Dr. Carol's Comments
Living in 3, Skating in 6 Dimensions - Evan Lysacek
Evan Lysacek may live in the three dimensional world but he skates and performs in Six Dimensions; the Six Dimensions of Sports Axiology. Lysacek's interview with Meredith Viera caught my attention because, as he answered questions after winning the gold, his words and phrases sounded like copy from a Sports Axiology Textbook. I don't know whether his coach, Frank Carroll, intentionally uses the axiology six dimensions, but if he does not, then through his extensive experience and intuition he put the formula for success in place.
(photo by vincenzo pinto afp getty images)
What are the Six Dimensions?
The Six Dimensions that I'm referring to are first, the Three Dimensions of Personal Awareness which consider:
- How well do I understand my personal strengths and weaknesses and how objective am I about them. (Self-Esteem)
- How well do I understand and appreciate myself as an athlete (Role Awareness)
- How personal and vivid are my goals and what's my commitment to them (Self-Direction).
In addition we assess and help develop the Three Dimensions of Game and Team Awareness which consider:
- How well do I know the people on my team (including coaches, trainers and teammates) and sport and how do I appreciate them (Awareness of Others)
- How well do I execute and adjust when practicing and competing. (Playing the Game)
- How well do I understand and value the elements of the sport including the rules, strcture and design of the performance strategy (Game Systems)
When we assess these Six Dimensions we learn about an athlete's Mental Toughness, Commitment, Confidence, Emotionality, Coachability, Team Play, Self-Talk, Performance under Pressure and ability to fully engage as an athlete. We learn thinking and emotional strengths and can be specific about what to coach in order to have a player who is balanced in thinking and is fluid within his or her sport. As I listened to Lysacek, I could hear his strength in each of these areas.
What did Lysacek say?
It's during the first 6 minutes of the 8 minute interview with Viera that you'll hear the 6 Dimensions come to life. (my apologies for the 30 sec commercial - I can't figure out how to get past it!)
For a shortened version, these are my notes.
- About his goals and commitment: After Torino it wasn't enough to go back to the Olympics, there was a need to get on that podium. (The other skaters) provided more inspiration than I've ever had. They were a driving force for the last 4 years.
- About his role: All I could do was my job and if I get wrapped up in that other stuff, it's not a healthy thought process. (After advice from my coach) I got back to what my job was. I love the ice.
- About his self regard: I knew I could do it.
Game and Team Awareness:
- About the Performance Plan: We had a 4 minute and 40 second gaining points with every step. (Also note that Lysacek won based on maximizing the new scoring system so he didn't have to do the quad to win. He and his coach planned ahead using their knowledge of the system to their advantage.)
- About Playing the Game: I spent so much time perfecting every step. I spent countless hours working on some of the most mundane moves. I've done these moves a thousand times, a hundred thousand times.
- About Appreciating Others: My first thought was for my coach, to give him a great Olympics. I want to make my family proud and my friends proud and my coaches proud. To see my flag, to hear the national anthem.
For us, mere mortals
The Olympic wins are dramatic and because of the level of performance we know that the athletes and teams and coaches and families have put in years of dedication and training for the performance of a few minutes when it really counts. In my opinion, Lysacek, as he has performed this week, is an example of the fulfillment of the Good of Sports.
Whether as Olympians or "mere mortals" we can learn from Lysacek. Regardless of what we play and where we play, I think each of us can achieve a personal best with pride and satisfaction through the development and appreciation of all Six Dimensions.
The first step to your own Six Dimensions development is evaluating yourself which can be done with a validated assessment by our 6D Sports team. At the very least write down how you would describe yourself in each dimension and then ask someone who knows you well to do the same. What is your sport? Is it tennis, soccer, golf, ultimate, skating, Ironman? How would you describe yourself in each of the 6 Dimensions for yourself and your sport? How do the 6 Dimensions of sports performance translate to school and job performance?
For more information about the 6 Dimensions of Axiology visit http://www.6dsports.com/axiology-definition/
For the Coach-Vue (short axiology assessment) visit
Dr. Carol Comments
First Tee Jitters
"Standing on the first tee of my first major at Baltusrol, my mental game was gone. My knees locked and I wanted to use my driver rather than the 3 Wood I'd practiced with. I just wanted to be sure to hit the ball. It didn't really matter where. I just wanted to hit it, not miss it.
"Luckily my caddy knows me well, and broke into my mind haze as he said, 'What are you crazy? Play the 3 Wood like we planned.' With that I was back in the game in front of me, played the 3 Wood and made a reasonably good shot. I was under way."
Mental Game Strategies
Most of the group at the Southern New England Golf Expo seemed relieved to hear that even a successful PGA pro like Jeff Martin had times when the situation seemed too big to manage. We all have experienced those golfing "first times" and whether the first time is the first tee in a major or the club championship or playing on Saturday morning in a friendly game, the body and mind will react the same: little thinking, lots of emotion and usually restricted play.
I interviewed Jeff who is the 2 time New England Player of the Year and assistant club pro at Point Judith Country Club as he talked easily and also demonstrated how he
- relaxes under pressure (he discreetly takes a deep breath as part of his pre shot routine. He will also intentionally yawn.),
- visualizes his shot (this is a target sport, always look at where you want the ball to go and see the flight of the ball),
- commits to the shot at hand (if you're not committed to a shot before you take it, don't bother)
- keeps a good attitude (after a bad shot, let it go, it's over. Thinking about the last shot doesn't help the one you have to make next.)
- decides what shot he's going to take (I figure the odds of making the shot, evaluate the risks and rewards and whether I'm willing to take the consequences.)
- improves (after a match I go to the practice range and practice the shots the right way. I'll work on one shot for 30 min.)
Jeff was also willing to talk about a few aspects of his mental game that he wants to improve. As successful and physically capable and mentally tough as Jeff is, when he is in a major competition, everyone else is just as good as he is so he knows he needs the edge that he can get from tweaking his mental game.
Jeff wants more confidence with his comfort zone among his peers and he wants to be sure that he has his life and golf priorities and goals written as well as thought about.
With improvement in these two areas, you'll be hearing much more about Jeff! Stayed Tuned!
Dr. Carol's Comments
4 people, 1 concern
Four conversations yesterday with 4 different people had one common thread: I can't relax when I want to. For these 4 people the inability to relax interferes with drives off the tee, golf scores, team play and for one person, overall life satisfaction.
The conversations are not as important right now as what to do about changing the common problem of "inability to relax" to the solution of "I can relax when I want to under most circumstances."
Relaxation is a Skill, not a Gift
How can you learn to "relax on demand?" I think that relaxation is a skill that can be learned, it doesn't have to be left to chance, and in the next few blog entries I'll offer three ways of developing the "relax on demand" skill: breathing, progressive muscle relaxation and visualization.
With these skills will you be 100% successful? Probably not because everyone is different and as situations change our ability to perform as we would like can be compromised. However - the goal will be to increase your ability to relax more deeply when you want to so you can play more consistently and be more satisfied.
Just a note: I don't know anyone who expects to perform well in a sport unless they have practiced and learned basic skills. It's no different with mental game skills. Yet when talking with frustrated athletes I hear things like:
- I've read about visualization but can't seem to do it when I need it.
- I've heard about how breathing can help me to relax but I tried it the last time I was putting for birdie with this new group and it didn't work for me.
My response: It's too bad these attempts to relax when you're playing didn't work. But... there is no reason to think you can execute under pressure if you haven't developed proficiency before you need it. Mental game skills are like any other skill: the more you practice, the better you'll be. And the more you practice under stressful situations, the better you'll be. And sometimes it takes a coach to keep you accountable to learn the skills you need the most. And the only place to begin is at the beginning. So... next up:
MC Breath, Progressive Muscle Relaxation and Visualization for Relaxation.
(photos by CRG and taken at Newport National, RI)