PSYCHOLOGICAL SKILLS TRAINING (PST)
Mental training is a part of complex sport preparation in top sports. In English speaking countries the term psychological skills training (PST) is commonly used, whereas in middle-European countries the traditional term psychological preparation is used.
PST or psychological preparation is an appropriate part of the whole preparation process before and during important sport events with extreme psychological stress. During Olympic games in Mexico (1968) a sport psychologist was invited for the first time as an official member a national Olympic expedition.
Slovak teams have started to use more and more psychological service in preparation for major events like the Olympic Games or World Championships (before and during the OG in Athens 2004 psychological service was used in most successful sports like wild-water canoeing (2 gold medals, 1 silver medal), judo (silver medal) and shooting (bronze medal).
Areas of PST
Psychological science in sports developed special methods and techniques to cope with stress and difficult situations. Psychological skills training (PST) leads to higher competitive toughness and the readiness of athletes to prove excellence in their performance. Their effectiveness is confirmed by research studies and documented through the evaluation of athletes, coaches and professionals in top sport domain.
These are following areas of PST:
Relaxation training includes well-elaborated techniques like Autogene training (Schultz), Progressive relaxation (Jacobson) and other methods. These techniques in sport facilitate abilities to relax the sporting body and mind in stressful situations. Athletes who are trained in this can recover in a second despite the highest pressure during a competition.
These techniques are focused on the ability to mobilize or recharge mental powers to utilize their performance potential in an important phase or during a critical momentum of performance.
Imagery includes various techniques working with optimal performance through visual, auditory or kinaesthetic aspects of perception and they are very helpful in coordinative or extreme sports.
Modelling and handicap training
Some difficult parts of performance and elements of a contest can be separately inserted and trained in special training so athletes can adapt themselves and cope. Various disadvantages or handicaps can be modelled and trained in advance too.
Concentrative techniques can improve various special functions of attention in sports like focusing and refocusing, vigilance, capacity or sharpness of attention.
A broad variety of these exercises can increase body and mind related awareness or overcome incorrect sport stereotypes and techniques. Exercises combine slow body motions with higher self-awareness.
Positive thinking and self-confidence
These techniques can improve ability of an athlete to prepare him/ herself for upcoming contest through increasing self-confidence, focusing on key-moments of a performance in right time and coping with difficulties. These techniques are evidently helpful during recovery from injuries and speed up the reinstatement of body shape.
"I worked on a mental part of performance. I learned to cope with my explosiveness which caused mistakes in the track and disturbed fluent performance."
Elena Kaliska, gold medallist in wild-water canoeing in OG Athens, 2004
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"We consulted with Tomas Gursky some mental aspects because we felt there is opportunity to work on this area."
Peter Mraz, a coach of Elena Kaliska
Imagery techniques are powerful tools especially for co-ordinative and extreme sports.
Strength of concentration, shock effect or swift reaction can decide between win and loss in performance.