Saturday, February 26, 2005

Attended a course on "Mental Skills Training (MST) for performance excellence" on campus today. Compulsory for all staff to attend. To appease us for calling us back on a Saturday morning, we got a pretty decent catered breakfast to start the day.

The trainer was one of a small handful of local sports psychologists working locally. He tried to tie his ability to overcome his horrible ('horrible' is relative) academic history with his current role as a trainer of our national athletes' minds, getting them to focus their mental energy on overcoming their performance obstacles.

His methods involve keeping logs and records for training performance, evaluating and correlating personal emotions and thought processes with personal targets hit or missed. We went through some simple exercises for relaxation, concentration and positive imagery, and listened through lots of personal anecdotes of his experience as a college athlete and as a mental skills coach employed by various local schools.

There seems to be a snag when we think about whether we perform to win (as in athletics) or to enjoy the experience (as in drama). To want to win means having a goal, a point of focus to drive and strive towards, which is fine for competitive sports; but for aesthetic experience it's harder to set a concrete goal to aim for. Is our goal to make as much profit as we can on our performance? Is it to get a good review from our critics (a major can of worms for any aesthetic activity)? Is it to get our students to build personal skills in the field and to enjoy the experience so much that they continue to develop those skills in later life?

For competitive sports it's simple: win/lose; gold/silver/bronze; Xth position in the rankings. How does one set such clear-cut goals for an aesthetic group? And yet we must at least set some standard, some mark to stretch ourselves to reach, else the performance is pointless. I suppose we ultimately have 2 very clear responsibilities: 1) to the audience who must enjoy the performance and 2) to ourselves for whom the show must go on.

To summarize things in my own words, performance excellence is about Passion and Professionalism. Passion is the fuel that drives one to perform at one's best because there is some intrinsic motivation for the performance, PEARLS be damned. Professionalism is both glue that binds a performance community together, and a lubricant allowing individual performers to relate well with each other within the community as well as to set and raise the performance bar for each stratum within the community.

Passion and Professionalism then. Perhaps we can set Drama Club goals around these 2 driving principles?

No comments: