As I discussed in the January, 2008 issue of Prime Sport Alert!, Prime Sport is defined as “performing at a consistently high level under the most challenging conditions.” Prime Sport is a goal toward which everyone in the sports world strives, the result of which is to maximize your athletic efforts and enable you to achieve your athletic goals. But few athletes, coaches, or teams understand fully the information and strategies they must use to achieve their goals. Nor do many have a framework or a process for working toward Prime Sport. And even fewer have implemented such important changes.
Prime Sport Pyramid
The Prime Sport Pyramid provides both a framework and a process for identifying and developing the key contributors to individual and team sports performance. The Prime Sport Pyramid is comprised of five psychological factors that most directly impact athletic performance (see pyramid at right). These factors can either facilitate or interfere with performance. Your goal is to understand your relationship with each of these factors and develop strategies and a plan of action for alleviating your psychological weaknesses and building on the psychological strengths.
The Prime Sport Pyramid is ordered in a purposeful and logical manner. Its order is based on the sequence in which the factors impact sports performance. The first two factors (motivation and confidence) prepare you for competition, while the next three (stress, focus, and emotions) directly impacts training and competitive performance.
Motivation. At the foundation of the Prime Sport Pyramid lies motivation, because without the determination and drive to take action in pursuit of your goals, all efforts would stop and any other contributors to performance, whether physical, technical, equipment, or team, would be moot. Motivation ensures that you do everything you can to be totally prepared to achieve your goals. Essential to developing motivation is understanding what motivates you and how you can continue to work hard in the face of fatigue, pain, setbacks, and frustration.
Confidence. There is no more important mental factor than confidence because you might have all ability in the world to achieve your goals, but if you don’t have confidence in that ability, you won’t use that ability. Many athletes defeat themselves even before the competition begins with doubts and negative self-talk. Like all mental skills, confidence is a skill that develops with practice. A deep faith in your capabilities comes from total preparation, exposure to adversity, support from others, and training and competitive success.
Intensity. Intensity may be the most important contributor to sports performance once the competition begins. It’s so important because all of the motivation, confidence, focus, and emotions in the world won’t help you if your body is not physiologically capable of doing what it needs to do for you to perform your best. Intensity involves the amount of physiological activation you feel before and during training and competition and lies on a continuum between sleep (very low intensity) to terror (very high intensity). Somewhere between those two extremes you perform your best and your challenge is to find the ideal level of intensity that works best for you in your sport.
Focus. Focus involves the ability to concentrate on those things that help you perform your best, shift focus when the demands of the situation change, and avoid distractions that are ever present in athletic arena. The ability to focus effectively is especially important in technically complex sports or those that last a long time, and when there are considerable expectations and pressure.
Emotions. Sports can evoke a wide range of emotions, from inspiration, pride, exhilaration, and satisfaction, to fear, frustration, anger, and despair. Emotions lie at the top of the Prime Sport Pyramid because I have found that they are the ultimate determinant of your ability to perform consistently under the most challenging conditions. Emotions also contribute significantly to your abilities as a leader and a team member. Most powerfully, emotional mastery gives you the power to use emotions as tools to facilitate individual and team performance rather than weapons that hurt you and others.
Developing Prime Sport
The Prime Sport Pyramid gives you the framework from which to explore the psychological factors that most impact your athletic life. It should now act as the foundation for the process of improvement that will allow you to maximize your training and competitive performances and achieve your goals.
Prime Sport Alert! was created to assist you in just this process, ensuring that mentally you are your best ally rather than your worst enemy. Prime Sport Alert! will examine in depth these factors and offer you practical information and useful mental skills that you can use the next time you train or compete.
It’s important to note that Prime Sport is not magic dust and will not produce miracles. You would not expect increases in strength by lifting weights a few times or an improvement in technique by working on it for a few hours. The only way to improve any area, whether physical, technical, or mental, is through commitment, hard work, and patience. If you make the same commitment to your mental training as you do to your physical and technical training, Prime Sport will play a key role in helping you achieve your athletic goals.