Today's post seeks to address a fairly common question that athletes and their significant others often possess: when is it time to seek outside help for performance issues? Most dedicated athletes will use their physical frame of reference and increase their training, repetitions of skills, or any other avenue in order to get results. For some, especially if it is a strength or more gross motor issue, this can be a pathway for resolution. On the other hand, this response can have negative potential effects, especially if the problem actually lies within the mental processes of the athlete. Anxiety, frustration, burnout, overtraining syndrome, injuries, and depression are potential hazards in this pattern. When special trainers, nutritionists, and coaches are often hired but improvements are negligble, there may be something else going on. When outside interventions do not produce results, it is likely that the problem lies within the muscle between our ears.
Based on precedent, this is when a qualified professional can be brought into the picture. While each individual athlete is unique, here are some rules of thumb for when working with a sport psychologist may be appropriate:
- Noticeable performance discrepancies in same season or adjoining seasons.
- Previous attempts to improve performance or remedy deficits don't yield results
- Changes in mood/personality
- Attitude changes toward activity
- Recurrent anger and frustration during activity
- A general "negative feeling" when thinking about sport or coach, etc.
- Behavior changes both in and out of sport environment
- Spending less or more time performing activity
- Anxiety and stress
- Performance plateaus
These and related difficutlies can be considered problematic if they last for two weeks or longer, or if espeically bothersome. It should also be noted that one does not have to be experiencing negative performance in order to be helped by sport psychology; preventative measures, goals and techniques to get an edge are all examples of a "complete" training program.