Question: "Are there mental warm-ups we should be doing in addition to physical warm-ups?"
I love this question.
Think about the purpose of a physical warm-up: to prepare your body for whatever you're about to ask it to do...train, practice, or compete. We know - and have normalized - the fact that our bodies need some deliberate preparation to perform optimally.
Funny thing is, while most of us acknowledge that our minds also need to be ready in order to perform optimally, we haven't normalized that our minds also need deliberate preparation.
I have two opinions/approaches/recommendations on both physical and mental warm-ups that I'll share first. Then I'll dive into a few strategies to try.
First, your physical warm-up should be what you need as an individual player to get your body ready. I know most teams have specific team warm-ups with running and plyos and mobility and stretching. All of that is good. And, each individual athlete, if they want to perform at their best, has to know which of those exercises in which order at what intensity is right for them.
My opinion is that while teams can/should run some element of a structured physical warm-up for those who need it, they should also be open to athletes who say "I need something different."
I insert this opinion on physical warm-up within the 'mental warm-up' post because ultimately, being ready physically can have a big impact on our mental readiness. Allowing individuals the time and space to do what they need to do to be ready is one small step captains/coaches/leadership can take to improve the mental performance of their athletes.
Second, your mental warm-up should be what you need as an individual player to get your mind ready. While I would say the vast majority of teams still don't incorporate deliberate mental warm-ups at all, I would also say those that do often miss the mark. Largely what I've seen is captains/coaches/leadership taking the same approach as they do to physical warm up: asking everyone on the team to do the same mental warm-up at the same time. This is usually imagery of a highlight reel, talk to your pump-up buddies, or breathe/meditate.
While these are three great go-to strategies, the trick is in encouraging individuals to customize their warm-up to incorporate them when needed (which I'll discuss more below). Now let's talk about how to improve those mental warm-ups or create them from scratch.
#1: Know your end state: what physical/mental/emotional state are you trying to create with the warm-up. I wrote a series of posts on this topic called so that I could tease-apart the details and help people understand how to identify their ideal state. "Switch On" Part 1 and Part 2 deal with identifying your ideal state and you can find those posts here and here. The general idea is: you have to know where you're trying to go if you want to get there on purpose.
#2: Develop/discover how to get there: Some athletes really like having a set routine you do the same way every time. Some athletes have bits and pieces they incorporate as needed. Some athletes discover what they need day-by-day. Interestingly enough, the world of sport psychology is rather polarized on this issue: some say you need a set routine and some say you don't. My approach is that you have to know you...How you get to your ideal state is up to you. "Switch On" Part 3 is largely about discovering and developing what you need to be mentally ready. Hint: it takes some work so you'll find most of what you need in the "Journal Work" section.
#3: Have a variety of strategies to introduce or try: Different strategies produce different results. And, sometimes a strategy that worked before doesn't work in a particular moment and you need another option. Below is a short-list of strategies to try.
Finally, as always...Train your mind like you train your body: Warming-up physically for a competition isn't the first time you've warmed-up physically. You physically warm-up for training and practice as well. So my question is, are you mentally warming-up for each of those events as well? If not, start there. Try these strategies in practice first to see what works best for you.
Let me know what questions you have from this post. And, this list of strategies is nowhere near complete. Please feel free to comment on our FB page with the mental warm-up strategies that work best for you, especially if I didn't cover it here!
One comment/question that came up on our PC/Ultimate Mindset Facebook page - and got quite a few 'likes' - was: "I loved the "3 Things" exercise for in-the-moment work. I'd love more ideas for how to try and quickly recover when struggling."
I'm excited about this question because having a tool-kit full of strategies to use in-the-moment is an important part of mental toughness. I'm going to breakdown some of these strategies into individual "quick-tip" posts so that they're more easily digestible. And, I re-tagged a couple older posts as 'quick-tips' as well so you can search for those more easily. Just remember, do your best to give these strategies a test run during practice so you know how they work for you before you hit game time!
Quick-Tip: Helping or Harming?
This strategy is insanely simple and yet I have seen it produce amazing results and get people back on track FAST.
Here it is:
When you're "struggling" ask yourself this question: "Are my thoughts and emotions helping me or harming me right now?"
This one simple question reminds us that we are in control of our thoughts and emotions - we are in control of ourselves.
If what we are thinking and feeling is working for us in the moment, that's great - drive on! If our thoughts and emotions aren't working for us (which is most likely the case if we feel we are 'struggling'), it gives us the opportunity to think and feel something different.
A few notes:
I hope this quick-tip reminder that you're in control is helpful. As always, email/post any questions or feedback for me!
The next few posts will be responses to questions posted on our PC/Ultimate Mindset Facebook Page. Enjoy and keep the questions coming!
Original comment/question: "Getting the team hyped up the wrong way - during a game there's an important point - do you pump up by saying "do we want this?! Do we want it more than them?!" ...etc...Do you pump at all? I feel that's when a lot of teams make mistakes is in that game point...certain things you say I think can have a more negative impact because you're putting more pressure on it.
I'm guessing this question is stemming from experiences with the often used strategy of a rowdy pep-talk intended to pump people up to increase motivation, effort, or execution. We yell things like, "C'MON, YOU KNOW WE WANT THIS MORE THAN THEY DO!" or "THIS IS OUR GAME!" or "WE'RE BETTER THAN THIS TEAM, WE'VE GOTTA STOP PLAYING DOWN TO THEIR LEVEL." Etc...etc...etc.
I'll be clear, I say "we" because I have given my fair share of these speeches (feel free to check with my Ultimate and soccer teammates dating back to high school). Sometimes they work and sometimes they don't.
Why is that and how do we fix it?
Problem: Everyone is different.
Okay, maybe not everyone. But on a team of almost any size you're going to have pockets of people who have different needs in different moments. That speech will work for the other people who need that type of speech in that moment. Unfortunately, in that same moment, you'll have pockets of people who need calming reassurance or a deliberate breath and that speech will only derail them further.
Strategy: Make a plan as a team.
Take 10 minutes during a stretching session at the end of a practice to ask people to talk about what they need in those moments. Make it a conversation driven by curiosity and team growth - aka, don't heckle people's contributions. Ask what works for them and what doesn't. Not everyone will participate, and that's okay...but get as many people talking as you can.
Key takeaways from this conversation should be:
-We hear you, we took notes and we (captains/leadership/coaches) will cater to everyone's motivational needs as much as we can, but it'll never be perfect. So....
-Each of us is responsible for our own needs. Be aware of where you're at, what you need, and how you can get it. (This may mean staying in the huddle but tuning out the speech).
-Find buddies who have similar motivational styles as you so you know who you can talk to or simply be near in those moments.
If the pump-up speech is a leader's only strategy it is likely going to lose value and effectiveness.
Strategy: Look inward / Speak up
If you're the leader/teammate overusing the pump up speech: Look inward. Pause, relfect and ask yourself curiously why is that my go-to strategy? What am I seeing/feeling that makes me want to say something? Do I have an accurate read on how my speeches are perceived by my team? What are other strategies I can try? The answers to these questions may not come to mind readily, so give them time. If you don't know how your speeches are perceive - ask around. If you're not sure what other strategies you can try...practice breaking down what you're seeing: is it an effort thing? is it a precision thing? is it a confidence/composure thing? As you refine your observation about what's going wrong, you'll be able to diversify what you're saying to fix it. (And, as always feel free to ask me anytime).
If you're a teammate of someone who is overusing the pump-up speech: speak up. That doesn't necessarily mean go straight to this person and tell them you think they're overusing the pump-up speech. I'd suggest first speaking to other teammates to make sure you're not the only one who feels it is overused. (Caution: this should be approached with a behavior-focused, problem-solving manner...Not as a gossip session which tends to be done in a person-focused, problem-lamenting manner.) If your data suggests others have the same sense you do, then speak to the person directly.
Problem: The message and the messenger
If the message comes across as inauthentic, fake, or simply lacking the right emotion - the speech will likely demotivate instead of motivate. If the message is too focused on the outcome instead of the process OR the person giving the speech is too emotional - the speech will likely create unnecessary or unhelpful pressure.
Strategy: Be flexible
I almost always see inauthentic speeches when coaches/captains/leadership feel like it is their sole responsibility to motivate. This means they give a speech even if they aren't feeling it or they try to get the team to calm down, but they're a hot mess.
I encourage all team members to look for the person who has what the team needs in that moment and leverage them. If your team needs fire, who's got fire? If the team needs calm, who's most composed? It might be the rookie. It might be the quiet one. It doesn't matter. Ask them if they can share what they've got in a way that works for them. This is a task not just for leadership, but for all team members.
Keeping speeches focused on the process takes practice. It takes re-training your brain to first think about the process: Yes, we want to score this point or win this game, but reminding people of that often adds pressure that people weren't expecting in that moment. Instead, tell us what we can DO to make that happen: shut-down person defense? taking more risks with the disc? taking fewer risks with the disc? running through catches? better sideline talk? simply out-work the other team?
1. Mental training should be as deliberate as your fitness and skills training - both for individuals and teams.
2. Ultimately, we are all responsible for ourselves. Own that. Because when you do, what other people say and do will only effect you if you want it to.
Hopefully this was helpful and answered the question asked!
Other questions I'll be answering in the next few posts (in no particular order):
-What are other quick ways to recover and get back on track when you're struggling?
-What can players do to be good teammates when we feel the mental toughness/morale of the team slipping?
-Are there mental warm-ups we should be doing in addition to our physical warm-ups?
If you have a question that's not captured here, reach out via email or social media and I'll add it to my list!
A lot of the work we do here on the Ultimate Mindset is hard to see. It’s work you do in your mind. It’s often lonely. The results may show up quickly for some, and take seasons of work for others to enjoy the fruits of their labor.
Because it is hard to see, we need to do everything we can to track your progress. To do that, I want to revisit the Performance Profile I originally posted last April (2017).
If you’ve completed a Performance Profile before, download and complete a new one before looking back at last year’s then compare the two and reflect. Where have you made the most progress? How did you make that happen? Did you regress in any area? What happened that might have contributed to that? What area do you most want to make progress on this year?
If this is your first time completing a performance profile, download the worksheet and follow the instructions. What areas are your strongest? How did you develop that strength? In which areas would you most like to improve?
In a couple days I am going to post a question on our Social media sites to ask some of you all to share the areas you’d most like to work on this year and ask any questions you’ve got rolling around in your minds about the mental game.
As always, I love hearing from UM readers so stay in touch!
download your performance_profile.pdf here
I just wanted to take a minute to welcome you back (or perhaps welcome you for the first time) to The Ultimate Mindset.
If you’ve been following along, you probably noticed that we’re coming back from a three month hiatus over the winter season. While I hope you didn’t miss us too much, I also hope that you’re ready to roll in 2018 and continue learning how to build your mental game.
Today’s post is going to be short and sweet, giving you an update on the direction we’re looking to take the Ultimate Mindset and asking for your help in moving that direction.
Here’s what’s up:
If Facebook isn’t your thing please send us a quick note and let us know where you prefer to hangout in the online social space and we’ll do our best to reach you and your friends through a different platform.
I hope you’re as excited as we are to kick-off this next season of The Ultimate Mindset. We’re looking forward to getting to know you better and making sure our content is serving you best!
Building resilience and mental toughness: TIPS FOR COACHES AND PARENTS OF YOUTH & HIGH-SCHOOL ATHLETES
The fall season is coming to a close, and many of our young Ultimate players will be competing in championship events like high school state tournaments or YCC Regional Championships.
As coaches and parents of youth and high-school athletes, you have the opportunity to develop their mental toughness and resilience. While this may as well be considered a full time responsibility of coaches and parents, your impact will be particularly strong during these ‘big’ championship-type events.
Some of your influence is explicit – e.g. how you talk to your athletes about winning and losing. And some of your influence is implicit – e.g. your body language (subtle and grand) when your team scores/wins or gets scored on/loses, etc. The 4 tips below will help you make sure your explicit and implicit influence is developing mentally tough and resilient athletes.
1. Focus on the process and the experience:
Let me be clear, I am not saying winning and losing don’t mean anything. I’m saying winning and losing aren’t everything. The thing is, focusing on the outcome often moves us farther away from our desired outcome. Focusing on the process keeps us motivated, learning, growing, and enables us to move closer to our desired outcomes. While most of us likely understand this, it can be easy to get caught up in the moment. Use these strategies and examples to stay focused on the process and experience:
*Parents: These are often the conversations you have after the game or in the car ride home. To keep your kids interested, motivated, and enjoying their sport consider moving your conversations toward the process.
2. Don’t sugar coat performance – have the tough conversation:
Often as coaches and parents, we have a gut reaction to protect our kids and athletes. Making a mistake, getting scored on, or losing a game can be embarrassing, frustrating, or devastating. So when it happens, we try to make them feel better. We say things like, “it’s okay” or “you’ll get ‘em next time.” While both of those things are true, they are not complete. Mistakes/losing/failure “is okay” because it is part of the learning process, but we as coaches and parents need to help that learning occur. That, after all, is what will help them “get ‘em next time.” The thing is, ignoring or sugar coating mistakes, poor performance, and losses prevents learning, growth and development of toughness. Calling-out/acknowledging, normalizing, and processing mistakes and failure fosters growth and resilience. Being sure to separate the behavior/incident/outcome from their value as a human being (“yes you failed, but that does not make you a failure.”)
*Parents & Coaches: It will take some practice. It may not be easy, but it is critical to helping them develop the mental toughness and resilience you want them to have in and out of sport. And, wouldn’t you rather they learn these lessons from you, their loving and caring parent or coach, than someone else?
3. Provide “effective” praise (not just praise/compliments):
Sometimes we inadvertently, unintentionally, or implicitly send the message that the only thing we can learn and grow from are our failures (see above). But that is absolutely not the case - we can learn a lot from our own success and the success of others! Indeed, this can be a great way to develop young athletes as it allows you to ‘coach’ them without criticizing/critiquing their performance. The thing here is simply remembering to label the effort, strategy, or skill they used to produce the success in addition to praising.
*Something critical to keep in mind is that your athletes/kids may not know what they did that enabled their success. By labeling it for them, you’re teaching them how to be successful again. While this might take a smidge more work up front, it actually enables them to repeat their own successes and requires less coaching and correcting later on. Remember: name the effort, strategy, or skill that allowed them to be successful in the first place.
4. Model mental toughness and resilience:
I saved this for last because I want to make sure it sticks with you. At the end of the day our actions speak louder than our words. As a parent or coach you could say all the right things, but if you aren’t living those things yourself – that’s what your kids and athletes will notice and remember most. I encourage both parents and coaches to deliberately think about the values, habits, and qualities you wish to instill in your kids/athletes. Write them down and make note of what they mean to you and what it looks like to demonstrate those values daily.
*Other questions to consider: How do I want my kids/athletes to act when we win? How do I want them to act when we lose? How do I currently act when we win/lose? What words do I choose and what message does my body language send?
I’m going to start today with a true story from my own athletic career.
I had a teammate on my college soccer team who, before every game, would turn up the music in the locker room and jump around like she was at a punk rock concert. As she got more and more pumped, she would jump and bump into people on purpose, get in their face and shout something like, “C’MON!! GET PUMPED! AREN’T YOU PUMPED?! I’M SO PUMPED!”
It sounds funny, but it’s true.
Whenever she would do that to me, I’d hardly respond. I’d give her a light chuckle and a bro-like hug and say, “Yeah, yeah…I’m pumped. I’m ready.” Each time I responded this way, she’d remember that I like to keep a lower energy and she’d go bouncing off like Tigger to someone else.
You see, the energy she needed to be at the top of her game was super high - quite literally bouncing off the walls. The energy I needed to be at my best was much lower – a reserved intensity. Were we both ready? Absolutely.
But there’s three important lessons to this story:
The essence of today’s post is:
what do you need to do/think/feel prior to game-time to get there?
TODAY’S JOURNAL WORK:
To get after this, I’m going to pose a series of questions and a few examples to help you think more deliberately about how you prepare for game-time. Take care as you answer these questions to base your answers on experience as much as possible. Think back to performances where you’ve accessed your ideal state and recall what you did prior to those games that you felt worked and didn’t.
*A note before you begin: I encourage you to read through the whole list before embarking on answering the questions. Some people may find they only really need to focus on a few areas while others want to take-on the whole list. Additionally, once you’ve read through the list, decide whether it will be most productive for you to go in the order I’ve presented or in the reverse order (game-time backward).
-What is important to you to feel prepared in the 2-3 days leading up to game-time?
A couple final notes:
*Your answers may be different than those around you and making sure you get what you need could take some tactful social-navigation.
*As much as you can, the elements of your preparation should…
- be controllable (i.e. they shouldn’t depend on anyone else or any particular circumstance).
- not be controlling (i.e. if I don’t do XYZ exactly and perfectly and in the right order then I’m doomed).
As usual, shout out with any questions or comments. I know a lot of us have Regionals coming up this weekend…If there’s anything I can do to help with your mental game last-minute, let me know! If you’ve got a question, it’s likely someone else does as well so I am going to try to run some Q&A on the Facebook page: www.facebook.com/performancecolorado.
Happy planning & happy playing!
If you’re here today, it’s because you’re ready to find out how to play your best more consistently.
Before we dive in, I want to remind you that there is no quick fix.
This blog isn’t about me telling you some magic formula or inspirational words that make you mentally tough and a better player. This blog is about the work you’re willing to put in to get better. I remind you of that because today’s post is comprised mostly of activities and questions that you have to complete on your own. The more deliberate you are about this process, the better able you’ll be to perform at the top of your game more often – but it’s likely going to take some time and effort on your part.
If you're still ready, take out your journal because today's post is almost all journal work!
TODAY'S JOURNAL WORK:
The first step to being “switched on” more consistently is knowing what “switched on” feels like for you. After all, how can we get to our destination if we don’t know what that place is?
Pause and do some imagery: Close your eyes and think about those times you’ve felt like you were “switched-on” or “in the zone” – those times when things seemed easy, everything just flowed, you played to the top of your potential. You weren’t thinking about yourself or your performance…you were just doing. As you watch yourself in those great performances, tune-in to:
Once you’re done with your imagery (or perhaps even as you go along) write down answers to each of the prompts above. Don’t judge yourself for what you write down – everyone is different. Some people feel super physically amped up, some people feel calm. Some people feel positive emotions and some people perform best when they’re angry. This is about you and what helps you perform at your best. Take your time on this activity. Repeat the imagery if necessary because this is the critical data that will help you better understand what “switched on” feels like for you.
Now that we’ve got some raw data about what “switched on” feels like for you, let’s fine-tune the data to gain greater understanding.
For each word you wrote down above (physical, emotional, and mind) rate how strongly you want to feel each of those things on a scale of 1 to 10 (where 1 is low and 10 is high) in order to perform at your best. Once you rate each word, rank order them from high (these things are really important for me to feel to play at my best) to low (these things play a role in my optimal performance, but a less significant one).
What you should have in front of you is a profile of sorts. You should be looking at a description of what you feel like when you perform at your best. Hopefully, looking at this profile brings you a sense of certainty – like, “Yeah, that’s how I feel when I play my best and that’s how I want to feel more often!”
For some people, simply completing this profile is enough to help you get to this place more often. This is most likely because having this awareness in your mind will prompt you to subtly shift the way you prepare. Like I said before, if you know where you want to go you’ll have a better idea of how to get there.
While this intuitive shift in preparation is a good start, the next few blog posts will help you to become even more deliberate in shifting your preparation including recognizing when you’re not in the right place and how to adjust accordingly.
When I work with individuals and teams, I often start by asking them to vividly imagine and compare two past experiences: one of their worst performances ever and one of their best. Then I ask what the difference was between these two performances: was the difference more physical/technical/tactical or was it more mental/emotional?
Athletes overwhelmingly answer that the difference was mostly mental and emotional.
On their worst day, they had all the same skills as their best day, but they weren’t “ready.” They weren’t in the right mindset. They were distracted. They couldn’t muster the right level of energy – they were either too pumped up or not pumped enough. They felt sluggish. They were stuck thinking about personal stuff. Whatever it was – they weren’t ready…they weren’t “switched on.”
And the thing is, not being “switched on” might not result in your worst performance, but it might result in a simply average performance.
My next line of questioning goes something like this: Do you know what it feels like to be “switched on”? What I mean is…are you aware of how you want/need to feel at the start of a game to increase your chance of playing “in the zone”? How confident are you in your ability to be “switched on” at the beginning of a game? Are you in control? Do you have some kind of plan to get yourself to that point or do you leave it to chance?
If you're sitting there thinking you don't know what it feels like to be switched on and you don't know for sure how to get there...don't worry. Most athletes I work with – even the most elite – often do not know how they want/need to feel at the beginning of a game and they often leave that feeling to chance.
Stay tuned for the next post and leave a note on Facebook if you have any questions or comments you’d like me to address specifically in the ‘switched on’ post!
This post was first published on Upwind Ultimate's Health Blog and can still also be found there at: www.upwindultimate.com/health
I’m guessing at some point in your Ultimate or athletic career, you’ve heard advice like this:
“Keep your head in the game!”
“The only point that matters is this point!”
“Stop worrying about the past or thinking about the future, just stay in the now!”
Were you able to do it on command? Or were you left wondering how to do it?
If you’re in that latter group of people left wondering how to keep your mind in the present instead of wandering back to the past or into the future, I’ve got a quick exercise you can use to train your mind to come to the present moment on command.
The exercise itself is simple and often works in the moment you need it. However, for the most lasting effects and to develop the most control over your mind, I highly recommend practicing regularly. I’ve suggested a few example times to use this exercise below, and would love to hear from you all about when/where you find it most useful!
TODAY'S JOURNAL WORK:
The Grounding Exercise
Anytime you would like to be grounded in the present moment, wherever you are, think of…
3 things you can see
3 things you can hear
3 things you can physically feel
For example, at a tournament this might sound like:
See: my teammates, people’s stuff on the sidelines, and the green grass.
Hear: cheers and sideline talk near and far away, cars driving by the fields, and some team’s block rocker playing music.
Feel: the heat of the sun, the slight breeze, and the earth under my cleats.
Suggested moments to practice Grounding:
-Right when you arrive
-When you are cleating up
-When your coach/captain is about to explain a drill or strategy
-As you’re throwing to warm-up
-When you first arrive at your field
-Anytime you start to feel a little nervous or jittery
-Between points or games as a ‘reset’ button
-On the line before the pull
-While you’re driving
-When you’re working out
-At school/the office when you’re overwhelmed
-Anytime you find your mind somewhere else when you’d rather be in the present
**A super-cool bonus to this exercise is that you can use it with another person. If you notice a teammate zoning out, overwhelmed or unable to focus, ask if you can walk them through an exercise to help them come back to the present. You might be surprised at the results!**
Hi! My name is Petra. I am an Ultimate player, wife, mom, and human performance coach. My passion and my profession is to help individuals and teams perform at their best through research-based mental skills, resilience, leadership and team dynamics training.
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