While all athletes are accustomed to the rigors of physical training few understand or undertake significant mental training. For athletes and their parents mental skills training can be hard to wrap their heads around (no pun intended). In reality the game is 90% mental and when the rubber hits the road...when the game is on the line physical training alone is simply not going to be enough to get your athlete to the no limit level. Let's look at what mental factors will:
1. Thoughts are things. Building mental skills mastery begins with the recognition that thoughts are things and thoughts are powerful! We each have over 50,000 unique thoughts every day. What your athlete thinks about in terms of her game will determine her level of success. Thoughts can limit or propel your athlete toward no limit status.
2. Beliefs. Your athlete's beliefs about herself are interwoven with her thoughts. If your athlete believes that she can accomplish a certain task or play at a certain level she will likely create thought patterns which reinforce her positive "can do" beliefs. Likewise if your athlete engages in limited thinking, that she cannot accomplish specific tasks or play at a certain level, she will engage in thought patterns which will reinforce her limited beliefs about herself. Beliefs are extremely powerful and become ingrained within the mind. Young athlete's beliefs are often distorted, so question your athlete's beliefs about herself and her game.
3. Resiliency. Because of the difficult nature of the game your athlete must be resilient and bounce back from the inevitable adversity the game throws at her. This means framing mistakes and less than ideal at bats or pitching performances as opportunities to learn and grow from versus responding harshly towards herself after each mistake, causing a downward spiral in her game.
4. Managing Expectations. We put enormous pressure and sky high expectations on our kids today. The current generation of kids have been bred as "super achievers." But in reality they do not wear capes and will experience failure on the field. The no limit athlete manages the expectations of others (as well as her own) by recognizing her limitations and those of the game. No one who ever played the game has been perfect, so lighten up!
5. Controllables. Hand in hand with managing expectations is your athlete's recognition of the factors she has control over: her effort, her attitude and her mental focus. So much of the game is clearly outside of her control, but the effort, attitude and focus she brings to the field are not only 100% within her control but are always a choice she makes. Understanding this key point will allow your athlete to better handle her own expectations for her performance and focus solely on these factors rather than judging her game performance simply by the results alone.
6. Building a laser focus. The most evident benefit of proper mental skills training is developing a great ability to focus and concentrate during a game. As a hitter your athlete has about 1/3 of a second to determine pitch velocity, location and movement. Unless she is laser focused she will never be the hitter she is capable of being. Cultivating a higher level of focus is a result of positive thoughts, proper breathing and the ability to shut the thoughts down the moment she steps into the box.
7. Self-Confidence. At the heart of every no limit athlete is a high level of self-confidence. Self-confidence is a product of having the proper beliefs, the proper thoughts, framing adversity as a learning opportunity, recognizing her controllables, and the ability to block out all "noise" before each pitch is thrown. Unfortunately most young athletes have a hard time doing any of these things, leaving self-confidence as a sometimes thing at best. An athlete struggling with self-confidence will bring up thoughts of previous failures in their head, which leads to further failure. Confidence or lack thereof becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. To break the chain your athlete must stay in the present moment and commit to implementing the points written about in this blog.
Becoming a "no limit" athlete is a difficult path, which is why so few athletes ever achieve no limit status. As I said at the beginning of this post mental mastery like physical mastery is a choice. If your athlete is willing to put in the time and effort to address these crucial mental skills factors she will be well on her way towards becoming a no limit athlete. But beware...ignore the mental side of the equation at your and her own risk! It is always during the most pivotal moments of the game that your athlete will require mental toughness and mental skills mastery to be great. Will she soar or will she implode? Remember...it's always a choice.
Look for the final part of the "No Limit Athlete in 2012" trilogy; Putting It All Together...soon!
The game is 90% mental. How much do you invest in your athlete's mental game? Change her game forever. See how!
**The release of John Kelly's new "ebook" Think It and Hit It is TODAY. Only $3.97!