This month’s edition of Sports Psychology extends to the Plan Phase of the Learn, Plan, Perform Model, a psychological framework in which athletes can create a clear vision of success and identify areas for improvement along their journey toward peak performance.
Living with a sense of purpose and core set of beliefs helps athletes embody a clear self-identity. Knowing who you are and what you stand for may seem like an unrelated piece to playing your sport, but it is important to remember that on a day-to-day basis you tend to carry personal matters into practice and competition. Many times you may not even be aware of what is impacting your ability to play each play to the best of your ability. Additionally, when you are faced with challenging moments in your sport, a clear sense of your values will illustrate what you can fall back to in terms of the actions to take.
Most of the time when athletes struggle both internally and externally, they struggle with incongruent behaviors. There is a disconnect between where they are in their sport and where they want to be. After identifying ones core values, they can then proceed to align those values with their daily, weekly, or longer term goals. While effective and action-oriented goal setting will be an article all its own, here is a process that athletes and teams can follow to establish a core set of values through which they can operate.
Creating your performance profile of qualities and values:
- Start by thinking about the athletes, teams, or leaders who embody some of the qualities and characteristics you admire and would like to replicate
- Focus less on their results and more on their daily behaviors that exemplify their principles
- Make a list of these qualities and characteristics
- Aim for between 10-20
- Examples from other athletes include: hard-working, resilient, dedicated, successful, honest, trustworthy, gritty, fighter, passionate, learner, focused, etc…
- Once you have your list, start to write how you would define each of these qualities and characteristics in your own words
- Try not to use the dictionary for these – it is more important to define these for yourself
- Condense the list down to your 8 core values and enter them around the perimeter of your Performance Profile
- To determine how you are operating by these values now, rank yourself on the profile from 1-10 where the inner most circle represents a low score of 1 and the outer most circle represents a high score of 10
- For the most accurate ranking, ask a trusted teammate, coach, or significant other to rank you on these values on a clean copy of your Performance Profile
- Once you have rankings for each, reflect on the accuracy of these rankings by looking for evidence in your daily actions that support those numbers
- It’s better to be realistic with these numbers than rank yourself a 10 in every aspect as there is always room to improve
This process takes time; do not rush it. If you’re a coach leading it with your team, I would advise that you extend it over a couple of weeks to allow time for more thought and input from all players. For individual athletes, asking others to rank you on your core values will require a level of vulnerability that you may not have been open to before. Keep in mind that greatness does not come from isolation. Most great performances require a full team of supporters as you work toward your mission.
About the author: Brian Alexander is a mental skills coach who combines eight years of experience as an Olympic level water polo athlete, a master's degree in sport psychology, and business leadership training and coaching from The Ken Blanchard Companies to partner with athletes and performers of all ages and levels. "My passion is to empower others to succeed in life, athletics, performance, and daily activities. My personal mission statement is to be a genuine and honest leader who collaborates with and learns from others in order to find a mutual personal level of excellence physically, mentally, and spiritually."
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