Archive for 'sports psychology'

Bouncing Back, Part 1 | BJJ in Downingtown PA

Successful people share many traits, one of which is the ability to bounce back from adversity. When it comes to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu that means getting back up after a loss- whether it’s getting tapped out in training or losing a match in competition- not dwelling on it, but instead moving forward with a positive mindset.

A few weeks ago Paramount BJJ purple belt Phil Mento entered a local tournament to get some matches in before he leaves for the IBJJF World Championships. He was entered in 3 divisions: Gi absolute (open weight), middleweight, and No-Gi middleweight. Because he’s had a lot of success in regional competition, often winning every division he enters, there was no reason to think he wouldn’t cruise through this one too. But things don’t always go as planned, and he lost his first match of the day 3-2.

When you enter a competition fully expecting to win, losing right off the bat can really shake your confidence and lead to doubt. Am I off today? What if I lose the next match too? Am I not as good as I thought? Even a confident and successful person can have these thoughts. But what they do with those thoughts is what really matters. To be successful in any endeavor you must see defeat as a temporary setback- not a failure. Assess the situation, fix the mistakes, and get ready for the next challenge with a positive approach.

That’s what Phil did. He won his next 5 matches, and earned Gold in his weight class in both gi and no-gi.

It’s important to note that even if he didn’t win the next two divisions Phil would have left the arena that day, chalked it up to another valuable experience, and stepped onto the mat at the next tournament excited to meet the challenge. A temporary set-back could mean losing a match, or having a terrible day of training, or going through a slump in training that lasts weeks.

The most successful people in the world have struggled and battled through moments where most others quit. They persevered, and as a result they achieved greatness.

Stay tuned for part 2.

For more info on training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Submission wrestling, Muay Thai, Boxing, and MMA click HERE or call 610-269-1127.

How Much Does Winning Matter?

In the book “The Mental Edge,” author Kenneth Baum lists what he calls perception stretchers, short phrases intended to help an individual maintain perspective before and during a competition. One of them is: “Getting better is more important than winning.”

This concept can be very beneficial for a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) competitor who tends to put too much pressure on him or herself before a match. It can also help an individual who takes losses very hard. It’s critical that the athlete enjoys the process- the process of learning and competing, not just winning.

On the other hand, there is no substitute for winning, and nothing boosts confidence like getting your hand raised after a grueling battle on the mats. So is winning ever more important than getting better? If so, when?

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While winning at an early age is important, enjoying the process is too.

Here is one suggestion: Decide which tournaments are most important to you- those are the ones where the only thing that matters is winning. For example, the Pan American or World Championships. Smaller tournaments leading up to those are more like scrimmages- of course you’re still trying to win, but you’re working on specific techniques or strategies that may not be your specialty.

As we all know, losing has it’s benefits as well. In fact, some of the greatest fighters of all time lost early on. Legendary boxer Bernard Hopkins lost his very first pro bout, while MMA superstar Anderson Silva lost his third pro fight. Both went on to become multiple time world champions.

If you’re not a competitor, pick days on which your training will be geared towards using your best techniques to win each round, and days where you are working only on your weaknesses. Recreational BJJ practitioners need to accurately evaluate both their strengths and weaknesses on a regular basis just as much as anyone else.

For more info on training BJJ, Muay Thai, or MMA in West Chester, Exton and Downingtown PA click HERE.

Your Coach Sucks | BJJ in Downingtown PA

To anyone who’s spent a decent amount of time either learning or educating themselves on the intricacies of coaching, one thing is painfully obvious: Most Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) coaches are terrible.

Spend a day at even the more prestigious tournaments, like an IBJJF Open, and you’ll hear all sorts of terrible instructions from coaches, from the vague to the anxiety inducing.

Abi at Boston Summer

Paramount BJJ student Abi Durrant listens to instructions on her way to a Silver medal at the 2014 Boston Open.

Here are some common mistakes that crappy coaches make all the time:

  1. Going berserk. There is no need to yell throughout the entire match. It creates anxiety for both coach and competitor. If your student has trained properly, you shouldn’t have to say much at all. (More on what to say in #2) If your student has not prepared as they should have, let them experience the frustration of that realization, then work with them on scheduling a more consistent training routine.
  2. Vague instruction. Instructions given during the chaos of a match should be clear and concise. Too many coaches scream things like, “Go! Sweep him!” or “You gotta pass! You gotta pass!” If your student is mounted, do you really need to tell him to escape? He knows he needs to escape, you should be giving him simple instructions regarding the escape that he is most comfortable with.
  3. Negativity in Motivating. I can’t think of a single BJJ competition situation where yelling, “No!” is the right thing to say, yet I hear it all the time. A competitor is executing a move incorrectly, and instead of giving clear and simple instruction the coach yells, “No!”
  4. Negativity in Instruction. When a student is being set up for an armlock, the coach should NOT call out, “Watch out for the armbar!” This causes the competitor to worry about the armlock instead of focusing on what they should do. A momentary lapse in focus can be the difference between escaping and submitting. Instead, the coach should simply call out: “Protect your arm!”
  5. Excuse making or Rationalizing. Everyone who’s been to a tournament has heard the coach of a losing competitor say, “It’s ok, he was a lot bigger,” or “Hey, he’s been training a lot longer than you.” None of that matters. What really matters is the experience and the result. If you ecourage your athlete to make excuses they will never reach their full potential.

Here are some helpful resources (books) that will help an instructor become a better coach for his or her competitors:

  • The Mental Edge
  • Sports Psychology for Dummies
  • Coaching Wrestling Successfully
  • 10-Minute Toughness.

Author Brad Court is a 2nd degree black belt, IBJJF National Champion and 2x IBJJF Pan American medalist, and head instructor at Paramount Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in Downingtown, PA. Paramount BJJ has more IBJJF medals than all other Chester County BJJ schools combined.

If you want to reach your full potential you’ve got to hold yourself to a certain standard. To start, do not celebrate losses. It sounds like common sense, but many Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) competitors do just that.

Because divisions in BJJ tournaments are separated by age, belt rank, and weight there are often divisions with only a few competitors. Which means an athlete can take home a medal by default (for example, Bronze in a 3 person division after losing to both 1st and 2nd place competitors).

If that happens to you, here’s what not to do:

  1. Do NOT wear the medal around for the rest of the tournament.
  2. Do NOT tell your friends and family that you won a Bronze medal.
  3. Do NOT post pictures of you with the medal on facebook or instagram.

Podium 2012 Pan

Author Brad Court (second from the right) takes Bronze at the 2012 Pan after winning 2 matches.

Yes, there is value in a loss. One can learn many things about his/her technique and his/her mindset after experiencing a loss. But make no mistake about it, losing is losing whether you were given a medal or not. And losing is not something to be proud of.

If you are happy or satisfied with getting a medal without winning, what is the motivation to improve your results? What incentive is there for you to increase or modify your training? If you celebrate getting a medal by default you are setting your limits too low.

The value of a medal (or anything) is in the effort it took to earn it. Whether your goal is to become world champion or just compete and have fun, you will do better if you demand more of yourself.

Brad Court is a 2nd degree black belt, IBJJF National Champion and 2x Pan American medalist, and owner of Paramount Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in Downingtown, PA (just minutes from both West Chester and Exton).

Reconcile Your Goals and Actions

Student X comes to Paramount BJJ with the goal of fighting in the UFC. Student Y wants to win an IBJJF (Jiu-Jitsu) tournament. Student Z wants to fight and win an amateur Muay Thai bout. The student enrolls and begins training. After a year, he is still training just 2 days a week. When his coach reminds him that to reach the UFC an athlete must be training daily Student X/Y/Z  says, “I can only train twice a week, I work 60 hours a week and I’ve got a wife and 2 kids.”

What should he do?

The answer is simple, but the decision may not be easy. When a person’s goals and actions are not compatible, that person must change one of the two. In the above example, the student must decide whether to change his actions (frequency of training) and accept those consequnces, or change his goal and accept those consequences.

The consequences of increasing training time could be serious- being reprimanded at work, being demoted or even fired, relationships can be strained or even lost. On the other hand, it’s scary to face the stress and depression that comes from accepting that you just aren’t willing to do what you need to reach the goal you originally set.

BJJ Class

It is not often that a person looks themselves in the mirror and objectively evaluates their potential and willingness to achieve their goals. Most often, people have a vague idea of what they want to achieve and a vague idea of how to do it. Even when told directly exactly how to achieve their goals, many aren’t initially willing to accept the amount of work it will take.

(For example, I’ve seen students training 3 days a week with the goal of winning a BJJ World Championship- It’s not going to happen)

Here’s the cold hard truth. Before you make a firm commitment to achieving a goal, you should first discuss it with your coach and family. Take some time to really think about whether you’re willing to do what it takes, what both your coach and family will ask of you. Then commit it, or modify your goal to match what you are willing to commit.

More information on training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai, and MMA in Downingtown PA can be found HERE.