DON’T THINK THAT IF YOU JUST HAD A GREAT PEP TALK OR SOME OTHER PSYCHOLOGICAL GIMMICK, YOU WOULD SUDDENLY BE ABLE TO PERFORM A MIRACLE…
How do you prepare yourself mentally for a big game, big match, or big event of any kind?
Do you need quiet just before game time?
Do you like to chatter and release excess energy?
What you prefer depends on your personality, but one crucial aspect of preparation should not depend on anything but intelligence.
Thousands of athletes, even great ones, sabotage their own psychological preparation by entertaining destructive thoughts that would never hold up in court. For example, if they usually play on Saturdays and suddenly play a game on a Monday, and play poorly, they may get the idea in their minds that “We just don’t play well on Mondays.”
Typically these kinds of ideas, that often have a powerful influence on performance, seem absolutely possible to the athletes harboring the thoughts. There is no rational reason that these thoughts should be given any special belief but somehow they stick in your mind. Thoughts like:
- “I just don’t play well under that kind of lighting.”
- “I just never play well on that kind of surface.”
- “I don’t know what it is, but I just can’t seem to get started when I play in the morning.”
- “I always give my best effort but somehow I just don’t seem to get the same results when it’s raining.”
- “I just don’t play well when my father comes to watch.”
All of these statements—these beliefs—and many more like them crop up in the conversation and worse, in the mental preparation of athletes. The results can be very negative because if you are convinced you have a reason to perform poorly there is a much better chance that you will in fact perform poorly.
Mentally tough athletes realize that their performance is a choice. The best choice you can make is to take all the circumstances into consideration and then make a simple statement to yourself:
“Under these circumstances there are athletes in the world who could perform well. I choose to be one of those athletes.” Period.
The best preparation is no preparation. Your preparation is what you have been doing all year long—practicing, repeating, repeating, practicing.
Proper mental preparation is not much more than making sure you aren’t giving in or being victimized by negative or stupid ways of thinking. Let me give an example and elaborate. A surprising number of basketball players are victimized by a variety of shooting superstitions. “If I shoot well in practice the day before the game, I don’t shoot well in the game.” Or, “If I shoot well in warm ups before the game, I won’t shoot well during the actual game itself.” Conversely, “If I’m missing in warm ups, I usually hit during the game.”
Regardless of the circumstances you have a right to assume you will demonstrate your ability during the game, so prepare yourself to do just that. Great shooters have a right to assume they will shoot well. Any other assumption is counterproductive and may actually keep you from performing up to the level your ability merits.
Turn every event, every circumstance, every condition in your favor.
Prepare yourself to perform well in all circumstances, and then do it. Don’t look for supernatural explanations if you fail. Sometimes, failure is simply the very best you could have done under the circumstances. Learn what you can then get up, brush off your pants, and move on. There are always other games to play and new challenges ahead.
To discover how to master the subtleties of the game that most coaches don’t have time to teach, join us at a PGC camp near you.
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