The 5 Keys To A Healthier, Stronger Mental Game
Every day, it seems like more top-level athletes are coming forward to talk about their mental health issues. IMO, this is a beautiful and important thing that’s also long overdue.
Problem is, it’s still not enough. Being open about our struggles doesn’t automatically make them go away. We still need to learn how to deal with them and, ideally, do so before they get so big as to become a major problem.
That’s what this post is about: “The 5 Keys To A Healthier, Stronger Mental Game.”
This is not an ordinary post. This actually shares the core of the Raise Your Inner Game Sports Academy material.
So, if you are at all interested in helping your athletes improve their mental game, you really want to catch this one. :-)
- The helpful new openness around mental game issues
- Why it’s not enough to make the difference athletes need
- What it really takes to boost athletes’ mental game
- “The five keys to a healthier, stronger mental game” [ GOLD! ]
- Listen/read to get the full message
HOT NEWS AND DEALS
1) Special AUDIOBOOK offer now available
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2) Sports Academy "Workshop Leader” training now available. If you would like to help athletes in your community learn to raise their Inner Game and you’re not working with one particular team, our Workshop Leader Certification Training is perfect for you. CLICK HERE to learn more: https://www.raiseyourinnergame.com/workshop-leader
[ transcript ]
One of the best things that's happening in sports right now is a new openness to talk about mental health.
Naomi Osaka. Simone Biles. Michael Phelps. It seems like every day more and more athletes are stepping up, talking about their struggles, and shining a light on this critical issue.
It’s a beautiful thing to see and honestly, it’s about time.
I’m David Levin, author of Raise Your Inner Game, founder of Raise Your Inner Game Sports Academy.
And as great as this is, there’s still a missing piece, which is, what to do about it?
It’s great and super helpful to be able to be honest about our inner struggles. But that doesn’t automatically make them go away.
Ultimately, we still need to find a way to deal with them and overcome them. We need tools and strategies to manage our thoughts and emotions.
And the bad news is, the mental health tools available to young athletes are basically nonexistent.
Coaches aren’t mental health experts. Parents aren’t mental health experts. So the kids are basically left on their own.
Now, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing we can do.
As coaches and parents, we can keep an eye out for signs of trouble, we can reduce the stress and pressure on them where possible, though there is a lot of stress and pressure on athletes. We can change how we talk about mental health, take away the stigma around it, we can create a more supportive environment at home and at school, and all those things are good and important.
But they won’t keep kids from struggling. And the job of managing those inner struggles is completely up to them. We don’t teach them anything about how to do it.
The only real choice we give them is to talk to someone, like to get professional help.
And that can be great. Nothing against professional help.
But at that point, they’re already in crisis mode. They’ve been struggling with whatever it is on their own for potentially years, they finally reach a point where it boils over and they need to get help. And it’s intense and difficult and disruptive.
And the worst part of it is for me that it just does not need to be that way.
Now, I should say that I am also not a mental health professional. This is not in any way professional advice. It’s all just anecdotal from my own experience and work in this area.
But from what I’ve seen, with the right tools and some simple training, athletes can learn to deal with their inner struggles the way they should be—right when they start, when the problems are still small and relatively easy to manage.
And for most kids, that will be all they need. They may never have something that’s big enough that they need professional help with.
But even if they do, they will also be super clear about what’s going on. It won’t be a big mystery or feeling like a failure or whatever. They’ll just be able to say, “You know, most of the time I’m good but this one thing I just can’t shake. I think I need to talk to someone about it.” It’s just a completely different and stronger and healthier place to be.
And all it takes is some simple self-awareness and self-management training. It is surprisingly easy to do. And by the way, this is exactly what we do in the Raise Your Inner Game Sports Academy.
So here are the five keys to helping athletes have a healthier, stronger mental game.
1- Focus on the mechanics of the inner game. What I mean by that is, when you break it down, what’s actually causing a struggle is, in the moment, some negative thought or feeling is coming up in our head and sort of taking over and pulling us down into an anxious, unhealthy state. That’s the mechanism of what’s actually happening. We’re going along, everything’s fine, all of a sudden, it’s literally like someone has come up next to us and said, “What? Are you kidding? You can’t do that. You’re not strong enough for that? Have you seen the other team? They’re monsters. They’re going to destroy you.” Or whatever it is. Every situation is different. Every person hears different things. But this MECHANISM is the same. We’re in the moment, we hear a thought or a feeling, and down we go.
So the first step is to help them see that. Just to see how real that mechanism is in their life. And there are various ways to do that.
2- The second step is to help them depersonalize the process. One thing that makes this hard is that when we start to notice these crazy thoughts and feelings we’re having, we think there’s something wrong with us. Right? We really do. And that just adds to the problem.
So, what you want to do is help them reframe it so it’s not really THEM thinking those things, they’re just HEARING the thoughts that are coming up in their mind. Again, like someone was standing next to them talking them down.
I actually heard a great version of this idea from a family therapist. She said to a patient, “Look, this isn’t really you. It’s just your teenage brain doing what teenage brains do. They go and they go, and they bring up a lot of negative things. But none of them are necessarily true. And you don’t have to listen to them.”
So, you see? The frame is that there’s YOU and then there’s these thoughts you’re hearing. They’re separate things, and you should not take them personally.
That is super powerful, and they will totally get it.
So that’s step two - depersonalize it.
3- Step Three is to give them practical skills for how to control it. And this grows right from step two.
Once you see and feel this separation between you and the thoughts you’re hearing, now you can get some control over them.
In the RYIG material, one of the core skills is called No Quiet. Which means, like it sounds, when you hear a negative thought, you turn to the person who’s saying it and say, “No, Quiet. Or no thank you, not going there. Or nope, Not now. Or any other variation on that you can think of. Just notice the thought and shut it down. This is unbelievably powerful. And easy to learn to do.
So step three is to give them practical skills to control the negative thoughts and feelings.
4- Step four is to coach them over time, talk to them about the thoughts and feelings they’re noticing, ask how things are going, what tools they’re using, etc. This helps them internalize everything and get used to engaging with their inner game.
5- And then step five is to help them learn to basically coach themselves. Have them keep some sort of a workout journal where they track their workouts and also what thoughts and feelings are coming up as they do their other training. And the goal there is to just keep their attention on the inner game work long enough for it to feel like it would be weird not to do it.
And that is all it takes. The five keys to a healthier, stronger mental game. And again, this is exactly what we do in the Raise Your Inner Game Sports Academy and what coaches learn to do with their players in the Sports Academy Coach Training.
Focus on the mechanics
Learn practical skills
Work with the skills over time
And track it all in a workout journal
Pretty much every coach knows the importance of the mental game to their team’s success. More and more we’re becoming aware of the importance of mental health in sports. And the self-awareness and self-management tools athletes learn in the Sports Academy approach can make a huge difference in both.
So that’s it for this post. That is a lot of powerful mojo in there. Seriously. I hope you took notes. If you’d like to really learn how to do it, step by step, do take a look at our Coach Training. It’s everything you need. You can be ready to start working with your team in a week or two. It’s a beautiful thing.
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