The first - and the main exercise - my child can do to start elevating their mental game.
To start, we must understand that this only works through the magic R word -- REPETITION. It is the basis for all learning, so we cannot think that progress can be made without consistent repetition over time.
Trigger word & action
- Have your child write down one word that really resonates with them. This is called their “trigger word” because once it is trained, it triggers a mental response that focuses that player and brings them into performance mode.
- Example words: Love, Focus, Joy, Relax, Now. (my word was “Now”)
- Have your child create an action that compliments their trigger word. This action is used in conjunction with the word to create a physiological response in addition to a mental response.
- Example actions: pushing the thumb and index finger together, pushing both hands together -- similar to praying, clenching a fist.
Imagery repetitions with the trigger word/action every night, before training, & before games
- Every night, get comfortable on your back or in the seated position.
- Close your eyes.
- Say your trigger word & complete your trigger action.
- Then imagine yourself performing at your optimal level - calm, focused, strong. Make it as real as you possibly can, so put yourself in your position on the field, in the jersey you would be wearing, with your teammates, coach, and environment you would typically be playing in.
- This is extremely hard at the beginning. Keep practicing, just like everything else, it will get easier and clearer.
- Before you warm up for training, practice your practice. Take 2-3 minutes to get yourself in your performance mindset. See yourself doing your best in that training session, being a great teammate, and improving on what you need to improve on.
- Before you warm up for game, take 3-5 minutes to get yourself in your performance mindset. Set yourself taking all of your training (physical & mental) using it to play the very best you possibly can.
- Rinse and repeat. Over time, you will understand why this works, but first you must trust the process that all professional athletes use.
Again, this is a technique that is polished over time. If you believe that the mind is just as important as the body, then start here. The best part is, your child can use this exercise in all parts of life -- before tests, in social situations, when dealing with stress etc.
Read “How to incorporate mental performance training into your team training sessions - for coaches” to understand how your coach can take this exercise and apply it to your collective team to elevate the overall team’s performance.