"The gifted athlete who starts playing lacrosse...has an excellent opportunity to be successful...if he is a tough competitor and has the proper mental attitude."
David G. Pietramala and Ned A. Gramer - "Lacrosse: Technique + Tradition"
"...the mentally tough athlete...who has learned to harness the strength of the mind wins every time."
Craig Manning - "The Fearless Mind: 5 Essential Steps To Higher Performance"
As a lacrosse player, you become a tough competitor by harnessing the mental strength to successfully manage those game-time situations which will challenge your concentration, composure and confidence. It's having the necessary skills to play with focus and intensity, and staying mentally sharp and steady - especially during those critical moments of a game.
So, when does it matter? The moment you are outplayed by a player from the other team. The moment you see you're behind on the scoreboard. The moment you are called for a penalty. The moment you are verbally challenged by other team. The moment you begin to feel overwhelmed. The moment you question yourself. The moment you make a mistake.
You must condition your mind to take a negative experience in that critical moment, and respond with a positive, productive and proactive approach that allows you to play up to your potential and not to play down to your fears and worries.
The first thing to remember is don't forget to breathe. At a difficult or challenging moment in a game, a lacrosse player can begin feeling some anxiety or stress as he wonders and worries about what to do or how to perform. That stress and anxiety can trigger the player to take smaller and more shallow breaths. And with less oxygen going into the lungs, the body and brain will slow down. Just taking one deep breath will help the player to relax, feel calmer, stay composed, reestablish his focus, see clearer, and mentally slow down what is happening around him in that moment so that he can get a handle on his options and what he plans to do next.
The second thing that can help this lacrosse player is to have an "anchor". Given the intensity and speed of a lacrosse game, along with all the physical demands and emotional stress of competition, there will be times during a game when the player begins to feel emotionally unbalanced. This "anchor" is a visual or verbal cue that the player can use to steady himself when he feels like he is struggling to keep his head above the "turbulent waters" of a very competitive game. Whether it's a word, phrase, image or piece of music, it is the one thing that the player keeps coming back to throughout the game to stay emotionally steady, help himself refocus and become re-energized. It can help this lacrosse player regain his composure and confidence at the most challenging moment of a game.
Guest Post by Anthony Lanzillo
Anthony is a sports counselor and mental skills trainer. He has developed and presented mental skills materials to student-athletes at the middle school, high school and collegiate levels in such sports as lacrosse, football, soccer and basketball. Besides creating his own mental skills blog for athletes (Reaching Your Mental Peak), he is currently writing articles and posts for eleven different sports websites and blogs.