Do you use mental strength skills to enhance your athletic performance?
To help better answer this question let me define what I mean by mental strength skills. This way we have a common understanding what ‘mental strength skills’ are and how they affect your personal performance.
Sound’s good, right?
A while back, a group of international sports psychologists worked together to develop an inventory to measure the mental skills that athletes utilize to enhance their athletic performance. In the development of this tool, one crucial step was to figure out exactly what mental skills to measure.
The question asked by these researchers was this; “What mental skills positively influence athletic performance?” By studying the elite level athletes, the scientists were able to uncover the mental skills that these athletes used to achieve success. It is these skills that were integrated into the inventory.
SIDEBAR: This is called “modeling” in NLP. NLP suggest finding someone(s) who has or is doing what you want and is excellent at it. Find out their thoughts, feelings, internal representation and “model” them in your own life…success has to follow! Cool yea?
OK…back to the athletic mental skills assessment…
To understand if and how well you make use of mental strength skills (in your select sport), you need to start by assessing and evaluating how well you use those skills that are applied most often by elite level athletes.
So…are you up to it?
Are you ready to evaluate your mental skills and abilities?
Sure you are!
The following questions are adapted from the mental skills inventory and will begin to help you assess your use of the mental strength skills that have been found to enhance performance in elite athletes.
Elite athletes don’t use all the mental skills all the time, but they are aware of them and use them when the situation calls for them. The first step is knowledge of were you are and then develop a plan for where you want to be.
That plan would to be to constantly make use of some of these skills in your practice and competition to help manage the mental aspect of your personal performance.
The intent of this exercise is to get you to think about how you now use mental strength skills and how effective, or ineffective, they work for you.
Elite athletes use various mental skills and strategies to manage their physical and mental energy. This requires using strategies for relaxation – to clam your body down, and activation – to get your body fired up.
- Are you able to increase your energy when feeling lethargic or flat?
- Do you effectively psych yourself up to get ready to practice or competition?
- Are you able to relax efficiently if you get too nervous?
This skill was discussed in detail in a previous post. Visualization involves creating or re-creating a full sensory (see, hear, feel, smell and taste) athletic experience in your mind for the purpose of athletic performance enhancement.
- Do you imagine fully specific athletic skills and techniques in practice and or competition before executing the desired skill?
- Do you mentally rehearse the “feel” of the performance?
- Do you “see” the rehearsal through your own eyes?
This is an imperative strategy for planning and tracking your athletic performance level. Both short-term and long-term goals, as well as processes and outcome goals are important for maximizing your personal performance. Elite level athletes set both types of goals in their training and competition.
- Do you set long-term and short-term career or outcome goals?
- Do you set long-term and short-term process or personal performance goals?
- Do you evaluate your progress toward your goals on a consistent basis?
Again, as discussed in an earlier post, this skill relates to managing what you mentally (and verbally) say to yourself before, during and after practice and competition to facilitate performance.
- Do you talk positively to yourself before, during and after an event or practice?
- Are you your own best friend?
- Do you consciously manage and alter what you say to yourself in practice and competition?
Elite athletes are characterized by an ability to manage their emotions effectively, before, during and after an event. This means being able to deal with frustration and negative emotions and get on with the business of performing.
- Are you able to manage your emotions under pressure?
- Are you able to manage your emotions when there is no pressure?
- When something upsets you, does your performance suffer?
This skill focuses on concentration or the ability to maintain focus on relevant cues, and is a crucial mental strength skill to train since distractions are commonplace in most athletic endeavors. I like to compare this skill with a wolf and dog. A wolf once on target will let nothing distract it from its mission. A dog on the other hand…squirrel… squirrel, where’s the squirrel?
- Does your attention wander during training like a dog?
- Are you able to focus your attention like a wolf on effective performance cues?
- Are you committed to W.I.N. – What’s Important Now?
Elite athletes use specific mental strength skills to deal with negativity and to mentally get back on track following a mistake or distraction.
- Are you able to refocus when distracted?
- Do you have thoughts of failure or images of screwing up?
- Are you able to “cancel” negative thoughts as they come up?
Well that was just a small sample of questions but let me ask you…how’d you do?
Are you good at managing your images, self talk, attention, but lack a bit on the emotions, energy? That’s OK, you now know where you stand and you can move forward and develop a plan to enhance some of the skills and maintain others.
You can understand and see how improving these mental strength skills will be an asset to your athletic performance…can’t you?
Read through the questions again and again to identify the mental skills that would be helpful for you to address. Seek resources to help in areas you identified as needing improvement…like a mental strength coach.
Also, check out “Mental Strength for Athletic Performance.” The program covers many of the skills in this post; how to develop a mental skills plan and nine audios track the help implement them.
OK, now it’s your turn. Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
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