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?