Improve Mental Toughness with this Very Important Focus Tip
“Forewarned is forearmed” is an age-old proverb that is as valuable in sports as it is in life. Often when sport psychologists talk to athletes about improving mental toughness, one of the first things they begin working on is athlete focus (AHPS). Interestingly, when examining focus, one way to dramatically improve in this area is to think ahead of time about the things that are likely going to occur — like a hostile crowd if you are playing a road game. In fact, when I work with athletes, we often find that there are many things we can reasonably plan for ahead of time, and thereby not only develop a more meaningful athletic focus and game-plan, but also reduce sports anxiety, too.
Simply helping an athlete think ahead of time about the likely pre-game jitters (anxiety) she will experience, or the frustration she might feel when a referee makes a bad call, helps the athlete better prepare for if (when) those things actually occur. In fact, in psychology this is loosely called “stress inoculation,” and it is a therapeutic technique that is quite powerful when preparing ahead of time for frustration and adversity.
Athletes need to warn themselves of all of the things that can be expected to happen when they go out to compete. How will you respond if the coach doesn’t start you? What will you do the first time someone in the crowd yells out something negative? What will you do the first time you get beat on a play? These are all examples of things that often occur during games, and athletes should ready themselves by thinking through how they will respond in each example.
Leave as little to chance as possible, and you will be as ready to play as you can possibly be! The better you prepare, the better you will play – improve your mental toughness by sharpening your focus and reducing your anxiety.
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Dr. Chris Stankovich is a Professional Athletic Counselor and Sport Performance Scientist and studies the psychosocial variables impacting human performance and success. He is the author of 5 books and has had his work featured in numerous national media outlets, including USA Today and ABC World News. Dr. Stankovich is known as "The Sports Doc" for his regular television feature on Ohio News Network and NBC 4 Columbus (OH). For more information on peak performance products, speaking engagements, training seminars, and free education downloads, please visit http://www.drstankovich.com.