By Anthony Lanzillo
When your players are getting ready for a game, you want to help them become mentally focused and prepared to play. For some, there may be anxiety or stress, as they go over all the different plays in their heads. They may also be worrying about whether they will win or lose. And sometimes, there is only 15 to 20 minutes before they have to take the field or court.
There is a simple process you can take your players through to help center them and keep them calm. Ask them to make three vows to themselves and their teammates. And from the moment they step onto the court or field until the whistle is blown to end the game, they need to keep these vows.
This applies to both starters and those on the sidelines. Make sure everyone understands that these three vows will keep their heads in the game and, at the same time, help them control their focus and their emotions.
The three game-time vows are:
Be present. Keep your focus and attention on the present moment. You have to be aware of and clearly see what’s happening in front of you. If you are wondering about what happened even two minutes ago or worrying about how the game will end, then you are distracted and have lost your focus. And when this happens, you are unable to make the best decisions for you and your team.
Be positive. Continuously remind yourself why you enjoy being an athlete and why you love playing sports. Think about your personal strengths and how you can use these strengths to support your team. Even when you make a mistake, immediately think about turning that mistake into a “teaching moment” for yourself. Say “thank you” for how that mistake has made you a smarter and better player. Take any negative experience and put it into a positive frame of reference.
Be proactive. Always focus on your role in whatever game-time situation you are facing in the moment. Think about what step or move that you can make to put yourself or your team in a better position. Also think about the positive feeling that you will have when you make that successful move or step. Even if you are standing on the sidelines, think of how you can encourage and support your teammates who are in the game.
A mental health professional for over 20 years, Anthony “Tone” Lanzillo has more recently been exploring how athletes can use mental skills in their practices and games. He works with athletes in such sports as softball, boxing, field hockey, football, soccer, basketball and lacrosse and writes for FirstDown Playbook, Coaches Training Room, Ultimate Hockey Source, Lax Playbook, Online Soccer Coaching, World of Basketball, Lacrosse All-Stars, Coaches Clipboard and Coach Book. More information on his ideas and services is at: http://www.thementalpeak.com/.