Some thoughts from Mike Shaw, co-founder of HeadStartPro Performance Training.
We’ve all heard it before; Mindset is Everything.
Everyone knows or has likely heard that “hard work beats
talent when talent fails to work hard.” Mindset involves focus, beliefs,
vision, drive, goal setting, hard work, discipline, motivation, accountability,
attitude, culture, etc. etc. Did I say HARD WORK?
Case in point, Tom Brady didn’t become the best NFL
quarterback of all time, with six Super Bowl wins under his belt, by taking it
easy. When he joined the New England Patriots roster at the turn of the
millennium, he was consistently the first guy in the gym before any of his new
teammates, every morning. His mindset, coupled with actions and vision,
influenced the team’s culture and collective work ethic. But not everyone is a
Tom Brady. In fact, nobody but Tom Brady is Tom Brady.
So, what can we do?
As coaches, how do we set our teams up to succeed and
achieve their potential more consistently, like Brady?
Well, we all have ‘mental game’ to some degree, and we’re
all good at coaching sport-specific skills. Working on things like attitude,
effort, discipline, and work ethic is something almost all coaches do, but we
can take it one step further. Have you ever heard of the ideal performance
state of mind or the ‘flow state’?
In sports, we commonly refer to performances in the flow
state as being in ‘the zone.’ Brady, like most champions, plays in this ‘zone’
time and time again.
Let’s talk about flow.
Flow is the state of mind where everything just ‘clicks,’
and you perform your best. Your sense of time fades away. Hours can pass in the
blink of an eye, or sometimes it feels like everything happens in slow motion.
You can lose your sense of self in these moments, or it can feel like you’ve
never been more aware. It’s hard to remember what happens when you’re in ‘the
zone,’ or how you got there, but you do remember it was fun!
Achieving flow looks different for different people. It’s a
complex task involving the right stimulus, the right skills, the right
challenge, unique neurochemistry, and a complex environment.
So, getting young athletes to hit the optimal state of flow
sounds simple right?
It’s not that simple, or is it?
Teaching athletes to self-regulate and manage internal
distractions can help them achieve a sort of ‘flow baseline,’ where they are
better prepared to hit the peak performance zone. Recognizing the physical and
mental states that compromise their mindset is critically important. When we
succeed at this task, athletes will make fewer costly mistakes—the ones that
create a downward spiral in terms of self-confidence—and we’ll even prevent
injuries in the process. We’ll build them up to be the great performers they
can all be.
If you see an athlete or teammate, who’s mad, what do you
tell them? Calm down? Pay attention? Or “GET YOUR HEAD IN THE GAME!” – And
how’s that working out for you?
If you see an athlete who looks exhausted, what do you do to
reignite their spark?
What about if someone looks like they’re ‘coasting’ on
Getting athletes to regulate their mental states on their own is the ticket.
Using distracting mental states as triggers to remind
athletes to keep their heads in the game and control their mindset will help
them achieve peak performances more reliably. All the hard work athletes put
into honing their skills will NOT be in vain.
When athletes learn the techniques to manage their mindset,
we see a boost in self-confidence, we see a massive boost in team performance,
and oh yeah, with increased focus comes fewer injuries. Athlete health and
longevity is affected too.
See what Coach-2-Coach is all about!
What are you doing to help your athletes shift their mindset?
Share your tips and best practices!
Malcolm Sutherland – Ice Hockey –
Thunder Bay – 20+ years
“…As coaches and athletes, we often want to see results quickly.
It has been my experience that mental training must also match age and stage,
just as our physical training and exposure to competition. Starting with simple
exercises that build awareness and an athlete’s ability to “attend”
to affect as a result of events is a useful start. Once an athlete is building
awareness, identifying positive behaviours and practices through recognition
and reward type programs can be very effective. I have used “positive charting”
where players who demonstrate positive behaviours, meet team norms i.e.,
sportsmanship and use psychological techniques like “reframing”, “breathing and
focusing methods” and others like a “mistake ritual” are identified by an
assistant coach and then during a team meeting are recognized for this skill.”
Arshid Naseri –
Dragon Boat and Canoe – Iran – 10 years
“…Individual differences are
very important in this regard. Some people are inherently more focused and more
prone to perform championships, and some people are also more likely to be
subject to environmental stress and stress, which I think the family and the environment
in which the individual has grown is very influential.”
Alanna Gray –
Hockey – Ottawa – 6 years
“Practice under pressure is what I preach. We re-create
scenarios in game-like situations in practices or house league play, that may
replicate a possible scenario in game play. I heard this from Jayna Hefford who
said that to prepare for an Olympics, the women’s team played against men’s
teams in shootouts at over 60 different games leading up to the Olympics. And
in that Olympics, lo and behold, the US and Canada went to a shootout. Now
all they had to do was remember that they knew what to do. They had practised
this over and over, and it lead them to a Gold. They trusted the process,
believed in their hard work and came out on top…”
Suzie Mcneil –
Baseball – Toronto – 11 years
“When I hear “get your head in the game”, I am reminded of the Toronto Blue Jays and the recent demotion of their second baseman. He has clearly gotten out of the zone and cannot make the routine play, also known as the “Yips.” This example comes to mind because of what the manager said to him after. He said “We want you back up here, you are our guy, we believe in you”. While of course the spotlight is much greater at the major league level, I am reminded that we as coaches need to not just criticize but remind our athletes how much we believe in them and their spot is waiting for them when they return…”
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