THE INTERNET OPTION FOR ATHLETES TO DEVELOP PERFORMANCE-ENHANCING MENTAL SKILLS

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

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Why Mental Skills Training?

What is Included in the Mental Skills Training Service?

How Does One Determine if Mental Skills Training is Needed?

What is Required to Participate in Mental Skills Training?

Are There Any Limitations on the Use of Mental Skills Training?

What Are the Computer Requirements for Mental Skills Training?

What Are the Levels of Service with Mental Skills Training?

What Do the Elements in Mental Skills Training Cost?

Can Mental Skills Training Be Tried on a Trial Basis? [FREE TRIAL]

Who Do I Contact to Obtain This Service?

How Do I Place an Order?

Why Mental Skills Training?

Mental skills training is designed to produce psychological states and skills in athletes that lead to performance enhancement. It focuses on the mental skills that should be developed to further propel athletic performances beyond those that can be achieved through physical and technical training.

Because psychology is the newest sport science, what needs to be trained and taught in sports is not well known or understood. This service provides step-by-step exercises for training mental skills that will improve sporting capabilities using the convenience of the Internet.

The exercises are self-help activities and have been shown effective through independent research. Since sporting contests force athletes to rely on their own decision-making and capacities, it is appropriate to structure mental skills training in a self-directed format. The execution of mental skills learning exercises taps the same capacities as those required for excellent competitive performances. Not being able to proceed in the disciplined manner required for these exercises indicates an absence of the mental skills for achieving one's full potential in sport. Any athlete, who does not follow the prescribed exercises in detail, should not expect to excel at the highest levels in sports. This service is a resource to start mental skills training.

The structure of the exercises centers on procedures for modifying mental behavior. They employ the concepts of both overt and covert positive reinforcement, public posting as a reinforcer, self-control behaviors, and both discriminative and instructional stimuli. These features are structured into exercises designed to elicit behaviors, produce behavior consequences, and stretch the schedule of those consequences to produce permanent behaviors. All features of an exercise must be followed to be successful. If one skips over or omits a step or activity, the exercise might not produce the desired effect. These exercises have been tested, validated, and evaluated in a variety of settings. They are now refined to the point where they are maximally effective.

This service is limited to performance enhancement mental skills training. The literature of applied behavior analysis or behavior modification explains other psychological problem-solving techniques. They are not entertained in this Internet format because they should remain in the province of the trained professional. However, if athletes develop the mental skills offered here, very few psychological problems associated with the mental aspects of sport will develop. In one sense, mental skills training is an insurance package against the development of psychological problems in sport.

Many "psychological-problem" behaviors in sports are not psychological in nature but rather, are caused by technical and/or physiological factors. For example, if performance is reduced by some technique problem, an athlete's perception of performance capability (an aspect of "self-efficacy") will deteriorate. If that deterioration is not halted through the correction of the technical fault then its persistence will lead to more extreme psychological and behavioral manifestations. In that circumstance, the "psychological problems" are not psychological problems at all but rather, are an athlete's expression of the frustration, disappointment, and negative appraisal of a pure technical performance problem. To treat those behaviors as "psychological problems" would be wrong for the real cause would not be addressed. Obvious further problems would result from such an erroneous problem diagnosis and would usually result in the athlete's problem being worsened rather than being alleviated.

Wrong diagnoses can result from physiologically caused problems. For example, overtrained athletes undergo behavioral changes that are often labeled as caused by "attitude" or "motivational" problems. A deteriorating physiology and body biochemistry causes athletes to alter overt and covert behaviors. Treatments designed to remove the manifested psychological symptoms will not be successful although some temporary improvements might be demonstrated. Only when the physiological cause is eliminated could behaviors revert to more adaptive forms.

When attempting to use mental skills training as a means for solving problems by developing behaviors that are incompatible with the problem behaviors, one first has to determine that the causes are purely psychological. With any sporting circumstance that causes behavioral problems, one has to consider if the problem is physiological, technical, or psychological. To ignore one possible source is to heighten the probability of erroneous diagnosis. The coach, athlete, and sport psychologist should always remember this concern.

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What is Included in the Mental Skills Training Service?

There are seven areas for developing performance-enhancing mental skills in this service. They are as follows.

Each exercise contains a verbal description of the rationale for doing the exercise, and a downloadable printable version of the exercise steps and recording sheets (in Adobe Acrobat Reader format). Exercises can only be accessed through use of a specific username and password (both supplied by this service).

A user can elect to have personal contact with the psychologist on a one-to-one basis if warranted. This can be achieved through telephone or MSN Messenger chat capabilities.

The exercises in this service are adapted from the book Mental Skills Training for Sports (Rushall, 2001), which can be purchased from Sports Science Associates.

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How Does One Determine if Mental Skills Training is Needed?

A behavior or mental problem or unusual function is often an initial sign of dysfunction in an athlete. Before considering a psychological cause, careful consideration should be given to technical or physiological causes. If those are ruled out, the psychological causes should be considered.

Many people assume that psychological causes can be deduced through experience and "understanding". However, when precise prescriptions are sought for problem solutions it is best to have valid and accurate analyses that locate the problem characteristics and sources. That is possible by using sport-specific tests. Such tests are available through Sports Science Associates.

For a complete service, sport-specific psychological testing should be performed before and after a mental skills training program. The repeated testing should show changes made by the athlete. This gives social validation to the expenditures in time, effort, and money involved with this specific and individualized form of sports training.

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What is Required to Participate in Mental Skills Training?

Three characteristics should exist in an athlete before attempting mental skills training. They are as follows.

  1. The athlete must want to do the exercise. When a task is approached in a positive manner, a significant factor for potential success already exists. When an individual is hesitant to do an exercise, failure is likely. From an athlete's viewpoint, a decision has to be made that exercise completion is very important and that he/she will be self-motivated to achieve that end. Without that commitment, benefits derived from the exercises will be diminished.
  2. Each exercise must be completed fully. Benefits are only achieved if exercises are completed fully. Partial completions may produce unsatisfactory results. The demand for exercise completion is reasonable. Mental skills have to be trained in much the same manner as do physical skills and physiological adaptations. They require time, effort, repetition, and progress feedback.
  3. The user must be concerned with perfection when completing an exercise. Each exercise is structured deliberately, contains essential ingredients, does not include unnecessary activities, and requires self-recording and self-evaluation activities. When an exercise is performed, nothing should be omitted. There are no short cuts to exercise completion. The repetitions and recording procedures used are intended to practice elements so they eventually become skilled habits. No user should look for an opportunity to do less than that which is specifically required.

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Are There Any Limitations on the Use of Mental Skills Training?

The only limitation on use of mental skills exercises in this service is the period of availability of a section of exercises. When a potential user purchases a section of skill exercises, it is assumed the exercises will be started almost immediately, and that they will be performed conscientiously as described. Consequently, a user can only access a purchased section for a limited period. When that time has elapsed, the username and password will no longer be valid and will not be useable. At that time, the service is terminated. Time extensions are not available. It is important that each exercise be completed on the schedule indicated in its structure. Because of this time restriction, it is advisable to purchase and engage in only one section of exercises at a time.

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What Are the Computer Requirements for Mental Skills Training?

Mental skills training is best run on Windows PCs but can be accessed on MACs. It requires RealOne Player, Adobe Acrobat Reader, and MSN Messenger. If a user wants to interact with the psychologist, it is helpful to have an audio capability to use with MSN Messenger (microphone and headset is best) so that verbal interactions and file sharing can occur. At least a 56K modem is desirable.

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What Are the Levels of Service with Mental Skills Training?

Three levels of service are available with mental skills training.

Mental Skills Training Level 1. This consists of a user engaging in only mental skills exercises. A self-determined section is purchased and the prescriptions followed. When multiple sections are wanted, only one section should be purchased at a time. Succeeding sections should be purchased when the exercises in a section are completed. If multiple sections are purchased at once, it is likely the time limit of availability of some sections will expire before they are used. Since there is no time extension on a purchase, any expenditure will have been wasted.

The Level 1 service contains no testing to validate the applicability of the selected sections. There is no interaction with a psychologist.

Mental Skills Training Level 2. The second level of service entails entry (initial) testing to diagnose psychological strengths and weaknesses. The diagnosis is then interpreted by the user to select sections for a mental skills training program. Sections are purchased in the manner described for the Level 1 service.

There is no interaction with a psychologist in the Level 2 service.

Mental Skills Training Level 3. The third level of service entails consultation with a psychologist, entry and exit testing, and the purchase of mental skills exercises. This is the full-service level.

Entry level testing is conducted. A discussion of results with a psychologist is undertaken. A prescription of exercises is developed. Interactions with the psychologist occur in concert with the progress and completion of exercises. The amount of interaction is determined by need and/or the number of consultation hours purchased by the user. Exit level testing is involved.

SERVICE ELEMENTS AND COSTS FOR EACH LEVEL OF SERVICE
FOR MENTAL SKILLS TRAINING

 

Service Level

Service Performed

1

2

3

Entry level testing

-

$50

$50

Exit level testing

-

-

$50

Sections of exercises

$15-30 per section

$15-30 per section

$15-30 per section

Consultation hours

-

-

$100 per hour

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What Do the Elements in Mental Skills Training Cost?

Entry and Exit Level Testing. A battery of tests is completed. The tests are the Sport Locus of Control (IE) Scale, the Achievement Motivations Scale for Sporting Environments, the Sport Self-control Schedule, and the appropriate sport-specific behavior inventory. These tests are explained in detail elsewhere (click on this link to review relevant content). This package of tests is labeled the Exclusive Elite Athlete Psychological Testing package and can be reviewed at the Sports Science Associates web site.

How testing is conducted. The following are the steps involved in the Exclusive Elite Athlete Psychological Testing package.

  1. The package is purchased off the Mental Skills Training Order Form. The PayPal process sends an email to Sports Science Associates that includes the shipping address that was entered when using the PayPal service.
  2. A package of tests is then mailed to the stipulated shipping address.
  3. Upon receipt of the tests, they should be completed as soon as possible and the total package (tests and answer sheets) is then mailed back to Sports Science Associates. The tests must accompany the answer sheets [the tests are not purchased as part of this service].
  4. Upon receipt of the complete package, processing of the athlete's responses will occur. Processing will be delayed if the tests are not returned.
  5. Results will be mailed to the shipping address. If circumstances allow, results will be emailed.

A full analysis costs $50.00 per individual. To order this item, go to the Mental Skills Testing Order Page.

Costs for Sections of Exercises. The following table lists the various costs of the packages of exercises available. The duration of access for each section is also indicated

Mental Skills Training Sections, Number of Exercises,
Access, and Costs per Section

Section

Section Name

Number of Exercises

Duration of Access

Price

2

Increasing the Positive Aspects of a Sporting Experience

4

2 months

$15.00

3

Goal-setting

6

3 months

$20.00

4

The Development of Commitment

3

1 month

$15.00

5

Performance Enhancement Imagery

4

2 months

$15.00

6

Relaxation

7

2 months

$25.00

7

Precompetition Mental Skills

5

2 months

$20.00

8

Competition Mental Skills

11

3 months

$25.00

A user should first decide on the sections that are appropriate for his/her needs. A plan for using the sections should be constructed. If consultation is purchased, that decision is usually made with the counsel of the psychologist. When an order for a section is placed, an email is sent by the psychologist indicating the username and password needed to access the section. To order a section of mental skills training exercises go to the Mental Skills Testing Order Page.

Costs for Consultation Hours. It is possible to talk to a registered psychologist about the implementation of mental skills training. Interactions occur across the internet using MSN Messenger (a free service), or by telephone (user pays for the call). Consultation time is pre-purchased at a rate of $100.00 per hour or part thereof. Consultations are scheduled and apportioned on a first come basis. It is possible that a waiting list for consultations will exist. To determine if consultations are possible, send an email requesting information about availability.

To order one or more hours of consultation, go to the Mental Skills Testing Order Page.

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Can Mental Skills Training Be Tried on a Trial Basis? [FREE TRIAL]

Mental skills training can be used on a trial basis. Two elements of the service are offered free of charge.

  1. Section 1, The Potential Use of Mental Skills Training in the Sporting Experience, is a verbal explanation of how mental skills training can be used through this service. There are no exercises in this section. Click on this link to access Section 1.
  2. Exercise 2.1, Increasing the intensity of self-reinforcement, is an exercise that is a useful basis for all sections of mental skills training. It exhibits the format in which exercises are presented and the form of material presentation. It is typical of exercises offered in the mental skills training service. Click on this link to access Exercise 2.1.

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Who Do I Contact to Obtain This Service?

Send a request to:

Sports Science Associates
4225 Orchard Drive
Spring Valley
CALIFORNIA 91977
(Telephone: 619-469-1537; Fax: 619-469-4267;
Email: brushall@cox.net)

In Australia contact

Winning Thinking
PO Box 121
Miranda
NSW
(Telephone and Fax (02) 9526 7777;
Email: mike@winningthinking.com.au)

Include the following information in any correspondence

  1. Name
  2. Title
  3. Address
  4. Institution
  5. Telephone
  6. Email address

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