This month we’re taking you behind the scenes and showing you the ins and outs of mental training with some real cases from me, Emily!
As you follow along, you might find that you relate to what some of these athletes were going through, or that you could use some of the strategies we discuss. Hopefully, these cases give you some insight into how mental training can help you.
Last week we featured a soccer player struggling to return to play after an injury. Make sure you check it out!
Here’s what still coming up:
Case 2: Getting In Your Groove Between Matches
I started working with this wrestler – lets call him Tom – a few matches into his season. As a collegiate student-athlete, Tom had a lot on his plate, but was very committed to his sport. He came to me a bit unsure of his objectives, but he knew he had room for improvement with his mental game.
Our first session, and every session thereafter for the course of his season, was a face-to-face, one-on-one session in my office. We met for roughly 45 minutes to an hour each time. By the end of our first session, this was my analysis:
Very competitive and committed athlete
Good sense of humor and nice life balance
Talented and successful in his wrestling career, and in the current season
Interested in mental training to gain a competitive edge
Wanted strategies to enhance consistency in his performances
On the whole, Tom was an ideal client. Competitive and committed, he was eager to learn new strategies and put them into action. He had a high sense of self-awareness, which helped facilitate progress in our conversations.
So, where did I start? What did I see as the primary focus? Improving consistency through systematic pre- and post-match routines.
This is what we accomplished over the course of the season:
We started with reflecting on some of his best and worst matches. This gave us both an idea of what worked for him and led to top performances, and what didn’t work for him and led to suboptimal matches. We discussed what he thought about, focused on, and felt before, during, and after matches.
From that, we created a picture of his ideal pre-competition mindset. We knew the kind of self-talk that worked for him, when – in relation to the match – he liked to start focusing on it, and the level of activation (how pumped up or relaxed) he liked to feel.
We used this information to build him a pre-match routine. His routine included all of his pre-match prep: physical warm up (what and when), nutrition and hydration (what and when), and his mental warm up.
As he was getting used to using his routine over the course of several competitions, Tom noticed that his first matches of the day were always good. Maybe he didn’t win every single one, but he felt prepared and always competed hard and smart. However, mismanagement of his time between matches sometimes led to later matches not meeting his expectations.
Once he got the hang of his pre-match routine and started to feel more comfortable using it and more confident in its effectiveness, we moved on to his routine between matches.
We discussed objectively evaluating his matches (what went well, what needs improvement, and how will he improve for the next match), and then moving on. Learn from it, and either bring your focus to the next match if it was up quickly, or let yourself disengage by going to the bleachers and listening to music.
Developing a structured way to spend his time – both physically and mentally – on match days helped improve his consistency and confidence overall.
The work Tom and I accomplished is a good example of how good athletes can become great. He came to me already a talented and successful collegiate athlete, but after our work together, his performances were more consistent. Importantly, his experience with this performances was also more consistent (meaning, he could be more objective and less emotional about wins and losses, which helped him learn and keep his motivation up).
Our time working together spanned only a few months, but that was enough to equip him with the strategies he needed in order to have more control over his mindset and his mental preparation. On my end, recognizing that he could continue his mental strategies on his own was a good metric of our success together.
Stay tuned for next week when we discuss a basketball player learning how to internalize her confidence to enhance performance.