You already understand the importance of weight training, speed drills and nutrition in your quest to become better at your sport. But if you're like most athletes, you're completely ignoring one of the most powerful tools for leveling the playing field: sports psychology.
Sports psychology encompasses mental techniques used to improve performance on the field. In this article, we discuss a powerful mental technique in which you create a "mental movie" to gain an advantage over an opponent.
When you create a vivid mental movie, your subconscious mind can't tell the difference between the real thing and the mental creation. Remember the last time you thought about something that made you nervous? When you visualized yourself in the stressful situation, just thinking about all the bad things that might happen probably made you queasy and sweaty. Your body responded to the mental movie in the same way it would if you were actually in that situation. Positive mental movies help you harness that power for good.
By following this week-long process, one of my high school defensive linemen had a career game last season against one of the best offensive linemen in the district—eight tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble that he recovered himself.
One Week Before Game Day
Start watching film of your opponent, making notes on everything. For instance, notice how he lines up, gets out of his stance, responds to his opponents' moves and gives away his assignment.
Later That Night
As you're getting ready for bed, set a timer for 10 minutes. Lie there with the lights out (no distractions) and start making a mental movie of your opponent. See each play in as much detail as possible. If he beats you on a play, rewind, make a note, and beat him on the next one.
Continue watching film of your opponent, making more notes to refine the "movie" in your mind. That night, again set the timer for 10 minutes and replay your mental movie, trying to add even more details.
Days Three Through Five
Continue adding details to your movie and practicing against your opponent every night for 10 minutes. The "movie" should seem almost real at this point. You should see yourself beating every move and counter-move he makes, getting to the QB, and making plays all over the field.
Run the movie one more time. Focus only on your dominant play. You've already played the game at least six times in your mind, and your path to success should be crystal clear. You're ready.
Of course, this formula isn't specific to football players. Athletes in any sport can improve performance on game day by filling in their mental movies with as much detail as possible. You've already put in the physical preparation. Now take your performance to the next level through mental practice. Check out STACK's Sports Psych section for even more mental tips for excelling at your sport.
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