This article first published on Water Polo Planet
Just like physical skills, mental skills are meant to be practiced. Many of the athletes with whom I work haven’t developed their own mental training programs. Many also do not know where to start. Hopefully, after reading this article you will have an idea of how to start building a fundamental practice to training your mind.
Developing a deeper and broader level of self-awareness is always the first area to explore. As your awareness of how you function and experience your sport expands, so too will some areas where you can train your mind. It’s helpful to start a performance journal to which you add reflections of your training and games. As you reflect consider the connection between what you thought, how you felt, and then the resulting level of play from what happened.
Here are some questions to consider:
What do you love about your sport?
What are the most exciting moments in your sport?
Which skills are you most confident in?
Which skills are you least confident in that you are willing to work to improve?
How do you perceive threats in your sport?
How do you react to threats in your sport?
Where in your body when feeling nervous/anxious do you experience the most tension and tightness?
What causes the most worry for you?
How do you make sense of the nerves you may feel?
At what times before, during, and after competing and training in your sport do you experience worry or nerves?
When are you most comfortable in your sport?
When are you least comfortable in your sport?
How do your energy and intensity rise in your sport?
This list of questions is meant to broaden your internal awareness of thoughts as well as your external awareness of experiences. As you gain training and game experience, the information you receive travels through your senses. These are your eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and body. You can learn more about how you can improve your game by connecting with what you do through broader and more in-depth sensory awareness.
Always learn how to become more aware of what you are doing and how you are doing it in your sport. Watch video of yourself. Ask your coaches for feedback in specific situations. Discuss with your teammates what their perspective from a play experienced. Reflect through journaling practices and continue to train your mind to perform at a consistently high level.