Dr. Alan Goldberg is an internationally recognized expert in the field of peak performance. He holds a black belt in traditional Okinawan Karate, Shorin Ryu style. As a Sports Performance Consultant Dr. G works with wrestlers and other athletes across all sports helping them overcome performance fears and blocks, develop mental toughness, better handle competitive pressure and perform to their potential. Dr. G writes regularly on the subjects of peak performance and mental toughness and is the author of the revolutionary new book, "This Is Your Brain On Sports" and "Using Your Head to Wrestle Like a Champion."
Is Your Head Preventing You Wrestling Like a Champion?
So what kind of a head do you have on your shoulders? Are you wrestling and competing at the level that you’re capable of? Do you regularly perform better in practice than at tournaments or bigger matches? Do you mysteriously lose your aggressiveness when you step onto the mat? Are there particular opponents who you consistently lose to who have no business beating you? Do fears and self-doubts paralyze you and prevent you from performing to your potential. Are you the kind of athlete who regularly steals defeat from the closing jaws of victory?
If some of these questions bother you, then you probably already know how critically important the mental part of your sport is. If you want to take your performance to the next level, then you have to be willing to take your training far beyond where most wrestlers stop. Most serious athletes in this sport religiously work on the physical part of the sport. They’ll work on their strength, fitness and quickness. They’ll work on correctly executing their technique. Is this stuff important? You betcha! You can’t become successful without “paying your physical dues” in this way. Hard work is definitely one of the main keys to your success on the mat. Without it, you’ll quickly lose.
Unfortunately, this is where most good wrestlers stop. When they go into their matches, they hope they’ll perform well, they hope that they’ll have their “A” game with them today, they hope that they’ll win. You would never leave your conditioning or wrestling technique to chance. i.e. “I hope I’m in good shape today.” So why would you leave the most important part of your performance, the mental side to chance?
Think about this: Getting good as a wrestler in practice is 95% physical and 5% mental. Translation: You have to work hard on your conditioning and “physical game” to make it happen. However, once you step onto that mat for a match, the percentages flip flop. Being successful is 95% mental and 5% physical. You have the conditioning, technique and match strategy, now you have to make sure that you stay calm under pressure and keep yourself focused on the right things. For example, your concentration needs to stay in the moment, on executing one move at a time. If you let your mind jump ahead to the future, (i.e. thinking about winning or losing) or slip back to the past (i.e. a previous mistake or bad match), then you’ll end up getting yourself too uptight and distracted to perform to your potential. This means that you have to be able to rebound quickly from your mistakes and not carry them into the next round or match.
You have to believe in yourself and have the self-confidence to wrestle your own match, rather than let your opponent dictate how the match goes. You have to be able to handle last minute negativity and self-doubts. You have to be able to master your fears. You have to be able to avoid the common mental mistakes that wrestlers make that lead them to getting psyched out or intimidated.
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 wrestler.