Mental Training

From the presentation at the 2017 NCAA SUP Umpire Clinic, by Sports Psychologist Chris Carr, PhD, HSPP, CC-AASP.

Opening remarks – Performance Psychology

Performance psychology has to do with excellent performance in a field where excellence counts.
So today we are focusing on excellence.
Good coping skills are intrinsic to excellence in umpiring. Performance psychology fits right into what umpires do.

Characteristics of elite athletes (the positive side of psychology fits in here)

Self-confidence, motivation, competitiveness, independence, leadership, mental toughness, optimism.
High in self-belief, have motivation and drive, use adversity as a source of determination, ability to focus
Open and striving to improve; want to be creative, mentally tough and they do mental training.
Mental toughness – determined, focused, confident, and in control under pressure. How we handle failure.

Introduction to mental training

Mental training is one of the most under-developed and under-achieved aspects for umpires
Must do mental training to be a top umpire
How much of what we do as umpires is mental? At least 50%? 60%? 70%…?
Not 100% because you must have the skills, knowledge to move up
What % of the mistakes you make on the field are mental mistakes? At least 50%, 60%, 70%…90%. some will say every mistake I make is a mental mistake.
So if your performance is 70-80% mental and your mistakes are 90% mental, what % of your training you do is for mental training?
We all do physical training to prepare for season.
Large percent of your umpiring is mental; most of your mistakes on the field at this level are mental mistakes. So, to improve you must do mental training.
Top athletes: 25-35 minutes per day doing mental training. If we make one less mental mistake per game by doing mental training, it is worth it.

Being in the zone
Everything is flowing. Everything slows down, everything is so fluid. You are calm, confident, focused.
These things can be learned and enhanced. Mental training will help you do this – focusing on the right things at the right time.
If you carry a bad call into the next inning, you have distracted yourself and removed the clarity you need to call in the moment.
Communication skills and creating an objective environment within a subjective

Four ingredients to mental training

1. Goal setting – know how to do it effectively
A good goal meets the acronym SCRAM
Specific, Challenging (not too hard, not too easy), Realistic, Adjustable, Measurable
2. Composure skills
Relaxation training – lie down, focus on your breathing, breathe in through nose, breathe out through mouth. Concentrate on breathing in fresh clean air, breathing out tension, worries and doubt.
Think of a calm, peaceful thing.
Do this 10-15 minutes, 2 or 3 days per week.
3. Focus and concentration skills
Self-talk and visualization; mental rehearsal to visualize successful performance
4. Create a mental routine
Pre-game, in-between innings, post-game – consistent, regular and based on your optimal performance
Have a mental checklist for your optimal game.

Getting into the “flow”

The goal of these 4 skills is to get into the zone, have a flow
Flow – optimal performance; the idea of being in the zone
The elite people take potential threats and makes them a doable challenge
When you are in the flow your subconscious takes over
Characteristics of people who have flow
Goal setting
Immersed in their activity (focus)
Paying attention to relevant cues; ignore irrelevant cues (for example, the last call)
Enjoyment of the activity