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									Get As Nervous As You’d Like!
A New Model for Sport and
Performance Enhancement

Janet Sasson Edgette
  Philadelphia, PA

                 Janet on Tulsa, Med A/O Jumpers, Tampa, Florida
       this model of sport &
      psychology is likened
      to the winter sport of
      curling -
       one clears the way in
      front (of the curling
      stone) in order to
      influence trajectory
      and velocity
  In a conventional model, attention is often
placed on reinforcing psychological faculties
 thought to be fundamental to performance.

In this model, the psychologist / consultant
works at clearing the pathway in front of the
athlete or performer of compromising
beliefs, personality traits, or conflicts.

Clearing doesn’t necessarily mean getting
rid of these factors. It refers to helping the
client’s performances be less at their mercy.
fear of making mistakes
fear of disappointing
wish to please
Addressing and/or clearing away these
obstructive beliefs and feelings is a
very successful strategy.

          It also allows for significant
            change to happen within a
              very brief period of time.
      problems with
relaxation strategies and
  other approaches that
 focus on decreasing or
   getting rid of anxiety
• they assume control over an involuntary
  function of the nervous system
• the harder you try, the worse it gets
• they don’t always take into account
• they can make people wind up feeling
  worse about themselves because they
  can’t do something so “simple”
There is the potential for a
client to wind up ‘chasing’
an elusive ideal
performance state.
   The funny thing about
performance anxiety is that
it only becomes a problem
 if you think you shouldn’t
         be having it.
    characteristics and
advantages of this model of
  sport and performance
• focus on enhancing
adaptability, flexibility,
and resiliency

• humanizes the
competitive experience

• relieves pressures
related to ‘having’ to do
• can alleviate harsh self-criticism of
  those who equate failure to eject
  negative thoughts and feelings with
  mental weakness
• broadens the scope of sport
  psychology consultation into intra-
  and interpersonal areas in an
  integrated way
• in addition, it
normalizes and             • fears of injury, failure, public
illuminates               humiliation, disappointing coach
personality issues                                  or family
interfering with a    • lack of personal accountability for
rider’s progress,                          slumps, plateaus
such as:             • un-coachability, due to personality
                                factors, rigidity, arrogance
                        • perfectionism, low tolerance for
                       • having a greater need to be right
                                            than to improve
  It aims to help people learn how they can
     compensate for how the anxiety they
experience affects them, rather than trying to
               make it go away.
The key to anxiety management
     in this model is learning to
perform well even though one is

 Ironically, that’s what makes it
               begin to go away.
Four potential areas of focus in sport
   psychology and performance
     enhancement consultation


 quality of the
                     athlete /     affecting
                    performer     performance

    #1 performance
• improving consistency
• getting out of slumps
• managing performance anxiety at
• enhancing confidence
• (motivation)
 #2 quality of the experience
affected by

• fears of injury or failure / physical
• burn out
• external pressures to win or to
  reflect well on the coach/institution
• pressures to “earn back”
• perfectionism

performance           quality of experience

elite competition               recreation
#3 personality factors
affecting performance
•   perfectionism
•   harsh self-criticism
•   fear of making mistakes
•   defensive, not easy to coach
•   Primadonna complex, entitlement
#4 relationships affecting
• micromanagement of child by parents
• family problems (divorce, conflict,
  tension over money/time spent)
• relationships between athlete/family,
  athlete/spouse, athlete/coach,
         introducing sensitive
          themes and issues
• locate expression of theme elsewhere (not sport-
  related) where there is less defensiveness
• normalize any thoughts or feelings the client has that
  are what any - or at least most - people in such a
  situation would experience; people still believe they are
  the only ones feeling as nervous as they feel
• bring issues up only when you sense that the client will
  recognize what you mean; it shouldn’t come from left
  field, or be presented as an educated “guess”
athletes and
performers who are
very self-critical
Some people use their self-criticism to:

 • show everyone how serious they are

 • show everyone how hard they are
   training/pushing themselves

 • keep others (parents, coaches,
   teammates) from criticizing them by
   “getting to it first”
 You can help by saying…
• “You are very hard on yourself. How
  does your self-criticism help you to
  perform better?”
• “Some people are very self-critical
  because they think it shows everybody
  that they are really trying. Do you
  sometimes feel that you have to prove
  how dedicated you are?”
         or by saying…
• “If you weren’t so hard on yourself, do you
  think that your coach (or parents/spouse)
  would be harder on you?”
• “It’s good to be able to spot your own
  weaknesses, but you also need to be your
  own best fan. Do you have another voice
  inside you beside the critical one? Can I
  help you to create one?
Helping athletes
and performers
who are
You can help by teaching them to
   • see perfectionism as part of their
   • see it as being helpful in some
     settings (academics,
     - until it becomes bigger than the
     project itself (procrastination,
     paralyzing fear of making a
• change how they react to their
perfectionism rather than thinking they
have to get “rid” of it
• increase tolerance for mistakes; allow
longer learning curves
• identify specific ways in which their
perfectionism affects execution or
performance, and then compensate for
that effect
      Exert less.
Accomplish more.
           © 2004,Janet Edgette

           Thank you !
for attending this workshop on sport and
  performance psychology.
You are welcome to contact me with any
 questions or comments:
E mail:

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