We can’t always be at our best. At some point or another, nearly every athlete goes through a slump, a period when they consistently play below their potential. During these times, athletes find themselves making uncharacteristic mistakes, or failing to fully capitalize on opportunities.
Slumps can occur for many reasons, from insufficient mental or physical preparation to an injury, or just plain bad luck. But the worst thing about a slump is often the athlete’s own mind. Once a player begins to think that he's doomed, he can’t do it, or she's not good enough, these thoughts become self-fulfilling prophecies. You have a bad game because you thought you’d have a bad game. Because you had a bad game the day before.
Simply put: slumps are frustrating. Thankfully, they’re also quite normal—and quiet curable if you have the right mindset. If you are in a slump, you can put a stop to it. Follow these tips to get your game back to its peak.
Athletes should forget about past performances every time they step onto the field. Your previous games—whether they were wins or losses—no longer matter. Since slumps often happen when athletes fixate on the things they did wrong in the past (worrying that they’ll do them again), approaching every game as a blank page will help you focus on what matters: the here and now.
Blew a play or two? Thinking that you stink at your sport? Write down those negative thoughts; put them all down on paper; then take that list and tear it up. Throw it in the garbage can, and get those thoughts out of your life. Let this exercise symbolize your trashing of bad thoughts, so you can make room for good ones—and better on-field performance. (Learn about the power of positive thoughts.)
While the word “routine” may mean “boring” to some, for an athlete, a pre-game routine is a great way to block out negative thoughts and concentrate on the tasks ahead. Going through a simple ritual—like always putting on your uniform in a certain way—takes the thinking out of pre-game prep, allowing you to direct your focus on the game. Imagine yourself making great plays. Listen to inspiring music. And visualize success. All of this will help you let go of the bad play you made yesterday, so you can play better today.
Like life, sports are full of peaks and valleys. You’ll inevitably go through some tough times as an athlete; but you’ll also have moments when everything clicks. If you are stuck in a low, remember that you have ridden high, and have confidence that you will do so again. By thinking positively and keeping your confidence high during challenging times, you’re more likely to recover faster—and to reach your true potential.
To make your mind a weapon on the field, check out STACK's mental toughness page.
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