Is Your Head Getting in Your Way?
Becoming a champion in the pool requires any athlete to “pay his/her physical dues.” That is, there is no shortcut to reaching your goals. You have to work hard, build muscle strength, improve your quickness, increase endurance and hone the technique required to play this game at a high level. By making this kind of physical investment and working hard at it, you are moving yourself one step closer to your dreams. But you can’t just stop there like a lot of water polo players do. To become a champion you must also work on the mental side of your game.
Once you get into that pool for an important try-out or game, the difference between playing well or poorly lies completely between your ears! Whem the game is on the line and the competitive pressure is turned up high, playing to your potential is all about how well you can execute mentally. That is, are you able to stay calm and composed under pressure? If you go into a game too nervous, you'll play tentatively, make a lot of mistakes and come out of it bitterly disappointed. Staying relaxed under big game pressure is one of the secrets to being able to play your game, the way you are capable of playing.
Do you have the ability to focus on what’s important and let go of everything else? Concentration, when controlled, is the key to performance excellence. However, if you lose control of your focus and concentrate on the wrong things either before or during your game then you will undermine your confidence, make yourself nervous and underachieve. Water Polo is too fast a game to play well unless your concentration is in the right place when it counts the most.
Can you quickly let go of your mistakes and bad breaks and get your head back in the action? Players who get really mad at themselves for screw-ups, who carry around their mistakes during the game (i.e. “You suck!” “I can’t believe you blew that pass!” “How could you have missed that shot?” ) end up rapidly losing their confidence and making more mistakes. Champions in the pool have the ability to quickly rebound from their mistakes and return their focus back to the action.
Do you know how to avoid getting psyched out or intimidated? Playing your best when it counts the most demands that you stay centered and “play your own game.” This can only happen when you focus on yourself and your job on the team. If you are in the habit of allowing your concentration to stray to your opponents, their skill level, physicality, size, reputation, or how important the match is, then you will quickly find yourself getting psyched out and playing tentatively.
As a water polo player you must make a commitment to work hard on your mental game as well as your physical one. You’d never leave your conditioning and skill execution to chance! So why leave this critical mental part of your game up in the air?
You have to believe in yourself and have the self-confidence to focus on yourself and not your opponents when you're under pressure. You have to be able to handle last minute negativity and self-doubts. You have to be able to master your fears.
With a little work, these mental skills as well as a few important others can be systematically trained to the point where you develop the reputation as a mentally tough competitor. My CD program, The Best Mental Toughness Training Program for Water Polo Players (ON SALE NOW!) will take you to the next level!
Are you struggling with performance anxiety or a slump? Do you consistently perform better in practice than when it counts?
As a Sports Performance Consultant, Dr. Alan Goldberg works with swimmers and water polo players & teams at all levels. A popular presenter at coaches clinics and clubs around the country, Dr. G specializes in helping individual athletes get unstuck and performing their best when it counts the most. He is the author of 20 books including his latest, "This Is Your Brain On Sports." In addition, Dr. G is a regular contributor to the USA Swimming's Splash Magazine. Check out his most popular program- Mental Toughness Training Package for Water Polo Players-Special Savings.