3 Mental Skills all athletes need

Goal Setting

“If you don’t know where you’re going, you could end up somewhere else”

Goal setting is a very important tool that every athlete needs to recognize.  It helps define where you are and where you want to go. Without it you are a rudderless ship in the ocean.  Have you wanted to get results but struggle to achieve them? What specifically are you seeking to get to? How clearly is that defined?  Setting effective goals helps you realize what your path will look like.

“Measure twice, cut once” is a motto of every craftsperson.  You want to know your path. Goal setting lays out your training, your rest days, your focus, everything stems from it.  So what is included in setting goals?

Most people are familiar with SMART goals.  Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.  These are a great start. However, what does that mean for an athlete?  Athletes need to distinguish between Outcome goals and performance (process is similar) goals.  Outcome goals are those that are just the results,such as winning the game. There are many uncontrolled variables in this it makes it difficult to make adjustments if you lose.  Whereas performance goals revolve more around how you as an athlete performed, such as the time it takes to run a mile or how many assists you have. But why is control so important?

Control is a huge mechanism that gives you power to make adjustments.  Without control you can feel demoralized or lost when things don’t work out.  Think about it, what do you change if you lose the game? Was it your defense, do you need to get faster, or does your shooting percentage need to be raised?  It could be any one of these, or even none of them. The opponent could have had a great race. But if you are looking at areas you can control you will be able to find ways to always get better.  That’s the key to effective goal setting, getting better every day.

Focus

What do you think about during a game?  Do you think about how many fans there are, how tired you are, or are you thinking about what you need to do?  The mind is like the captain and the body is like the ship. Wherever the mind goes, the body will follow. So you need to chart  course of where you want to go and how you are going to get there.

That’s where a focus plan comes in.  Most athletes know what their game plan is.  Also, high performing athletes also have a mental plan on how they want to handle situations.  You should prepare for any scenario and how you want to handle it. When athletes prepare for a competition, this is how they can help stay calm and cool under pressure.  Knowing what to expect and how to handle it in the moment.

However, it’s not magic.  Focus takes time and discipline to grow, just as any other skill you are trying to learn.  You need to first identify the areas you want to grow then practice, practice, practice. That’s the only way that it’ll become natural so when the pressure is on it’s second nature.  It’s not a though but an action. That’s how the best athletes are able to conquer in the biggest moments.

Imagery

Practice makes better.  We’ve all heard that saying.  However, there is only so much energy that a person can put into physical training.  That’s where imagery can help enhance your training. It is a tool that can take you to the next level, making the most of your practice and have the edge during a competition.  However, most people don’t know how to use it.

After setting your goals and establishing a focus plan, you then can mentally rehearse how you want to feel and act during your competition.  There is a multitude of research that supports the effectiveness of imagery to help hone skills. It takes time to understand how to incorporate all the senses and see yourself in the moment.  Being able to run through various situations in your mind can help you see how you want to handle it ahead of time. During the game you’ll feel much more confident because you will already have been there 1000 times in your head.  This is what really separates the good from the great. You’re not reacting, you’re attacking. The sign of the best athletes.