Being successful in sports is not just about physical training, as every athlete and coach knows. Those outside the field of sports and training assume that it’s all about getting the right work-outs, eating and sleeping well, learning the right techniques and the like.
The Real Story
Those who have an inside track know that success is as much about mental training too. So what’s the real story? Let’s look at some of the things that people may not have known about the psychology of success in sports, especially basketball.
When you watch an athlete on court, in the pool or on the track, you see the physical effort but what’s hidden from spectators is the fascinating and mysterious power of the mind and its role in that athlete’s success.
Mental Toughness Wins Games
- The brain has total control: Don’t even think otherwise! Your brain controls every move that you make and every thought that you think. That’s how an excellent coach can help you strategize out-think and out-perform your competitors. Along with physical training of the muscles and the body, the coach trains your mind to tread the path to success by incorporating a mental game plan.
- Growth happens in downtime: Pro basketball has three seasons – regular, post-season and off-season. Success is recognized and rewarded in the first two seasons, but the real development of the player happens in the off-season. This is when they review, analyze, refresh their game, learn newer techniques, perfect different strategies and develop that killer instinct slowly but steadily.
- Analysis of Barriers: Just as there may be physical limitation and barriers to success, athletes may have hidden obstacles or barriers in the mind that prevent them from using their true potential. These could be in the form of self-esteem, confidence, self-worth, fears and anxieties, self-imposed limits etc. Mental training helps the athlete to understand and eliminate these.
- Improved Concentration and Focus: In the midst of physical training, athletes could easily forget about the importance of training their minds. They also learn to “think in the present.” This is crucial, for instance, if there’s just two minutes left in a tied game, you have a free throw and the crowd is roaring, your adrenaline is pumping and negative thoughts seem overwhelming.
Mental training helps them focus clearly on the ultimate goal with complete concentration and eliminate all distractions while they’re playing.
- Emotional Control: The ability to stay calm and composed under severe pressure, control the emotions and keep the focus on the game is a huge component of success. Players who allow themselves to go to pieces after a referee’s bad call, aggressive tactics from the other team, lack of co-operation from a team-member etc can soon find themselves sliding down in performance.
- Using Visualization: One of the most powerful and effective ways of achieving a goal is using the imagination. Visualization helps you to add details, sensory inputs and emotional color to the picture of success. It also helps you to deal with eventualities – you can plan “What to do if…?” Mental training helps to recognize and use the neural pathways in the brain to get the psychological, emotional and physical aspects of success as a whole.
- Toughness Training: Being “comfortable with uncomfortable” is something that every athlete has to train themselves to become. This means overcoming natural responses to pain, fatigue, discomfort and also dealing correctly with mistakes, obstacles, failure and adversity. Players have to realize that it’s their minds that can control these reactions and physical responses.
- Dealing With Failure: Failure is a huge part of sports and there’s no guarantee of success every time you step out on the court, pool or track. In fact, failure presents the best learning opportunities and gives you the time and space to take a step back and look at things objectively.
- Handling Pressure: Most athletes can tell you of that one time (or more) when they simply folded under pressure and gave in to the forces beyond their control. These are times when they had just that split second to make decisions and ended up with the wrong one. Mental training helps you face adversities and anticipate them.
Experienced and successful athletes know that success is around 75% mental. Yet many sportspersons fail to give it the requisite importance or time. Mental training is a lesser-acknowledged aspect of the final successful outcome but it has the biggest impact on developing the athlete’s skills and achieving goals.
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