90% of any game is mental. The problem is that almost all coaches, and especially youth athletes coaches focus on the fundamentals and tangible parts of their sport 100% of the time. They don’t spend time coaching the mental game. This is what separates successful athletes from those who fail.
If you are a coach it is inevitable that you have said the words,” just relax, don’t think.” Or something along these lines. If you have said this then you have broken one of the most important rules of coaching the mental game.
Don’t think about pink elephants.
What did you think of?
This often translates into:
Don’t think too much.
Can you guess what your athlete is thinking about?
This is a prime example of how you might think you’re helping your player break a bad habit but in reality you could be making this problem even worse. Looking for more sports examples? Check these out!
In sports, a baseball or softball hitter often times tells themselves not to strike out before an at-bat, especially when they are in a slump and not hitting well. A quarterback may tell himself not to throw an interception on a critical play and then goes out and does exactly that. A soccer goalie will tell herself that she can’t let the opposing team score a goal, and they do.
The truth is, as soon as your players doubt their abilities and start thinking about what they shouldn’t do they are already half-way to failing. To coach the mental game, and correct this bad habit in your athletes you need to teach them to think correctly.
Coach the Mental Game Using Positivity
Coaching a player puts a lot of responsibility on you, you need to prepare them for game time, and give them the tools for success. One of these tools is the mental game and teaching them how to think correctly. Coach your players on the power of positivity, teach them how to harness the power of their mind and apply it to their sport.
Once way to teach your players the value of positive thought is by asking them what they fear most when playing. Do they play baseball or softball and dread striking out, or is their fear blocking a soccer ball from a goal? Once they have identified their number 1 fear have them write down a positive thought or phrase they can repeat during these situations. This phrase could be a verbal cue like “Focus” or it could be a phrase they should tell themselves. Positive cues and phrases should be quick, easy to remember, and hold meaning.
Athlete’s #1 Fear – Shooting Free-Throws and Missing
What they use to think while shooting ….”Don’t Miss, please don’t miss.”
Positive Counter Phrase…..”I know I can Make this.”
Athlete’s #1 Fear – Striking Out
What they use to think while shooting ….”Don’t Strike Out.”
Positive Counter Phrase…..”Hips and Hands.”
Stop thinking about those Pink Elephants.
Coaches should keep in mind that they are ultimately one of the biggest mental game influencers’ for their players. This is why they must integrate techniques like the ones above into their coaching. Without these techniques even good players can be put in tough situations and crumble under pressure.
How about them elephants?