Dr. Joan’s Sports Psych Talk: Redwood High’s mountain bike racing team
Dr. Joan’s Sports Psych Talk-
Marin County is mountain bike heaven. We are the birthplace of the sport. Klunkerz, a locally made movie, provides a view of the development and birth of mountain biking here in our backyard. We live in the watershed; in the valleys, or on the hillsides of beautiful Mt. Tam. Lucky us! The mountain is enjoyed by a variety of users besides mountain bikers including equestrians, hikers, and runners.
Today, I am here to talk about mountain biking for juniors.
Mountain biking for our children has begun to take hold in the high schools here in Marin as in other locations throughout the state. This has been the 10th season of the Nor-Cal High School Mountain Bike League. Started by a Berkeley High teacher in 2001, the League was created for junior racers to have a structured season and for the formation of public high school teams. Marin is home to three of the hot teams, Drake Pirates, Redwood High School, and San Rafael Bulldogs. The Drake Pirates ended up as 2010 State Champions with the young Redwood High School team on the podium in third and the San Rafael Bulldogs a close fourth. Each team works hard with a solid structure, plan, and direction. Drake, Redwood, and San Rafael all had individual finishers in the top ten!
(Left to right: Taylor Smith, Jack Kisseberth, & Daniel Thompson)
I recently did a sports psychology presentation with the Redwood High team which consists of 28 riders (including three girls). The team members were enthusiastic and engaged as we covered some basic sport psychology principles, including thought habits, motivation, confidence, focus/concentration, and mental rehearsal/visualization. The first area we discussed was thought habits. In other words, how you manage negative thoughts and emotions and turn them into positive ones. One suggestion that I had was to find positive words to replace the negative words circling around in our thoughts. Many successful athletes describe using a mantra of positive words as they approach competition. As the session passed quickly, Julia Violich (primary coach for the team) and I both shared information and encouraged the members present to think about and discuss races in terms of this technique. They were encouraged to work on having positive thoughts more often during races.
These kids are lucky to have some great coaches that support positive mental strategies. Julia is a local and former National Master’s XC Champion and she is assisted by back ground coach, Eddy McLeod, a certified Level 3 cycling coach and one of the owners of Paradigm Bikes. They have three main goals for the team. These goals include providing direction, development of mountain bike skills, and of course, camaraderie. While interviewing Julia, she described the team as quite new this past year. It consists of only 7 returning members out of 28. A large number of these are freshman and juniors with all three girls experiencing their first year riding and racing. In terms of mental strategies, the coaches have touched on such topics as sleep habits, anxiety management, and self-reflection. Following races, the coaches review the races with the kids. They not only review tactics and racing strategies, but also discuss “how they ‘felt’ on the bike.” They look at each team member as an individual to see what specific tactics work for each. Additionally, Julia shares her racing experience in a way that is helpful to the kids in both a useful and inspirational way.
“I try to encourage kids to do their best,” said Julia, “And to have fun along the way.”
(Photo credit: Dean Bentley)
Dr. Joan Steidinger is a sports and clinical psychologist with offices in Mill Valley and San Francisco. She has been practicing sports psychology with clients ranging from recreational to pro athletes for the past 17 years.
As an athlete herself, she has been a competitive ultrarunner, Ride & Tie competitor, and ultradistance cyclist.