March Madness Psychology – 3 Things to Know

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It is the time of year that basketball fans wait for all-year-long.  The excitement and drama of the NCAA basketball tournament for men and women will play out over the next month ending in a winner-take-all one-game finale.  In this post we will look at March Madness psychology to understand what makes this tournament so exhilarating.

To understand the mayhem, you have to understand the March Madness psychology.

  1. First, on a cognitive level, the athletes are in a tumultuous state of development. Emotions are being fueled by powerful neurochemicals and the decision center of the prefrontal cortex is still being formed.  This combination alone leads to erratic behavior and performance, mostly due to the wide emotional spectrum experienced by the athletes during the tournament and the physical toll this roller-coaster exacts.
  2. March Madness psychology is an endurance event with moments of frantic physical and mental effort. March Madness lasts nearly a month, more if you count the divisional tournaments.  This means players have to stay engaged through constant travel, adapting to new environments, missing loved ones, media interviews, and a grueling game schedule.  Most of us have a problem staying focused and engaged in our vocation for more than a week; these elite athletes have to do it for a month at the end of an already long regular season. In addition to this endurance, these athletes are expected to ramp-up their effort and focus during critical parts of the game.  Why do some 15th ranked teams beat #2s?  Odds are, the #2 team came out flat or shoots 20% from the field…sure signs of mental fatigue and a lack of engagement.
  3. March Madness psychology is also about understanding how chance and statistics impact the psychology of the players. A significant portion of sport outcomes involve chance.  We have all heard the statement, “the good make their own luck,” and this is true to some degree.  However, when a lesser team blows out a national power by shooting 70% from the 3-point line, it is the forces of statistics, not the magic of a hot hand at work.  And it is chance that this statistical shooting anomaly happened during the NCAA tournament and not in the opening round of a pre-season tournament.  How players respond to the fickle whim of chance is determined by resilience.  Resilience is a critical part of March Madness psychology and is impacted by emotional intelligence, confidence, leadership, and team cohesion.

Now, while you are watching your bracket getting demolished by upsets, you will have a greater understanding of the hidden forces of March Madness psychology.  These uncertain and dynamic psychological forces will play a significant role in determining the next NCAA national champion.  Did you consider the March Madness psychology factor when you completed your bracket?

 

There is a reason why elite athletes and high-performing executives have personal coaches.  It takes expertise to assess performance strengths and weaknesses and develop evidence-based training to optimize performance at all levels.  Develop your cognitive skills, decision making, mental toughness and poise under pressure with the TierOne Performance Consulting team or at the TierOne Performance Institute.  We offer state-of-the-art individual and team-based training to optimize elite athletic performance and executive coaching.  Also, checkout this YouTube clip on improving poise and mental toughness through distress tolerance training.

Remember – Put your mind on what matters.

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Elite Performance Psychology – Mental Rehearsal and Visualization at the Olympics

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Mikaela Shiffrin conducts mental rehearsals before her Olympic ski competition

If you have been watching the 2018 Winter Olympics you have probably noticed our Olympians hanging over their ski poles doing some strange fluid movements prior to their race.  These athletes are using mental rehearsal to get extra reps on the slopes and visualize successful performance.  Gold medal winner Mikaela Shiffrin uses elite performance psychology techniques to get an edge on the competition and quiet the noise in her head before a race so she can focus on the performance tasks that result in elite performance.

See Shiffrin talk about her pre-race mental preparation here.

Mental rehearsal is based on the concept of neural functional equivalence. Research has shown that the same brain activity occurs when we imagine doing a performance task as does when we actually perform the task.  The brain activates the neural networks that prepare the body for a specific performance action.  Conducting mental rehearsal prior to a performance event can prime the body for action and can be used between performance events to get more mental reps in the performance environment.

Visualization is a bit different.  Visualization in elite performance psychology is used to foster confidence and quiet negative self-talk.  Think of this as a personal highlight reel, you see yourself being successful, performing at a high level, crushing the competition.  Visualization can be particularly useful to short-circuit anxious thoughts or rumination that often spirals out of control after experiencing a setback.

There are several key concepts used in elite performance psychology to enhance mental rehearsal and visualization, not all methods are scientifically proven and take advantage of multiple performance systems to optimize the benefits and enhance performance.  If mental rehearsal and visualization is done incorrectly, it could actually degrade performance.  It is beyond the scope of this article to cover these concepts, be sure to find a qualified trainer that has the scientific background to conduct this training responsibly.

There is a reason why elite athletes and high-performing executives have personal coaches.  It takes expertise to assess performance strengths and weaknesses and develop evidence-based training to optimize performance at all levels.  Develop your cognitive skills, decision making, and poise under pressure with the TierOne Performance Consulting team or at the TierOne Performance Institute.  We offer state-of-the-art individual and program-based training to optimize elite athletic performance and executive coaching.  Also, checkout this YouTube clip on improving poise and mental toughness through distress tolerance training.

Remember – Put your mind on what matters.

NFL Combine Preparation – The Mental Advantage

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A lot of money and effort goes into NFL combine preparation, but most programs don’t train the area that has the greatest potential for the largest performance growth…performance mind training.  De’Quan Hampton at the EVO combine training camp.

NFL combine preparation is all about getting bigger, stronger, and faster.  Squeezing out that tenth of a second that shows you belong at the elite level of play.  What if that tenth to three-tenths of a second wasn’t only found on the track and in the gym, but could also be reliably trained using cognitive training tools that increased reaction time and decision making on the field and gave the combine athlete the mental advantage over his competition.  Right now, most combine camps leave mental development to chance, that all changed last week at the EVO Sports Training Combine Camp.

This year, TierOne Performance Consulting teamed up with Gary Cablayan and the trainers at EVO Sports Training to integrate performance mind training with traditional NFL combine preparation.  The comprehensive program ensures that the athletes have optimized performance at the mental and physical level, giving them the greatest opportunity for success at the combine or Pro-Day.

The training revealed some startling performance results.  Former USC receiver De’Quan Hampton showed exceptional capacity on the modified Attentional Network Test (ANT).  The ANT measures all aspects of the cognitive attentional network that drives reaction time and decision-making on the field.  Hampton scored in the 92 percentile, scientifically showing that while he is already fast and a great receiver, he is able to process information on the field and make accurate decisions faster than 92% of his competitors.  Research has shown that performance mind training can improve reaction time and decision making by one to three-tenths of a second, this increased processing speed translates into one to three yards of gained ground on the field.  Think of all the plays during a game that are decided by less than a yard.  Why wouldn’t you train this performance measure in your athletes, especially during NFL combine preparation?

TierOne Performance Consulting helps elite athletes improve cognitive processing, poise, command presence, and decision making in time sensitive high-stress game situations.  Learning how to control and self-regulate your cognitive and physiological states is a must to perform at the highest levels.  Elite performance psychology at TierOne Performance Consulting can help you learn the skills to perform on the biggest stages.

There is a reason why elite athletes and high-performing executives have personal coaches.  It takes expertise to assess performance strengths and weaknesses and develop evidence-based training to optimize performance at all levels.  Develop your cognitive skills, decision making, and poise under pressure with the TierOne Performance Consulting team or at the TierOne Performance Institute.  We offer state-of-the-art individual and program-based training to optimize elite athletic performance and executive coaching.  Also, checkout this YouTube clip on improving poise and mental toughness through distress tolerance training.

Remember – Put your mind on what matters.