At the 1980 Winter Olympics, Team USA went up against the Soviet Union in one of the nation’s most chair gripping, thrilling hockey matches ever seen on American television. The Team USA underdogs going against the brute force dominant Soviet hockey team that had won every Olympic gold medal in the four previous Olympics. Anybody who has seen the movie “Miracle” knows the story of course. What made this hockey match different than all the other matches wasn’t the extension of the Cold War into a proxy on ice, nor was it the indomitable spirit of a bunch of rag tag college kids that played for the first time only seven months prior. It came down to the team organization and playing style lead by head coach Herb Brooks that took Team USA to a gold medal. So, how did he do it?
What is coaching? Coaching is teaching, coaching is training, coaching is managing, coaching is growth and development, coaching is so much more than can fit in the five letters that spell “coach.” Athletes look up to their coach for guidance, leadership, mentorship. Coaches look to their athletes for drive, motivation and a will to learn. It’s a relationship that helps both athlete and coach grow within their athletic, professional and personal lives. Yet, the intra and interpersonal complexities of coaching exist within each interaction, decision and observation that represents the fluidic nature of the activity are not always well understood.
Understanding the complexities of coaching from a social cognitive perspective starts with an examination of the limitations in our current reductionist approaches to coaching and a reconsideration of our own internal schemas; our biases that represent the structure of our ability to think, analyze and understand the ambiguous and personal aspects of coaching. This way we can understand the context and constraints that influence our behavior and how we can manage these behaviors to improve our own coaching capabilities.
Over the last few years, there has been an increasing emphasis on the psychological and mental well-being of athletes and how it impacts sports performance. The topic of sports psychology is becoming increasing relevant as we are learning that performance outcomes are rooted in the mental capabilities of the athlete as much if not more than the physical. Many studies have shown a relationship with mental health and sports performance, making the field of sports psychology and the tools to coach athletes through Psychological Skills Training ever more relevant.
Have you ever felt the butterflies in your stomach before stepping up to give a speech in front of a crowd? Nervous before a big game? Worried about embarrassing yourself on a date? Perhaps, feeling like your heart is about to beat out of your chest when all the pressure is on you to perform, unable to cope with the anxiety and stress. These are things we’ve all experienced and serve as the basis for Psychological Skills Training.
Swimming is considered a low-impact sport, meaning that there are few forces either from ground contact or other players and the risk of developing a traumatic injury is low. The kind of injuries most commonly seen in swimmers are overuse injuries which are injuries that result from repetitive movements. Overuse injuries are caused by the repeated stress and tension on muscles, tendons and ligaments that without proper strength and tension can lead to inflammation and pressure build up within the tissue.
Inflammation and pressure can lead to pain, reduced flexibility, mobility and strength while impeding general performance that could lead to a prolong recovery period in which you will not be able to continue training or competing. This is why it is crucial for athletes to include training exercises that reduce the risk of developing overuse injuries.
Common injuries that swimmers experience include...
Coach Dirk, CSCS, is a performance coach, teacher, writer, journalist, and athlete who is currently studying for his Masters Degree in sports psychology at the Deutsche Sporthochschule Köln. He brings over 10 years of experience as a coach, athlete, personal trainer, fitness instructor, and sports psychologist to drive athletes to build their own self efficacy and express themselves through sport.