Mental Skills Training
At ELITEAM, we’ve always been passionate about Sports Psychology, so there was no question that mental training would be part of this program. You simply can’t expect to perform at your highest potential without putting in the time and effort when it comes to mental skills training. Athletes spend so much time on their physical and technical training, but don’t always give the same love and attention to developing the “muscles” in their brain. As an athlete who has competed at the highest level, I strongly believe in the power of the mind. Yes, you need to be fit and strong. And yes, you need to possess the right technical skills. But ultimately, your mental strength and grit is what will allow you to achieve your highest potential.
As a World Cup athlete, I spent a lot of time working on my mental game. Being only 5’8”, there were a lot of guys on the circuit that were bigger and stronger than me. To make up the difference, I knew I needed to hone my mental skills. They needed to be strong, sharp, positive, confident and instantly available. There was one day in particular that stands out in my mind as a day my mental skills were put to the test. We were in Las Lenas, Argentina and it was a World Cup race day in 1985. I stood in the start gate, with 60 seconds to go. My technician, using a knife, kneeled down to make a last-minute adjustment to my boot. As you may guess, that didn’t go well.
With one slip of the knife, his finger severely slashed, and blood everywhere, my rep passed out and fell to the snow. I looked at my rep passed out on the ground, and then looked at the starter, and was momentarily frozen – not knowing what to do. As chaos erupted, I physically turned away from the scene and immediately used my cue words to disengage from the chaos, and instead focus on my race run. Within seconds, I was able to find that “race state” and exploded out of the gate. I attacked the course, my mind “in the zone” and focused on what I needed to do to win – all thoughts of the start gone from my mind. I finished with a top 15 result, one of my best that season.
Dig Deep 2020
Whether you’re forced to deal with drama before your competition, or the daily challenges that come with being a competitive athlete, strong mental skills will be the key to your success. An athlete’s off-season is the perfect time to strengthen those “brain muscles”.
With the Dig Deep 2020 program, we’ll have an opportunity to work on a different mental skill each week. Although we introduce a different topic weekly, there are many that will carry throughout the summer. We’ll build our journaling habits and practice gratitude daily. We’ll set goals at the beginning of each week and then revisit them again at the end of the week. We’ll practice our mental imagery skills twice a week, and every time we workout, we’ll push the needle on our grit meter a little higher! We’ll also spend some time thinking about the concepts of fun and teamwork, and how those elements play into our success as an athlete. When all of these skills are practiced regularly, and then combined all together, you’ll feel confident, in control, and your brain will be primed for peak performance!
Dig Deep 2020 Weekly Topics
- Positive Self-Talk
The End of the Story…
By the way, in case you’re wondering… after my race run in Las Lenas, I radioed up to the start for a report on my rep. It turned out he was going to be just fine. He had “come to” and his finger was still attached. It was definitely a race I will never forget!