In athletic performance our mind can be our greatest ally or our biggest enemy. Despite how physically strong we are it is often how we are thinking that can be the determining factor between a great performance and a poor one. The only limits that exist when we are putting it all to the test are those we impose on ourselves. Mental strength and physical strength need to be developed and practiced in tandem. Over the years sports psychologists have conducted research studies on what mental strength skills positively enhance athletic performance. In order to gain awareness on how to implement these mental strength skills in your specific sport and to understand how well you are utilizing them, it is essential for you to take a moment to assess and evaluate how effective and ineffective you are at making them work for you. The following mental strength questions have been adapted from Gregg Swanson from his article on Mental Strength Questions for Peak Performance.
Athletes use mental skills and strategies to manage and optimize their mental and physical energy. This requires adapting strategies for relaxation in order to calm your body down as well as, utilizing strategies for activation, to get your body fired up.
How do you increase your energy when feeling lethargic or flat?
Do you recognize when your body and or mind needs a break from training?
Can you list the symptoms of burnout?
What physical and mental cues do you listen to in order to give yourself an active rest day?
How do you motivate yourself when preparing to train or compete?
What do you do to relax your mind and body when nervousness strikes?
Visualization involves creating or re-creating an athletic experience in your mind using all five senses (see, hear, feel, smell, taste) for the purpose of enhancing your athletic performance. For more on visualization go to Matt Neason’s article “The Power of Visualization – http://www.sportpsychologytoday.com/sport-psychology-for-coaches/the-power-of-visualization/
How and when in training or competition do you mentally rehearse how you see yourself performing the activity?
How and when in training or competition do you rehearse how you are feeling while performing?
Do you see this mental rehearsal through your own perspective or from the perspective of your team or coach?
Goal setting is an essential strategy for tracking and planning your athletic performance during your training sessions and competitions. Being able to identify your short and long-term goals will help you to maximize your personal performance.
What are your short-term and long-term athletic career goals?
What are your short-term and long-term personnel performance goals?
Do you evaluate your progress towards your goals on a consistent basis? If yes, how?
Being aware of your self-talk during and after training and competition is essential for creating and maintaining optimal performance. For more info on self-perception go to: http://www.optimallifetherapy.com/mental-strength-pt1/
What is the running dialogue in your head before, during, and after a training session and competition?
How is your mental dialogue affected by your personal performance?
How is your mental dialogue affected after being critiqued by a friend or coach?
How do you motivate yourself?
How do you consciously manage and alter what you say to yourself while training and during a competition?
It is essential to identify the mental breakdowns that cause you to lose emotional control during your athletic performance in order to learn how to gain emotional control and heighten your overall performance. Top mental breakdowns that cause athletes to lose their composure are perfectionism, irrational beliefs, fear of failure, social approval, worrying too much about what others think, and dwelling on errors. Athletes can overcome these by learning how to identify/recognize, regroup, and refocus their emotional control.
How do you manage your emotions under pressure?
How do you manage your emotions when there is no pressure?
How is your athletic performance affected when you are emotionally distracted by life stressors?
What are your top 3 mental breakdowns that you can relate to and how do they impact your athletic performance?
Sports psychologists have developed the theory of attention control in order to help understand what psychological factors underlie optimal performance in sports training and competition. Attention control is an essential skill to learn in order to effectively manage distractions by maintaining focus and concentration on relevant cues specific to your sport.
What types of things distract you during training and competition?
How do you maintain your focus on effective performance cues?
Are you able to maintain focus in the present moment during training and competition?
It is important for athletes to be aware of their thinking patterns during training and competition in order to maximize their overall athletic performance. Negative thinking will prevent an athlete from reaching their optimal performance level.
How do you refocus when distracted?
When do you have thoughts of failure or images of screwing up?
Are you able to identify negative thoughts as they come up during training or in competition?
Are you able to “stop” and change negative thoughts as they come up during training or in competition?
Taking the time to go through the above questions will give you a better understanding of the mental strength skill set that you already possess and what you may need to work on in order to enhance your overall athletic performance. If you find yourself struggling on how to improve your mental strength skills set, give me a call and I will walk you through a solution-focused process that will get you engaged in enhancing your mental strength and optimizing your athletic performance.
Heather Kempton, MA, RCC, Life Coach
Optimal Life Therapy