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
I originally learned this concept as “begin with the end in mind” from Stephen Covey’s book the 7 Habits of Highly Successful People.” Now that I have kids, it’s all about magic wands and super heros!
Life is constantly changing and challenging us. Around every corner is yet another problem, issue or concern. We often look backwards for a solution. We ask, “How did I handle this situation before? Will that work again? How can I improve on what I did before?” Unfortunately, this approach often gets us more of the same – just a slightly different flavor or color!
Remember – if you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always gotten! Not sure where this came from yet it pretty much sums up sports psychology!
Time for the wand! You can have exactly what you want. Start to look at your program this way. There are no limits.
Clarity of vision is crucial to team success. Once you have a clear picture of what you want, then you can put together a plan for achieving it. Spend some time now (in the off season) and get clear on what you want in your program. Be specific.
Create what you want this season. Be open minded. Ask lots of questions – like “What else do I want?” Breakthroughs come from questions not answers!
Once you are clear – share it with other. The more you put your vision out there (to assistants, administrators, players, parents etc) the more real it becomes.
So speak your vision to anyone who will listen!
We can get so consumed with our sport that we forget to have fun. Even before we reach high school, many of us are taught to repress fun as we go about the serious business of scholastic sports. Yet the physiology of fun is a close profile to the “zone.”
Laughter, humor, and play are powerful forms of recovery. They enable you to move almost effortlessly from negativity into a positive energy state.
Laughter is a natural breathing technique, and it has a cleansing and revitalizing effect as well. It originates in the solar plexus, the seat of bodily energy. Laughter alternatively relaxes and tightens your muscles and leaves them in a state of relaxation. It releases endorphins, which cause euphoria and reduce pain. Increasing evidence suggest that laughter is good medicine for both the body and the mind.
Here’s a great exercise for you and your athletes to kick off the New Year (& decade)
- Take a blank piece of paper and divide it into 4 columns
- Going left to right, name the columns as follows:
- 2-5 minutes
- 5-30 minutes
- 30 minutes to ½ day
- ½ a day or more
- Jot down the things that are fun for you. Put them into the columns below according to the amount of time they take.
- Time how long it takes you to run out of ideas.
- Draw a line when you find the ideas are no longer coming quickly and you have to stop and think a while between ideas.
How many activities did you come up with? You might be interested to know that most busy adults run out of ideas after they’ve thought of 10-15. Ten year olds have easily generated 55 ideas in the same amount of time. How many could you think of quickly before having to really search for ideas?
Count up how many ideas you have in the first two columns and how many you have in the last two columns. Which is the larger number? What does this tell you about the problems you are having finding time for fun on a daily basis.
The last two columns give you ideas for your summer break. Continue to brainstorm ideas in the first two columns so you’ll have plenty to choose from this season.
Effective coaching is not so much what you say but what you ask. Asking your players powerful questions is much more productive than telling them what to do. True coaching is about developing a strong relationship with your players for the purpose of THEIR growth and development. It’s about helping your players fulfill their goals and commitments. Applying effective communication skills in coaching helps you to develop a strong relationship with your players.
One of a crucial coaching skill is having open coaching conversations with your athletes. Coaching conversations are side-by-side interactions where both of you are looking at where the athlete is headed and discussing what is the next step they need to take to get them there. Your job is to conduct dialogues of inquiry with your players where ultimately they discover the next action to take.
As a coach, you set the context for these dialogues. Setting the stage for effective coaching conversations begins during the recruiting phase and is reinforced every time you address your team. Your players need to know clearly who you are and what you are trying to accomplish in your program. Players need to know from the outset of their relationship with you that their goals and dreams are in alignment with yours. Effective coaching dialogs help to facilitate strong team communication and it creates an open atmosphere in the team.
Once a “good fit” is established, then the dialogues of inquiry can take place. To coach anyone effectively, you need to know what they are committed to in their life. Once you know what they are up to, it’s time to ask questions that will reveal the proper path to getting them where they want to go!
To perform at our best, we need to maintain our personal integrity and manage our daily commitments. We all have our informal list of things we said we’d do yet haven’t quite gotten around to. When these commitments are broken, they drain our energy and distract our focus and purpose.
Summer is a great time to take personal stock. What’s incomplete in your life? What are all the things you said you’d do but have not done yet? This subconscious list is silently zapping your energy. Incompletions weigh on you whether you are aware of them or not.
Time to shed some light on the load you’re carrying around. Here’s a game plan to restore some of your energy and vitality:
1. List all the things you said you’d do yet have not done. Common examples include:
· Phone calls or emails you need to return
· Conversations you need to have
· Cleaning projects (yard, garage, basement etc)
· Unfinished projects at home or work
· Things to research or file
2. Give each item a “by when” date. This is the date you will complete the item.
3. Note any requests you need to make in order to complete an item.
4. Go to work on your list.
Watch what happens as you complete the items on your list. You will begin to experience more energy and feel a bit lighter. What are you waiting for – lighten your load!