some of his clients to date include :
Australian Rugby Union
St. Joseph's College
Woodlands Golf Club
Financial Institutions Remuneration Group (FIRG)
Societe Generale
Qld. Swimming
Network for Fitness Professionals
North Sydney and Penrith Rugby League Clubs
Qld. Athletics Assn
NSW Netball Assn
Northern Inland Academy of Sport
Victorian Soaring Assn
Orange Agricultural College Equestrian School
Qld and NSW Departments of Sport and Recreation
Qld Academy of Sport
and the RAAF.

For more information, contact :
SPORTSMIND , 77 FLAXTON MILL ROAD
FLAXTON Qld. Australia. 4560.
PHONE 61 7 5445 7994
email : jh@sportsmind.com.au
website : www.sportsmind.com.au

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The Power of Goals

By Jeffrey Hodges B.Sc. M.Sc.(Hons) B.Ed.

With the beginning of a new year our thoughts turn to what we want to achieve - what goals we want to set for this year. Goals are important because they provide direction, motivation and focus. Goals are especially important in tennis - players who have clear goals, and an action plan to achieve them are more successful in the long run.

There are two types of goals that you want to be aware of : outcome goals, and process goals.

Outcome goals are the end result: winning a match; being selected for the state squad; achieving a ranking in the top 100; etc.

Process goalsare the specific steps, actions, behaviours, technical skills, moods, and mental processes required to achieve the desired outcome, for example serving 70% first services in court in a match; consistently using a receipt-of-serve routine throughout a match; staying calm and focused on the job when an obvious error in a line call goes against you; and so on.

In recent years, some people have suggested that it's wrong to set and think abut outcome goals; that we ought focus upon and set just process goals. However both goals are important to success: without a clearly defined and desired outcome, motivation flags and there can be a loss of direction; without process goals we don't have a clear plan or means for getting what we want. If you don't have a specific destination in mind, you might be a good player, but you'll end up going nowhere in particular - and this is what happens to many talented tennis players, simply because they don't set long term goals. You want to have a desired outcome and not be afraid of setting it, and going for it. However you also want to have an achievable means by which you're going to get your outcome - and these are your process goals.

What is important is knowing when to focus on outcome and when to focus on process. Generally, the time to think about outcome goals is prior to and after a performance; the time to focus on process goals is during a performance. If you think about winning during the match, your attention and concentration on the moment by moment play can suffer as you imagine the future, or regret past mistakes, instead of being in the present.

What would give you a real buzz to achieve for yourself in the next twelve months, and 3 to 5 years? The goals you set want to be big enough to challenge and inspire you, but not too far out of reach to be unrealistic. Remember the quality and scope of the goals you set influences not just your direction, but also your character and personality. Most people set goals that are well below their capabilities, simply because of fear of failing.

Face the fear; be courageous .

Write down now your two most important outcome goals to accomplish for this season and within 3 years, and a long term goal - something you'd like to achieve within 5 - 10 years.

MY GOALS

This Season [ Or next six to twelve months ]

#1

#2

Within 3 Years

#1

#2

My Long Term, or Dream Goal [ Within 5 - 10 years ]

#1

FINDING POWERFUL REASONS & COMMITING TO ACTION

Congratulations .... by setting some specific goals you're way ahead of most average sportspeople already! However, just setting goals is only the first step. Anyone can set goals. The difference between the person who sets a goal and achieves it, and the person who sets the goal and just dreams of achieving it, is twofold. Firstly, the achiever makes a committed decision backed by powerful reasons. Secondly, the achiever designs an actionplan, and puts it into practice.

Pick the most important goal you want to achieve, and write a paragraph on why you want to achieve it; what are the reasons for wanting it? How would you feel if you didn't achieve it - what would you miss out on? And how are you going to feel when you do achieve it?

After you've written the reasons, design an action plan - what you're going to do today, tomorrow, next week, next month, etc. to achieve the goal. How will you go about achieving it? What help do you need? What areas do you need to improve? What process goals do you want to set in order to achieve the outcome you want? [Ask yourself : What skills would I have developed, and to what level? What will be my fitness, strength, flexibility, agility, concentration, emotional control, desire, etc., and how will I have developed these?]

Finally, write your name in the space below for the committed decision and sign it. Commit yourself to your goal - but only do so if you really want it. If you're really serious, have your coach, or parent, witness it and enlist their help in your achieving it.

Finally, remember to celebrate when you achieve your goals - and thank those who helped you!

REASONS

I want to achieve _______________________________________ (goal), because ..............

ACTION PLANS

I plan to take the following actions to achieve my goal ................

MY PERSONAL COMMITMENT

I __________________________________________ (your name), truly want the above goal. I now make the decision to fully commit myself to achieve it.

Signed _________________________ Date ________ Witness ___________________


About Jeffrey Hodges B.Sc.(AES) M.Sc.(Hons)
Jeffrey Hodges is a performance consultant to elite athletes, sporting teams and corporate clients. He is the author of the widely acclaimed "Sportsmind - An Athlete's Guide to Superperformance Through Mental & Emotional Training" and "Champion Thoughts, Champion Feelings"; creator of the Sportsmind performance enhancement workshops and audio tapes; and Director of the Sportsmind Institute for Human Performance Research.

He is a NLP Master Practitioner and Associate Trainer, and his Sportsmind programs have been endorsed by the NSW Dept Sport & Recreation, and recommended by top sportsclubs and successful athletes. Jeffrey has competed in many sports, notably Volleyball, Squash, Soccer and Golf, and currently trains in Aikido, holding a black belt.

Some of his clients to date include :
Australian Rugby Union
St. Joseph's College
Woodlands Golf Club
Financial Institutions Remuneration Group (FIRG)
Societe Generale
Qld. Swimming
Network for Fitness Professionals
North Sydney and Penrith Rugby League Clubs
Qld. Athletics Assn
NSW Netball Assn
Northern Inland Academy of Sport
Victorian Soaring Assn
Orange Agricultural College Equestrian School
Qld and NSW Departments of Sport and Recreation
Qld Academy of Sport
and the RAAF.

For more information, contact :
SPORTSMIND , 77 FLAXTON MILL ROAD
FLAXTON Qld. Australia. 4560.
PHONE 61 7 5445 7994
email : jh@sportsmind.com.au
website : www.sportsmind.com.au

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Don't Just Set Goals

By Jeffrey Hodges B.Sc. M.Sc.(Hons) B.Ed.

Establish Positive Achievement Routines and LOVE the Training

In sports coaching the concept of goal setting has taken on the status of an immutable 'truth' - something so accepted as to be rarely, if ever, questioned. For many years I also not only personally practised goal 'setting', but also widely preached its virtues.

However, I've recently developed a new approach to high achievement which is both more effective and much easier to understand and implement for both players and coaches.

Problems with Goal 'Setting'

You see, the problem with goal 'setting' is two-fold. Firstly, what happens when, (as often happens), you don't get the goal you set? For example, I'm sure Leyton Hewitt had 'set the goal' of winning Wimbledon this year - yet he was defeated in the first round! Here is an individual who is an accomplished player and highly experienced in elite achievement - yet he didn't get his goal!

Haven't you had the same kind of disappointing experience? Haven't you 'set' yourself goals - whether it was to increase your fitness level; or to change your diet and lose some weight; or to win a particular match; or get a particular job; or attain a certain result in your studies .... and you didn't do it!

Tell me how did you feel afterwards? What was the end result of your goal setting? Loss of confidence in your abilities. Erosion of your self belief. Perhaps not wanting to try again - giving up?

Yet we're told, "Don't give up!" The answer is simply to try again - to set yet more goals.

Don't worry - the problem isn't you! The fault is with the process. Goal 'setting' is not the answer!

The second fatal flaw with goal setting is that it encourages an unhealthy and unrealistic emphasis on outcomes and results.

Too often an athlete's happiness, self worth, and even identity are dependent on achieving the goal, the result ... and when (as inevitably happens) an individual doesn't get the goal, win the event, achieve the result - they feel cheated, disappointed, and can lose heart, and even fall prey to depression.

Further, goal 'setting' too often leads the individual to associate all the pleasure and joy with the final attainment - as if life were a result, rather than an on-going process! This often then consigns the actual 'process' of achieving the goal to the role of a 'sacrifice' - something to be suffered through in order to attain eventual happiness!

What this unhealthy obsession with the end result creates then is an emptiness, even in the athletes who get to the top, after the 'magic moment' of successful attainment is over, as they look around after years of 'sacrifice' and wonder, "Is this all there is? Is this what I gave up my life for?"

The Solution

If goal 'setting' isn't the answer, what is? Is it possible to achieve at the highest level with a different kind of process? I believe so, and I believe this new process is both more effective and leads to long term joy and fulfilment - rather than infrequent, fleeting pleasures.

The 'goal' is to happily achieve; rather than achieve to be happy.

This new process - which I term the Sportsmind Routine Achievement approach - involves two radical changes in thinking.

Firstly, the understanding that achievement is a process, not an end result. In order to achieve any goal, there must be a process involved; and this process involves specific routines.

The key to successful and satisfying achievement then, lies in identifying the routine, which if followed, will inevitably lead you to the desired 'goal'. This is done by simply asking the question : "What routine, or set of routines, - if adhered to consistently and conscientiously - would inevitably lead to the successful attainment of goal X"

The task then is to simply focus on doing, and enjoying, the routines - confident that your training will lead you where you want to be.

Secondly, associate the greatest pleasure with the training - not the end result. Love your training - otherwise you're going to be spending most of your time not enjoying your life, and I see so many sportspeople who dislike training, and only do it because they feel they 'have to' in order to get the goals they want! This is exactly the same as the many people working in jobs they hate! Why spend your life doing something you hate? Either change your attitude to training, or go and do something that you do like!

The way to do this is to continually ask yourself about your training, "How can I enjoy this more? What can I do to make this even more fun and enjoyable for me?" Remind yourself regularly while you train, "I LOVE tennis (or golf, or whatever) ... I LOVE training. I'm so lucky to be doing this - some people have to actually WORK for a living; I get to PLAY!".

Achievement as a Personal Management Process

Having made these two important points, let me now say it IS important to have goals!

However, achieving significant goals in sport, particularly at an elite level, involves more than just the process of setting them.

Achieving big goals is a personal managementprocess involving establishing a goal, breaking it down into smaller sub-goals, determining a viable action plan, implementing and enjoying this plan, evaluating progress, adjusting the plan, celebrating achievement, and finally choosing a new goal.

Goals are important to success, because without a clearly defined and desired outcome, motivation flags and there can be a loss of direction. If you don't have a specific destination in mind, you might be a good player, but you'll end up going nowhere in particular - and this is what happens to many talented athletes, simply because they don't have long term goals.

You do want to have a desired outcome and not be afraid of setting it, and going for it - however you also want to temper this outcome focus by establishing strong achievement routines, and associating great enjoyment to your day-to-day training.

For instance, consider a journey. At the beginning of the journey you think of your destination - where you want to end up. Then you get in the car and pay attention to the traffic around you; stop at lights and intersections; change gears; accelerate; turn corners; refuel when necessary; and deal with any delays and flat tyres along the way.

Now just imagine if you didn't have that destination in mind at the start - what would happen? You'd just hop in the car and start driving, and you might drive extremely well, but you'd end up going nowhere in particular.

What is different about the Sportsmind Routine Achievement approach is that we remember to enjoy the journey, and focus on what you need to do each step of the way. Remember that choosing a direction is important, but placing too much emphasis on it leads to problems.

For instance, on your journey you'll have an accident if you think too much about the hot date you're doing to visit, but if you don't want that hot date in the first place, you'll probably never get the car out of the garage!

Likewise, if you think about winning during the match, chances are your attention and concentration on the moment by moment play will suffer as you imagine the future, or regret past mistakes, instead of being in the present - and you won't perform to your potential.

Enjoy your training; love the doing of your sport - it is after all the most important part!

About Jeffrey Hodges B.Sc.(AES) M.Sc.(Hons)
Jeffrey Hodges is a performance consultant to elite athletes, sporting teams and corporate clients. He is the author of the widely acclaimed "Sportsmind - An Athlete's Guide to Superperformance Through Mental & Emotional Training" and "Champion Thoughts, Champion Feelings"; creator of the Sportsmind performance enhancement workshops and audio tapes; and Director of the Sportsmind Institute for Human Performance Research.

He is a NLP Master Practitioner and Associate Trainer, and his Sportsmind programs have been endorsed by the NSW Dept Sport & Recreation, and recommended by top sportsclubs and successful athletes. Jeffrey has competed in many sports, notably Volleyball, Squash, Soccer and Golf, and currently trains in Aikido, holding a black belt.

Some of his clients to date include :
Australian Rugby Union
St. Joseph's College
Woodlands Golf Club
Financial Institutions Remuneration Group (FIRG)
Societe Generale
Qld. Swimming
Network for Fitness Professionals
North Sydney and Penrith Rugby League Clubs
Qld. Athletics Assn
NSW Netball Assn
Northern Inland Academy of Sport
Victorian Soaring Assn
Orange Agricultural College Equestrian School
Qld and NSW Departments of Sport and Recreation
Qld Academy of Sport
and the RAAF.

For more information, contact :
SPORTSMIND , 77 FLAXTON MILL ROAD
FLAXTON Qld. Australia. 4560.
PHONE 61 7 5445 7994
email : jh@sportsmind.com.au
website : www.sportsmind.com.au

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Mentally Tough for Tennis: Take the Sportsmind Test

By Jeffrey Hodges B.Sc. M.Sc.(Hons) B.Ed.

Choose one response per question, and answer every question even though the situation may never have happened to you. Read each description and imagine it happening to you; then choose the response that is closest to how you would think.

P+

1. Situation: You are asked to join the state squad :

A: I am good enough to play at state level.

B: It was lucky break to be chosen for the team.

2. Situation: You win an important match :

A: I was feeling unbeatable that day.

B: I always put a lot of effort into my training.

3. Situation: You do exceptionally well in an interview for a coaching position :

A: I always perform well in interviews.

B: I felt very relaxed and confident in the interview.

4. Situation: You play a match without a single double fault :

A: I was concentrating well that day.

B: I am a consistent server.

5. Situation: You organise a social tennis day, and everyone enjoys it :

A: I'm a good organiser.

B: I was really switched on that day.

P -

6. Situation: You forget an important appointment after a week's break :

A: My mind was still on holiday that day.

B: I always forget when my routine is disrupted.

7. Situation: You get angry with the umpire during a game :

A: That umpire is biased against me.

B: He / She didn't umpire fairly in the game.

8. Situation: You put on a lot of weight over Christmas and have trouble getting back

to your peak weight and fitness :

A: The diet I tried didn't work.

B: It's always hard to get back into training after a break.

9. Situation: Your coach says something that hurts your feelings :

A: He / She is always very cutting with criticism.

B: He / She was in a grumpy mood and took it out on me.

10. Situation: You repeatedly double fault throughout an important match :

A: I wasn't concentrating enough on my serving that day.

B: I always get tense in important matches.

V +

11. Situation: You save a stranger from drowning in the surf:

A: I stay calm in a crisis.

B: I'm trained in surf rescue.

12. Situation: The coach asks your advice on a new training program :

A: I know some innovative training techniques.

B: I have a good understanding of tennis training..

13. Situation: You contest for club president, and win :

A: I always give everything my best shot.

B: I put a lot of effort into speaking to all the club members.

14. Situation: Your coach tells you you are at peak fitness level :

A: I stuck to my training program.

B: I'm very fitness conscious.

15. Situation: A friend comments on your confidence :

A: I am a confident person.

B: I've been playing well lately.

V -

16. Situation: You play poorly in a mixed doubles competition :

A: The competition was fierce that day, and we got a couple of rough calls.

B: We don't always play well together as a team.

17. Situation: The coach says you're not concentrating :

A: I'm not as focused as everyone else.

B: I have been slacking off a bit lately.

18. Situation: You fail to make the state squad :

A: I haven't been playing well for the past few weeks.

B: I'm not as good as the other players.

19. Situation: You are in charge of a training session while your coach is sick, and

no one enjoys the training :

A: I'm not very good at coaching.

B: I didn't put much thought into the coaching session.

20. Situation: You miss a 'sitter' at a vital stage in a match.

A: I took my eyes off the ball.

B: I always miss easy shots when I have too much time to think.

The Sportsmind Test

Researchers have found that for sporting success - particularly in tennis - it's important to have an unshakeable positive mental attitude. An attitude of optimism - of expecting to do well, and a thinking process that continually strives for solutions, rather than dwelling on problems or difficulties.

Optimism has been found to be significant in business, educational and sporting success. People who are the most optimistic are usually the most successful - so one way of describing mental toughness is through a measure of your optimism.

The questionnaire you completed offers a simple measure of your mental toughness by measuring your personal optimism.

Marking

Evaluate your answers using the following system:

1. Start by looking at every odd numbered question, and mark an 'A' choice with 1 point and a 'B' choice with 0 points. (Eg, if in question 1 you chose response 'A', you would get 1 point for that question)

2. Now look at every even numbered question, and mark an 'A' choice with 0 points and a 'B' choice with 1 point. (Eg. if in question 2 you chose response 'A', you would get no points for that question)

3. Next, look at the subheadings : P+, P-, V+ and V- and add your individual question scores to get a total for each of these categories. There are five questions for each category.

4. Finally, add up your total '+' and total '-' scores.

Interpretation

Your scores mean the following:

If your total '-' score is

* 3 or below, is optimistic;

* 4 - 6, is average;

* 7 or above, is pessimistic.

This is your response to 'negative' events.

If your total '+' score is

* 8 - 10 is optimistic;

* 6 - 7, is average;

* 5 or below, is pessimistic.

This is your response to 'positive' events.

Optimism and Mental Toughness

Optimism is understood by evaluating what is known as your 'explanatory style' - or how you explain to yourself 'why' events happen to you. All of us ask this question about the events that happen in our lives - but often this questioning process is not overtly conscious. We are all making 'attributions' about events, good and bad, and attribution theory suggests that the specific 'explanations' which you make significantly affect our behaviour and performance.

Pessimistic explanations lead to feelings of helplessness, while optimistic explanations provide feelings of self empowerment. In essence, how you explain to yourself 'why' events happen, (and particularly how you explain why negative events happen), determines how you face up to those events and how helpless, or empowered, you feel in the situation.

Which is essentially measuring how mentally tough you are - what we are measuring here is your quitting response, how much of a fighter you are; how likely you are to give up when the going gets tough. How persistentyou are.

Naturally when something negative happens to us, (for example, losing an important match; or a relationship break-up; or making a costly mistake; whatever), all or us - no matter how positive we are - feel momentarily 'helpless'.

However, after that momentary helplessness, how you respond to the situation from then on is determined by the explanations you make to yourself .

If you tend to explain the negative event in an optimistic way, you'll be more likely to pick yourself up and do what needs to be done, than if you explain the event in a pessimistic way.

Persistence is really important to tennis success, isn't it? There will inevitably be numerous trials, setbacks and obstacles along the way - no truly great player had an 'easy' road, did they?

So your personal explanatory style affects how you deal with those trials and setbacks, and identifies how persistent you are - how much of a fighter you are.

The questionnaire you completed provides an indication of your explanatory style about both negative and positive events, and while the most significant is your response to negative events (it's easy to be optimistic when things are going well), still your responses to positive events are also significant. Do realise that the questionnaire is NOT meant to be an accurate diagnostic tool, but rather to provide a very rough guide to, and a personal appreciation of, your personal explanatory style.

Researchers have discovered that an individual's level of optimism significantly influences their performance in all areas of life. Optimism has been shown to be of significance in career performance, school and college results, sports performances, political fortunes, and even personal health and longevity.

Optimists are more likely to win when running for public office; generally have better health and immune function; achieve higher grades at school and college; succeed more often on the sporting field; and even live longer.

Pessimists are more frequently depressed; fail more frequently, even when success is attainable; exhibit more and more protracted periods of illness and injury; generally don't achieve their potential in their careers or sport that their talents warrant; and die younger.

Your personal performance in all areas of life is profoundly influenced by your explanatory style - by the explanations you're making about 'why' things happen to you. The more optimistic your explanations, the more likely you are to succeed .

We have always known of the importance of being positive and having a positive mental attitude - now modern psychological research has given us a greater understanding as to how and why this is so.

It's also useful to recognise that optimism is a learned behaviour - and everyone can improve their level of optimism and positivity, and through this improve their tennis!

Find out more about optimism, and other mental training techniques for tennis online at www.sportsmind.com.au

About Jeffrey Hodges B.Sc.(AES) M.Sc.(Hons)
Jeffrey Hodges is a performance consultant to elite athletes, sporting teams and corporate clients. He is the author of the widely acclaimed "Sportsmind - An Athlete's Guide to Superperformance Through Mental & Emotional Training" and "Champion Thoughts, Champion Feelings"; creator of the Sportsmind performance enhancement workshops and audio tapes; and Director of the Sportsmind Institute for Human Performance Research.

He is a NLP Master Practitioner and Associate Trainer, and his Sportsmind programs have been endorsed by the NSW Dept Sport & Recreation, and recommended by top sportsclubs and successful athletes. Jeffrey has competed in many sports, notably Volleyball, Squash, Soccer and Golf, and currently trains in Aikido, holding a black belt.

Some of his clients to date include :
Australian Rugby Union
St. Joseph's College
Woodlands Golf Club
Financial Institutions Remuneration Group (FIRG)
Societe Generale
Qld. Swimming
Network for Fitness Professionals
North Sydney and Penrith Rugby League Clubs
Qld. Athletics Assn
NSW Netball Assn
Northern Inland Academy of Sport
Victorian Soaring Assn
Orange Agricultural College Equestrian School
Qld and NSW Departments of Sport and Recreation
Qld Academy of Sport
and the RAAF.

For more information, contact :
SPORTSMIND , 77 FLAXTON MILL ROAD
FLAXTON Qld. Australia. 4560.
PHONE 61 7 5445 7994
email : jh@sportsmind.com.au
website : www.sportsmind.com.au

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Decision Making in Tennis: QUESTIONS ARE THE ANSWER

By Jeffrey Hodges B.Sc. M.Sc.(Hons) B.Ed.

Importance of Decision Making in Tennis

Tennis is a game of decisions - all throughout the match a player is making decisions which affect the outcome of the game. Some of these decisions are made consciously .... for example :

Do I serve the ball to his backhand or forehand?;

Do I chip and charge or stay back?;

Do I go for a winner or play it safe?

However, many of the most important and significant decisions are not made consciously at all, and many players are totally unaware of the pre-programmed patterns of decision making that are limiting their performance.

In this article I take a look at some of the conscious and unconscious decisions players make, and make some suggestions for improving both conscious and unconscious decision making to improve YOUR game.

Three Important Decisions

It's crucial to understand that both as tennis players, and as ordinary human beings, we all are making decisions about three things which affect us enormously :

decisions about focus; decisions about what things mean; and decisions about what to do right now.

At every instant you're making a decision about what to focus your attention upon, then once your attention is focused on a particular event or set of circumstances the next decision you make is "What does this mean? Is it good, bad or unimportant either way?" This is then followed by the decision about "What do I do now?".

Let's consider an example. The first decision, "What do I focus on?", most people readily understand and appreciate it's importance on the surface.

At each moment, what you decide to pay attention to, and what you decide to focus your thinking on, affects how you feel, and what you do. A person who is focused on watching the ball is obviously going to perform more consistently than another player thinking about someone watching them from the grandstand, or who's mind is on their hot date after the game!

The best players in any sport have learned how to manage this crucial triple decision making process to get the best out of themselves.

However let's probe a little deeper into this process. Consider another example. It's five games all on your serve, and after leading 40 : 0, you double fault twice, and then two scorching unplayable returns from your opponent puts them into advantage with the potential to break your serve, and potentially be serving for the set.

However, you've been serving well so far all match and so walk up confidently, and serve what appears to be a clear ace - only to have it called a fault by the linesperson.

Now ...... what you decide to focus your attention on at that moment determines how you feel and how you perform!

What do many people choose to focus on in such an instance? The injustice of the call, perhaps thinking things like: "There goes the first set now"; or "I hate having to depend on my second serve under pressure; I never play it well."; or "I always play poorly near the end of a game"; or even "There goes this match"! Or perhaps their attention gets captured by thoughts of "I should have ........ in the previous game I should have put away that easy volley, and I would be the one putting pressure on them now", or "I should have served to his backhand like I was going to" ..... etc. etc.

In order to do better at something, it's useful to ask the question, "What do the top people focus on at any point in time, and in particular circumstances?". In this instance, invariably champion players focus on their strongly desired goal, and committed standard of performance. They choose to focus their attention on the excellent serves they have done in the game already, and on previous good serves from situations similar to this, and imagine successfully serving a strong second serve and winning the point - rather than dwelling on the misfortune of the poor line call.

Your Consistent Focus is What is Important

I like to suggest that we human beings are a lot like guided missiles - we move toward whatever we regularly and consistently focus on and picture in our imagination and thoughts, with feeling.

It's not what you think about occasionally that's important, but what you're consistently and regularly focusing your attention upon that influences your life, and performance .

Think for a minute about when you were a child - didn't you imagine yourself playing tennis as you watched your heroes play on TV, and think to yourself, "I'm going to do that!" Likewise, we first imagine ourselves into every new job, relationship, activity and performance, before we do it in reality.

So realise that your decisions about what you focus your attention upon are directing your life.

Ask your self, right now, "What have I been thinking about most today, and this week? What has my focus been upon? What have I spent most of my time thinking about?"

It's interesting to note that for many people, their focus is often on what otherpeople are doing : the latest office gossip; which celebrities have been sleeping with whom; the racing form; or details of the recent performances of their favourite sports stars.

Champions tend to be much more concerned with themselvesand their life to focus for too long on other people.

Every thought has one of only two consequences - it either moves you closer to your dreams, or it takes you further away. There are no other choices, and no 'idle' thoughts! What you decide to focus upon and think about moves you in that direction.

However, many people allow their focus to be distracted and controlled by other people and events, rather than being directed by their own dreams and desires.

For many people, life is like a river, and they're just floating along with the current - current fashions and fads, current events and current problems. The trouble is that sometimes that current can smash you into the rocks or over the waterfall - so it's a good idea to have a direction in mind for where you want to go, and regularly and consistently focus your thinking on that.

Directing Your Focus

What this means in practice is to develop the discipline to consistently focus your attention and thinking on what you want.

For many people, thoughts are things that happen to them - I hear it all the time! "I can't help it; I always do it" they say, as if someone else was actually putting the thoughts in their head! That's garbage!

No-one is in charge of your thinking but you; no-one but you directs your thoughts, so quit whingeing and bitching or making excuses - and learn to discipline your mind!

All mental training MUST begin with the discipline of training your focus, and realising that YOU control and direct your thoughts. Thinking positively doesn't always guarantee success, but when has thinking negatively ever done you any good?

PART 2

Thoughts are essentially decisions you're making - each moment, you make decisions about what to focus your attention upon, and once you focus your attention, you then make a decision about what a particular thing or event means to you. For every event in your life, in order to understand and respond to it, you have to give a meaning to it. The important thing to realise is that these meanings are arbitrary - the meanings you give to events become the meanings of these events for you.

There is nothing that is inherently 'good' or 'bad' - it all depends on what you choose to make of it. A wonderful example of this was given by Denis Waitley in his New Dynamics of Winningaudio tape, in which he tells the story of running late for an airline flight, and arriving just as they closed the flight. Despite his angry demands and pleas to the staff at the airport to hold the plane and let him on, they refuse. He decides to make a complaint to the management, and while he is waiting to do so, the news comes that the plane has crashed on take-off, killing everyone on board.

What was seen by him just a few moments ago as something to get angry and complain about, suddenly in an instant becomes something he is incredibly grateful for. I'm sure you can think of similar situations that have happened to you, in which something happened that you initially judged negatively, but which actually turned out to be to your benefit?

Of course, this doesn't mean that we decide to just blindly accept anything and everything that happens to us as 'good', and have no sense of discrimination, and no

For me, having a strong positive mental attitude is a process of deliberately looking for solutions - the good in any situation, while holding an expectation for the best.

Nor is a positive mental attitude just affirming positive things to yourself - it's mostly about how you handle the setbacks, defeats, challenges, and downright failures that happen to us all. Anyone can be positive and confident when things are going well, but only someone with a truly positive mental attitude can walk off the playing field after a loss, or poorer than expected performance, with their head held high thinking about the positive aspects of their performance, and what they will do over the coming weeks to turn things around.

Also pay attention to the kinds of questions you're asking yourself - use questions that seek solutions rather than dissect problems. " How can I achieve X and enjoy the process?" is far more useful than " Why is this happening?", or "What am I doing wrong?"

In the next issue I will discuss the other two, less conscious, decision making processes that influence your confidence, self belief and performance consistency.

In the next issue I will discuss the other two, less conscious, decision making processes that influence your confidence, self belief and performance consistency.

About Jeffrey Hodges B.Sc.(AES) M.Sc.(Hons)
Jeffrey Hodges is a performance consultant to elite athletes, sporting teams and corporate clients. He is the author of the widely acclaimed "Sportsmind - An Athlete's Guide to Superperformance Through Mental & Emotional Training" and "Champion Thoughts, Champion Feelings"; creator of the Sportsmind performance enhancement workshops and audio tapes; and Director of the Sportsmind Institute for Human Performance Research.

He is a NLP Master Practitioner and Associate Trainer, and his Sportsmind programs have been endorsed by the NSW Dept Sport & Recreation, and recommended by top sportsclubs and successful athletes. Jeffrey has competed in many sports, notably Volleyball, Squash, Soccer and Golf, and currently trains in Aikido, holding a black belt.

Some of his clients to date include :
Australian Rugby Union
St. Joseph's College
Woodlands Golf Club
Financial Institutions Remuneration Group (FIRG)
Societe Generale
Qld. Swimming
Network for Fitness Professionals
North Sydney and Penrith Rugby League Clubs
Qld. Athletics Assn
NSW Netball Assn
Northern Inland Academy of Sport
Victorian Soaring Assn
Orange Agricultural College Equestrian School
Qld and NSW Departments of Sport and Recreation
Qld Academy of Sport
and the RAAF.

For more information, contact :
SPORTSMIND , 77 FLAXTON MILL ROAD
FLAXTON Qld. Australia. 4560.
PHONE 61 7 5445 7994
email : jh@sportsmind.com.au
website : www.sportsmind.com.au

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Visualisation Skills for Tennis

By Jeffrey Hodges B.Sc. M.Sc.(Hons) B.Ed.

In the previous issue I spoke of the importance of developing the seven mental skills of the sports mind :

* Positive Self Motivation

* Powerful Goal Achievement Strategies

* Emotional State Mastery

* Positive Mental Attitude

* Strong Concentration & Focusing Abilities

* Positive Self Image & Unshakeable Self Confidence

* Precision Visualisation Skills

I want to begin in this issue with a discussion on Visualisation for Successful Tennis, because I believe Visualisation is the foundational and most important mental skill - one which all players want to master first.

This is because all the other mental skills require competent visualisation techniques .... to achieve goals, you have to see yourself doing so; to improve a technical aspect of your tennis game you have to be able to clearly picture what you need to do; to change a limiting emotional reaction or behaviour, it's essential that you imagine yourself into the new response; in order to build self confidence, you will want to develop your self image; and so on.

POSITIVE VISUALISATION

Visualisation is a common skill we all use all the time; to achieve anything, to do anything, we first 'see' ourselves doing it.

So visualisation is not something strange or difficult or esoteric, but something we all constantly use in order to function in the world ..... we all can visualise. The trouble is, most people use visualisation negatively - they imagine all the bad things that could happen, and then hope they don't!

The important thing to realise is that we human beings are a lot like guided missiles - we move in the direction of our regular and consistent thoughts and imaginings; we move toward what we picture in our mind - particularly what we picture with vividness and strong feeling.

Whenever we associate a vivid picture with a strong feeling, it has a magnetic attraction - so be careful of what you picture with feeling, because you will be pulled in that direction.

A classic example of this process in action is given by the tennis player who has just serve a first serve fault. As he or she prepares to hit their second serve, an image comes to their mind of double faulting - perhaps even recalling a previous time when they had done so. As they picture this memory, they see it vividly, and of course they feel again the embarrassment they experienced then. They then tell themselves, "Now I don't want to double fault!".

But of course it's too late .... they've already visually programmed themselves with clear pictures and powerful feelings to do just that! As the ball is tossed he or she tenses up because they're afraid of failing, and then watch with dismay as it flies straight into the net.

Why did this happen? Despite all his verbal commands to himself not to hit double fault, he did just that.

Has anything like that ever happened to you? Have you ever commanded yourself not to do something, only to find it happening despite all your conscious efforts? Maybe you've said to yourself, "Now this time I'm not going to get nervous and stammer when I present the talk", and yet you did!

Why?

SELF ONE AND SELF TWO

There's a wonderful book by Tim Gallwey called the Inner Game of Tennis, and in it he talks about the concept of the two selves. Tim Gallwey was a tennis coach, and he noticed people talking to themselves on the court, and from this he suggested that we actually have two 'selves'.

Self 1 is the conscious, 'telling' self, and its the part of us that is always telling us to "Keep your wrist firm", "Watch the ball", "Follow through", or whatever. Self 2 is our non-conscious 'doing' self, and it is the part of us that Self 1 is giving the commands to. You could call Self 1 our conscious mind, and self 2 our body.

Now the interesting thing about self 2, our body, is that is understands vivid pictures and images better than it does words. It's similar to a computer in that it understands a particular programming language ..... however the programming language of self 2 is not MS DOS or WINDOWS XP, but rather vivid visual images. Self 2 is a very competent servant and it accurately follows the instructions given to it in its language.

However most people try to program self 2 with words - they verbally command their body to do something without having a clearly visualised and precise picture of exactly what they want to happen. But it just doesn't work effectively - it's a bit like talking in a foreign language.

If I said "Suwari waza katate mochi nikkajo osai ni", would you know what I wanted you to do?

It's just the same when you try to 'talk' to your body - it just doesn't understand the words you use. The way to command, or 'program' your body effectively is to use vivid images - particularly images associated with strong feeling, or what I call 'feel-mages'.

This concept is supported by comments from champion sportspeople. Jack Nicklaus has said "I never hit a shot, even in practice, without having a clear, in focus picture of it in my mind." Greg Liganus, after hitting his head on the diving board in one of his dives in the 1988 Olympics, was asked by one of the television crews if he wanted a copy of the dive to see where he went wrong. He refused, saying he didn't even want to consider the possibility that Greg Liganus could hit his head on a diving board!

You want to have a positive focus, and you want to communicate with your body in a way that it understands - by giving it clear, vivid images.

It could be said that your level of performance is directly related to the precision of your visual communication, and the level of trust you can establish between your self 1 and self 2.

WHY VISUALISATION WORKS

There is overwhelming scientific and anecdotal evidence which demonstrates the undeniable fact that visualisation can improve your sports performances - there are numerous scientific studies which have shown its effectiveness. In my own research, the feedback I've received from athletes is that they improved their performance from 10% to 50%!

I'd like to share one classic example of the power of visualisation with you. Colonel George Hall was captured by the Vietnamese in the war and incarcerated in a POW camp for seven years - five and a half of which were spent in solitary confinement. Prior to the war, Colonel Hall was a golfer, playing off a handicap of four, and to keep himself from going crazy in prison, every day he would visualise playing a round of golf. He would play each shot, and each hole in his mind, and every day he'd play a different golf course.

When he was finally released and returned to the USA, shortly afterward he was invited to play in a celebrity Pro-Am tournament, and despite being underweight and suffering from malnutrition from his ordeal, he hit a round of 76 ... right on his handicap, despite not having held a golf club for over seven years!

Visualisation works - but do you know why?

It works because visualisation has a measurable, physiological effect on our body. When you visualise doing a movement, play, stroke, shot, or performance, there is a measurable response by the specific muscles used in that activity in response to your imagined movements.

For instance, in order to do a tennis serve in reality, a specific 'program' of neuro-muscular circuits has to fire in order for that to happen. However, if I just vividly imagine doing a tennis serve, it's been found that micro-muscular stimulation occurs in those same muscles used to do the serve in 'reality'.

In fact, neurologically, your body can't tell the difference between a 'real' experience, and a vividly imagined one. You consciously know one experience is real and the other is imagined, but at the cellular level, your body can't tell the difference. For example, think of the last time you had a nightmare .... and now think of a time you had a fright in 'reality'.

Was the fear you experienced in the dream any different from the fear you experienced in response to the 'real' event? It wasn't was it? Your heart still pounded the same and your hands still felt clammy. Perhaps you even jerked your arm up in the dream in response to the imagined events! It was only a dream, but your body still responded like it was real didn't it?

Because there is this muscular response to visualised activity, it makes it possible to 'program in' desired shots, strokes, plays, movements, behaviours, and even emotional responses prior to doing them. In other words you can 'groove in' to your body at a cellular level, a 'muscle memory' of what you want your body to do.

Further, visualisation allows you to practice your techniques perfectly - without error, and so 'groove in' the optimum neural pathway for future successful performance.

In the next issue, I'll conclude our discussion on Visualisation by explaining how to best visualise, and list six different ways to use visualisation to improve YOUR tennis game!


About Jeffrey Hodges B.Sc.(AES) M.Sc.(Hons)
Jeffrey Hodges is a performance consultant to elite athletes, sporting teams and corporate clients. He is the author of the widely acclaimed "Sportsmind - An Athlete's Guide to Superperformance Through Mental & Emotional Training" and "Champion Thoughts, Champion Feelings"; creator of the Sportsmind performance enhancement workshops and audio tapes; and Director of the Sportsmind Institute for Human Performance Research.

He is a NLP Master Practitioner and Associate Trainer, and his Sportsmind programs have been endorsed by the NSW Dept Sport & Recreation, and recommended by top sportsclubs and successful athletes. Jeffrey has competed in many sports, notably Volleyball, Squash, Soccer and Golf, and currently trains in Aikido, holding a black belt.

Some of his clients to date include :
Australian Rugby Union
St. Joseph's College
Woodlands Golf Club
Financial Institutions Remuneration Group (FIRG)
Societe Generale
Qld. Swimming
Network for Fitness Professionals
North Sydney and Penrith Rugby League Clubs
Qld. Athletics Assn
NSW Netball Assn
Northern Inland Academy of Sport
Victorian Soaring Assn
Orange Agricultural College Equestrian School
Qld and NSW Departments of Sport and Recreation
Qld Academy of Sport
and the RAAF.

For more information, contact :
SPORTSMIND , 77 FLAXTON MILL ROAD
FLAXTON Qld. Australia. 4560.
PHONE 61 7 5445 7994
email : jh@sportsmind.com.au
website : www.sportsmind.com.au

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Mental Strategies for an Optimum Tennis Warmup: WARM... WARMER... WARMEST

By Jeffrey Hodges B.Sc. M.Sc.(Hons) B.Ed.

Some Fallacies about 'Warming Up'

By now, most serious tennis professionals and up-to-date coaches and sports trainers have heard about the potential problems with 'static stretching' prior to sports performances. Contrary to the consistent, mandatory advice of many years, it has now been proven scientifically that extended static stretching prior to intense physical activity actually leads to a decrease in muscle performance, and even a greater potential for injuries.

Wiemann & Klee (2004), Jones (2004), and others have clearly demonstrated that static stretching can cause damage to myofibrils in muscles, and hence intense (stretching to maximum tolerable tension) muscle stretching before a sports performance leads to reduced performance and a higher risk of injury. It is now suggested that the best results are obtained by engaging in a general aerobic warm-up (e.g.. a five minute jog), followed by low intensity exercises similar in nature to those to be used in the actual performance. Any stretching should be submaximal and dynamic - not intense and static.

Further, when speaking of the warm-up few people even consider the mental and emotional aspects of preparing oneself for competition - attention is almost always focused just on the physical body.

So what is the best advice for the warm-up to get the best out of yourself? How can you warm up mentally and emotionally - as well as physically? What can you do now with the time that used to spent on stretching in the warm-up?

First, let's consider when the actual warm-up really begins. Many people think of the warm-up as the ten minutes prior to a game commencing, or perhaps the thirty minutes prior to that. However I believe games are won and lost on the day before, and the morning of competition, as well as during the actual time of competing! I suggest that you want to see the warm-up as starting the day before, and to initiate a series of actions that you repeat as a regular routine in order to get the best out of yourself on a consistent basis.

Having a planned, positive routine established which you follow consistently gives you a sense of familiarity and confidence, no matter where the venue is, or whatever the surface.

To establish the best routine for yourself, think back to the times you played your very best .... what did you do the day before? What did you eat? What did you think about? How did you direct your emotions? What did you have for breakfast on the morning of the match? How did you warm up? What were you thinking then?

Obviously, you will want to tailor a warm-up routine specifically to suit you, but here are a range of tips and ideas that may be helpful. Note that not all the suggestions may be suitable for everyone, and it is not suggested that you do all of these things - select those that work for you, and establish them as a routine for consistent success.

The Day Before

* First thing in the morning, do a light aerobic and general muscle toning workout : for example a 15 - 20 minute cycle or jog, followed by easy abdominal and general upper body exercises with light weights, and gentle, submaximal stretching. Drink plenty of water - before and after. [I recommend starting every day with a glass of purified water before you do anything thing else!]

* Follow this with a soak in a bath, or spa, and a light massage (no deep tissue work). A thorough 20 - 30 minute self massage of your legs, abdomen, chest, arms, and especially your feet and hands - is cheap, and simple to do. While you're massaging yourself (or being massaged), imagine your muscles strong and powerful and ready to perform tomorrow. Picture each muscle group being massaged, and imagine the blood vessels supplying it with oxygen and nutrients and taking away waste products. Visualise your neuro-muscular system working as an efficient unit, quickly responding to the demands you will put it to, and easily coping with the work load. Say to yourself that you are fit and ready; think of your body as fit, strong, and flexible.

* Sometime during the day, (if you don't have to go to work), spend a couple of hours relaxing and reading / listening to / watching a motivational book / CD / video. For example, watch replays of great tennis matches - particularly players who's style is similar to your own, and with whom you identify. As you do this, remind yourself regularly of the strengths of your own game, and imagine yourself playing like your role model.

* In the afternoon or evening, spend 30 minutes drawing up a game plan for tomorrow. Focus on yourself and how you want to play, rather than the opposition. Replay and relive in your mind some of your very best performances - times in competition or training when you played your very best. Remember specific highlights, and feel strong and powerful, and deliberately visualise playing the same way, and doing similar shots tomorrow.

* Well before bedtime, take 20 - 30 minutes to go through a relaxation and visualisation exercise in which you imagine and feel yourself living out your game plan at the actual venue of the match. Imagine not just the physical aspects of positive stroke making and skill, but also how you want to feel in the match : confident, determined, courageous - and enjoying it! I recommend this is done well prior to going to sleep, since you don't want to become obsessed with the game and think about it all night! Do it once, then forget about it. [ There are many types of relaxation techniques and visualisation exercises that can be used for enhancing various aspects of sports performance, and I will write a more detailed article on Visualisation techniques shortly. Also, I have a range of six excellent tapes that cover Motivation, Positive Attitude, Concentration, and so on. See www.sportsmind.com.au for details ]

* Prepare your gear for tomorrow, then get a great night's sleep, by hitting the sack early. If you're a bit nervous, a short walk outside for 15 - 20 minutes before bed clears the head, and is far better than watching the idiot box (TV)!

The Day of the Match

* Rise early, have a drink of pure water, and do 10 - 15 mins of deep breathing and positive affirmations in fresh air - preferably in a park. Affirmations are short positive phrases and statements used to build self belief and confidence, and to commit to the process goals you want to attain. For example: "I will get 70% or better of my first serves in court today"; "I'm fit and strong and ready"; "I can do it. I'm going to play to my best today."; and so on. [The Sportsmind book and training manual explain how to write your own affirmations, and have sample lists of positive affirmations that you can use - again see www.sportsmind.com.au for details]

Most people feel better doing this outside in the fresh air, but of course if you prefer you can do them in your room, or even as you're driving to the venue.

* After breakfast, while you're checking your gear, play some of your favourite, up-beat music to get you excited and ready (e.g.. theme music from 'Rocky I or II', or from 'Chariots of Fire', etc. Think to yourself as you're listening that you're ready, you feel great, and you're really looking forward to the competition - you're going to play well, and enjoy yourself.

* Driving to the venue, again either say positive affirmations to yourself or listen to positive mood music.

* Thirty minutes before the match, go somewhere by yourself and spend five minutes quieting your mind of all self talk, and simply visualise (without words) playing well, staying focused and determined and positive. As the match time approaches it's important to switch yourself from 'thinking' to 'playing' mode. Positive self talk is essential in the match build up, but too much thinking is detrimental to playing from the 'zone' - where we simply 'play' unconsciously, without much conscious thought.

* Before walking on court, use a positive 'trigger' for accessing powerful resource feelings of confidence, strength, self belief, joy, etc. [ I will explain how to build a positive emotion 'trigger' in the next issue - or check out my Champion Thoughts, Champion Feelings book ] From now on you want to be totally in feeling - quiet your internal dialogue, and get into the rhythm of your shot making; fully feel your balance, the temperature of the air, your breathing full and deep and regular, the feel of your hand gripping the racquet. Since the brain cannot process an external and an internal stimulus at the same time, by deliberately focusing on external feeling sensations such as described, you take away the opportunity for yourself to feel internal nervousness, doubt, or fear.

Now you're truly warmed up and ready ... go out and play well!

References

Jones, M (2004) The Effects of Static Stretching on Performance, pp.27 inModern Athlete & Coach Vol 42 - 1

Wiemann, K & Klee, A (2004) The Significance of Stretching in the Warm Up Before Maximum Performance, pp.24-26 inModern Athlete & Coach Vol 42 - 1

About Jeffrey Hodges B.Sc.(AES) M.Sc.(Hons)
Jeffrey Hodges is a performance consultant to elite athletes, sporting teams and corporate clients. He is the author of the widely acclaimed "Sportsmind - An Athlete's Guide to Superperformance Through Mental & Emotional Training" and "Champion Thoughts, Champion Feelings"; creator of the Sportsmind performance enhancement workshops and audio tapes; and Director of the Sportsmind Institute for Human Performance Research.

He is a NLP Master Practitioner and Associate Trainer, and his Sportsmind programs have been endorsed by the NSW Dept Sport & Recreation, and recommended by top sportsclubs and successful athletes. Jeffrey has competed in many sports, notably Volleyball, Squash, Soccer and Golf, and currently trains in Aikido, holding a black belt.

Some of his clients to date include :
Australian Rugby Union
St. Joseph's College
Woodlands Golf Club
Financial Institutions Remuneration Group (FIRG)
Societe Generale
Qld. Swimming
Network for Fitness Professionals
North Sydney and Penrith Rugby League Clubs
Qld. Athletics Assn
NSW Netball Assn
Northern Inland Academy of Sport
Victorian Soaring Assn
Orange Agricultural College Equestrian School
Qld and NSW Departments of Sport and Recreation
Qld Academy of Sport
and the RAAF.

For more information, contact :
SPORTSMIND , 77 FLAXTON MILL ROAD
FLAXTON Qld. Australia. 4560.
PHONE 61 7 5445 7994
email : jh@sportsmind.com.au
website : www.sportsmind.com.au

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