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Mental training has been around for a long time, yet we are just now discovering that it needs to be planned and trained just like physical training.

Neil Harvey

In the foreword to this book, Mark Tewksbury credits his mental training program with giving him the capacity to win. He experienced the "win" many times in his thoughts. Even though he had never won an Olympics, he experienced "deja-vu" during the race. He had been there before. Mark tells us he was forced to approach this program with complete honesty, commitment, and seriousness, since his competitors leading into the Games were swimming very well and in order to win, Mark would have to take off at least one second from his 100 m backstroke time. This was a task that made the confident world-class swimmer weep with doubt. The results of his journey are history. This book is a further refinement of that program.

Coaches can always be heard counselling their swimmers during training and at every meet. Where do they learn this stuff? What is the right thing to say to a swimmer at any given time? Is it experience combined with some psychology readings and perhaps a couple of courses taken somewhere? How many coaches do you know who actually take the time to program mental training into their year plan? Chalk talks, goal sheets, log books, relaxation drills, cue words, explode ! These methods are all familiar to coaches.

But what are the references we use to find out more? You may have read Keith Bell's series of well-written simple psychology books for everyday thinking. These are excellent introductions to the type of thinking and mental preparations needed to take the average talented swimmer through the constant barriers to higher success. Terry Orlick has written some excellent books describing programs for mental training (In Pursuit of Excellence ). Peter Jensen and Bob Weile have put out The Inside Edge , a workbook for mental training. The NCCP Level 4 program has two courses in this area (tasks 7 and 8). John Hogg's book takes these psychological building blocks further into a usable workbook format with a personalized training program for the advanced swimmer.

The work involved in this program requires the swimmer to complete various tasks throughout each section and return as needed for review and follow-up. The book begins with self-awareness. This work leads swimmers through the challenging and often distasteful task of honestly looking inside themselves. It becomes the basis for all subsequent work. I do not see a swimmer working through this book without ongoing help from a coach or sport psychologist. The charts can be confusing and may even need some further explanation from the author.

The next five chapters introduce and develop the specific mental skills associated with the program: goal setting, relaxation, self-talk, imagery, and attention. These chapters are filled with explanations and exercises designed to develop the skills. These skills direct all preparation, make training more efficient, clarify the image of the goal, and develop an awareness of the Ideal Performance State. A summary chapter explains how to integrate these skills into an overall training program. A complete appendix provides additional explanations and charts for photocopying and use by swimmers.

For the swimmer or coach who feels that an applied psychological training program is something they are committed to, Mental Skills for Competitive Swimmers is a good resource. Mental training has been around for a long time, yet we are just now discovering that it needs to be planned and trained just like physical training. As Hogg cites in the book: "Ultimate power means the ability to change, to adapt, to grow, to evolve!" This manual for mental training will complement others you may have in your library, such as Jensen and Weile and the Bell series. John Hogg has recently published a comprehensive manual for coaches who are using this program.

Mental Skills for Competitive Swimmers, by John M. Hogg, Ph.D.,
© 1995. 172 pp, $18.00 Cdn. Published by Sport Excel Publishing Inc.,
P.O. Box 67045, Edmonton, Alberta, T5R 5Y3 tel: (403) 413-0086

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