The Victor by C.W. Longenecker-
(A Poem from Arnold Palmers Locker)
If you think you are beaten, you are
If you think that you dare not, you don’t
If you’d like to win but you think you can’t,
It’s almost certain that you won’t.
If you think you’ll lose, you’ve lost
For out in the world you’ll find
Success begins with a fellow’s will.
It’s all in the state of mind.
Life’s battles don’t always go
To the stronger or faster man;
But sooner or later the man who wins
Is the man who thinks he can.
If you are lucky enough to have a grandma like mine, you’ll understand what it’s like to receive that unexpected package in the mail with that recognizable grandma writing on the front. Often times I admit, contrary to my usual nutritional habits, the package contains some delicious baked goods along with poignant news clippings about my hometown sports teams, the importance of flu shots or meningitis awareness, or various other health related topics. However, one summer day in 2008 I received a package from my grandma which (along with the cookies, of course) contained a book that revolutionized my mental game and without a doubt improved my performance on the field.
This book- 10 Minute Mental Toughness: The Mental Training Program for Winning Before the Game Begins by Jason Selk– speaks directly to the above poem in that the game is often won, not during, but before with proper mental training. I admit, at first I was a bit skeptical of a “self-help” type book, but upon reading more about the book and learning that the author works directly with the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals players and minor league prospects as their “Director of Mental Training”, I figured it couldn’t hurt to dive in.
The best thing I took away from this book and something which I still before every game and even most practices, is the 10-Minute visualization routine (with some minor individual changes). I have done a lot of sports psychology readings in the past, and even took a course at school called “Positive Psychology” where I did a project on positive sports psychology specifically, but this program was able to incorporate a number of the best sports psychology techniques- positive self talk, performance statements, goal setting, confidence building, visualization, relaxation techniques- and roll it into one easy to use and effective program.
Throughout the world of sports, you’ll see and hear many athletes speak of their various visualization routines. One of the more interesting I’ve seen was Ryan Howard this post-season, who would visualize before his at-bats in the dugout and end each session a nice long spit, a la Frankenstein’s “That one touched the ground” from the movie “Big Daddy”.
So what’s visualization program outline and how can you apply it?
1. 3 or so Deep Relaxed breaths
2. Visualize practicing your technique while repeating Performance Statement/Montra– a statement that you use during performance, 2 or 3 keys which I will use on the mound or in the batters box. As a hitter, I would repeat to myself “Load early, see the ball, line the ball” while I went through a mental batting practice. I found that by repeating this statement over and over in my head, it actually allowed me to keep my mind clear of larger more intrusive thoughts during the game.
3. Visualize Past Success- I would then go over in my mind’s eye my personal highlight reel of sorts, the best images in my mind of past successes- big hits in key situations, nice plays behind the plate or more recently, good pitches or plays on the mound. I find that by replaying them often, it keeps that feeling fresh and builds extra confidence and primes you for further success.
4. Identity Statement- a statement which focuses on building self confidence. For example, it could be “I am a major league caliber hitter. I am the hardest and smartest worker on my team.” Just repeating something in the brain positively can actually train it to think, AND believe.
5. Visualize the upcoming game/practice– Lastly, I might visualize the next upcoming event, whether that be a game or practice.
6. 2 or 3 more Deep Breaths
I prefer to listen to the same song every time I run through my mental training just to get myself into the same zone. Though I’ve switched it up in the past, I’ve found that the theme song from the Boondock Saints works for me- a motivational instrumental.
As you can see, this program incorporates a number of helpful and proven sports psychology principles. While I can’t say for certain, seeing as Jason works with the St. Louis Cardinals, I’d bet that some of these same principles helped World Series MVP David Freese and the rest of the team come through in pressure situation after pressure situation as they faced elimination down 10 games in August and and were down to their last strike of the season, not once, but TWICE, in the World Series, only to rally…the rest is history!
Better yet, these principles can be used not only in sports but in life in general. I’d love to hear, what are some other helpful performance or visualization techniques out there?