Implementing the mental game is something that many coaches, players and parents talk about but are not sure how to implement. As I have said in many forms, if your team is similar in skill to your opponents, it is the mental training that will make the difference. I guarantee it. This 6 ways to improve the mental game starters guide will give you some insight.
Tips to Implement the Mental Game
1. Consider the purpose of mental training
If you are a coach, ask your athletes about how they feel about mental training and if they have any experience in other sports or activities that may have already implemented some of the skills. This will not only give you an idea of where you need to start with your team but it will also validate the skills that your athletes may already be working with. If you an athlete, think about how you feel about mental training or sport psychology and how it can help you to maximize your performance in softball. Do some research on your favorite athletes and see if they use mental training skills and how they are a part of their sport.
2. Consider any roadblocks to implementing mental training
Most athletes and coaches who do not include mental training in their program generally have a reason for the exclusion. It may for example be because they are not sure how to implement it into their game or that they believe that physical and technical training are more important. If you are not sure how to implement a mental training program I would encourage you to perhaps contact your sport governing body locally or nationally and seek out the resources that they have for you to use for free and perhaps services that they can recommend for you. If you are a coach who believes mental training skills are not necessary, I would encourage you to ask your athletes how they feel when they make an error or when their skills are not improving, or even when they are doing well. What happens to their confidence when good or bad things happen on the field? Do they get tense or anxious before an important game? Do they get angry at officials or feel like it is sometimes someone else’s fault if they are performing poorly? These are issues that effect most every athlete’s game weather they are elite or novice. Explore why you do not think it is necessary and see what you can find to answer your questions.
3. Start small
One of the easiest mental training skills to implement is goal setting. We all have an image in our mind of what we want to accomplish either as a coach or as an athlete. Championship wins, scholarships and even national or pro positions are a dream goal that many young softball players and new coaches aspire to. Goals for the season will get you to your dream goals and as you move through your seasons might even take you on a different path than you started with. As you work with goal setting, you will see additional mental training skills that might benefit you in reaching those goals. Go with what you feel comfortable with and even look at the skills you perhaps already use such as visualization, relaxation, self talk or cue words. Do an inventory or take a day and try to “catch” yourself talking to yourself, imagining or taking a breath.
4. Write things down
As you explore mental training skills, write down what you want to know more about, or what you would like to implement into your softball game. You might find things that you never considered before or that you didn’t realize were actually mental training skills. This will be your starting point to implementing your own personal mental training plan. If you are a coach, allow the team to participate in this process and you will have greater adherence to the new awesome tool.
5. Determine your path
Once you have some idea of what you want to do with mental training and how you want it to be implemented into your game, write down how you are going to put it into practice. Most mental training programs will start with goal setting and then move through additional skills as you feel comfortable. It is important to design a path that you feel you can work through without resistance or road blocks that might cause anxiety or stress. Make it easy if it is your first season working with mental training skills and then you can add to it as you progress.
6. Implement your mental training program
Implementing your program is the easy part. If your path is designed so that there is no pressure and you work with the mental skills as you are comfortable there should be no need for stoppage or frustration. It is critical that you allow yourself to use and implement the skills at your own pace and as you feel they will help your game. Mental training skills are a very personal tool that can allow you to perform to your maximum potential if you do not put expectations on yourself. Use mental skills not only to improve your skills but also to enhance your enjoyment of this awesome game.
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