How Mental Flexibility Boosts Your Game

Mental flexibility is as important as physical flexibility. STACK Expert Jim Carpentier offers six suggestions to help you be a better athlete and teammate.

Mental Flexibility

Mental flexibility can be just as valuable as physical flexibility in competition. It can help you bounce back from a disappointing loss or rebound from a season-ending injury.

Here are some ways you can become more mentally flexible, instead of getting stuck in a rut and wasting energy on things that aren't important.

1. Be proactive while sidelined

Instead of sulking when you're out of action with an injury, cheer on your teammates and support your coaches by assisting with equipment and recording game information. Another way to be proactive (and perhaps accelerate healing) is to attend all physical therapy sessions and remain upbeat rather than skipping treatments and getting depressed.

2. Be selfless rather than selfish

You know the old saying, "there's no 'I' in 'team'"? Don't be self-centered. Support your teammates during good times and console them when they're down.

3. Change your nutrition and sleep habits

Make 2014 the year you get healthier on and off the field by making a conscious effort to drink more water and consume more water-based fruits and veggies and lean protein. Eliminate sugary and fried foods. Get at least eight to nine hours of sleep per night to sharpen your senses.

4. Befriend an underclassman or new teammate

Rather than being aloof and introverted, take a younger teammate or novice under your wing in the weight room to show them proper lifting form, or demonstrate a sport-specific technique to help improve their performance.

5. Manage your emotions

Make your pre-game strategy more positive than negative by controlling your emotions. Keep them on an even keel whether you're winning or losing. It's easy to get excited or become temperamental in the heat of competition. Staying alert and focused at all times is a way to assume leadership and be a role model who advances both individual and team success.

6. Make adjustments in the weight room and on the field

Following the same training routine or playbook not only gets boring, it yields unproductive results. When you've plateaued in the weight room, it's time to become flexible in your training approach by changing exercises or the number of sets and repetitions—perhaps even decreasing instead of increasing your training volume. Similarly, if the playbook for the first half of a game is not working, subtle strategic adjustments can help alter the outcome.

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