Getting to your Peak Performance

Athletic Performance Enhancement – A Word from our own Laurie ChapmanLaurie4

As a former All-American athlete, I have experienced the joys and pitfalls of athletic performance and have endured rigorous training sessions that prepared me for national and international competition.  I have learned from my personal and professional experience that success in sport is dependent on both the athlete and the external variables involved in athletic performance.  An athlete who possesses the Physical and Mental Competencies aligned with their specific sport will be able to manage the external variables with ease.  This enables athletes to:

  • Possess the physical skills needed to perform in the sport

  • Have confidence in their own “athletic self”

  • Have confidence in their coaching staff

  • Recover well after a defeat

  • Maintain mental focus (staying in the “zone”) during practice and competition regardless of physical pain or spectator/other athlete input

  • Be willing to take athletic risks

The more an athlete aligns oneself with these competencies in practice and competition, the more the athlete develops neural pathways in the brain that reinforce athletic success aligned with these competencies.  This is one reason why visualization is a common tool used to enhance sports performance.The visualization serves the same purpose as the actual performance in terms of its ability to reinforce neural pathways in the brain related to success and confidence.  The same is true for athletic difficulties.  An athlete can inadvertently establish neural pathways around failure if they continue to “re-live” a loss, replay an injury, or focus on the difficulties of the sport, the coaching staff or the athletic equipment.  An athletic visualization can also reinforce a neural pathway in the brain around loss or failure if the visualization includes doubt of the self, the coaching staff, or the equipment.  Athletes whose performances plummet are often caught in this viscous negative cycle and have difficulty getting out of it on their own.  In some cases, other life issues can be a contributor to athletic difficulties if the life issue connects to the same circuitry in the brain as the sports trauma.  For example: The athlete was taught the need to be “perfect” by the father – so a bad performance means the athlete is a failure as a person.

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) and Strategic Therapy for athletes are two powerful therapeutic strategies that I use to help the athlete regain their competitive edge and self-confidence.  These strategies serve to heal the athletic or personal trauma and rewire the brain towards athletic success.  After the trauma is cleared, the athlete will develop a positive sports performance visualization that incorporates all of the body’s senses and physical and mental competencies related to the sport.  A positive thought about the self  (e.g., I am strong and flexible, I am focused and strong, I have got this goal, etc.) and the feelings of confidence needed for that particular sport are also brought to mind so that the body is activated at the level necessary to get into the “zone” of peak performance.

An example of something that you can do to experience the power of visualization is the following.

  1. With eyes open, stand with both feet on the ground about shoulder width apart, lift your arm up straight in front of you and then move it to the right as far is it will go while leaving both feet on the ground should width apart.  Locate a spot on the wall behind you where your right hand is pointed.  Bring your arm back to center and down.

  2. Now, close your eyes and remain standing with your feet shoulder length apart.  Without moving, imagine yourself lifting your arm up in front of you and moving it to the right as far as possible, even farther than you were able to move it when you were standing up with your eyes open.  Imagine where your hand would be pointing now.

  3. Open your eyes and repeat Step 1. If you were able to move your hand further than you initially did in Step 1, you have just experienced the power of visualization at work.