Our team has the pleasure of training athletes of all ages and skill levels, from nationally ranked middle school athletes to retired golfers. Amongst all of them, there is one component that challenges them all - their mental game.
For our strongest athletes, this is often times the thing that haunts their performance the most. They know they can perform at high levels, so when they do slip up, they begin to self-doubt and negative self-talk. Consequently, they get into their own head and one bad play turns into a streak of bad plays.
TURN YOUR FRUSTRATION INTO FOCUS
We have two drills we prescribe to our clients when they find themselves frustrated. The key is to turn that frustration into focus. We do this in two steps:
Slow your heart rate and steady your mind using an effective Navy SEALs tactical breathing exercise called "Box Breathing". All you need to do is picture a box with equal sides, where the inhale, the holding of the breath, and exhale are all four counts (four seconds approx.). As you take in a breath, for four counts, visualize traveling up one side of the square. Next, imagine moving across the top of the square during the four counts of holding your breath. Then follow the breath down the right side of the box on the exhale and watch it travel across the bottom of the square on the breath hold, following the exhale. Repeat the pattern. This visual provides a helpful anchor for your attention and quickly allows you to get into the flow of rhythmic breathing.
After you slow your heart rate and focus your mind, practice Instructional Self Talk in place of negative self-talk (which gets in the way of reaching your goals). Research shows that positive or instructional self-talk has been related to increased performance. This will help you focus on the technical or task-related aspects of performance in order to improve your execution (for example, “Keep your eyes on the ball” or “Bend your knees”).
Keep phrases short and specific
Use first person and present tense
Say things with meaning
Pay attention to what you are saying
Repeat phrases often when needed
The next time you are on the field or playing 18-holes and have a ball play, turn that frustration into focus to get yourself back on track and on your way to success.