The first task on your athlete’s journey to strengthen their mental game is to increase the awareness of their thoughts. Instruct them to notice if their self-talk is hindering them or helping them achieve success. It’s crucial that your athletes notice when their minds are working for them and when it is working against them. Their focus is to recognize patterns of when it’s easy for them to stay motivated and focused, and when they struggle to do so.
Their goal should be to listen to their “strong” voice and ignore or smother their “weak” voice. Their strong voice is the voice that fills them with confidence, allows them to take on challenges, and helps them to stay positive when the going gets tough. This voice is the voice that talks them into sprinting their hardest even though they’ve already run 10 suicides; this is also the voice that encourages them to throw another rise ball even though the last one was just hit over the fence. Athletes need to recognize their strong voice and buy into it while simultaneously pushing out their weak voice.
How to work awareness into your coaching:
- When practice starts: Remind athletes to work on mentally preparing themselves for the upcoming practice. Which voice are you listening to today? Are you talking yourself into working hard at practice, or are you simply going through the motions dragging yourself along praying that practice will end soon?
- Watch their body language: If you see an athlete looking or performing like they are defeated, remind them to find their strong voice and smother their weak voice.
- During instruction: If you are working on critiquing an athletes form, make sure to include what they should be reciting to themselves in their head.
- When an athlete is struggling: Bring to their attention how their mind could be playing a role in their frustration. Is their weak voice taking control and beating themselves up inside or is their strong voice talking themselves into making the next play.