#56: How Mental Training Has Changed The Game for These AthletesMar 18, 2022
Every athlete has that dream to level up their game. If you’re an athlete's parent, you probably know the struggle. They try to improve their physical work and special training. But why do they still feel like they’re not performing to their full potential? What else is there that’s missing to build confidence?
It’s not because they’re incapable, that makes it seem impossible to ascend to the next level. Sometimes, it’s about the mental game that they need to work on. Because an athlete's mental game is their biggest competitive advantage.
From 5 participants of the Elite Competitors Program:
Introduce yourself, age, and what sports you play
I am here with five phenomenal athletes who are going to be sharing their experience in the elite competitive program. And just with how their mental and physical game has changed since they started to prioritize their mental game. And I can tell you from personal experience working with each one of these athletes that they have come so far, I'm so proud of each of them for what they've accomplished in their sport, and also just for who they are as people.
Mikayla Jeppson is a 17 y.o volleyball player who just earned a scholarship to play in college. Kylee Bengston is 14 y.o and she’s a multi-sport athlete playing soccer, and basketball. Emma Behrmann is also 14 y.o and she plays basketball, volleyball, track, and swim. Tyne Beckwith is a 15 y.o. alpine ski racer, soccer player, track and cross country player. And last but not least, Savannah Locke a 16 y.o accomplished fencer.
How important is the 'mental game' in your sport? (Savannah)
For fencing, I find it to be close to 50% of the game. Especially as it's an individual sport, it's really easy to get in your head. And you just really have to rely on yourself and your mental prep to pull you through especially in such stressful scenarios. As a fencer, I tend to worry about the upcoming competition, if I would get to the finals, and how many points I still need to qualify. Without having other people there besides a coach, it would be hard to get these things off my mind. It's really important to be very strong mentally. And oftentimes, that can help you win a lot more than just being physically strong.
If you were to guess mental game makes it 50% of the game. A lot of athletes don't work with 100% they only work 50% of their game, the physical side of it. So often the mental game is missed. You don’t only need it when you’re struggling, you can accomplish a lot from training your mental game. And it plays a big role in winning.
Why did you decide to work on the mental side of your game? (through ECP, Dream Team, etc) (Tyne)
I like the fact that I was working so hard with my sport and the physical part of it. In all my sports I often come back from injuries and stuff. Because of that, I struggled mentally getting back into shape. It’s hard to keep my focus. So working on the mental side of my game helps keep me in focus when things were not going the right way.
Injury is the perfect example to discover how important the mental side is. Your mind goes to lots of different places when you're injured and you can't be in the role that you were normally in. You would even have fear of coming back. Working through your mental aspect will get you through a lot during injury.
What changes did you notice once you started to prioritize the mental game (along with your physical training)? (Kylee)
I found new confidence in myself. I used to play with fear and that holds me back. And I knew I had this potential that I could get to, but I just wasn't getting there. What I was doing physically wasn't working. But I've seen a huge improvement when I started to prioritize the mental game.
A lot of times athletes, want to get to this next level. Some focus more on physical training when this happens. They tend to get in the gym and have a personal trainer. These actions help too. But if it wasn't getting you where you wanted to be or where I needed to be, then you have to train your mental game. If you feel that you have another level in you, and you're not accessing it, likely, it's your mental game. It's probably your mind that’s getting in your way. You could be unconsciously not allowing yourself to reach that level.
Were there areas outside of your sport/performance that started to change/improve after you started (ECP/DT, etc)? (Emma)
I was kind of like a follower with people. And I don’t make a lot of decisions on my own. But now, I don't follow people that I don't want to always hang out with. And I feel a little more independent. I can make my own decisions and do what I kind of want to do. I'm probably more confident in myself because I now know who I am a little bit more, and it helps a lot.
What was your favorite part of ECP? (Mikayla)
My favorite part was probably doing the dream board workshop that I still have. It is still up on my wall right now. Some things on my dream board did not come true. But as I looked at it with what certain quotes said or what certain people said, it made an impact on me to start believing these things. As I read them to myself, it meant a lot. And then I started to believe it.
Even if you're a non-athlete it does help with your outside life.
How do you fit in the time to work on your mental game (Kylee)
It wasn't easy adding anything to sports, social school, high school life, but it helped my time management skills to get better. Making more out of my time showed me that I had a lot of time than spending an hour on Tiktok. It's almost like you had a mindset shift around where you're prioritizing your time. I'm just going to prioritize what's important and be realistic.
Do you have a story you can share about a situation or 'win' that you experienced where your mental game helped you? (Savannah)
Recently, I had probably my best result at Junior Olympics, which is a big national competition. And in the age division up, which is juniors, I ended up getting fifth. And a lot of the girls I had to face have been girls that have beaten me in the past. And before I think, even if not consciously, I might have had a mental block that would make me kind of like expecting to lose. But I think, as long as I was able to recognize when I had those feelings, and I was able to train myself into turning them into a positive thing, then I would be fine. I just have to understand my body and the signals it was giving me, because a lot of the time before, I would just ignore it. Recognizing my feelings improved the consistency of my good results.
What would you tell other athletes who are considering joining ECP/considering working on their mental game? (Everyone)
I would tell them it's a good investment. And even though it might sound crazy to you because it did sound crazy to me at first. Why do I need to work on my mental game? You might think everything is in place but until you start to hear other people's experiences, do meditations, and visualize yourself becoming the best you can be, it is worth it. It is worth all the time you spent. All the workshops, all of the Zoom calls, it is worth every little bit of it.
If you're gonna do it, you have to commit 100%. If you're willing to put in the work, it's going to help you more than just in your sports.
Don't be afraid, because honestly, when I started, I was a bit hesitant. It kind of felt like, well, there's nothing wrong with me. But then I realized that everyone struggles with this. It's hard to see until it's all laid out in front of you, but you can improve yourself mentally. You look back and you're like, wow, yeah, that made such a difference. It's not super hard, but it's so important. And it doesn't take very much time. It just takes commitment and effort.
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