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!
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.
This blog is devoted to helping you, the Ultimate player, develop the mindset, mental skills and mental toughness you want and need to perform at your best when it matters most.
Let's get started.
We’ve all been there - in that moment where we needed to be performing at the top of our game and we just couldn’t make it happen. It might have been at a tryout, a game against a rival team, the semi-finals of a tournament or the game-to-go to Nationals. Wherever it was for you, I’m guessing it wasn’t fun. I’m guessing it was frustrating and confusing.
You might be wondering why I’m starting on such an awesome note.
The reason is this: those moments when our performance matters most tend to come toward the middle or end of the season. And too often, we (as players and coaches) don’t think about the impact of our mental game on our performance until that moment - the one when we need to perform and we can’t. Sometimes, even if we know the importance of the mental game, we rarely take the time to train it properly and deliberately from the start of the season.
What you’ll need to start training:
-A journal. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but it should be something durable - something that can withstand the treachery of living in your Ultimate bag. Why? Because training your mind requires entering your mind, reflecting and doing something with what you find. You’ll want a place to keep notes and track progress.
-Hunger & humility. I’m excited to be your guide and your coach, but this entire process is really up to you. Be wary of those offering hacks or quick tricks to enhance your mental toughness. There is no shortcut and there are no hacks. Training your mind requires the same commitment, effort, and work as training your body. I’ll give you questions to reflect on, exercises to practice, and prompts to think about, but the progress you make depends on the work you put in. The work we do here together is about cultivating sturdy and effective habits.
Ready for your first assignment?
-Pull out your journal. Take a minute or two and reflect on your past couple seasons. What do you believe was your biggest mental stumbling block? What was your biggest mental strength?
This assignment is just to start developing your own self-awareness. But if you feel like sharing, I would love to hear what elements of the mental game you are most interested in working on this season and you might be suprised to hear that others have similar thoughts and questions. Feel free to post a comment below or email me at Petra@PerformanceColorado.com. You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter.
Hi! I'm Piers. I am an Ultimate player, spouse, parent, 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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