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The Young Athlete's Guide to Maximizing Athletic Performance Through Proper Nutrition and Exercise
You are about to go into the biggest game of your life. It's the championship game. You're going for gold. The pressure's on, and you have to put forth the best performance of your life. How are you going to handle that pressure? How are you going to handle the intensity of the moment? How is it that Olympic athletes train for years and have one shot to perform flawlessly, and then stick it without even thinking about it?
They do this because they know a large part of their performance is mental. Having a perfect performance is about mental preparation.
Why is mental preparation key? It allows you to be at your best. It puts you in “the zone” where you are focused on that one task and doing it perfectly. Olympic athletes cannot be thinking about what they are going to have for lunch when they are trying to pull off some crazy jump. They have to be in the moment. It works the same for you. You can't make free throws if your thinking about how you forgot to feed the fish. Being in the moment gives you the focus and sharp mind that you need to succeed.
Your Pre-Game Ritual
The time to start your mental preparation is during your pre-game ritual. You can't just all of a sudden snap into an extreme level of alertness within a few seconds. It takes a while. The ideal time to start the main part of the mental preparation is when you are ready to perform. That's when you're dressed and ready to go. Making sure you're ready gives you no reason to worry about not being ready on time, it's just you and the game.
The first part of a strong mental game is being able to manage your mind. Think of your mind as a TV. Your thoughts are the channels. You create the channels on your mental TV. You're the boss, you've got the remote. You control the thoughts you think, the emotions you feel, and the images that appear. Since you've got the power, you can change the channel anytime you like. This means as soon as a negative thought pops into your head you change the channel. You determine what channel its on and that channel must be positive and empowering.
A great way to go into a game is to know your ABC's. Your ABC's are what you want to do to be most effective during the game. ABC's work by picking the three things that you feel you need to work on the most. So, you're ABC's might look like A- Keep your feet moving, B- Smarter decisions, C- Faster decisions. ABC's are different for everybody and can change. It's very important to know your ABC's going into a game or event so you know exactly what to do to be your best.
Affirmations, Visualizations, and Reflections for Positive Results
Some more techniques for a great mental game are affirmations, visualizations, and reflections. Affirmations are little sayings that give you power and energy. They can be what you already have or something that you would like to achieve. During my hockey games, my Dad would always tell me to talk to my legs. This is kind of like talking to yourself, focusing on the task at hand, getting ready to go back out and make a difference. Some great examples of affirmations are:
I'm the boss.
I'm quick and strong.
I'm tough and unbeatable.
I am a winner, we are winners.
Affirmations should be said with a positive tone and repeated often. Say it like you already have it.
Visualizations are movies in your head of what you would like to do. Picture yourself running down the field flying by everyone else, or making the perfect shot and scoring a goal, or you can even picture yourself as an animal about to catch its prey. Picture it exactly like it will happen.
Reflections are for the post-game. After you are done and have some time, think about what you did well, and what you would have liked to do better. Then figure out how you can improve. Then next time you hit the rink, field, court, or whatever else, you make it happen.
With a strong mental game not only will you make improvements, but your teammates will make improvements. Everyone around you will benefit from your positive attitude and mental strength. I have been in games where a bad attitude has cost a team a trophy or a trip to a national tournament.
Remember, you're the boss of your thoughts. You control how the game turns out. Someone who is mentally tough is the hardest opponent to beat, they will never quit, and they will always come back stronger after a loss. Being a mental boss is one of the best things you can do for your performance. Go and make it happen!
Mouser photo by jenny downing