How Pro Athletes Sabotage their Mental Game
We have witnessed many high-profile professional athletes loosing self-control during a game. What triggers an athlete to lose it during competition? Pro athletes are supposed to be role models, right?
In Hockey, Chris Simon of the N.Y. Islanders got suspended 25 games for almost taking off Ryan Hollweg's head with a swing of his stick. Simon was retaliating after being slammed into the boards by Hollweg.
In a football game, Terrell Owens, a Cowboys wide receiver, loses his cool. He spits in Atlanta cornerback DeAngelo Hall's face after his team gives up a sack. Owens wrote off his tantrum saying that he just lost his cool.
During a basketball game, Pacer J. R. Smith goes up for an easy basket and a frustrated Knicks player, Maurdy Collins, slams him to the court with a hard foul. An ugly melee begins that spills in to the stands.
In the heat of the battle, even pros are not immune to losing their cool and embarrassing themselves in front of fans who watch in horror. What triggers an elite athlete to lose his or her self-control?
The simple answer is frustration! However, the process of frustration is very complex.
Frustration or anger can occur at any moment of the game, and often causes athletes to forget about the rules of the game, proper etiquette, or what is morally correct. Not to mention how it negatively impacts their performance.
Pros struggle to stay composed on the playing fields even when playing in front of millions of onlookers. You can imagine what is happening at every level of sports - from youth to collegiate sports today - hidden from public scrutiny.
You can witness (or identify with) athletes losing emotional composure every day in sports. And for many reasons. Anger causes retaliation. Goal attainment is blocked. Expectations are not met. Fed up with stupid errors. Losing with no hope of victory.
But these reasons only trigger frustration. They do not cause your mind to explode with anger. Your reaction is the real cause behind your frustration and loss of composure.
My motto: "No one can make you feel frustrated but yourself. Getting checked into the boards hard only triggers your frustration. "
Your reaction is to become angry and retaliate. But, what you think about after getting slammed into the boards determines your reaction. Your mental game plays a critical role in this process.
A composed athlete does not allow an event such as double-faulting or three-putting *trigger* negative behavior. A composed athlete has control over her reaction because she is aware of the thoughts that lead to frustration.
Your first task is to identify the triggers that can potentially cause you to lose control. But more importantly, you need to identify the thoughts and emotions that determine your reaction - good or bad - to external events.
Want to learn simple, proven mental toughness skills that you can apply to competition? Grab my free online mental training newsletter, Sports Insights Magazine - for athletes, coaches, and sports parents:
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Patrick Cohn is a master mental game coach who work with professional and amateur athletes, sports parents, and teams of all levels. Visit http://www.peaksports.com for more information.