By Chad Zimmerman
Dr. Earnie Fingers is the founder of HYPER [Helping Your Performance–Expect Results] Sports Consulting, as well as a psychologist and learning specialist at the University of Maryland. He works extensively with Terrapins of all sports to help them improve the mental side of their games, which according to Fingers is an often underdeveloped skill that can hinder performance.
“The extreme pressure to perform well can backfire, causing athletes to become too nervous to perform at an optimal level,” Fingers says. “I work with athletes to help them improve their focus, concentration and ability to refocus after committing an error. Helping them pull together these mental aspects of their games reduces stress and helps them perform better.”
Setting solid, attainable goals is one key to success. Here, Fingers shares some of the techniques he teaches his athlete-clients to accomplish that.
1. Identify your goals, stating each one in a positive way. Instead of saying, “My goal is to make no mistakes,” say “My goal is to make sound decisions.”
2. Give yourself a time limit. Setting any marker—like a date or your 10th game—gives you time to evaluate your progress. Things outside your control will happen; giving yourself time allows you to come back and make adjustments.
3. Focus on goals you can control, like your effort, intensity and energy, instead of focusing only on winning games or the championship. Sometimes you have no control over that bigger end point, but you can always control your own performance.