‘Team Game’ Training

John Heil, Psychological Health Roanoke, USA

Theme: Mental training/interventions

Program ID: SYM-14

Presentation: October 3, 2013 2:30 pm - 3:45 pm

Room: Napoleon


The’ Team Game’ project was the key element of the high performance plan developed with USA Fencing National Team Coach, Paul Soter, for the Athens Olympics. Although success in team competitions was clearly the best path to Olympic success the “individual first” mind-set dominated the culture of American fencing, with no prior efforts at systematic study of team competition. The team building program addressed the emotional and relationship dynamics indirectly, while focusing specifically on the cognitive and tactical dimension of team competition. The ‘Team Game’ training methodology combined a Rogerian (Rogers, 1951) intervention style (client centered, active listening) with a lessons learned approach to post event critique (Weber, Aha, & Becerra-Fernandez, 2001). Content generated in discussion was organized by theme and assembled into a hierarchical structure in a way consistent with the inductive qualitative research method. Athletes and coaches participated as equals in Socratic style post-competition debriefing that identified barriers to success and potential remedies. The sport psychologist lead the inquiry, served as a scribe recording comments, and integrated these into key themes, which were operationalized as action plans – then implemented and re-evaluated, in a repetitive manner. The program clearly delineated team roles which represented a novel approach to tactical problem solving, developed team routines which assimilated established personal preparation routines, created a coaching lexicon etc. The team qualified for the Athens Olympics and secured a 6th place finish. Significantly, the team also prevailed in implementing an athlete replacement strategy at the Olympics in opposition to the prevailing sport culture. The collaboration also yielded two commercial products (a mental training program and a coaching guide).

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