We’ve all heard it before; Mindset is Everything.

Everyone knows or has likely heard that “hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.” Mindset involves focus, beliefs, vision, drive, goal setting, hard work, discipline, motivation, accountability, attitude, culture, etc. etc. Did I say HARD WORK?

Case in point, Tom Brady didn’t become the best NFL quarterback of all time, with six Super Bowl wins under his belt, by taking it easy. When he joined the New England Patriots roster at the turn of the millennium, he was consistently the first guy in the gym before any of his new teammates, every morning. His mindset, coupled with actions and vision, influenced the team’s culture and collective work ethic. But not everyone is a Tom Brady. In fact, nobody but Tom Brady is Tom Brady.

So, what can we do?

As coaches (or as athletes), how do we set our teams up to succeed and achieve their potential more consistently, like Brady?

Well, we all have ‘mental game’ to some degree, and we’re all good at teaching or learning sport-specific skills. Working on things like attitude, effort, discipline, and work ethic is something almost all of us do, but we can take it one step further. Have you ever heard of the ideal performance state of mind, or the flow state?

In sports, we commonly refer to performances in the flow state as being in ‘the zone.’ Brady, like most champions, plays in this ‘zone’ time and time again.

Let’s talk about flow.        

Flow is the state of mind where everything just ‘clicks,’ and you perform your best. Your sense of time fades away. Hours can pass in the blink of an eye, or sometimes it feels like everything happens in slow motion. You can lose your sense of self in these moments, or it can feel like you’ve never been more aware. It’s hard to remember what happens when you’re in ‘the zone,’ or how you got there, but you do remember it was fun!

Achieving flow looks different for different people. It’s a complex task involving the right stimulus, the right skills, the right challenge, unique neurochemistry, and a complex environment.

So, getting young athletes to hit the optimal state of flow sounds simple right?

It’s not that simple, or is it?

Teaching athletes to self-regulate and manage internal distractions can help them achieve a sort of ‘flow baseline,’ where they are better prepared to hit the peak performance zone. Recognizing the physical and mental states that compromise their mindset is critically important. When we succeed at this task, athletes make fewer costly mistakes—the ones that create a downward spiral in terms of self-confidence—and we’ll even prevent injuries in the process. We’ll build them up to the great performers they can all be.

  • If you see an athlete or teammate, who’s mad, what do you tell them? Calm down? Pay attention? Or “GET YOUR HEAD IN THE GAME!” – And how’s that working out for you?
  • If you see an athlete who looks exhausted, what do you do to reignite their spark?
  • What about if someone looks like they’re ‘coasting’ on autopilot?

Getting athletes to regulate their mental states on their own is the ticket.

Using distracting mental states as triggers to remind athletes to keep their heads in the game and control their mindset will help them achieve peak performances more reliably. All the hard work athletes put into honing their skills will NOT be in vain.

When athletes learn the techniques to better manage their mindset, we see a boost in self-confidence, we see a massive boost in team performance, and oh yeah, with increased focus comes fewer injuries. Athlete health and longevity is affected too.

What are you doing to shift your mindset or the mindset of your athletes?

Author: Mike Shaw, Co-Founder of HeadStartPro

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