Training to Improve the Self-Concept
Central to this notion of the importance of psychological factors in determining racing performance is the idea that a positive self-concept is associated with a strong belief system. But self-concept is not static; each day brings new challenges to the self-concept that will either enhance or detract from it. In a sense there is a vicious cycle; success breeds success and failure breeds failure. The only way to break this cycle, therefore, is to strengthen the self-concept.
Liebetrau’s approach to strengthening the self-concept is as follows. Write down the person you aspire to be, your ideal self. Next, describe the person you consider yourself to be, your real person. Include in these descriptions lists, real versus ideal in each case, of the following: personal attributes; sporting achievements and motivations; dedication and training habits; relationship with coach and team members (if applicable); overall and specific fitness levels; sporting skills or talents; and sporting achievements.
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Liebetrau suggested that training the self-concept should be approached in the following way. First, imagine your real and ideal selves as two separate identities following each other around in your daily life. Pay special attention to the attributes in the ideal and real self that differ the most. The next step is to imagine the two selves in various sporting situations that you experience. At first the ideal
Self goes through the same motions as the real self; ultimately the abilities of the ideal self surpass those of the real self and so produce the performance you desire.
Next, begin to visualize yourself as the ideal self in everyday situations. And finally, imagine how your ideal self would have coped with previous competitive failures. In a similar way, rehearse forthcoming competitive events by imagining how your ideal self will successfully complete such events.
Clearly these are difficult techniques that are not mastered overnight, nor are they probably ever developed to maximum benefit without the assistance and advice of a qualified professional such as a sport psychologist.
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