Jeff Huber: On Preparing Mentally for Competition

I ended up having surgery this week (which, thankfully, went well), but I’m still unable to read normally, so a regular post wasn’t going to happen this week either (and if you missed last week’s podcast-stravaganza, you can check out the list of podcasts I was enjoying while on bed rest here).

So I thought this might be a nice opportunity to catch up with 3-time Olympic diving coach Dr. Jeff Huber, who recently retired from coaching at Indiana University, but still teaches in IU’s Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences and is also Director of Education for USA Diving.

As a former diver himself, a coach who has worked with athletes at the highest level, and with a Ph.D. in educational psychology to boot, Jeff has a unique perspective on the many facets of developing expertise, which we explore in the 30-minute conversation below.

You’ll hear Jeff share some insights on:

  • the importance of making sure everything you do in the practice room is connected to what has to happen on stage (i.e. remembering that practice is just a means to an end, not the main goal in and of itself)
  • how to take practice home with you – but in a constructive, healthy, and non-crazymaking way
  • why tomorrow’s practice actually starts as soon as today’s practice ends
  • why you may need to create or invent customized drills and exercises instead of relying on existing etudes and exercises
  • how to make sure you don’t “waste” your best playing in the warmup room
  • a critical part of each competition that can easily be overlooked in preparation, but also needs attention (i.e. all the downtime)

And, if you listen closely, you may be able to hear the gears in my head turning…really…slowly at times (we recorded this less than 24 hours post-surgery…so, you know…maybe still a little loopy). =)


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Additional resources

Jeff’s book Applying Educational Psychology in Coaching Athletes covers motivation, theories of learning, how to develop a coaching philosophy, and more. It also has great stories, and I think it’d be a valuable resource for teachers in any performance discipline. Especially if you’re into the idea of cross-training (i.e. applying ideas and concepts from one domain to another). I also have to say that it’s one of those books that just “sparks joy” sitting on your bookshelf. =)

Check out Applying Educational Psychology in Coaching Athletes

Jeff also mentioned Anders Ericsson’s book The Road to Excellence: The Acquisition of Expert Performance in the Arts and Sciences, Sports, and Games.

Check out The Road to Excellence

I have to admit that I haven’t read The Road to Excellence, but I did read his newest book Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise, which I enjoyed very much.

Check out Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise

And last, but not least, Angela Duckworth’s Character Lab recently released this free resource for teaching younger students how to engage in more thoughtful, mindful practice:

Expert practice @Character Lab

And just how high is 10 meters anyway?

To get a sense of how high 10 meters is, here’s a 16-minute NY Times video of people going to the edge of the diving platform…and trying to psych themselves up to jump off (fast-forward to 5:55 to get a better sense of the height):

Ten Meter Tower @NYTimes

And while I don’t think this is 10 meters, I figured this would be the perfect moment to include a snippet of the classic Mr. Bean high dive episode too:

The Curse of Mr. Bean

Ack! After Countless Hours of Practice...
Why Are Performances Still So Hit or Miss?

It’s not a talent issue. And that rush of adrenaline and emotional roller coaster you experience before performances is totally normal too.

Performing at the upper ranges of your ability under pressure is a unique skill – one that requires specific mental skills, and perhaps a few other tweaks in your approach to practicing too. Elite athletes have been learning these techniques for decades; if nerves and self-doubt have been recurring obstacles in your performances, I’d like to help you do the same.

Click below to learn more about Beyond Practicing – a home-study course where you’ll explore the 6 skills that are characteristic of top performers. And learn how you can develop these into strengths of your own. And begin to see tangible improvements in your playing that transfer to the stage.


7 Responses

  1. Also sending best wishes for a speedy recovery. In spite of this, bravo for doing the blog! The work you do is really useful, and I am always referring my students to your latest article. Thanks for your dedication. Take care of yourself, and keep us posted!

  2. Really great post! It was fun to be able to treat Bulletproof Musician like a podcast.

    I started reading Jeff’s book and I’m finding it really inspiring.

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