It's great to see professional athletes recognizing the mental battle that goes on between their ears. In this situation it's tennis pro John Isner. Yet, I can only imagine how he could have been helped throughout his junior, college and young professional career to change some of his failures into successes.
"As a professional athlete, you want to feel so strong and impervious to everything, but that wasn't the case for me and I let him know that," Isner told me in Houston at the U.S. Men's Clay Court Championships last month. "I let him know what I was feeling in the big moments. I let him know sometimes how scared I was."
"I'd find myself seizing up, not freeing up," Isner said. "And just wanting to win so badly that I didn't want to go after it myself, I was a little afraid of that. With how I'm built, it's the absolute wrong thing to do. When other players get nervous and get tight, say, be it a Nadal, a Djokovic, a Murray -- they can rely on their wheels. I can't. I'd just find myself hoping my opponent would miss. I knew what was holding me up was myself."
I discuss a quote from Tim Grover's book Relentless. He highlights how important mental training and toughness in and external to sport is.
Here's an article I recently wrote for the Reaching Your Dream Foundation on anxiety and sports performance. Its publication is good timing. This afternoon I was reading a book by a high school basketball athlete who described himself as being so nervous before a game that he experienced stomach cramps for hours before tip-off.
Anxiety is a real issue and can drastically affect performance... and generally not in a good way! If you or your athlete have not been trained how to cope with nerves, how can you expect an optimal performance? Contact me for a free chat to discuss how I might be able to help!
"Be Kind To Yourself" is the title of a terrific song by songwriter/singer/author Andrew Peterson. We are often our own worst critics, and judge ourselves more harshly than we should. Whether in practice or competition, resist the negative voice, counter with the positive, and be kind to yourself.
Wait, so it might take longer than a few sessions before I see improvement?
“It would have been useful if someone had told me (about mental skills) seven or eight years before, at the start of my career… It takes a considerable period of time to develop natural sporting mental skills.”
Sir Steve Redgrave, 5 rowing gold medals achieved at 5 consecutive Olympics (from In a Golden Age – The Autobiography; photo Getty Images).
This morning in my class I asked my students to do a little experiment for me. They were instructed to stand on one leg with eyes closed and time how long they could stand upright.
Then, in a second trial, I used a brief imagery script in which I had them imagine themselves standing as a tree would stand, rooted solidly into the ground. A tree may sway in the wind, but it does not topple. It remains firm. With this imagery in mind, I instructed them to do the same activity again.
In the first trial my students averaged 41 seconds. In the second trial they averaged 76 seconds, an almost 100% improvement. What changed? A learning effect? Perhaps a small one, but in truth nothing changed other than their focus on the imagery I provided to them.
Now the image of a tree is used in yoga for the tree pose. But it's interesting that something so simple as providing an appropriate image can elicit significant improvements in performance. So why not consider using sport psychology to your benefit? If you're an athlete or coach, allow me to guide you in ensuring that your mental training is efficient and effective.
Want to get faster? Stop thinking about it! I explain how your brain can interfere with your ability to execute movements quickly.
Don't just hear it from me.
"You look at some of the top athletes, they've gone beyond controlling every single lifestyle factor - sleep, what passes their lips and goes into their bellies. Some of them are talking to sport psychologists just trying to get that one extra edge to visualize performance in order to maximize their abilities on the competition floor." Fittest on Earth: A Decade of Fitness.
In this vlog, I explain why people don't use sport performance experts and why they should.
In this vlog I briefly explain the three different types of goals you can set and how they can be best applied to sports performance.
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