Too many peopleovervalue what they are not and undervalue what they are - Forbes
Performance is the best measure of an athlete’s mental game. Let’sface it as athletes move up in rankings some unexpected circumstances willappear. At that moment, athletes will be faced with a decision on how to act,or react. An athlete’s mindset has a lot to do with the response and theoutcome. Traditional sports psychology primarily teaches goal setting,visualization and self talk as primary tools to overcome obstacles.
Many approaches exist to begin strengthening your mentalgame. Time is of the essence during a competitive season, athletes requirequick results. Learning new skills does not always work well during thecompetitive season. So what if there was a faster approach? Instead of addingsomething onto their training the ideal approach is to remove the obstacle causingpoor performance.
Four primary categories create performance blocks.
1. Affect has to do with feelings and emotions. Emotionsdirectly impact response and perception. This crops up as anxiety, anger,shame, fears and disappointment.
2. Cognitive explores an athletes mental process. Thisincludes perceptions, memory and problem solving. Intelligence stems from thecognitive part of the brain. Cognitive barriers are expressed by low selfconfidence, perfectionism and blaming others
3. Conative is the desire to act on thoughts and feelings.Think of this as willful action. Low motivation, conflicts between opposinginterests and extreme desire are conative factors.
4. Behavioral domain casts a wide umbrella including actions,thoughts and feelings. Athletes getting into fights, overtraining, poorcommunication and pushing either too hard or not hard enough face behavioralchallenges.
This new experiential approach requires highly specific informationand clarity concerning current challenges. After identifying the problem theathlete goes a little deeper to look at the underlying meaning. Why is thisnecessary? Well actions are the easiest way to recognize a problem, but theyonly scratch the surface. To fully understand performance issues it isnecessary to understand its root cause.
People by nature, including athletes, are storytellers. Learningthe story, and its underlying meaning, is necessary for long lasting change.When an athlete recognizes their story, then they have a choice. Keep it orchange its meaning. When something is working against an athlete, causing aninternal struggle, then it is time to modify the story.
Basically two distinct types of obstacles affect performance,external and internal. Technical problems, conditions and delayed starts aresome external problems. Physical and psychological factors lead to internalissues. Physical challenges would be injury, illness, substance abuse andfatigue. Psychological issues revolve around emotions, perceptions and actions.Any one of these factors alone will impact performance. Several occurringsimultaneously without resolution create troubled athletes.
So what’s next? Changing perspective and meaning clearsperformance obstacles. Wherever the athlete is ready to get to work is the bestplace to start.
1. Discovery. Generalizations just don’t work. Learn why theathlete is uncomfortable. Detect whether the problem is external or internal. Athletestaking responsibility for their actions and perspective is the first step inthe process.
2. Choice. Often several different issues occur at the sametime. It is rarely just one problem affecting an athlete’s performance ormotivation. Attempting to solve several issues simultaneously is ineffective.Choose one specific problem to work on at a time. Where to start? The bestplace to start is the one the athlete is most motivated to focus on right now.
3. The Story. What is the athlete experiencing? Identify anyunderlying fears or meaning. Search for the root cause. Ask questions todiscover the first time something like this was experienced. Clearing the rootcause along with its story brings about an immediate transformation. This iswhere breakthroughs happen.
4. Reframe. Changing meaning, perception and response is thedesired outcome. A great place to reframe is around black and white thinkingalso known as all or nothing thoughts. The world is rarely black and white.Building balance into the story begins to change its meaning. Rules are anotherreaction which can be readily modified. Rules sound like this: “If thishappens, then this is the response.” The ideal goal is to step out of the box,developing a new response.
Moving up in rankings necessitates personal growth. Allathletes experience a psychological barrier at some point in their career.Inner conflicts create struggles leading to performance issues. Periodicallyathletes are faced with old beliefs causing them to stumble. Many timesathletes can overcome these hurdles on their own. Persisting challenges,however, affect confidence.
Athletes rarely hesitate to seek out a coach to improvephysical performance. Take the initiative to find the right support to build asolid mental game. Performance coaches are trained to work through mindsetchallenges. Making the decision to take action is a powerful first step.Reaching out for the right support frequently brings relief, recognizing it isthe first step toward a solution.
Activity: Identify a recent competition where you weren’tsatisfied with your performance. What was one which bothered you the most? Listthe reasons your performance was off. Include what prevented you from regainingfocus. Now list all the ways this challenge can be approached. If you are readyto turn things around, what first step are you willing to take now?
With all things being equal, what is different about winning athletes? When elite athletes are competing, the gap in abilities between the first and last place athlete is relatively small. You’ll need to dig a little deeper to understand what separates the top 1% of elite athletes from all the rest.
Bryan Bennett, redshirt freshman quarterback for the University of Oregon Ducks, displayed the qualities of a great quarterback. He was given his chance to play in the game against Arizona State University after Darron Thomas, became injured. Many athletes have the physical ability, but it takes more than that to step into a close game and win. “I just tried to stay calm, cool and collected and go out there and play football and have fun,” Bennett said.
Proper training builds strength and endurance. Mindset strategies improve focus and build confidence. Both components, physical training combined with mental game strategies, are necessary for high performance.
Elite athletes view performance, and winning, from a different set of lenses. Where elite athletes place their focus and attention is different from average athletes.
1. Motivation – There is a burning desire to be the best you can be. Being good enough is not enough. Elite athletes possess a deep need to always improve, taking their performance to the next level.
2. Initiative – Driven athletes don’t wait to be given permission to do something. They are the leaders in all they do, setting the standard for excellence.
3. No Excuses – Full commitment is necessary to be the best. Instead of viewing obstacles as problems, elite athletes approach them as challenges to overcome. The goal is the primary focus.
4. Determination – All challenges have solutions. Elite athletes are actively looking for the opportunities to help them reach their goal. Failure is not an option.
5. Strengths Based Approach – Focus on strengths. Elite athletes know where they excel and use that to their advantage. Find the best approach based upon your strengths. Also develop the skills necessary to minimize weaknesses.
6. Extra mile – A strong commitment sets up elite athletes to go the extra mile. Even when no one is looking, they continue to push themselves to be the best they can.
7. Tough Minded - Athletes are expected to do things which stretch them all the time. Tough minded athletes acknowledge the discomfort, but don’t let it stop them. Taking risks, and pushing through their comfort zone, is part of the champion mindset.
A success mindset is more natural for some than for others. Fortunately, it is not a birthright. Similar to new techniques and skill sets, a champion mindset can be learned. It could have been easy for Bennett to panic, given the circumstances. It was a high pressure situation. When he stepped up to the challenge, his teammates positively responded to his confidence and ease.
The champion mindset focuses on the solutions, not the problems. Elite athletes are creative in their approach to challenges, willing to take a risk. Bennett was all about results. Focused attention on solutions, along with a positive mindset, affected his approach to a challenging game. He found opportunities to play his “A” game. Bennett’s champion mindset contributed to the Duck’s winning game.
"An athlete is a normal person with the gift of an undying passionto be the best and achieve greatness."AmandaRing
Over time most athletes are goingto suffer injury. It is a given. In an ideal world if you knew you were goingto be injured, it would be great to schedule the injury at the beginning of theoff-season. Unfortunately it rarely happens that way.
No matter when you are injured itis going to upset your life, training and season. The strategy is to deal withit in the best possible way. The goal is to return to play as quickly aspossible.
When faced with an injury, athletes respond in one of two ways. The levelof motivation determines how quickly an athlete returns to play. Responses rangefrom viewing the injury as a reason to take a break, nursing the injury for aslong as possible to the athlete who is determined to do what is necessary toquickly return to play.
Yes, some things just take time. There are, however, some things athletescan do to speed up the process. For athletes on the injured list mindset makesa difference. Motivation, attitude and commitment are powerful contributorshelping to speed up the healing process.
Specific characteristics help to speed up the healing process.
Be actively involved in your healing process. Take responsibility foryour recovery. Instead of waiting for someone telling you what to do next askquestions, do research and find out what you can do to help the process along.
Highly motivated athletes are fully committed to doing what is necessaryto return to play. A strong desire combined with faith in your body’s abilityto recover influences your outlook.
The right support is critical. Surround yourself with people who supportyour desire and determination to heal quickly and return to play. Distanceyourself from the skeptics and critics.
A strong positive attitude throughout the process helps to maintain focuson the goal and to minimize frustration.
Imagery and visualization are powerful tools to speed up the recoveryprocess. Vividly visualize your bodies healing, your cells, ligaments, fascia,tendons and bones doing their job. See the injury healing, getting smaller andsmaller, as your body is repairing itself.
Positive expectation of a full healing and successfully returning toplay. Believing something is possible lays the groundwork for success.
When your heart is set on healing in time for the event of a lifetime,there is no room for doubt. It was the belief of what was possible which pushedyou to excel in your sport. That attitude, and skill set, can be applied tohealing. The process is similar. It is something you already know how to do.
Although healing seems passive, it is a very active process. Constantactivity is occurring under the surface. Sitting on the sidelines is difficult.Instead of feeling sorry for yourself use this time to your advantage. Thereare ways to improve as an athlete which are overlooked when training.
Become a student of technique. Watch training videos of yourself andother excellent athletes.
Learn new performance techniques to reduce the risk of injury in thefuture.
Rediscover your passion for your sport.
Learn mindset strategies to keep you in the zone.
Visualize training and competing. Strong, vivid visualization actuallyfires slow and fast twitch muscles. It is a way to remain conditioned wheninjured.
Learn what you can to reduce the fear of re-injuring yourself.
Injury is always apossibility, but many athletes lose confidence with prolonged recovery times.The fear is an emotional response to a specific event. With the right tools itcan be easily overcome.
When using mental game strategies to create a positive mindset, athletesfocus on their full potential. A champion mindset makes a point of focusing onthe positive instead of the negative. Reframes are useful tools for shiftingperspective around from negative to positive. In fact with reframes the endresult is usually the same. Changing to a positive focus shifts an athlete’s attitudefrom passive to active.
Activity: Athletes are used to setting performance goals, along with milemarkers, to maintain high performance. Use the same strategy for recovery. Setlong term goals with benchmarks along the way to stay focused on healing andquickly returning to play.
In fact challenge yourself. See if you can decide on an earlier return toplay date than expected. Stretch yourself a little and see if you are up to thechallenge to mentally focus on what is possible to heal as quickly as possible.Making a decision, then acting with intention to do whatever is necessary,influences outcome driven goals.
Have you been training for an important event and ended up with aninjury, throwing everything off course? It is easy to become discouraged.Winning athletes look for opportunities to move beyond the current obstacle.Apply this principle to take charge of the healing process.
“Success is how highyou bounce when you hit bottom.”General George Patton
Let’s face it, endurance eventsare painful. When it catches athletes off guard, their performance falters. Thesolution is to get beyond the pain, and to maintain focus in the present withthe goal in mind.
On race day Sam knew he had doneeverything possible to prepare for the century cycling event, a 100-mile bikerace. It was a confidence booster. He relished the rush of adrenaline coursingthrough his body in anticipation of the start.
About halfway into the raceduring a steep uphill climb Sam hit his wall of pain. With years of cyclingunder his belt he is familiar with the pain. Sam has inconsistent success toget beyond the wall. On this particular ride he suffered from the pain, unableto regain focus.
Thoughts about deserving,capabilities and doubt begin to surface. His inner critic distracted his focus.As he became keenly aware of the discomfort, his pain increased. For a fleetingmoment he considered falling with a fake injury to withdraw from the race.Anything to stop the discomfort. Sam, however, always continues forwarddetermined to break through the pain.
Only three options were availableto Sam once he slammed into his wall of pain. He could retreat, change his paceand drop back, or move forward pushing beyond the pain. The overbearing painled to him drop back. Cyclists he would normally have beaten began passing him.
His inconsistent response to painwas interfering with his high performance goals. He knew there had to be abetter way. Like most endurance athletes, Sam was persistent, curious about howto push his limits, face his fears, and learn from his mistakes. He possessed adaring spirit.
Sam’s initial reaction to painautomatically triggered specific thoughts. He developed this response overtime. It didn’t just happen overnight.
Sam’s goal was to create a newresponse to the pain. Instead of suffering through it, he was ready to meet ithead on. Once he determined his typical response, the next step was to detachfrom those thoughts, taking away their power.
The easiest approach was to usethe Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT). EFT, like acupuncture, works on theenergy system within the body. The goal for Sam was to easily maintain highperformance instead of getting into a struggle. EFT helped Sam to emotionallydetach from the negativity in his story about pain. Once that was done he coulddevelop a new response.
Sam successfully used EFT todetach, changing his perception about pain. Next Sam explored strategies hecould easily use to remain focused. First off, his wall of pain was not animpassible brick wall anymore. Now he saw it as a paper thin wall which hecould easily ride through.
A game plan was developed for pushingthrough his pain threshold. He knew from experience when it would be likely tooccur. He created new positive thoughts to maintain focus, and identifiedseveral incremental goals to challenge himself along the course. Creating a strategychanged his perspective from reactive to active. Sam’s new response is to cyclethrough the paper wall, maintaining focus on his performance.
To shorten the learning curve,Sam began visualizing using his new response when the pain hit. First he wouldacknowledge the physiological response to pushing his body’s limit, then challengehimself to achieve shorter goals along the course. Choosing a new response wasliberating.
Becoming absorbed with thoughtsabout suffering is energy draining. Yes, the body sensations are very, veryreal. It is important to recognize that hitting a pain threshold does not haveto be a cue for your inner critic to take charge. Minimize the criticalthoughts telling you why you don’t deserve to race or what a poor decision youmade thinking you could compete. Fear and doubt tense your body which affectsperformance. Instead of allowing the negativity to take control, recognize itis possible to break through this mindset.
Activity: Athletes know they aregoing to face pain. It is part of the challenge. An abundance of strategiesexist for getting past your wall of pain. Acknowledging the pain withoutfeeding into it is necessary as you strive to improve your performance. Thepain, however, does not lessen. Work on improving your ability to work throughit, making it less of a distraction.
When are you most likely to hityour wall of pain? Consider your thoughts when this occurs. Now list newthoughts you would rather have. Keep them simple to one or two word phrases. Nextdecide how you would like to challenge yourself along the course, choosing tomaintain focus on performance instead of pain. When those tough moments hithaving smaller mile markers along the course helps to provide incrementalaccomplishments along the way.
When pain hits do you become yourown worst enemy? It is difficult to maintain high performance when you are in abattle with your inner critic, fighting the discomfort. Resilience is requiredto excel in endurance sports. It is important to increase your frustrationlevel and will power to cope with emotional pain.