Improving My Mental Game
Coach and I have been trying to pinpoint what’s causing my subpar performances during big competitions. Physically, I can easily execute everything. I’ve run clean programs and do it during the week of competitions. I don’t get nervous at competitions (due to years of gymnastics competitions and musical performances/juries/recitals). But something just isn’t clicking.
Here is how I would describe my experience on the ice – perhaps one of you might be able to diagnose my issue. I feel like I have an out-of-body experience when I’m skating. My body is moving, but my mind isn’t connecting to my physical self. It’s almost like I’m “blanking out” and my body is on autopilot. I’m not sure if my mind freezes and doesn’t know what to think, but I don’t have any negative self-talk during my skate on the ice. I use some key words during certain elements, but they don’t seem to help.
I borrowed a book from the library called The Mental Athlete, which is written by a sports psychologist. One of the techniques the author shares is jotting down your mind’s negative thoughts and turning them into positive affirmations. Many athletes do have some form of negative self-talk, whether it’s on competition/game day or any other time of the season. I do catch myself saying, “I’m not good enough…. Wow, look at that person’s (insert skating element here)… How am I going to beat her?… I’ll be lucky not to place last… I hope I don’t place last… How low of a score am I going to get?”
The trick now is turning these negative thoughts into positive ones and reaffirming them on a daily basis. For example, “I am not good enough” turns into “I am good enough. I passed my Gold freestyle test and the judges believed in my abilities. I belong here.”
This type of mental training takes a lot of practice. I need to catch myself when negative thoughts enter my mind and train myself to flip the statement around into a positive. Once those negative thoughts start to diminish, only then can I perform to the best of my ability.
I wish that skating coaches were trained on the mental aspects of the sport. It’s a topic that few people talk about or acknowledge, but I believe it’s important in order to achieve peak performance.
I’d love to hear everyone’s thoughts on this topic or if you have any tips or best practices to share.