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Monday, February 19, 2018

The Mind Game's Mental Skills Guide

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Thirty strategies, tactics and tips to help you develop mental strength on and off the sports field.

These 30 tips have been adapted from information contained in SPORT - The Mind Game. The full program goes into detail about how these strategies and tips can be applied specifically to your sport. For more information or to own a copy of SPORT - The Mind Game go to www.themindgame.co.za

You will need to develop strength in three areas - Plan, Practice and Play. Use this guide to get you started on the road to more consistent, productive training sessions and performances.

A. PLAN

1. Start off calm and relaxed
Arrive at the course, club or event early. If you are driving give yourself an extra 10-15 minutes so you don’t have to rush. There is nothing worse than starting an event and still having outside influences playing through your mind.

2. Plan ahead
Know where all the possible obstacles are when you compete. Write a list of things that could go wrong and next to each one write down what you will do if it happens.

3. Accept who you are
We all have favourite players, heroes, role models, people we would like to emulate.
This is great but at some stage you will have to come to terms with who you are and what are your limitations. Know your strengths and weaknesses and spend your time developing your strengths and eliminating your weaknesses.

4. Keep a journal
Writing things down makes so much sense. Your results, your training sessions, thoughts and feelings about how you played. Hopes, aspirations, dreams, goals. Motivation, inspiration, defining moments. All of this and more can go into your sports journal or log book. It's good fun and can also help you stay on track and even give you answers to why you performed badly or what enabled you to get it right.

5. Spend time with yourself
Schedule in some “mind time” each day. Feed your mind positive, productive thoughts, it can be as little as 5 minutes, but make sure you create thoughts of success on a regular basis.

6. Develop a warm up routine
When preparing to compete go through the same routine. Stretch and warm up your body. Use music or affirmations to warm up your mind. Use soothing music to help you calm down, or lively music to help you get pumped up.

7. Preparation starts at home
Create a pre event checklist. Make sure you have everything you need to compete.
Arrive knowing you are fully prepared. It's just one less thing to worry about.

8. Set goals
Not having goals is like going on holiday with no destination. You must have something to aim for, and you must be passionate about it. BIG goals will get you to do BIG action. Remember your goals are going to have to excite and motivate you into action on a continual basis.

9. Monitor your self-talk
We all talk to ourselves. They say the problem is if we answer back! Is your self-talk or internal dialogue helping or hindering you? Is it positive or negative? Do you call yourself names or beat yourself up (verbally) when you don't perform well? If so beware, seek help. Your thoughts and your words are incredibly powerful. Make sure they are propelling you forward and not dragging you back
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10. Reward your achievements
If you are serious about your sport you're going to be doing some pretty hard work to ensure you improve. Make a habit of rewarding yourself when you achieve goals. It could be anything, for small goals maybe treat yourself to a movie or a night out. For major goals take yourself on holiday, buy yourself a car or a new piece of equipment. Whatever it is, write it down beforehand, work towards it and on completion honour your commitment. Powerful stuff...

B. PRACTICE

11. Practice as you play
Go through a proper physical and mental warm up when practicing. You should be as well prepared to practice as you are when you compete.

12. Use affirmations
Affirmations are short powerful sentences, similar to a mantra, that help develop confidence and steer you towards success. Make it a habit to affirm positive thoughts of being successful every day. Do it in the shower or whilst driving.

13. Productive practice
Make your practice sessions productive – train with a focus. Write down what you are going to do in a practice session, if necessary, then stick to it!

14. Listen to your body
Work to a training schedule and work consistently, but listen to your body, don't train or play when you are sick and avoid burnout. Watch out for your mind trying to trick you into not training. It will find many perfectly good excuses. There is a big difference between being tired or a bit stiff and being exhausted. Know when to push through and when to take a break.

15. Anchor yourself
Ships use anchors to safe guard their position. If things aren't going well for you, anchor your thoughts and feelings to a time, place or event when you were playing or performing well. This simple technique can help you latch on to some former success and break a current bad run of form.

16. Visualise
Mental images are powerful. Use them to help develop a new technique or play, to guide you through training, to help you overcome distractions and of course to see yourself being victorious.

17. Simulate competition in practice
Whenever possible make your training sessions as similar as your competitions. Simulate crowd noises, PA systems and other distractions either in reality or in your imagination. Think about the importance of the event, create the tension you will experience on the day and then compete.

18. Stress relievers
The simplest method of controlling your stress level is by controlling your breathing. Practice taking deep, full, slow breathes filling your lungs from your diaphragm all the way up to the top of your chest. Try to take 10 deep breaths 3 times a day. You will be surprised how calming it is.

19. Think big
You must rehearse being successful, then when it happens you won't be surprised. Make a commitment, tell people, write it down, see yourself achieving success, you must see it clearly in your mind before you can manifest it in reality.

20. Have fun
It's easy to get caught up in our own enthusiasm and a perceived need to improve.
However much you train or play, remember that it must be fun. Often on our journey up the performance ladder we lose sight of why we started to play in the first place - to have FUN. If you’re not having fun then something is wrong.

C. PLAY

21. Be there now
To help you reach deeper levels of focus, compete in the now. Give your full attention to the task at hand. Lose yourself in the moment. Don't hang onto past failures or look forward to potential difficulties.

22. Plan B
Expect things not to run 100% smoothly. Always stay flexible, anticipate what might go wrong and create alternative options. Have a back-up plan and use it whenever necessary.

23. Stress release valve
When you are under pressure, take 4 deep slow breaths. Remind yourself it is the same for all the competitors and carry on. It generally isn't as bad as you perceive when you distance yourself from the situation.

24. Beware of over confidence
When you find you are really competing well, remain focused. It's easy to step outside your capabilities. Remember you are not invincible. Confidence can leave you as quickly as it arrived.

25. Snack on manageable bite sized pieces
Most events seem overwhelming when we see them as one big thing. Break it up into smaller bite-sized pieces and all of a sudden it's not so daunting. Get to the start and warm up. Start competing, play the first hole, get to the first water table. Whatever it is, work through small achievable bits that add up to the whole thing.

26. Negative thoughts
Monitor your self-talk. Remove negative thoughts immediately and replace them with the positive. Try using the “stopping technique” - when you notice a negative thought in your mind, lift up a huge stop sign in front of it and shout (silently) STOP!!! It works.

27. Play your own game
Don't be put off by your opponent’s game plan, antics or behaviour. Stick to your plan and impress your strategies and tactics on your opponent. It might sound easy, but you will have to show some resolve.

28. Don't over analyse
Peak performance takes place in a zone or cocoon where there is NO analysis of the technical aspects of your game. Trust the technique you have brought to the event for that day. Don't be tempted to analyse it after you make your first mistake.

29. Think process not outcome
One of the biggest reasons for failure is that, towards the end of a game or event, your thoughts change from process thoughts (the process of competing) to outcome thoughts (the outcome of the shot, point or race). In other words instead of thinking about how you construct a rally, you think about what happens if.... I loose this point, game or match. Towards the end of an event remind yourself how you got that far, by thinking of the process, not the outcome.

30. Believe in yourself
Be confident, not arrogant. Confidence comes from being competent, work to develop technical skills, physical strength and mental dominance. Aim to be a complete sportsman or woman.
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