“The Magic Key to the Mental Game …”
A bit of a rant from me with this one (sorry), but I get really frustrated when I hear performance coaches talk about how to boost athletes’ mental game, because I know that so much of what they suggest just doesn’t work for many athletes, and it doesn’t have to be that way.
BTW, the reason their suggestions don’t work is because they’re missing the underlying skill that drives everything else.
Anyway, I get into all of that in this latest post.
Enjoy! And let me know your thoughts on what you’ve seen work and not work with your athletes.
- My rant about typical mental game advice
- Why visualization can be problematic
- The key skill that makes all the others succeed … or fail
- Listen/read to get the full message
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[ TRANSCRIPT ]
I have a confession to make. Pretty much every time I hear a performance coach talk about how an athlete can boost their mental game, I get really frustrated.
I know they’re good, I know they help players, I’m sure what they’re suggesting works a lot of the time.
But I also know that it DOESN’T work a lot of the time. Maybe more than when it does. It doesn’t work for every athlete. It doesn’t work in every situation.
I’m David Levin. Author of Raise Your Inner Game. Founder of Raise Your Inner Game Sports Academy.
And just take visualization, for example. It can be a great tool. It’s shown to make a difference. A lot of experts talk about it. But it has to be done right. Are they visualizing the right thing? Are they getting all wrapped up in their head and defeating the purpose? You have to be super clear about what it is, and you have to come up with a different version for each situation.
And the biggest question is, in the heat of the moment, with all the stress and adrenaline and noise and distraction, can they even do it?
And it’s the same with every other technique you tend to hear about. They sound great, they probably do help at times. But they leave a lot of players out.
And the problem with that is, when you tell an athlete, this is how to boost your mental game, and it doesn’t work for them, they don’t think, that doesn’t work. They think, there’s something wrong with me. I’m not good enough. I don’t have what it takes to reach my potential.
That’s heartbreaking. It keeps them from playing at the level they could, and that vision of themselves stays with them for the rest of their lives. I just don’t have what it takes to be great.
So, here’s the thing that others miss. Here’s why this problem persists. And this is the magic key to the mental game.
When you get right down to it, everything an athlete needs to do to succeed comes down to attention. Where is their attention right now, in this moment?
If they can be completely focused on what’s going on in front of them, like I talk about with Michael Jordan in the other post, “A masterclass in Focus,” their training will come out and they’ll do what they need to do.
But if their attention drifts off somewhere else — they’re worried about something, they’re distracted, they’re upset — they won’t do what they need to do. It really is about that simple.
And coaches see this all the time. A player knows what to do, they’ve trained it, they’ve practiced it, but when the moment comes, they don’t do it. Why?
This is why. It’s attention, pure and simple.
So, the reason those other techniques come up short is because they’re not addressing the skill underneath them that makes them possible.
It’s like they’re having them try to create this beautiful marble sculpture but they don’t give them the tools to carve the stone.
I hope that makes sense.
Attention control is the KEY SKILL, it’s the magic key that drives everything else.
And if they don’t have it, the other things you’re trying to do are not going to work.
Another way to think of it is that attention is a massive multiplier for everything else you’re trying to do. If your athletes can control their attention and stay focused, it removes the mental blocks and allows their training to come out — the moment comes, they do what they’ve learned.
But if they can’t control it and their focus drifts, all your efforts can add up to nothing. The moment comes, their training goes out the window.
The technical term for attention control is COGNITIVE CONTROL, and Raise Your Inner Game, sorry for the pitch here but it’s true, is the world’s first and still only practical training in how to develop and strengthen that skill.
Now, you don’t have to use Raise Your Inner Game if you can find something else. It’s not like I invented the concept. But you definitely want to start training your athletes’ attention as soon as possible.
And this doesn’t mean you need to stop doing the other things you’re doing. It’s not one OR the other. It’s a multiplier. You add this to your toolkit and you will not believe the difference it makes, or how easy it was to do.
Anyway, that is the Magic Key to the mental game. Attention control / Cognitive control.
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