Thursday, November 5, 2009

Training Tip - Mental Edge

First of all, if you don't already have a coach, get one. At the novice to intermediate level, the coach you select only needs to help you identify areas for improvement and help you to improve those skills. The truth is, until you get to a level where the majority of your competitors are capable of hitting at a consistent level, your main focus should be to improve your skills.

Simply put, if you haven't practiced hitting a straight drop, when you need it in game, you will hit tin because of your lack of physical skill, not because of your lack of mental skill.

As you improve, your competition will also improve, so your main focus will be to remain consistent under higher amounts of pressure. It's when you understand the meaning of increased pressure that you start to realize that performance at a higher level requires some mental skills.

Today, I had a lesson on mental skills. It's only recently that I've felt that my physical skills and fitness have improved to a point where decision making, focus and motivation play a more important role to winning a match at the level I am playing.

1) Olympics vs NHL: what does this have to do with mental skills. Olympic athletes are under tremendous pressure to perform as they only get one chance every four years. Professional athletes can ration there output. It's up to you when you get on court, if you want put everything you have into it, or save a little extra. Getting on court includes practice days, going half ass'd in practice shows in games.

2) Play for those moments: visualize those moments of tremendous pressure and play them out in your mind. Feel the emotion of making the comeback, or not letting up when demolishing an opponent. Teach yourself to thrive on competition and not shy away from adverse situations.

3) Condition yourself mentally by pushing yourself physically. Drive yourself to peak fitness, learn to play when your legs are exhausted, when you feel dizzy and your having trouble breathing.

4) Focus on the process not the outcome. Dedicate all your mental focus on each shot and then switch your focus onto your next shot. It's the only thing on the court you can control and if you know what you have to do, you are less likely to make a mistake.

DREAM BIG - The mind only knows what you tell it, so go on youtube and watch a PSA match, then play that match out in your head before you go to bed, except put yourself in the position of the winner.

Lastly, strategy... I will discuss strategy in my next post. But as a teaser, your strategy should showcase your strengths, but be adjusted to exploit your opponents weaknesses.

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