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10 Second Toughness

October 24, 2010

We’ve blogged before about “The Inner Game of Ultimate” but in this blog post we’ll drill down into one specific aspect of the inner, or mental game: how to use “The Performance Statement: Simple and Concrete”.

This blog post was directly inspired by Chapter 2 of Jason Selk‘s recent book 10 Minute Toughness. After taking a sports psychology class last quarter and reading a number of books including 10 Minute Toughness, Mind Gym, Brain Training for Runners, In Pursuit of Excellence, and Catch Them Being Good, I found that Selk’s 10 Minute Toughness is probably the easiest to recommend to an Ultimate athlete who wants to work on her/his own mental/inner game, as it contains directives and drills that are simple but not simplistic, from the “Centering Breath” breathing patterns (6-2-7, for 6 seconds in, hold for two, 7 seconds out) to using a “Personal Highlight Reel” and the “Simple and Concrete Performance Statement.”

These three practices make up part of Selk’s Phase 1 “Mental Workout”, which comes before his Phase 2, “Goal Setting for Greatness”. And on this last note, an acquaintance I met recently (not an Ultimate player) asked someone I know if she made any goals for the day at a local tournament. She responded that her goal was to not suck, but of course he meant to ask if she had scored any points instead of asking if she had set any personal development goals for the day =)

Now, we know that goal setting can be an important part of self-improvement, but on a day to day basis, how might we be able to set some sort of shorter term goal or directive to tighten up our inner game? Enter the “Performance Statement”, which Selk describes as “a type of self-talk designed to help athletes zoom in on one specific thought to enhance performance consistency”.

He writes earlier,

From a mental standpoint, the most tried-and-true way to increase performance is to improve confidence. Self talk is one of the most influential agents for honing self-confidence. Extensive research in the sports psychology world confirms that an athlete’s internal dialogue significantly influences performance. Athletes who have negative self-talk will generally experience poor performance; conversely, when athletes keep their minds focused on positive performance cues, they are more likely to experience success.

(emphasis mine.)

To be specific, what is a “positive performance cue” slash “performance statement”? Selk mentions a few examples, from baseball (hitting) “track the ball, smooth and easy” to basketball “hustle every possession; attack every rebound; drive, drive drive”.

What these examples share is their simplicity, positive-performance focus, and shortness: these are cues, not verbatim instructions on how to play your sport. But neither are they mantras or cheers (such as “focus”, “ohm”, “jia yo” or “eat the babies!”).

In other words, they are longer than a single word but describe something succinctly in much less than ten seconds (hence the blog post). A simple guideline: no longer than ten words, with only one or two things to focus on.

For example, I recently experimented with the statement, “Chilly confidence, work hard”, which in retrospect may have not been specific enough for any odd handler, but for many the directive to “stay chilly” on offense has a specific meaning. On defense, a statement might be “Go for it [the disc], stay hip to hip”.

Selk points out that performance statements should be positive–things you “do” rather than avoid doing. So rather than “don’t drop the disc” / “don’t get beat upline” one might instead say “two hands [on the disc]” or “deny/no/stop upline cuts”.

He also describes a useful exercise for coming up with a personal performance statement. Imagine you are about to compete in the biggest game of your life, (or perhaps you’re headed to Club Nationals in Sarasota FL!), and the best coach you’ve ever had is standing beside you. Right before you put seven on the line, “your coach looks you in the eye and tells you that if you stay focused on this one thing or these two things, you will be successful today. What one or two things would the coach name?”

Answer this question, craft your personal Performance Statement, and you’re well on your way to 10 Second Toughness! =)

One Comment leave one →
  1. Leslie Wu permalink
    October 24, 2010 11:47 pm

    On a related note, a quote from the NYTimes,

    “Mental tenacity — and the ability to manage and even thrive on and push through pain — is a key segregator between the mortals and immortals in running,” Ms. Wittenberg said.

    from Personal Best – The Secrets of Elite Athletes – NYTimes.com

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