Athlete's Guide To The Mental Game
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Athlete's Guide To The Mental Game

The Bible to sports.

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Athlete's Guide To The Mental Game

It’s the bottom of the seventh inning of the championship game, bases are loaded, three- two count, you are down by one run and you are the batter expected to win it all. Do you feel your pulse quickening? How are you going to react when all eyes are on you, everyone is screaming your name; some wishing for your success while the opposing team wishes nothing but failure for you. What are you going to do? Are you going to rise or fall?

Many athletes know the percentage break down, 10 percent physical, 90 percent mental. You can physically be the best player out there but if you don't have the mental capacity that your sport requires you won’t be as successful as the player who is physically and mentally strong. The mental game is a huge factor in sports. It is often the determining factor between success or failure.

Gary Mack is a sports psychology consultant and counselor who has worked with professional athletes in all sports. He is the author of the book, "Mind Gym", that every athlete should be required to read and study before even thinking of stepping on the field.

When I struggled mentally, I turned to this book to help me regain my confidence and remind me of the competitor I am. Every day before practice or a game, I would read a particular chapter, and I focused my practice on that chapter and the exercises that accompanied it.

All athletes experience a slump or have a mental breakdown. You first turn to hating the support, believing you are not capable of getting the job done. In reality you have been playing the sport your whole life and you just hit a minor road bump. How you react to this setback determines the type of athlete you are. A true competitor takes failure as motivation to work harder.

Here are some of the main points from Gary Mack that helped me in a time when I thought I was not capable of getting the job, a time when I wanted to give up on the sport I love. Rather than giving up I got tough.

1. View pressure as a challenge rather than a threat of defeat.

When you are in the bottom of the seventh inning and you are expected to score the winning run, take it as a challenge. You are going to do it as long as you do not let failure get in your way.

2. 7 C’s of Mental Toughness.

  1. Competitive - “Competitors take bad breaks and use them to drive themselves just that much harder. Quitters take bad breaks and use them as reasons to give up.” - Professional golfer Nancy Lopez.
  2. Confident - go into every single game with a can-do attitude. You better believe you are the best player out there until someone proves otherwise.
  3. Control - focus on things you can control and don’t allow things that you can't control affect you.
  4. Committed - set goals and focus on achieving those goals and dreams.
  5. Composure - “How you manage your emotions can determine whether you win or lose” - Gary Mack.
  6. Courage - you must be willing to take a risk.
  7. Consistency - never make excuses.

3. You cannot control your performance until you are in control of your thoughts and feelings.

4. You can’t always control what happens but you can control how you react to it.

5. Identify what is holding you back. Are you afraid of failure? Is it a lack of motivation? Anxiety?

Make a list of the things holding you back, become aware they are there, but do not let them grab hold of you. You need to grab hold of them and control how they make you feel.

6. Work on your weaknesses until they become your strong points.

Never give up, no matter how tough things get. Remind yourself why you play this sport. Is it because you fell in love with it when you were little? Is it because it brought you some of your best friends? Is it because you live and breath competition?

7. Seek progress rather than perfection.

When trying to become mentally stronger and break down mechanics, you test yourself. You are testing your strengths and seeing how far you can push yourself. Remember to see the positives in progress. It will not come overnight but it will come if you keep working hard.

8. View failure as feedback.

9. Visualize success. Give yourself permission to win.

Give yourself a few minutes before games and practices, and sit there and visualize yourself succeeding in every situation possible.

10. Your attitude determines your altitude.

11. Learn to turn your negative critic into a positive coach.

12. Let your breath center your mind and body in the present.

13. Preform in the present.

14. Focus on the process and let go of the outcome.

15. Keep things simple.

16. Sometimes you get worse before you get better.

17. Success comes from the peace of mind knowing you did your very best on and off the field as a player and as a person.

When your sport begins to test you mentally and you feel like giving up, take a step back and remind yourself of why you started playing. Was it because your parents forced you into it? Was it because you had fun with your teammates? Do you remember the little girl who stepped up to the plate with the biggest smile on her face? Play for her. Play for the little girl inside of you who fell in love with the sport.

My mental breakdown was the best thing for me. I needed to challenge myself in order to take my game to the next level. Sports are not supposed to be easy. If they were, everyone would succeed at them. They are going to test you mentally and physically, but be a step ahead of everyone else and mentally train. When your time comes to shine, you will succeed.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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