Very often, during a game, there will be an athlete who gets upset about something that is happening on the field or court. The athlete is not happy about the score, is frustrated with the refs or umpires who are calling the game, could be angry with the talk or behavior of the players from the other team or thinks that he is not getting enough playing time. Basically, the athlete is worrying about things he can’t control and is actually losing control of himself – his focus, his poise, his confidence.
When an athlete starts complaining, blaming or doubting himself or others, he is stepping on a “mental landmine”. And once he steps on one of these landmines, the athlete has “blown up” his mental game. He is now mentally wounded and disabled. He has allowed negative thoughts and feelings to overtake his mental game. In essence, the athlete has raised the white flag and surrendered. He is now playing with a greater sense of helplessness and hopelessness, and may even begin to give up on himself or his team.
Whether it’s in a practice or a game, you have to be aware of and careful not to step onto one of these mental landmines. Although you may feel justified or believe you are right to air your grievances, you are actually giving your mental and emotional power away. You are giving your power away to people and things that you have no control over, and yet, you are allowing them to control you.
The moment you step into a game you want to keep your mind on positive, productive and proactive thoughts and images. You want to focus on the one thing that you do control – which is yourself. You want to take ownership of yourself- as an athlete – and focus on what you want to achieve or accomplish in the game. When you do this, you will be thinking clearer and thereby, will be able to make smarter and better decisions for yourself and your team.
Anthony Lanzillo is a mental skills coach to athletes in various team-oriented sports. He also writes about the mental game for different sports websites, and has designed The Mental Tune-Up and The Mental Prep Playbook. You can read about his work at www.thementalpeak.com.