The mental game is one of the more complex aspects of sports. For coaches, finding the right mindset for themselves and their team can be the most one of the most critical things you do for your team in any given season. Unlocking the positive aspects of a champion’s mindset is what Dr. Jason Novetsky does.
Dr Novetsky has a PhD in Education, a Masters in School & Clinical Psychology and Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. He has worked as a School Psychologist for 25 years, a Sport & Performance Psychology Coach for 8 years, travel and high school baseball coach for 9 years and was an All-Conference Division-1 pitcher at the University of Detroit.
His own path down the sports psychology road started with a book, when coaches and teammates told him there was nothing physically off during a rough stretch of pitching. Novetsky was experiencing what he now calls “the curse of talent”. He read The Mental Game of Baseball: A Guide to Peak Performance by Harvey Dorfman, a champion in his own right with World Series rings from two different MLB teams. After taking lessons from the book and getting back on track, he would start his own journey to sports psychology.
Now, Novetsky has joined the Mike Hartman Show and is sharing some of his knowledge with the Hartman.Academy and the Ready To Play program. Throughout his conversation with Mike Hartman he shares the lessons and tips that he shares with clients in order to help them improve their performance.
100% Mental Game
One of the best catchers of all time, 10 time World Series champion Yogi Berra once said “90% of the game is half mental”. That may have worked for him, but Dr. Novetsky doesn’t subscribe to that particular Yogi-ism. Novetsky believes that the game is 100% mental, but it often goes untrained. Any foundation for a mental game starts with actually practicing it. As a coach, that means you have to preach some basics to your players such as Novetsky and Dr. Jared Wood, his business partner, mindset strategy called the To-Do Mindset.
How do you create confident players who will bring that mindset to games and practices on a consistent basis? Novetsky believes that preparation equals confidence. One way to increase a player’s preparation and confidence is by helping them establish routines. What is your routine the night before a game? What team routines and habits can you establish that gets everyone on the same page while leaving them room to get themselves mentally ready? Finally there is pre-play or pre-shift.
Novetsky calls this BSTV, an acronym for Breath, Situation, Task, Visualisation. Before playing this is a quick mental checklist a player can go through to help establish confidence and preparation mere moments before setting out to play.
Novetsky says that motivation comes from within. If it comes from an outside source then it will not be as successful in the long run. For their players, one of the key jobs of a coach will be to provide the opportunity to succeed for their players. If they are motivated, a coach who provides opportunity will allow them to grow as players and people.
A coach can help establish the process for players. One of the highest profile examples of a coach who does this is Nick Saban. The process he’s put in place has turned the University of Alabama football program into a perennial powerhouse. The best high school recruits from all over the country buy into the Alabama way as their ticket to a national championship and a path to the NFL.
Any coach can do this. You establish the process for how the team operates and what you expect of the players on a day to day basis. In turn you can then set more periodic goals. A “performance” goal or a short term goal can be established off of that, and long term or “ultimate” goals, that may pace far beyond that game or season can be made off of that. A coach can help their players for years after they work together by helping them establish a process by giving them the opportunity.
Finding Tactics and Maximizing Effort
Sports are surrounded by emotion. Competition evokes that. A coach is able to remain above those emotions that might swirl around and cloud judgment and obscure the moves that need to be made.
A coach needs to be able to manage pressure, and help impart how to manage pressure to their players. Dr. Novetsky defines choking as not being able to manage the pressure of a situation.
Coaches implement a game plan and want their players to follow it and execute it. If the plan is wrong, or the players don’t execute, or the opposing team is just better it can be a frustrating experience and one that might start getting under the skin of a coach. As the leader of the team if a coach displays anger and emotions then that might translate to the team and lead to dysfunction. What is preferable is creating and implementing objective plans and solutions. To think tactically, not emotionally. This is also one of the key strategies in the “Mamba Mentality” the process that helped propel the late Kobe Bryant to NBA championships, MVP awards and an Oscar win.
Managing emotions and effort can be a true challenge for a coach. Dr. Novetsky talks about the “instant gratification” of modern society. He stresses that a coach needs to be able to see this through the eyes of their players in order to better understand and relate to them. He also talks about lessons from the book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth. It provides a formula for creating and increasing skill. Talent is a limited resource. Talent has to be combined with effort to create, hone, and master a skill.
Coaches have different goals at different age groups and skill levels. They can use a similar strategy at all of them though for maximizing the effect of combining effort and talent into skill. Dr. Novetsky recommends promoting deliberate focused effort. The coach identifies what needs to be worked on, and in turn helps provide the player the opportunity to work on that. In the end the player will decide how much effort they put into their talent, but the coach can set them on the path to success by helping them learn the mental aspects of sports.
For even more information and insights listen to the conversation between Dr. Novetsky and Mike Hartman on the Mike Hartman Show and be sure to check out Dr. Novetsky’s website for the champmindset.com for his programs and podcast.
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