Newest Additions Fill Roles to Give Houston a Much Needed Boost

The Houston Dynamo have appeared in four of the last eight MLS Cup finals, and lifted the trophy on two of those occasions. The 2014 season, however, has provided a different script for The Men in Orange, as they currently sit in 8th in the Eastern Conference standings, with the second-lowest points total in the entire league. Prior to last weekend, the Dynamo had endured a streak of eight regular season games without a win and had surrendered 21 goals across that stretch. Badly in need of more reliable defending, the Dynamo recently acquired two new players to fill significant roles. USMNT player DaMarcus Beasley, fresh off his fourth World Cup, was added as a left back, while Honduran international Luis Garrido, also having appeared in Brazil for his country, arrived in Houston to play in front of the backline. The payoff against DC United on Sunday was immediately evident. While Beasley was expected to provide, and delivered, a massive boost to Houston’s defensive unit, Garrido’s play was equally notable. At 5’7”, the 23-year-old is small for a defensive center midfielder; yet, in his debut, the Honduran was outstanding in the role. Garrido impressed with his ability to maintain possession, and on the defensive side, lived up to the nickname earned in his home country: La Fiera (“The Beast”).

I make my name off the work,” Garrido told reporters through a translator on Tuesday. “That’s what my job is, what my identity is…I’m always trying to do things on the ball…because I’m always trying to improve in that area. But my identity is the work.” Garrido’s teammate and Dynamo captain Brad Davis welcomed the contributions of the Honduran. “You need those types of enforcers, guys that look for those tackles, guys that look to be scrappy and look to break up plays,” said Davis. “Those are all parts of the puzzle that you have to have fit together.”

A player’s ability to fulfill his or her role on a team depends on the extent to which role clarity, role acceptance, and role performance are achieved. As a player, role clarity refers to your understanding of your specific role on the team, as well as the strengths of your game that allow you to have success. It involves knowing your responsibilities on the field, and the contributions your coach and teammates expect you to bring to each game. If, as a player, you are unsure of your role, it is important to talk with your coach and ask specific questions to improve your understanding. Once you are aware of the expectations surrounding your part on the team, role acceptance refers to your willingness as a player to fully embrace that role, and to bring your best effort to the field in whatever capacity you are expected to fulfill. Whether as the starting center midfielder or the last player off the bench, it is important to bring your highest level of focus and effort to the field whenever you perform. Depending on your team’s needs, there may certainly be times when you are unhappy with the position you are playing or the role you serve. Rather than complaining about these circumstances, make the most out of them through a positive attitude and a commitment to helping your team find success. Lastly, role performance involves how well you perform in a given role, and your willingness to evaluate your strengths and areas for improvement in that position through your own objective evaluation and talking with your coach. After reflecting, and receiving feedback, on your performance, develop specific adjustments or process goals that can help you become a more effective player in that role. While the Dynamo currently sit in 8th place, only five points separate them from a playoff berth. With 13 regular season games remaining to make up this gap, Houston will be looking to both Garrido and Beasley to fill much-needed roles, in the hopes that these two players are the missing pieces to the “puzzle”.

High Performance Sports provides sport psychology services to athletes for performance enhancement

Man City and Pellegrini Rewarded for Consistency With Title

On Sunday, Manchester City put a stamp of emphasis on its recent arrival among the top clubs in European football by claiming its second Premier League championship in three years. City’s 2-0 win over West Ham brought a quiet end to a dramatic season for the English league as a whole, which saw the club name at the top of the table change 25 times. In total, City spent only 15 days in that top spot, but ultimately finished with a two-point edge over Liverpool to earn the trophy. Seven months ago and about a third of the way through the season, City had already lost four of its first 11 games – all by a single goal – and slipped to 8th place in the standings. However, the team soon found its rhythm, went on a 12-match unbeaten streak throughout the winter, and ended the season with only two losses out of its final 27 games. City was the only club to go unbeaten in its final six games, and was superior to other clubs both offensively and defensively, finishing the year with the most goals scored (102) and the second fewest goals allowed (37). In a year when the three other clubs contending for the title – Arsenal, Chelsea, and Liverpool – struggled over the final few months, City manager Manuel Pelligrini commended his players’ consistent belief in the team’s tactical approach and style of play over the entire season: “It was a very special season for us, we didn’t start very well but …[the players] always believed what I told them about how I wanted to play and how I think football should be.”

Players or teams who demonstrate consistency over the long run are able to do so because they maintain a firm commitment to their approach to training and competition. Each time they step onto the field, consistent players know what their individual strengths are, and they play to those strengths to help the team. As a player, you can bring consistency to the field by knowing and understanding your role and unique contributions to your team’s success, and by focusing on playing to your strengths and fulfilling your responsibilities on a daily basis. While tactical adjustments and adaptability in your game are valuable and necessary whenever you play, your strengths as a player can provide a consistent foundation for your performance. To identify your strengths, reflect on your past successful performances and try to recognize the skills or qualities that helped you achieve that success. To understand your role within the team, ask the coach what is expected of you if it is unclear. Use this information to help you decide the skills and qualities you want to focus on during training to continue to contribute to the team. Consistently training this way can help you believe in your own – and your team’s – approach to training and preparation for competition.

Consistency also plays an important role in helping you manage new experiences. Many players become overwhelmed when they join a new team, or their coach puts them in a new position or selects them as a captain for the first time – and these challenges can seem daunting and uncomfortable at first. However, with a clear understanding of your strengths as a player, you can bring the same focused training mentality and approach to these opportunities that you have brought to your game thus far, and demonstrate the same level of performance. After enjoying its most recent success, Man City will next turn its attention to a new season starting in August, and the manager’s and players’ ability to continue relying on what has worked for them thus far will determine whether or not they are able to defend their title next season.

Getting better starts with knowing what needs work

Athletes who continue to challenge themselves to push their limits and improve in their sport are often the ones who achieve greatest success. But, challenging yourself to improve means that you have to have an awareness of your current skill level; you can’t improve if you don’t know what needs work. If you are an athlete who wants to develop and improve, work on developing your self-awareness.

Self-awareness helps athletes recognize both their strengths and weaknesses. It helps them recall their best and worst performances and identify the differences between the two to try to discover their ideal preparation that leads to their best performances. Self-awareness can also help athletes enjoy their sport more because even after particularly grueling training sessions or competitions, they are able to identify what they learned and how it might help them improve.

To be a more self-aware player, start with being more attentive as you approach training sessions. As you arrive to a session, pay attention to how you prepare yourself, physically and mentally, to perform. Do you like to be focused on what is expected of you that day? Do you like to talk and laugh with teammates to keep yourself loose? Once you start playing, pay attention to instances when you perform very well and times when you lose your cool. Can you think of any circumstances that led up to that? When the session ends, objectively evaluate how you played. What did you do well and what needs improvement? To make sure you keep up with this, consider creating a training log where you write these observations down before and after sessions. That way, you can track your progress, but you can also remind yourself to pay attention and work on your self-awareness. The more you pay attention to these things, the more self-aware you become as a player. The more self-aware you are as a player, the more you will be able to identify goals to work on and challenge yourself to achieve them.

Jaime Moyer: Mental Skills for Success

A few weeks ago, Major League Baseball pitcher, Jaime Moyer, was featured on WHYY public media radio. Marty Moss-Coane interviewed Moyer about his career and work with sport psychologist Harvey Dorfman. Moyer had a 25-year career and made history in 2012, when at age 49, he became the oldest pitcher to win a major league game. The radio interview focused on Moyer’s ability to defy his age and perform his best at the end of his career. The interview highlighted the mental skills Moyer developed throughout his career working with Dorfman, who he credits for a lot of his professional success.

A question that is commonly asked by youth and amateur players about sport psychology is, “how do professional athletes use mental skills to improve their performance?” With so many players being unfamiliar with sport psychology, learning about a professional athlete using mental skills could help youth and amateur players feel more comfortable embracing the mental side of the game. Professional players use mental skills in different ways to improve confidence, communication, and focus, among others. One way that Moyer used mental skills was to increase his self-awareness. During the interview, Moyer discussed three questions he always asked himself after a game. These questions were, “What was I trying to do?” “What went wrong?” and “What do I have to do next time?” He referred to these questions as “self-checks” and used them to help him learn from his mistakes. Similar to Moyer’s postgame self-check, it is important to have a way to objectively assess yourself after training sessions and games. When you reflect on and analyze your game, it helps you develop awareness of yourself and your performance and make a plan to improve your game. Examples of other potential questions you can ask yourself after a training session or game include, “What was good about today?” “What do I want to do better next time?” and “How will I improve?” Think about what questions work best for you and how you can integrate a self-check technique into your post-performance routine.

Click on the link below to learn more about how Moyer utilized sport psychology to gain an edge over the competition.