Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Mental Conditioning: Teaching Resilience and Recovery

The common notion is that sports psychology and mental conditioning are about developing athletes' mental toughness and designing the perfect athlete.

Practically speaking, my experience with the most effective techniques in working with athletes involves the development of the proper mindset for success.  For an athlete to develop total mental toughness, he/she must be able to deal with adversity effectively.  This ability is less about striving for perfection and more about developing emotional resilience.  This coping skill includes the ability to use mistakes, failures and losses as learning opportunities and moments for improvement and growth.  This is particularly true of the activities involved in the training and development of young athletes.  

The ability to learn from setbacks and recover from failure is a key component of a champions' mindset.   To understand this aspect of mental conditioning, one must understand the key difference between practice and competition.  During practice as well as game situations, athletes must be able to bounce back quickly; however, during practice, athletes must be encouraged and be willing to be more vulnerable to mistakes and failures as various drills and rehearsals are attempted.   Practice is the time to get out of one's comfort zone.   Practice is the time for learning.  Games are the time to perform.

Practice is a time for expectations to be about rehearsal, refinement and adjustments.  Game situations and competition should be about execution.  Too often, coaches as well as athletes maintain the same expectations for games as they do for practices.  This can create much confusion and anxiety in both coaches and athletes.

Coaches must take the time to understand the difference in situations and take into account when they are developing and shaping performance versus when they are in execution mode.

Are you always clear about the distinction between training goals and performance goals?      

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