Be ready to train like a champion, using both your mind and your body if you want to take it to the next level. I’m sure you’re thinking, ‘can my mind make me a better athlete?’ Of course, it can. Don't leave this all-important mental side of your performance to chance.
Improving your focus and concentration
Athletes: your toughest opponent is yourself! When you get upset with yourself for a mistake or for performing below the level you think you should, you will tighten yourself up physically, distract yourself from the moment by moment flow of the action, and perform below your potential. A key to peak performance as an athlete is improving your focus and concentration. Try this exercise to recognize when and why you lose focus:
Think about your past games, how and when did you get distracted? Common distractions I hear are a parent or coach yelling, after making an error, or even when your opponent scored. Make a list of your most common distractions so you can better recognize them!
Mastering your mental state and positive self-talk is key for when you want to take being an athlete to the next level. If you have certain standards that you think you should be maintaining and you're not, you will beat yourself up mentally, which can slow down your physical progress!
Instead, keep your focus on what you’re doing in the moment. Concentrate on the game, match or race, one moment at a time. Leave the expectations at home!
So what does it really take to go to the next level as an athlete?
Be coachable – Be open to learning and willing to take critical feedback. You don't improve without making mistakes and getting feedback from the coach about what you need to work on and do differently next time.
Have your OWN goals – The sport belongs to YOU. You should practice and compete because you want to! You should not be doing the sport to make others happy or proud of you.
Work hard, be committed – Success in anything comes down to how willing you are to put the time, energy and effort into your activity. There is no substitute for hard work! It is the ultimate “secret” to success.
Be a class act – Being a real success is very much all about how you are as a person. You can't define being a winner as the outcome of a competition. It's how you play that really counts. Conduct yourself with class both on and off the field.
Be a team player – The mark of a true champion is he/she makes his/her teammates better. Support your teammates and be unselfish!
Pay attention to details – The very best athletes in the world get to be the best because, whenever they practice, they pay attention to all the important details! They focus closely on technique to make it the very best they can. It's the little things that you do in practice that ultimately make the biggest difference in the long run.
Remember: for any athlete to go to the next level in their sport, it takes a total team effort behind them. Without the appropriate support and guidance of coaches and parents, real success in sports is virtually impossible!
Kathy A. Feinstein is a top sports performance consultant and Parenting Peak Performers podcast host. If you’re a student-athlete, or parent of one, and want to practice mental techniques that can make you a better athlete, contact us for a consultation.