Performance Psychology and tournament fishing

In the world of performance psychology, as in life, what stands out are extremes, the really good days, the spectacular events, the colossal failures. Since we are hardwired to pay most attention to negative information, errors and setbacks are generally more emotionally powerful, and their memories more long-lasting, than successes. From an adaptive standpoint, it's clearly in our best interest to focus on, and hopefully correct or avoid, mistakes. However, it's all too easy to get wrapped up in things gone wrong in ways that interfere with performing in the moment. As athletes in every sport know (you know this, too!) attention and concentration in the here and now are absolutely essential for peak performance. If you want to be "in the zone" you need the mental discipline to learn from and then quickly let go of mistakes in order to focus on the next play, the next cast. Performance psychology says letting go of the past not only frees you from the emotional burdens that often accompany mistakes, it also opens you up to all future possibilities. And that's important because, especially in the world of fishing, what happens next could easily be you at your very best. Put another way, it's never too late to have your best day. Here are a couple of stories which illustrate this. Besides anglers, I work with athletes in other sports. One of my competitors, a racquetball player, sent me this e-mail. "So, I've told you about this guy in my club who consistently beats me. He's slightly better than me, but not much. What he does have is what I have worked on with you, Doc, and that is the ability to patiently wait for a good shot. He just returns the ball, calmly playing defense, while I flail away going for kill shots too much of the time. Trying to `make something out of nothing', as you describe it, usually leads to mistakes by me or to setups for him. "Recently, all my concentration exercises and my here-and-now focus practice paid off. When he got ahead 7-0, instead of giving up I just focused on seeing the printing on the ball, like you've told me, and forgetting about the score. A few minutes later I realized I had won, 15-7. I actually scored 15 points in a row, Doc! I've never done that before, with anyone. I couldn't even tell you about any of the shots I made (except the last one!) during that time because I was so focused on just seeing the ball. It was just like everything I've ever read about being in the zone: time stood still; the game was in slow motion; and I was like oblivious to everything around me. It really was just me and the ball, and when it was all over I was less elated than I was quietly surprised." The kicker here is this person is way past 50, and has been playing racquetball since he was 23. It's never too late to have your best day. A tournament angler here in Minnesota told me a story about an event last fall. "You know there are tons of nice fish in Lake Bill-Bob; it's where I take people for fun fishing who don't know how to fish because they're likely to catch a good one. But I've never done well there in tournaments before. Last fall it got cold early, and almost all the weeds in Bill-Bob were gone. I had done quite a lot of practicing for this event, but I couldn't put anything together. I finally sat down in the boat and asked myself what I needed. The answer was I needed to find healthy green weeds, because that's where the bass usually live this time of year. "I went back to practice casting with renewed optimism, not expecting to catch fish, but just looking for vegetation. About five hours later, my lure came back with a piece of bright green coontail weed. I changed rods, threw my favorite jig in there, and caught a 3-pounder. Doc, I gotta tell ya, it was one of the happiest moments of my fishing career; without trying to force anything, I let what I knew guide me to some fish. The following week, the bottom fell out of the thermometer, but I didn't care; I was as calm as I've ever been in competition. My first fish was over 5 pounds, and I won the event, but the real highlight was the week before when I found those weeds. The whole time I was looking for green vegetation I was relaxed and focused; and I was most certainly not thinking about how poorly I had performed in other tournaments on that lake." This guy? He's fished more tournaments than you and I put together. It's never too late to have your best day. A few weeks ago another tournament angler weighed over 30 pounds for five fish on two consecutive days on Falcon Lake. He described it as the best two competitive fishing days of his career. You may recognize his name: Rick Clunn. In August, he'll be 67. Learn from your mistakes; then erase them! It's never too late to have your best day! Jay T. McNamara, Ph.D., L.P. -------------------------------------------------- Jay T. McNamara, Ph.D., L.P., also known as Dr. Fish, has published his book "The Psychology of Exceptional Fishing." You can order it by contacting Jay via e-mail at this address: jay.DrFish@gmail.com. -------------------------------------------------- Jay T. McNamara, Ph.D., L.P., is a psychologist, who is also an avid bass and walleye angler. With more than 28 years of professional experience complemented by participation in competitive fishing at local and national levels, he is uniquely qualified to illustrate how performance psychology principles apply to tournament fishing.

Tags: performance-psychology 

/tips/2012-03-06-performance-psychology-

Performance Psychology

Successful fishing is a complex process requiring mastery over your intellect, emotions, and behavior. To consistently catch fish you have to be able to think clearly, control your emotions, and act efficiently, displaying both urgency and care, depending on the issues at hand. READ MORE »

/tips/2011-04-05-performance-psychology

Performance Psychology

What gets the attention of sports media faster than an athletic performer or coach who “loses it,” goes berserk or otherwise has a public emotional meltdown? If you said “nothing,” you have the right answer. Normal, reasonable, conventional behavior is boring; it does not draw an audience. Media leaders know what psychological research confirms: We are biologically hard-wired to notice stuff that is bizarre, odd or otherwise out of the ordinary. READ MORE »

/tips/2011-01-26-performance-psychology-now-is-the-time-to-find-an-ally

Performance Psychology: Now is the time to find an ally

Familiar folk wisdom speaks to the advantages of many over one: No Man Is an Island; In Unity there is Strength; Two Heads are Better than One; and so on. However, far too many competitive anglers fail to recognize the wisdom in these sayings. Instead, they press on as rugged individualists, relying on themselves when they should be finding allies and asking for help. READ MORE »

/tips/2010-07-13-managing-disappointment-winning-when-you-can-t-win

Managing disappointment: Winning when you can’t win

The 2010 tournament season is well under way, and the standings in your circuit probably look like the pattern found in most competitive venues. Several perennially good anglers are near the top of the AOY race, and with them are a few new names. Back in the pack are guys who do OK, but who are not typically standouts. Next to them in the standings, however, are a few good sticks having tough years. READ MORE »

/tips/2010-01-27-new-season-new-goals-new-plans

New season, new goals, new plans

Welcome to 2010 and a fresh tournament season! Without a doubt, this is one of the most exciting and emotionally charged times for competitive anglers. Last year’s triumphs are fondly remembered, while the mistakes and poor showings of 2009 are mentally whittled away and forgotten. READ MORE »

/tips/2009-10-07-levels-of-the-game-recent-performance-psychology-research

Levels of the Game: Recent performance-psychology research

The foundation of performance psychology has been built by academic researchers, the scientists whose tireless laboratory work eventually leads to the practical exercises presented in books and articles such as this. This month I will highlight recent research findings that can benefit anglers, with emphasis on Levels of the Game suggestions for beginner, intermediate and advanced competitors. READ MORE »

/tips/2009-08-07-levels-of-the-game-winning-when-you-have-to-win

Levels of the Game: Winning when you have to win

First off, I need to apologize to you, my readers. For the last couple of months I’ve been delinquent in getting out these Performance Psychology and Competitive Fishing columns. However, I have a reasonable excuse: I have been busier than usual with my own competitive fishing career. READ MORE »

/tips/2009-05-01-levels-of-the-game-review-and-rework

Levels of the Game: Review and rework

Competitive anglers typically go through an annual process of re-evaluating both fishing goals and angling techniques. For most of us, the offseason is a good time to review last year’s successes and failures and to recognize our recurrent mistakes. Breaks in tournament schedules allow us to create new goals and then develop plans to improve. READ MORE »

/tips/2009-03-13-levels-of-the-game-focused-concentration

Levels of the Game: Focused concentration

Nearly all of the performance-psychology dimensions discussed in this column apply in sports other than competitive fishing. This is nowhere more true than in the domain of focused concentration. The capacity to coordinate many different muscle groups, while paying specific attention to a complex task, is a key to success for racecar drivers, baseball players and other athletes – certainly tournament anglers. READ MORE »

/tips/2009-01-23-levels-of-the-game-goal-setting

Levels of the Game: Goal-setting

Communicating effectively, in fishing as elsewhere, is a complex challenge. It is always important to be clear and concise, and good communicators present their message so that their audience can easily understand it. However, sometimes one’s audience includes many types of people with markedly different levels of knowledge of the topic at hand. READ MORE »

/tips/2008-10-21-pro-pointers-no-5-what-s-your-job-

Pro pointers No. 5: What’s your job?

In some ways listening to anglers discuss performance-psychology concepts reminds me of that old saying about the weather: “Everybody talks about it, but nobody does anything about it.” It’s not easy to translate performance-psychology concepts into specific action plans. Here, however, is a unique, down-to-earth perspective you might find interesting. READ MORE »

/tips/2008-08-05-pro-pointers-no-4-psychological-techniques-of-olympians

Pro pointers No. 4: Psychological techniques of Olympians

The 2008 Summer Olympic Games are about to begin in Beijing, China. On video screens in stores, airports, sports bars and homes, the performances of the world’s greatest athletes will be on display. What will not be visible, however, are the many hours of physical and psychological training that prepared these competitors to play at this level. READ MORE »

/tips/2008-06-02-pro-pointers-no-3-do-you-have-a-winning-attitude-

Pro pointers No. 3: Do you have a winning attitude?

Tournament champions will explain the difference between winning and placing with just one word: attitude! If your attitude is confident, calm and determined, if you know you belong in this field, and if you genuinely expect to win, you mentally put yourself in position to come out on top. READ MORE »

/tips/2008-04-29-pro-pointers-no-2-baseline-data-and-practice-

Pro pointers No. 2: Baseline data and practice

One of the most frequent comments pro fishermen make about individuals trying to break into competitive fishing is this: “They don’t know what they’re getting into.” Most anglers will assume this refers to the numerous practical realities of tournament angling, including coming up with tournament entry fees, obtaining sponsors and financing a boat and equipment, to name just a few. READ MORE »

/tips/2008-02-27-pro-pointers-no-1-anger-management

Pro pointers No. 1: Anger management

It’s one thing for me to tell you what performance psychology says about mental variables affecting your fishing. However, it’s another thing altogether to hear what top professionals say matters to them. In the next few months, I’m going to let you in on what competitive anglers have told me about how performance psychology variables play out on the water. READ MORE »

/tips/2007-12-28-psychological-holiday-gifts

Psychological holiday gifts

In the spirit of holiday giving, let’s take a look at a few “psychological presents” you might consider passing on to others or keeping and using yourself. As you will see, when it comes to performance psychology dimensions, you can have your cake and eat it too! READ MORE »

/tips/2007-11-29-teachers-teammates-and-partners-what-can-be-learned

Teachers, teammates and partners: What can be learned

At year’s end, conscientious anglers will set aside time to review tournament performances from the season, considering what they might do to improve for the coming year and how to take real steps to both strengthen skills and fix problems. An aspect that is often overlooked by competitive anglers can be one of the most important: the people with whom they associate. READ MORE »

/tips/2007-09-24-recognize-your-blind-spots

Recognize your blind spots

Webster’s dictionary defines blind spot as “an area about which one is uninformed, prejudiced or unaware.” If you fish, especially if you fish competitively, you have at least one, and probably several, fishing blind spots. READ MORE »

/tips/2007-08-06-handling-the-psychological-storms-that-weather-can-create

Handling the psychological storms that weather can create

Weather, in its varied and oft-changing forms, represents one of the greatest mental challenges for anglers. Tournament competitors as well as weekend bait dunkers know that primo weather can put a person in a fish-catching mood, whereas lousy weather can do the opposite. While it’s not clear exactly how weather affects fish and fish movements, it’s very obvious that weather has a profound effect on those who chase fish! READ MORE »

/tips/2007-05-24-putting-it-all-together-a-real-life-story

Putting it all together: A real-life story

Isn’t it a great feeling when it all comes together? Smooth as can be, all your preparation, lure selection and presentation skills work in concert, and you wind up catching them just like you planned. The feeling of satisfaction, the sense of accomplishment and excitement are indescribable, really. In this article I’m going to tell you about one of those days. READ MORE »