Words by: Hunter Visser
Most sport-specific skills are left on the field, on the ice, in the pool or on the court. However, optimizing mental performance and managing distractions doesn’t (and shouldn’t) quit when you head home from practice or competition. In this article, we’ll talk about how and why practicing your mental game 24/7 makes you a better athlete when it matters most.
Rushing, Frustration, Fatigue, and Complacency are a 24/7 Problem
These states aren’t just a ‘sport’s problem;’ these states are a life problem. ‘Problem’ might be a little bit overstated, but these states are just reality. Everybody has to deal with at least a little bit of rushing, frustration, fatigue, and complacency (RFFC) every day. However, sometimes it’s more than just ‘a little bit.’
From the time you wake up (fatigue), to when you realize now you really need to get out the door for school, work, or practice (rushing), to when you have to run back into the house to grab your phone, charger, or wallet because you were thinking about the day to come (complacency, now causing frustration, and even more rushing) to that moment on the drive when you drift off thinking about the day to come (complacency), to the moment after lunch when the mid-day doldrums kick in (fatigue), we all deal with these states every day.
Managing Distractions Never Sleeps
All of these daily distractions give us a lot of opportunities to hone our skills with focus, emotional regulation, and mental awareness.
Think about some of the simple exercises you get from a physiotherapist to enhance balance or rehab a sprained ankle like balancing on one foot anytime you’re standing in one spot. If we put some effort into the self-triggering technique throughout the day, it will help us make quicker judgments at game speed when it matters most.
Working on techniques like self-triggering outside of sport will also prevent some pretty annoying (and potentially costly) errors from happening. For example, just last week, a friend of mine stood up from her desk at work, frustrated and in a rush, and spilled a full mug of coffee on her brand new MacBook. As you can imagine, spilling coffee all over a two-week-old laptop didn’t help her frustration. Luckily for her, the computer survived.
Self-triggering isn’t always easy, but with practice, it becomes quicker and easier.
Habits, Habits, Habits
As for working on your habits, it is imperative that your core habits with eyes and mind on task, like looking before you move, become a part of your daily life. If you want to get better at anticipating a hit from another player or seeing the play break down quicker, you will need to put some effort into moving your eyes first every time you move.
Consider this: if you put some effort into the habit of looking up before standing up, you’ll not only get better at looking before you move, but you’ll also stop banging your head on things. The effort put into this habit will not only save you some pain and frustration, but it will also help remind you to move your eyes first in a game or competition scenario.
Unfortunately, for a friend of mine, he didn’t think to work on this habit until he got eight stitched after standing up and catching the corner of a kitchen cabinet with his head. To make the whole situation worse, he missed his hockey tournament the following weekend because he couldn’t wear a helmet.
Like anything you do, the more effort you put in, the more you will get out of it. The same thing is true for managing your mental state and managing distractions. If you want to master your mental game and master your ability to refocus when the game gets tough, another player is getting under your skin, or you just can’t seem to pull it together during the biggest competition of the season, you will have to practice these skills 24/7.
Like New York, New York ‘the city that never sleeps’ neither does rushing, frustration, fatigue, or complacency.
Thanks for reading!
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