Mental Performance: How to Prepare Your Mind to Play at Peak Performance
“Ninety percent of the game is half mental” – Yogi Berra
While legendary baseball player Yogi Berra’s math might be a little off, his concept behind mentality and sports performance is dead on. Your physical talent and skills will likely only get you so far within the game. Your ability to push yourself farther and stronger mentally could be the factor you need to take your game to the next level.
Mindset is your mental outlook. Some elite-level athletes can perform at their best in the toughest of competition. However, being able to perform at their best on a consistent level takes a champion mindset. Elite athletes consistently look to challenge themselves every single day both physically and mentally. Alex Rodriquez once said, “I believe a champion wins in his mind first, then he plays the game.”
One method to achieving success in any sport is learning how to focus on a task and not let negative thoughts interfere. There you are, ready to take a free-kick. All that stands between you and the goal box is a row of defenders and a wild-eyed goalie. You take a breath, assess the height of the defenders, note how close your teammates are to the posts. Is the goalie good at jumping high, or diving low? How’s your angle for shooting into the top corners? Millions of thoughts race through your mind as you take your first step toward the ball.
Law of Dominant Thought
Did you know that your mind is only able to concentrate on one thing at a time? What you focus on, happens. If you worry about hitting the post on your free kick, you most likely will hit the post. Science shows that your actions will follow your thoughts. So, push out the negative thoughts “don’t hit the post” and replace them with the positive thoughts “I am hitting upper 90.” Turn your focus to what you DO want to happen and not on what you don’t want to happen. Success Consciousness states that to become the person you want to be, you must first put your mindset into a positive focus.
This is an interesting time in sports as there is now a large focus on mindset and developing a winning mentality. The mental aspect of sports is not easy to master and can be different for every sport. Baseball has a lot of starts and stops where soccer is a constant go, go, go! But it is becoming evident that modern sport is now a mental game. In an interview with Megan Rapinoe, she asserts that you cannot compare yourself to other athletes, you can only focus on yourself and your strengths. “There’s no substitute for hard work, motivation, and determination.”
Developing Your Confidence
So how do you get yourself into a high-performance mindset? How do you gain the confidence to go out and dominate?
Athletes have control over three elements of their game:
- Physical Fitness
- Mental fitness
Confidence is a cornerstone of performance, and it develops through preparation and goal setting. Setting goals is an important aspect for any level sports player. Your goal-setting should focus on you; what you can contribute to the game and to your team. Focus on your strengths and both practice goals and game goals. When setting your personal goals, concentrate on what you can personally control during play.
- “Get three interceptions in each half of the game.”
- “Make two quality shots on goal in each half of the game.”
- “Maintain a positive attitude throughout practice.”
These micro goals can lead to macro or larger goals that focus on the season as a whole.
Training Your Mind for Peak Performance
To develop a strong champion mentality, you must be willing to practice small steps every day that will lead to big developments on the field.
Three steps to train your mind:
1 – Breathing: Use the square breathing method for two minutes to focus your brain. Breathe deep into your belly. Hold each phase of breathing for three seconds. Breath in for the count of three. Hold it for the count of three. Breath out for a count of three. Hold it for a count of three. Repeat. Do this before each practice and game and at night before falling asleep. Pair your breathing with visualization.
2 – Visualization: This is your mind’s eye, what you want to happen in the game and what you want to happen in the future. Spend five minutes on visualization. Set an intention. Then focus on all your senses. The more deeply you can visualize your performance or your goals the more effective the outcome will be. Do visualization exercises one hour before practice or games and at the end of the day before you go to sleep.
3 – Routine: Consistency is vital with mental training. Practicing your breathing and visualization for a few minutes every day will lead to long-term results.
Putting All the Elements into Practice: Game Day Performance
When getting ready for game time, begin focusing on all your mental prep work. Your daily mental work has prepared you to move your focus from future visualization to game day visualization.
- Goals: Review your goals before the game.
- Anchors: Use your breathing to help you get into the right mindset.
- Visualize: Use all your senses and visualize what you want to execute while performing.
- Mind & Body: The mind and body work as one, so remember that physical fitness is as important as mental fitness. Sleep is a critical factor for peak physical and mental performance.
The last thing you do before hitting the pitch is to focus on your breathing. While you are on the field, use your breath as an anchor to help you refocus when you need it. Be selfish with your pre-game mentality. Do not rush out onto the field or rejoin your team until your mind is ready and focused.
Mike Semenza, professional soccer coach and Blayze coaching expert, wants you to remember one thing – have fun! Confidence comes from having fun and enjoying the sport your love to play.
Learn More with Blayze!
Are you needing additional help with goal setting or mentally preparing yourself for a big game? Could you use some direct feedback on what your strengths are and how you can better help your team?
At Blayze we take the guesswork and hours of research out of it and give you a personalized coaching session from the very best coaches in the world. For a truly unique and personalized feedback experience, submit your performance video to one of Blayze’s highly qualified coaches. The custom-developed coaching session can help you define your strengths and develop an elite-level mindset so you are performing at your very best in every game. One easy click here will take you to more details on our coaching sessions.
Learn how you can improve your technique, skills, game day prep, and mental training to be the best athlete you can become today.