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Could you be missing a key part to your athletic training?

Most athletes are familiar with the need to prepare for each performance physically. They train in the weight room, practice drills, review plays, and make sure they are ready for game day. Despite all of their dedication, commitment, and physical strength, some athletes are still struggling to perform at their best. They are feeling the emotional pressure and impact of how each performance will affect their future. Will this game or tournament win be my chance at a college scholarship or first round pick? Every athlete/performer feels the pressure, it is whether or not they are mentally prepared for that pressure that makes them fully in control of their performance.

Coaches often state that the game is 90% mental, if that is the case, then why not include the practice of breathing and relaxation skills into the athlete's program? Why not be taught how to control your energy in order to optimize your performance and use it to make yourself more powerful physically? When it comes to performance, there are three pieces to the puzzle; physical, mental, and heart. YOU NEED ALL THREE TO BE AT YOUR BEST.

Some athletes may believe that they are satisfied with their mental skills and feel like there are minimal areas of mental performance that they struggle with, however, it is still important to build a mental skills base. For example, a high school basketball player may not currently suffer from performance anxiety however, thinking about playing at the college level may create some anxious thoughts and emotions. Developing the necessary mental skills prior to the transition is key to optimize an athlete's performance at the next level. Below are some important tips to consider when building your mental skills base:

1. Set Realistic Goals. Goal setting takes a great amount of thought. Think about what it is that you want to achieve mentally. Do you want to feel more relaxed at the free throw line by the middle of the season? Do you want to be able to practice imagery every day in order to increase your field goal percentage on the football field? Make sure the goals are specific, REALISTIC, measurable, and set a time in which you will achieve the goal. Write the goal (s) on your mirror, locker, wall-become inspired.

2. Practice Breathing/Relaxation Skills. Take a deep breath. Imagine how that one breath can relax your body instantly. Stress or anxiety has a way of impacting our bodies in ways we fail to recognize. Using relaxation skills to relax our bodies will allow for better decision making and decreased risk of injuries, especially those returning to sport after an injury.

The word "mental" can be intimidating and feared by many individuals, especially athletes. As a society we are taught to be tough, and seeking help or being taught mental skills may be seen as weak or unnecessary. Think about your current performance. What is going on between those ears? Do you have all three; physical, mental, and heart?

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