DEVELOPING GOLD MEDAL MENTAL TOUGHNESS

Being a great athlete requires 3 things: Physical Training, Technical Training, and Mental Training.

There are many athletes who have great technique and training, but they fail to reach their peak performance because they have failed to train the mental side of their sport and develop the necessary mental toughness. 

Gold medal athletes have always known about and trained the mental side of their sport. Many kept it to themselves either because they didn’t want their competitors to have their competitive edge, or because they were concerned about how they might be judged for using hypnosis, imagery, or other techniques that might be seen as unorthodox. However, more and more athletes have begun discussing the techniques they use to overcome the stress of competition and develop mental toughness.

Here is just a partial list of famous athletes who have used hypnosis:

*Mary Lou Retton (Gymnastics 1984 Olympics)  *Tiger Woods (began using hypnosis at 13) * Phil Jackson (used hypnosis with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers) *Shaquille O’Neal (Basketball) *Kevin McBride (Irish Boxing Champion) *Dorothy Hamill (Gold Medal Olympian in Figure Skating) *Michael Jordan (Basketball) *Wayne Gretzky (Ice Hockey) *Jack Nicklaus (golf) *Mohammed Ali (Boxing) *Nancy Kerrigan (Olympic Figure skating) *Billie Jean King Tennis) *Dale Ernhardt (NASCAR) *Mark McGuire (Baseball) * Nolan Ryan (Baseball) *Frank Bruno (Boxing) *Jimmy Conners (Tennis) *Rod Carew (Baseball) *Bill Buckner (Baseball) *Andre Agasse (Tennis) *In 1956 The Russian Olympic Team took 11 Hypnotists with them *In 1968 Dr. Abrezol Used Hypnosis to guide the Swiss Ski Team to Olympic Gold *The Beijing USE Skeet Gold Medalist worked with a Hypnotist *Shooters to win Gold Medals at the 2008 Olympics worked with a hypnotist *In 1983 The Chicago White Sox socks hired a full time hypnotist and won the playoffs *The list goes on and on……….

So, what is mental toughness? Everyone uses that term. Some people think it’s as simple as using will power or forcing themselves to calm down and deliver. These ideas are the opposite of mental toughness and are likely to decrease their performance. Often coaches say things like “you’re not really trying” or “you don’t want it enough” rather than teaching the skills athletes need to reach peak performance.   Mental toughness is a skill that has many components. To have mental toughness you will need to train an inner coach, develop a winning attitude, improve your focus and concentration, improve your attitude about practice, and learn to monitor and correct your own thinking. It includes improving your sleep, building your confidence, and learning how to relax your muscles. All of this in addition to using imagery,visualization, and hypnosis. You will need to learn to develop routines that become automatic habits that enhance your performance.

Developing mental toughness is not easy. I’m not going to try to give you a magic formula, step by step guidelines, or ready-made affirmations that the athlete can repeat over and over again.  Unless a technique is personal and meaningful for the athlete, it will be of little value. I can give you the tools to develop every aspect of mental toughness. If your a coach, I can provide you with tools so that you can always help your athletes develop techniques to address whatever personal issues they present with. Learning how to help athletes develop mental toughness requires effort.  But when you see the results, you will know your effort has been worth it.

A good starting point is an assessment to help you learn your strengths and weaknesses. There are may assessments online. I use the Gold Medal Mental Toughness Assessment because it will provide you with scores in 3 general areas to help you become focused on relative strengths and weaknesses, as well as individual items which can help you identify specific personal isses.

You will also need to develop detailed routines.  During a podcast with Tony Robbins, Michael Phelps discussed the importance of his routines. He described having routines for everything. These include how he would prepare to go to the meet, the order in which he would take action in order to be prepared,  the actions he would take upon arriving at the meet, what he was going to eat,  how he would interact with others while waiting for his events, how he would enter the competition area and get behind the blocks. In other words, he has developed routines for every facet of his practice and competitions. He stressed that this conserves a lot of mental energy and reduces the stress he might face in arranging to meet his needs if he did not have these routines. Developing routines and habits is an important part of being a gold medal athlete. This is something you can do on your own. However The Gold Medal Mental Toughness Guide for Athletes contains numerous forms which can aid you in this process.

Learning to monitor your own thoughts and correct your thinking is also an important skill. When you practice these skills you will begin to develop a new inner coach that supports and facilitates your performance rather than unhelpful things that interfere in your performance. .

You will need to learn techniques that you can utilize anytime or anywhere to help you focus, concentrate, and access great energy. Some of these techniques are simple and easy to learn, while others with require practice and a mental coach who can teach them to you. Here are some examples of quick and easy techniques that may help you. 

BILATERAL STIMULATION – This technique is very effective in reducing anxiety and eliminating thoughts/behaviors that may interfere with your performance. It involves stimulating both sides of the brain, interrupting any unwanted thoughts or feelings. For example: if you feel anxious before you compete, start by ranking the level of anxiety (or any other unwanted feeling) on a scale from one to ten. -Next, pass an object (water bottle, whatever you can access) back and forth, from one hand to the other, crossing the mid-line of your body to ensure you are stimulating both hemispheres. Keep one hand in front of you as you pass the object with the other hand out to the side.  Do this for a minute. -Now, notice how you feel.  If there is any anxiety or unwanted feeling that remains simply repeat the technique until that unwanted feeling has dissipated.  This works because you are spreading blood as well as electrical impulses throughout your brain. When this happens, the area associated with the unwanted feeling is flooded and it is diffused. A roadblock is created. -This is a wonderful technique as it is portable, and you can do this anytime and anywhere you need it. Just remember to move both arms and cross the mid-line of your body.

VOICESHIFT – There are two ways you can use this technique. To manage your negative self-talk or to avoid internalizing someone else’s negativity that is being directed towards you. Either way, by manipulating the negative self-talk you can quickly change the way you feel and avoid sabotaging your performance. When a negative thought is received in your mind there are many things you can do to change it including noticing the location. Ask yourself the following questions: Is it coming from the right or left? Is it in front of you or behind you? Whatever the answer happens to be switch it to the opposite side in your mind and simply notice how you feel. Next, you can change the speed, tone, and sound of the voice you hear in your mind.  If you are thinking “what if I’m not good enough?” allow yourself to hear it in a high-pitched squeaky cartoonish voice or slow the speed of the question down to a ridiculously slow pace. The negative and doubting statement will not have the same effect.  Use the same method if you hear someone else make a comment to or about you that may interfere with your winning mindset.  You can also get creative and add whatever else will help diminish the effect of a negative statement. Create an image of a cartoon character or imagine turning the volume down until you cannot hear it anymore. Enjoy the process of intentionally manipulating any thoughts or ideas that would interfere with your readiness

Other great tools for developing great mental tougness  include the use of  affirmations, imagery, and self-hypnosis. Here are some general guidelines for creating personal affirmations. Affirmations can be a powerful tool for the athlete. To be effective the affirmation must be personal and something the athlete truly believes, not just some general statement. Though there are lists of affirmations for different sports, you should create your own so it will be more personal and tailored to you. Use the following guidelines to create your own affirmations.

  • Speak as though what you ask for is already true (I have, I am)
  • Use only positive words (eliminate not, don’t, not)
  • Include feeling words/emotions (happy, strong, courage)
  • Say it with feeling
  • Visualize what you are saying to yourself
  • Keep the focus on what you want
  • If the focus shifts to what you don’t want simply recognize it and return to what you want instead. For example: “I’m so slow” change to “I am excited that I am making progress with each step.

Effective affirmations are a valuable tool in and of themselves. However, they can also be used to develop effective suggestions for  imagery and self-hypnosis. 

Imagery and  self-hypnosis are powerful tools. These are techniques that you will likely need a good mental coach to assist you in developing these skills, but they are critical. If you would like to expereince a brief session, click the link below and at checkout enter the coupon code DMR for your free audio. I hope you will enjoy it and keep seeking resources for the development of your mental toughness.