Psychology of Training and Competitions

Comparing Dance and motorsport, is that possible? Mihail Radchenko talks about autopilot and psychomotor reactions

By Mihail Radchenko

Studying the literature on motorsport, the idea of this article was born. I’ll start with the paradoxical statement. Dancer in the tournament does not think! Any professional sportsman is distinguished from an amateur is that it operates at a subconscious level. Agree, it’s difficult to imagine that a world-class tennis player will consider the angle at which he put the racket in order to hit the ball more precisely and more feasibly. On the contrary, as soon as he stops to think about it, he becomes the real master.

An example of motorsport: 
At the Monaco Grand Prix in 1988 Ayrton Senna was driving, as it seemed to many, above human possibilities – it just worked wonders. When his lead over closest pursuer reached almost a minute, from his team came orders to slow down, to which Senna did not react. The orders were repeated. Eventually, the Brazilian magician obeyed and… crashed! The race for Senna was finished.

So what happened?

 Senna later explained it this way. He was able to maximize the potential of driving on a subconscious level. Everything turned out fine; driving the car only on reflexes, he demonstrated the boundless possibilities of the human brain. From the side it seemed that Senna’s car doesn’t submit to gravitation laws: he used literally every inch of the width of the route – during that a bolide as if flying, barely touching with tires of a covering of a track. Obeying orders, Senna forced himself out of this condition, dumped rate and tried to go on a conscious level. But his brain is not programmed for a ride! To put a computer language, there was a program failure.

At the races it’s often possible to see that the leader goes on the track not as the rest. He very smoothly, like on rails, takes turns, as if concepts of “drift” and “pulling down” for him does not exist at all. But his pursuers were literally fighting with their cars, entering turs at high speed and, in spite of this, lag behind the more.

Here what Alain Prost told about it: “When I seem fast from the side, it means that I insufficiently smoothly drive the car. When from the side I seem slow – then I do everything slowly, which means that I go very quickly.” Drive race car in such way is possible only on a subconscious level, or, in simply terms, “on autopilot”.

So, the dance, as well as driving race car should occur automatically. But for this dancer’s actions must be programmed. It is important that the program is correct and complete, which is achieved by well-constructed training. The dancer, whose psychomotor reactions is controlled by carefully programmed brain will be invincible. He will be appear much more technical and interesting then anyone who is thinking a little bit over their actions – for the simple reason that the transfer of information directly is always much faster.

Great dancer from simply good is distinguished with an ability of his brain to collect and process the vast amount of dynamic, constantly changing, information, BYPASSING CONSCIOUSNESS. And this ability can be developed.

How to put the correct program in brain of the dancer? For this purpouse there are trainings.

It’s no secret that dancing talent is perceived by many as a given – either it is, or it isn’t present. When the coach and sportsman find a common language and understand what they want, and the coach-psychologist helps them in their work, sometimes the result exceeds all expectations. Just about that and said well-known English proverb: “Only perfect practice makes perfect”. In other words it may sound like this: “Train with the mind – and you’ll recieve excellent result.” Training in the form of monotonic fixing errors will lead only to loading your biocomputer erroneous information.

The secret is to not repeat the same mistakes. The goal of trainings – try various variants to select the most successful and technically correct and to program them. And those that does not work – wrong programs – to weed. Remember that trainings – is a programming, and then the dance will be obtained itself on the basis of put before programs. For this reason, by the way, it’s impossible to dance during training for 90 percent, hoping that in competition you give out all 100.

It’s necessary to train at the same level of intensity, with the same motivation, and with the same mentality with which you go to the competition.

 You can start with simple things – such as the development of visual memory.

Where should be a beginner dancer during warm-up and competition? As soon as he leaves the competition parquet, he should not linger in the locker room. A dancer must look attentively and remember how leader in his or other classes and age groups. Even sitting in front of the TV while watching the World championships, it’s possible to get a lot of valuable information. It’s necessary to learn and literally to absorb the style of dancing of leaders in introducing ourselves in their place. It goes without saying that we should try to view any competitions whenever possible.

Often, the coach speaks to the dancer before start or a dancer himself mentally repeating the coach’s words, “try to dance unmistakably,” “try to show a clear line.” The error is that the brain does not understand the meaning of the word “try”, it does not fit into any program. It understand “do something” or “don’t do something”, only these commands can be easily programmed into the subconscious memory.

The secret of the coach-psychologist just consist in that at first turn on the brain of a dancer, to program it correctly, and when the program is set and it’s time to enter the competition parquet – to force the dancer to switch his brain off and dance at subconscious level.

So of what it is necessary to think during dance if everything, what the dancer does, should obtained automatically, without thinking? Imagine that you have been asked not to think about a pink hippopotamus. What are you doing? Think about how would not think of a pink hippopotamus! The human brain is designed so that it is difficult not to think about something.

The solution is simple. Pre-programmed thought appropriate, and keep it ready to turn at any moment and think about it. This could be a pleasant thought on what a pleasure for you technically competent and emotional dance. As soon as your mind comes the thought of the possibility of errors, or that someone called you a bad dancer, comprise the preparation of ‘record’ and drive it around.

Another secret is to think only in a positive direction. Thinking of positive things at conscious level, the dancer is like programming his mind and act in this way at unconscious level. Instead of telling yourself “I am always wrong in this place” or “I’m unstable in this figure,” try to transform this fair criticism in a positive channel. It will look like this: “I will do correct here” or “I’ll be stable.” Instead of asking yourself the question: “Why am I not stable?” the better is to ask yourself “What should I do to become stable?” Should concentrate on ways of solving problems, rather than the problem itself. The secret is to focus on what you want, and not on what you do not want. Recall that it’s difficult for brain not to think about something. If we give him a command not to think about the mistake, the brain can not do anything but think about the mistake. And thinking about it, we will make it. What is possible to change? The only way – to focus the mind on something else, such as the good lines, but not on error.

Assume that you can use in the competition 100 percent of your skill. And yet the result leaves much to be desired, you become the third, the fifth, or the tenth. Does this mean that you have badly acted? Not at all! Because not the result is important, but the full realization of your abilities. If in today’s competition, your preparation allows you to perform at level of the fifth place, it is senselessly to try to jump over your head and take first. Most likely, this will end with no good.

The well-known racer Ayrton Senna said: “Sometimes I caught myself on the fact that I’m trying to beat someone’s achievements, but eventually came to the conclusion that it is always better to try to outperform yourself.” And this is another trouble-free running technique. It’s necessary to concentrate only on your own performance, without paying attention to the results of contenders. Generally do not work “for the result.” The best result comes when a sportsman is focused on his performance and not on the result. Many people do not agree with this. But keep in mind that when the brain of a dancer “is disconnected” from thinking about the result, it greatly reduces the level of prelaunch stress, makes you feel comfortable and concentrate fully. If this is successful, an excellent result comes by itself. Finaly, the result is not for one hundred percent dependent on you – there are other circumstances – but your performance depends only on you.

“You always have to believe that you’ll be the best, but you can never believe that you became it.”

Continuously improve results, technique, and plasticity – the main task of any dancer. But very often the dancer shows the best result, without expecting it, and on the contrary – when a dancer all the time thinking about first place, he had all the time something goes wrong. This is due to the constant worrying about the result. It diverts much more attention than anything else. Focus on the dance, try to dance freely, without regard to the result, enjoy, in the end. And the excellent results won’t keep itself waiting.

It is important to remove the internal pressure. But there is also external pressure. Often the level of the real possibilities of a dancer is limited by fear before possible failure. He focuses only on to make no mistakes in the face of the coaches / club / parents and spectators. And often, against his will, that is exactly what happens. “The pressure affects, if you doubt in what you do, if you can not be higher than that. You must not care about all sorts of unexpectedness and all sorts of “if”. Only one way out – never to think about the failures and their consequences, to think positively and think only about performance, not about winning. Then chance of winning the competition will increase.

Michael Radchenko

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