The Olympic Games give us the chance to watch the world’s greatest athletes fight off anxiety and develop the focus, confidence and resiliency needed for gold. This is perhaps the best example of psychology in sports competition. Of course, great physical skills are needed to compete at the Olympic level. But without mental toughness, winning is almost impossible.
Olympic athletes are known for their dedication to learning mental toughness skills. But young athletes can learn the same skills. Below are tips to help you get started.
Write down specific, measurable and controllable goals. Don’t just state that you want to be a great player. Break it down into short-term goals like hitting certain weightlifting and cardio training targets. Also set mid-range and long-term goals, and keep track of your progress.
Ask yourself what’s relevant and what’s irrelevant for your athletic success. For example, it’s relevant to stretch and get mentally ready for a game, but irrelevant to worry about the size of the crowd. When athletes learn how to focus, their minds and bodies begin to work in perfect synchrony, facilitating those great plays on the field!
All athletes experience nerves. It’s what they do with their anxiety that makes the difference. Young athletes can learn from Olympians—things like deep breathing, imagery, cue words and other techniques that keep you calm, sharpen your focus and improve your chances for success.
Getting in the Zone
If you watch Olympic athletes while they are warming up, you’ll notice they go through specific pre-event routines. Although the routines differ, they all reveal athletes following a program designed get them in the zone. Young athletes can work with their coach or parents to come up with positive strategies to develop pre-game routines. It’s also a good idea to keep track of results in terms of how you played.
These are just a few sports psychology mental training skills that Olympians use. Now you can use them too—not just in athletic competition but also in school, social relationships and career development.