How much time do you devote to the mental preparation of competing? If you are like many athletes, your mental game takes a backseat to your physical game when it comes time to compete.
It is usually when a reoccurring problem arises that a player will seek to undo the damage that has been done to their mindset.
In every other aspect of your sport, you do the work and then see the results. You don’t wait until you get injured before you start physically training. So why wait until you are mentally freezing or having meltdowns before you start mentally training concurrently alongside your physical game to have optimal results?
This does not mean to train both your physical and mental game together for only your competition days, your mental attitude should never vary from one day to the next. This is the very reason so many players have a hard time with their consistency going from their practices to their game days — because their mental game is not consistent.
It is only when you decide that every time you put your sports gear on, you will train like you compete with the intent and focus remaining the same — no matter what is on the agenda for the day. In achieving this, your confident mind will never know the difference between practices and competitions.
So, let’s begin your mental training for competing. Why do you love the days that it’s time to lace up and go toe to toe with an opponent?
Is it the energy of the crowd that is cheering you on? Is it the buzz of adrenaline racing through your system because game day has finally arrived and you know that the excitement from the camaraderie will carry you through the day? Or maybe you love competing because you get a chance to prove to yourself and everyone watching that your hard work has paid off?
Depending on the level of experience you have as an athlete, one of these—if not all—would likely be your response. However, there are many players who love every aspect of the game other than the thought of competing on game day.
I would like to help you change that limited mindset into one that looks forward to the days that you get to prove yourself worthy of your sport.
There are two typical responses I receive when I ask a client why they feel mental resistance while competing. One is the internal pressure they subject themselves to for the need of accomplishment or success. Athletes generally become attached to an expected result or outcome. The mental weight of an expectation alone is enough to weigh an athlete down. You might as well strap 10-pound anklets to your feet.
You will never be able to stay in the present moment and consciously watch or feel what is happening right in front of you if you are thinking about the outcome. And any mishaps that deter you from your expectation will leave you feeling defeated as if the game was already over. There will never be a time in your athletic career when you will know with 100 percent absolute certainty what chain of events will happen... so stop trying.
The only form of certainty that you should have for yourself is the certainty of knowing that by staying in the present moment and focusing on the task in front of you, will you have the strength and endurance to do what your body has been trained to do.
Whenever I ask a client why they are having resistance when it comes to competing, the second answer I normally receive is the substantial pressure they feel from the external expectations of coaches, parents and peers. This makes them feel as if a heavy weight is on their chest. The client had lost sight of why or what they wanted for themselves while playing. What has caused the athlete to lose their way is that it has become more about needing to win for someone or something else other than their love for the sport?
If this is an issue you are having, please reread Chapter 5 (Finding Your Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation).