At various moments of a game, you will find yourself asking certain questions. The challenge is to recognize when you are asking questions that will only drain you emotionally and physically. With this type of question, you will lose your composure and confidence. You will become mentally weak.
If you take a shot on goal and miss, do you ask - "why am I a failure?" or "why do I always miss my shots?" When you phrase your questions like this, your brain will simply give you straight answers, and tell you why you are a failure or why you always miss your shots. Even though you may make goals on half of your shots, your questions will only focus on the negative aspect of your game. And because your focus is on your limitations or weaknesses, you will become emotionally and physically drained.
If you are outplayed and lose a ground ball to a player from the other team, do you ask - "why am I such a bad player?" or "why do I always make mistakes in a game?". Again, with these type of questions, your brain will be straight with you, and only tell you why you are such a bad player and why you make mistakes. Given how these questions are worded, you will reinforce a negative image of yourself and therefore, will learn nothing from the experience. In an actual game, you may successfully recover 3 out of 4 ground balls but with these type of questions the one ground ball that you don't recover will trigger a variety of negative thoughts and feelings about yourself.
To be mentally tough, it is important to ask questions that create a positive, productive and proactive mindset. These kind of questions always focus on what you control and are about the present moment. These questions will mentally empower you and trigger a greater sense of excitement and enthusiasm.
If you look over at the scoreboard and see that your team is behind by several goals, ask yourself how you and your team can take control of the game for the next five minutes by playing tough defense and score one goal. If you take a shot on goal and miss, ask yourself what did you see and learn from that shot, and what you want to do on your next shot on goal. If you lose a face-off, ask yourself how you and your team can create a turnover while playing defense.
Being mentally tough is all about asking questions that focus on your strengths as a player, that help you visualize how to play your best game, that focus on what you control, that help you learn how to play a better game, and that build your concentration, composure and confidence.
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.