“That’s great, but tell me HOW!”
There is a ton of advice out there on how an athlete can raise their game. And no surprise, it tends to say that the key is to boost their mental game.
The problem is, it doesn’t say much about HOW to do that, which ultimately makes the advice essentially worthless.
I mean really, if you’re trying to get someone to do something but you don’t tell them how to do it, what do you expect? :-)
Anyway, that’s what this post is about — the reasons most mental game advice falls flat and what you can do to help YOUR athletes break through and reach their potential.
- Great examples of typical mental game advice
- The critical missing piece that makes the advice essentially worthless.
- How to make sure YOUR coaching avoids making this mistake
- Listen/read to get the full message
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[ transcript ]
Hey, this is David Levin. Author, Raise Your Inner Game. Founder, Raise Your Inner Game Sports Academy.
I’ve been seeing a ton of articles lately on how various athletes are working to raise their game.
And, no surprise, even though they’re across all different sports, there’s one common thread among them …
It’s all about the mental game.
Here’s some of what I’ve seen in just the past month:
Baseball: “The mental game is where it’s at. If you go up to the plate thinking you're going to hit, then you're going to get a hit.”
Tennis: “It’s important to be mentally strong, stay positive, and not space out during a match. Just tell yourself that you’re the best.”
Gymnastics: “You need to have guts and courage and mindset and tenacity.”
Golf: “Don’t take things so seriously and think that everything depends on the score.”
Football: “In college, it’s a big mental game. You have to become a smarter player.”
Track: “It’s really a mental game. You need to feel confident in yourself and your team.”
Hockey: “Hockey is a very mental game. Get in the other players’ heads and bolster your own team’s confidence.”
Running: “You can have the best training and coaching in the world, but if you don’t get your mind in the right place, it’s tough to get results.”
So, that is all great advice, for sure.
But if I were a player right now and I heard that, here’s what I would think:
Okay, that’s great, thank you. But HOW?!
Seriously. How EXACTLY am I supposed to do that?
How do I think a positive thought versus a negative one?
How do I become “mentally strong?”
How do I keep from spacing out?
How do I develop tenacity?
How do I feel more confident?
How do I actually do any of those things?
And the truth is, the answers are almost never provided.
Yes, some experts talk about visualization but not everyone can just do that and it’s actually pretty easy to do wrong.
Others talk about meditation, which can be great but again, it’s not for everyone and it’s not actually a direct help with any of the skills we’re talking about.
So, most coaches are left with basically saying, “Well, you just gotta do it” which is just not really helpful.
So, all these messages that it’s all about the mental game and all these suggestions for how to improve end up falling pretty much completely flat and leaving everyone frustrated and feeling like nothing really can be done. You either have a strong mental game or you don’t.
That is a real shame because it’s simply not true.
You CAN train the mental game. You CAN do it in a practical way just like you train any other skill. And virtually anyone CAN learn to boost their mental game and reach their full potential.
The key is simply to break it down to the actual mechanics of how it works.
If you want to shut down the negative thoughts in your head, you work on cognitive control. You practice directing your thoughts and attention. And it’s easy to do.
If you want tenacity and resilience, you work on emotional self-regulation. You practice noticing your feelings as they come up and keeping them from taking over and dragging you down. Again, it’s easy to do.
The core skills of the mental game are these: cognitive control, emotional self-regulation, and impulse control. They’re all easy to understand and develop. You just need a practical way to do it.
Little plug, that’s what Raise Your Inner Game Sports Academy does. It’s the world’s first and maybe only practical training in how to develop these skills.
But we didn’t invent the skills, so there are certainly other ways to work on them as well.
But that is the missing piece in all this mental game advice. Because they never get down to the mechanics of what they’re suggesting, it’s very difficult if not impossible for most people to actually do something with their advice.
So, to avoid falling into that trap with your athletes, just make sure that whenever you’re suggesting that they work on some aspect of their mental game, that you’re also showing them the mechanics of how it works and how they can practice those mechanics to make it better.
Do that and you will be golden, and you’ll really see the difference in their game.
All right, that is it for this post. The HOW is everything. I hope that makes sense. Please do ask a question or post a comment either way. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. To hear about future posts when they come out, add your name to our announcement list. We’d love to have you join us. Also check out the podcast and our Facebook page. Otherwise, keep up the good work, and we will talk next time.
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