I wanted to share an article I wrote for a local blog aimed at coaches, not sure whether it will be published yet. The article is geared towards coaches and their athletes but I thinks the tools can be used by anyone. I hope you get something out of it.
As coaches you know there are times in every performance where, despite your best coaching efforts, your athletes fall short. The problems don’t seem to stem from training or from your coaching and leave you concluding the mental game must be falling short.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could call on a few simple tips to help your athletes achieve their goals and improve their mental game?
This post will help you do just that.
Here are three simple tips to help your athletes improve their mental game.
In sports psychology a concept called resonance can have a profound impact on your athletes’ performance.
Resonance is a concept developed by Doug Newburg who interviewed top leaders and athletes in their fields and asked them what their stories were along with which factors led to their success. Their answers were varied but boiled down to a feeling they felt when engaged in their chosen discipline, activity or sport.
Resonance is about a dream feeling; the one you want your athletes to tap into when they are doing their sport. That feeling is usually the reason your athlete picked up the sport and continues to play. Being in that state ensures best results and good feelings all around.
Try the exercise for yourself. What does your dream feeling look like? How does it feel to do your sport when you are at your best? What was your best performance and why? These are all questions which can help you determine what resonates for you and your athletes.
What are some key words to get your athletes to focus on during those moments before and during their performance when they need to regroup and get back in the game. Is it easy speed? Having fun? Enjoyment?
It’s important to let them come up with their own words instead of what you, as a coach, think their words should be. When coming from within those words will hold greater power for each athlete.
Can athletes write their resonance words on their equipment or themselves to give them a reminder before or during their performance? I once worked with a high school girls volleyball team who chose as a team to work on focus. They each wrote the word focus on their hands before every game. All they had to do was look at their hands during the game to refocus.
Dig deep. Take a moment and figure it out for yourself and then do the exercise with your athletes. I promise it will pay off.
Breathing. It seems automatic and simple doesn’t it? Not exactly. What happens when you’re anxious or stressed? Where do you breathe from? If you’re like most people, you are breathing from your lungs and your breaths are probably shallow and short.
Take a moment, close your eyes and take three deep belly breaths. Your belly should be expanding upon inhalation and retracting upon exhalation. Try extending both your inhalation and exhalation for as long as possible. How do you feel when you’re done? Chances are you will feel calm and relaxed.
Is calm and relaxed the kind of state you want your athletes to be in when then play? Then breathing is an easy solution. Do the exercise with your athletes and ask them how they feel afterwards. Ask them if they can use this tool before and during their performance when they lose focus, feel stressed or get overwhelmed.
Breathing is an easy tool to use to bring athletes back into the moment, fully ready to excel.
Happy place or the bubble
As an athlete I was always in my own little world before races. My bubble or happy place kept me focused; in a ready state and allowed me to do imagery and prepare for my races. It was my key to success.
Consequently the happy place is a tool I always recommend to the athletes I work with. It’s their own little world, a place where they can go to relax and get ready.
Your athletes’ happy place can be their favorite place like the dock at the cottage or their bed. It can be recalling their best performances and their feelings around them. Or it can simply be a bubble that keeps the chatter and distractions at bay before their performance.
Whatever their happy place is it’s important that it taps into good feelings and allows them space to get into their optimal zone and allows them to be ready for competition.
Resonance, breathing and the happy place are three easy tools I use to help athletes improve their mental game. I hope they can be of help to you as coaches and to your athletes. They may seem simple but the rewards for using them can make all the difference in your sport.
Have fun with them.