One of the most crucial yet most ignored area of training is the mental game. Team Coaches and athletes sometimes hear mental strength training and think it implies only to people with major mental issues. Not true. My goal is to see the mental game become a normal, everyday part of training.
Where does one begin?
In developing any skill, the best place to start is with an assessment of the current situation. A tool I’ve used with all of my teams is the Competitive Adjective Profile (C.A.P.) developed by Dr. James Loehr. Each item on the profile represents an important competitive quality.
A key to developing an effective mental strength game plan is to establish a 360-degree view of the current situation. The C.A.P. will give you and your athletes a composite view of their current state of mental toughness.
You can download a blank copy of the C.A.P. by clicking here.
Here’s how it works:
1. Have each of your players fill out the C.A.P. on themselves. Instruct them to think hard and portray the most accurate picture possible of themselves when they compete in their sport. It’s vital to avoid making themselves look a lot better or worse than they really are.
2. Next give each of your athletes three blank copies of the C.A.P. and ask them to put their name at the top. Instruct them to get three people who know them well competitively to anonymously complete the C.A.P. on them.
3. You also fill out the C.A.P. anonymously on each of your players as well.
4. Have each athlete create a composite C.A.P. form on themselves. The composite represents the averages of all the scores they received. Once each athlete has a clear, well-rounded view of their current level of “mental strength”, it’s time to create a mental game training program.
Here are the steps to give your athletes:
STEP 1: Identify your four weakest areas from the C.A.P.
STEP 2: State the weaknesses in positive factor form: Examples: I’m very patient, I am a great actor, I’m highly motivated.
STEP 3: Make those 4 positive factors the most important themes in your life as an athlete Suggestions: Put reminders up in your locker, on your bathroom mirror, next to your bed – everywhere you can.
STEP 4: Write a one- page summary of what you will do to improve each positive factor over the 30 days. Example: My plan for Showing Strong Body Language
STEP 5: Track your progress daily for one month.
Rinse and repeat every 2-3 months
The fist bump, the high five, a quick hug or even the Bryan Brothers famous chest bump – are all powerful forms of non-verbal communication used by high performing teams.
Scientist at UC Berkeley recently analyzed physical interactions among every team in the NBA. Michael Kraus led a research team that observed and coded every high five, hug and bump in a single game played by each NBA team early last season. Basically, they found:
“With few exceptions, good teams tended to be touchier than bad ones. The most touch bonded teams were the Boston Celtics and the LA Lakers … and at the bottom were the mediocre Sacramento Kings and the Charlotte Bobcats. The same was true, more or less, for players. The touchiest player was Kevin Garnett, followed by Chris Bosh and Carlos Boozer.”
The study corrected for the possibility that the better teams touch more simply because they were winning. They found “Players who made contact with teammates most consistently and longest tended to rate highest on measures of performance, and the teams with those players seemed to get the most out of their talent”.
If you’d like to hear more about building team chemistry from one of today’s coaching masters, Phil Jackson, click here to listen to PCA’s Jim Thompson’s recent interview for Liberty Mutuals Responsible Sports series.