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Tuesday
Nov022010

Reflections on the AASP conference (October 27-30, 2010)

       I attended my first annual conference of the Association for Applied Sport Psychology. I was doubly lucky to be able to attend because a) previous conferences have been during my women’s season (while this one started 3 days after our last match), and b) it was in Providence, which not only is only about an hour away, but allowed me the chance to stay with some really good friends. Staying with people outside the conference actually really helped me process what was happening there because I had to explain/teach what I had heard and seen. That was unexpected and great. 
Here are some tidbits that I hope to grow from:
    •You can’t go to every speech you want to, but sometimes the best thing to do is talk with people 
    instead of going to any of them.
    •From a speech: “Harness perfectionism by focusing on perfect process.”
    •Also: “Ability + Practice = Capability”
    •Interested in Acceptance and Commitment Theory: it helps people who don’t do well controlling 
    thoughts. The idea is to accept whatever thoughts come through, rather than fight them, and to then focus on the task at hand. The idea is basically to believe that negative, or positive, thoughts are no big deal. Acknowledge them and move on. Another symposium presented ACT as: attention to the present moment with openness, interest, and receptivity. As an example, we allowed our muscles to burn and attempted not to relate that feeling to pain, but just describe the sensations. “It is what it is.”
    •I read a tweet during the conference that quoted Terry Bradshaw, “The world is full of talented, 
    unsuccessful people.” I’ve thought about that every day since. My job: be successful at helping other people to be successful.
    •One symposium showed what I thought was a pretty good system for tracking goals: google docs, which I use for all kinds of other things.
    •Systematic responses to anger: Increased heart rate, increased breathing rate, increased muscle tension, increased sweating, face gets flushed, some shakiness due to adrenaline, urge to urinate. 
    When one of these starts, it drags everything else with it, and vice versa, so a focus on the controllable ones, breathing and muscle tension, allows you to control the whole response. Mitch Abrams was the speaker.
    Jim Loehr of the Human Performance Institute spoke, and he’s an interesting guy. He’s built an 
    extremely high-performing company that trains people to perform at their best. He’s worked really hard, and it sounds like his place is amazing. Also, it cost him his family because he was consumed by the project. He’s pretty open about that, and it got me thinking about the price of that kind of focus on a project. I wonder if, at the highest levels, that’s pretty much what the deal is. How many top athletes have “normal” family lives? Is that a by-product of pushing to be at that level? Is it possible to be credible if you insist on character at your institute, but your family has suffered because of the institute?
    •He also stresses that downtime does not equal recovery. Recovery must be done actively.
    •In another symposium, interviews with NCAA coaches revealed that sport psych is viewed favorably and accurately, but many of the coaches are not at the point where they feel like, “We need to have sport psych programming or we’re going to lose to a team that does.” It's interesting that the widespread expansion of sport psych at the professional and Olympic levels has not translated yet.
    •One speaker Andrew Driska (last guy on this page), had an excellent study where he asked coaches about what defined a mentally tough swimmer. He then provided examples of how sport psych consultants could focus on helping swimmers to meet those criteria.
    •Driska also provided a great example of a good motivational climate at swim practice: the coaches selected a swimmer at the end of each practice who had worked the hardest. That swimmer was awarded a literal Yellow Jersey (like the Tour de France) led the team out of the pool area at the end of the day. He also led them back in the next day and led warm-ups. Love the emphasis on rewarding and praising hard work.
    •Under-promise, over-deliver. I heard this a week later talking about the Republicans and their election gains.

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