Perth Wildcats Captain Damian Martin was hosted by No. 79 Squadron’s Introductory Fighter Course trainees at RAAF Base Pearce for a valuable mental skills training session. 

The introductory fighter course comprises 14 weeks of combined ground and flying training and equips trainees with theoretical, practical and mental skills required to support them in achieving successful careers in RAAF’s fast-jet environment. 

Each training squadron is responsible for developing its own mental skills training package that outlines the nine key mental skills; attitude, motivation, goals and commitment, people skills, self-talk, mental imagery, dealing effectively with anxiety, dealing effectively with emotions and concentration. 

No. 79 Squadron A-Flight Commander Squadron Leader Martin Keer and residential psychologist Squadron Leader Shayne Hanks developed a 12-session program covering these skills through a series of interactive sessions with inspiring guest speakers.  

“Weekly sessions include different case studies with guest speakers providing their personal perspective on the value of acknowledging mental skills, which can be related to a flying training context,” Squadron Leader Keer said.    

This adds context to our psychological theory and validates the value of each session from a flying training perspective.

Session five focused on the “elite athlete perspective” and National Basketball League athlete Damian Martin was excited to visit the squadron for a unique question-and-answer session. 

The six-time NBL champion, six-time NBL best defensive player and 2018 Olympian shared his advice on dealing with pre-game anxiety, the benefits of mental toughness during the game and mental game rehearsal.  

Mr Martin said his experience had taught him that athletic ability is not the only thing required to win a game.

“I know my team plays their best when they are mentally switched on, fit, healthy and confident and as captain I can help my teammates be mentally switched on and confident, which goes a long way to getting the ball in the hoop,” Mr Martin said.

“It takes a good team to win a finals, but it’s what’s above your shoulders that separates you from being a really good team or a championship-winning team.”

Flying Officer Jack Smith said all sessions had been well received and trainees felt it was refreshing to hear a different perspective on how to cope with similar mental pressures experienced during their course. 

“The qualified flying instructor’s viewpoint and experience during the session aligned seamlessly with Damian’s perspective and advice,” Flying Officer Smith said. 

“This adds context to our psychological theory and validates the value of each session from a flying training perspective.”