Are you mentally tough when the pressure is really on? Are you your own biggest opponent? Do you concentrate effectively? Do you get nervous when the competition gets tight, or perhaps you really don’t believe in yourself? In sports such as tennis and golf, it is said that the game is as much as 90% mental. So what is holding you back? A measurement of an athlete’s psychological skills will help the coach determine areas for improvement.
One of the questions I often ask athletes when doing presentations is just how important do they rate psychological skills for an athletes performance? Invariably I will get answers as much as 90% or higher. Then comes the next question. How much time do they spend training and practicing for their sport each week? That is always varied between 10, 20 and sometimes 30 hours or more per week.
It is the answer to the next question that always disturbs me. I ask how much time do they spend practicing the mental aspects of their performance. More often than not, it is usually only a matter of minutes and for those that are honest, not at all! And yet they will always agree with you how vitally important the mental strategies are to their performance. In fact, I hear it daily from parents, coaches and athletes.
They are great athletes but when it comes to competing, they cannot perform the same way they do in practice. Of course there are many reasons that may contribute to this such as lack of performances under pressure situations, but usually they have not learned the mental skills to handle different scenarios, much less practiced them on a daily basis! And they wonder why they are not performing and not really believing in themselves!
What beliefs are holding you back?
The Four–Minute-Mile Story
The Ancient Greeks and Romans tried for Centuries to break the barrier of the four-minute mile. No one had ever run the mile in four minutes. It could not be done. Humanly impossible said the experts. It remained unbroken until a young Englishman named Roger Bannister decided he was going to do it. And he did on May 6, 1954 in 3 minutes, 59.6 seconds. He was hailed a hero and later received a knighthood.
It was a fantastic feat but what happened afterwards is even more important and fascinating. Over the next four years, more than 40 people ran the mile in less than four minutes. The ‘unbreakable’ was now being easily broken. The belief had been changed. That is the key. What you believe you can do. What you do believe can severely hamper your progress or it can help you reach amazing goals?
What are the beliefs that are holding you back? What is your four- minute- mile barrier do you have to break?
It is so easy to help athletes improve their mental games and believe in themselves. The key is to firstly make them become more aware and identify all their limiting beliefs. Then to break down those beliefs, it is a matter of improving the specific skills needed as well as developing a daily mental practice plan to improve them too.
I have seen athletes achieve some spectacular successes early on having started on a program, only to regress back to their old habits a few months later. They think they have learned the skill and thus have it! Sorry – not so simple as that. Just like practicing your sport, it is something you must do daily! That is what champions do – day in and day out. First of all, you need to know where you are at, so find a sports psychologist and if possible, one that really understands your sport, and have an evaluation.