It is no secret that the competitive sport environment demands a great deal of mental toughness, yet so many players fail to enlist a professional sport psychologist. Instead, they rely on personal experience and the advice of those around them, which can be helpful, but is missing the valuable mental strategies that can be taught by a certified mental performance consultant.
In both my athletic and professional career I recognize that I share a strong sentiment with my clients – I want to be the ‘best.’ Although highly motivated by this desire I have found that it is paradoxically one of my greatest sources of frustration, disappointment, and avoidance.
by Rhian Cleverly, Senior Captain of Hofstra Women's Soccer
Eight months ago I was extremely lucky to be given an internship opportunity with Ferranti Empowerment. At the time I was so excited to get my first taste of a career in Sport Psychology. Not once did I anticipate the benefits it would have on myself as an athlete, on my soccer team, and more importantly, my values and attitude as a person.
Fear of failure is a very paralyzing state of mind – it will peak its head after every little mistake, it will disrupt the decision making process, and eliminate the necessary level of risk needed to compete. Most athletes rationally can identify this fear and know that it is okay to make mistakes, yet they do not know how to overcome them and can’t seem to stop worrying about them.
My heart started pounding and I felt a rush of blood pulse through my body. With a blink of an eye my breathing became difficult, my stomach hollowed, and my thoughts turned into rapid fireworks. I was consumed by a mix of fear, anger, anxiety, and disappointment.
How Athletes Can Harness the Energy of a Stress Response
In my personal experience of emotional reactivity, I can clearly identify when the internal state of my body is jolted to change. Many young athletes will express the same awareness, however they are not quite sure what to do about it. In the following blog I aim to summarize my mental coaching method by outlining what you need to know about the mind/body connection and what you need to do to harness your internal state – no matter what you face in the environment.
For some people sports are a hobby. Yet, for me, I began my soccer career at 3 years old and immediately fell in love. At the start of my journey I was unclear of what connected me to the game, but as the years progressed I learned that not many things in my life could stimulate a sensation of satisfaction like playing soccer. The game grew to be my life, my love, and my passion – captivating my core desires for physical challenge, competition, and most importantly creativity, which I consider to be the soul of the game.
My love for soccer propelled me in my journey to play for teams at the Premier Youth, ODP, Region I, NCAA Division I, and Semi-Professional levels. Within these environments I competed in 5 National Championships, received several individual honors, and made lifelong friends. Yet, in all of my experiences of success, the most emotionally memorable and impactful moment was when I was diagnosed with a torn ACL and sentenced to a minimum of 6 months separated from the thing I love most in life.
Like many of my clients I want outcomes – I want evidence that tells me that what I am doing and what I am working for is worth it. Although a natural way of thinking, when we pay too much attention to outcomes - or do the work for the intention of getting an outcome – we can freeze up in the process.
As discussed in my previous post, decision-making skills can – and must – be developed to compete at a higher level. In order to do so, athletes must be aware of both internal and external distractions and learn strategies to gain information, stay in the moment, and make assertive choices. In this post I will present a very common and critical internal distraction that young athletes experience and provide some ideas on how to develop into a confident decision maker.
Players who can think and make assertive decisions at a quicker pace will be more capable of playing at a higher competitive level!