Sunday, March 25, 2012

Learning a little more about sport psychology

We had the pleasure of hosting a Bonnie D. Stroir bootcamp at our home venue on Wednesday. Bonnie was kind enough to come in, give the Quad-City Rollers some personal pointers for an hour and then turned around and give a skills bootcamp to invited leagues for three more hours.

I definitely recommend any coach/skater to take training sessions from the big names. I learned so many little things I never would have picked up from just watching and practicing. If you get an opportunity to go to bootcamps, RollerCon or invite a guest coach in, I'd recommend doing your research on them and if they have the qualifications, then get to it.

As a coach, you have to keep an open mind about different philosophies and strategies. The last half-hour was reserved for Bonnie discussing various ways to solve emotion/mental fatigue and keeping everything positive.

I institute a quiet bench each time I coach, which helps me focus and makes it easier for the skaters on the track to hear if I have to bark some quick instructions, i.e. telling a jammer to call it. Bonnie's advice went even further: Don't shit where you eat. Essentially, your bench area should be a "safe" zone for you to come back to and be able focus your energy, not a place to come back to and bitch about calls, non-calls, whatever. One it wastes your energy, and plus it can affect other skaters. I've had this happen in the past when a skater comes back to the bench and blows up. Everyone's attitude heads south and a coach has a harder time getting everyone focused. Get it all out before you get to the bench so you can refocus.

The other philosophy that I loved and hadn't really considered was the idea of not watching the bout from a bench. Bonnie mentioned studies about athletes who actively participate in a sport and another group who just watched a film of their sport. Both groups registered muscle and mental activity in the same locations, effectively proving that you spend the same amount of energy watching as playing. By not watching the bout from the bench, a skater saves that energy for when she actually does need to skate.

Her formula went something like this: If you play every other jam and watch the jams you're not in, a skater is essentially spending twice the energy she would need to. A skater who doesn't watch the jams she is in, spends half the energy of the first skater, and has that much energy at the end of the game.

A jammer who only plays every four jams (and doesn't watch) would only use one-fourth the energy of a player who played and watched all the jams.

Last night we optimized the quiet bench and the don't watch policy and I think it went amazing. Our team was so composed throughout the game despite some pretty serious offenses from both sides.

I talked with a few of our skaters afterward, and they said they felt great - even after a very hard fought bout. It's amazing how much a few little pieces help out in the long run.