The Psychological Approach to High Jump

Introduction/Summary:

As any athlete or team, there is a ritual to prepare and suit up for a challenge, game, or event. Whether is be the whole team having a sleep over to bond the night before a match, or the lone contender sitting on the sideline blasting music that motivates them to be faster, stronger, and better all around. Everybody has a psychological preparation that they go through, before a certain obstacle, even during, and after. Once a high jumper gets into the pit and is warming up, it is easy to feel intimidated and lose confidence (psych out) watching other jumpers go through run throughs. Once the athlete starts to think negatively or positively, the self-fulfilling prophecy kicks in. It all comes down to the preparation, the attitude during the execution, and belief in the positive or negative outcomes that the athlete has control over.


Why did I choose this topic?highjump.jpg

This topic holds a very personal and passionate place in my life. As a current and past high jumper myself, the obstacles an athlete faces when in the high jump pit is very different from what other individuals experience within the running aspect of Track and Field. This event has helped shape me as an individual, and has helped me grow into a competitive and determined student outside the track.



The Psychological Preparation

For every High Jumper, the before competition phase is different. The athlete needs to prepare mentally and physically to ready themselves to perform. However, before they compete, there are steps toward the mental and physical stability needed. High Jump is a physically challenging event, but the real challenge is the mental strength that is needed to master the technique. World class athletes, and Olympic competitors are in tip top shape and have superb form due to intensive training, but can be defeated by their mental process when competing.

The "Lucky Charm" Superstition
This superstition takes place when an athlete performs exceptionally well, and looks for a reason or explanation on why they have performed at that level, rather than thinking they themselves were the cause. Once an object is found with the athlete that is normally not with them, they assume the reason they had such a great performance was because of that object being present. This could be a pair of socks, a toy, a certain picture, a locket, specific shoes, or any physical item that can be blamed for the "good luck". The moment that athlete establishes the connection between the item and the performance, this will become known as their lucky charm, and will probably be present at all competitive events. For example, "...when Brian Brown is preparing for competition, he won't go anywhere without his friend a 10-year-old basketball. 'When I compete, I carry this ball with me all the time,' the high jumper from Louisiana said, holding the ragged sphere. 'That's why it's so worn,'..."(1). He now is the currently working at Drake University for the Track and Field program. More athletes that carry around and believe in lucky charms can be found here:
http://newsok.com/win-or-lose-athletes-swear-by-superstitions/article/2274326

Rituals
Close to the Lucky Charm superstition, a ritual is an activity that is consistently present before an event to bring forth a great performance. The difference between a lucky charm and a ritual is that the activity is being blamed for the success of a performance, rather than an item. This is more for a mental stability, rather than a physical stability, even though the activity can be physically challenging or not. A clear example of the idea of rituals is Wade Boggs, "...the former Red Sox slugger and third baseman, was very ritualistic about his warm-ups. For night games, he took batting practice at precisely 5:17 and ran wind sprints at exactly 7:17. He fielded 150 ground balls before every game, never more nor less, and always ended his infield practice by stepping—in the same order—on third, second and first base, then the baseline, followed by two steps in the coaching box and four more steps into the dugout..."(3), which clearly shows that he did believe that a routine brings good luck, and it reflected in his performance by having a .328 batting average, and earning him a spot in the hall of fame. Referring back to high jump, a high jumper can have a certain warm up routine that brings on a level of confidence, that can help out the jumper when it comes to actually performing. Also when up at the line to jump, a ritual of specific actions can help. Certain steps, some longer or shorter, or even when setting up at the line to start the approach to the bar an athlete will stretch a certain way or lean a different way before they take off. These all count as rituals.

Having a consistent and controllable factor or habit before heading into competition can make the individual confident and think positively heading into the next obstacle. Rituals are performed, "directly prior to a task may boost a person’s confidence in his or her ability to succeed—what’s known as self-efficacy—which in turn boosts expectations and persistence, thus improving performance,"(1) as stated by Psychologist Lysann Damisch of the University of Koln, Germany.
ax227-527e-9jpg-3f695407321cc0db.jpg
It brings the athlete into a feeling of control and preparation that helps improve overall feeling and confidence. If the ritual were to go wrong, or could not be completed, then the athlete could possibly be thrown into a fit of negative feelings and thoughts, and will not perform as well compared to if the ritual was completed.

(article located on http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/news/were-only-human/how-lucky-charms-really-work.html)


The Self-fulfilling prophecy (Psych Out)

The commonly known phrase "psych out", also known as the Pygmalion effect, derives from the concept developed by Robert Merton, an american sociologist, that the self-fulfilling prophecy is, "...to explain how a belief or expectation, whether true or not, affects the outcome of a situation or the behavior of a person or group. In other words, what we expect is often what we get," (2). The Pygmalion effect is an example of self awareness, and how we can adjust our attitude and thoughts to get the desired affect. When a high jumper is looking down the pit and about to high jump, the bar comes into view and the mental battle starts. The athlete then and there chooses either a road of optimistic or pessimistic, and then go forward into the pit with that mindset. When the person chooses a positive mental approach, that they are going to clear the bar, then they have the confidence and will to make the correct moves to accomplish that outcome. The same goes for a negative mental approach. If the athlete believes that he or she will not make it over the bar, then the approach is off, and the confidence and drive to clear the bar is gone, thus making the athlete slack in aspects that could have been controlled, for the outcome of not clearing the bar to become a reality.
Pygmalion.jpg
Not just the athlete can execute the self-fulfilling prophecy. A coach, teammate, or rival can create the psychological break down in an individual. If a coach treats and trains the athlete like they can not clear a certain height, or that they will not succeed, the athlete will believe them, and will not achieve that goal or height. The same goes for the support of a team mate. However, it is easier to get intimidated by a rival, or if unsportsmanlike behavior is happening, then a negative mindset could be the outcome. The opposite is possible though, said athlete could be fueled and charged to clear the height by seeing a rival fail, or clear the height as well.



How This Relates to College Students:

Students use these aspects more often then they think. From day to day events and situations, to long-term goals. When an student goes in to take a test they have studied for, they might wear their lucky socks or underpants, just incase they have a chance at getting a good grade. Also, when a student starts to think negatively about a topic they are learning about in class, they can easily get frustrated and confused on the information that they receive and eventually condition themselves to fail on assignments linked to that class, just like the self-fulfilling prophecy. The same idea goes for testing, not only could they bring their lucky charms to the test, but if they think they will get a good grade, they will achieve that grade or even better just due to their attitude toward the whole experience. The college student also has mental battles with in themselves, just like high jumpers do. And by high jumping, I have become a more dedicated student, mentally preparing myself for activities in the classroom and outside. I strive to learn and try to maintain a positive attitude, to fulfill my expectations, and exceed them.

ACTIVITY
Now watch this video, and try to pick out the aspects that I have covered.





SOURCES
Herbert, Wray. "How lucky charms really work." //Association for Psychological Science RSS//. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Dec. 2013. <http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/news/were-only-human/how-lucky-charms-really-work.html>.

"The Psychology of a Self Fulfilling Prophesy." //Mind Science 101 RSS//. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Dec. 2013. <http://mindscience101.com/2010/03/the-psychology-of-a-self-fulfilling-prophesy/>.

Zizzo, David. "Win or Lose, Athletes Swear by Superstitions." //NewsOK.com//. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Dec. 2013. <http://newsok.com/win-or-lose-athletes-swear-by-superstitions/article/2274326>.