Is Your Head Getting in the Way of Your Performance?
Believe in yourself and have the self-confidence to focus on yourself and not your opponents.
So what kind of a head do you have on your shoulders? Are you competing at the level that you’re capable of? Or do fears and self-doubts paralyze you right before you drop in or race and then prevent you from performing to your potential?
Do you regularly perform better in practice than you do in important competitions? Are there particular opponents who you consistently lose to who have no business beating you? Are you the kind of boarder 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 snowboarders stop. Most serious athletes in your sport religiously focus on the physical. They’ll work on their fitness and strength. They’ll work on the proper technique and new tricks. Is this stuff important? You betcha! You can’t become successful without first “paying your physical dues” in this way. Hard work is definitely one of the keys to your success. Without it, you’ll quickly fall behind the competition.
Unfortunately, this is where most snowboarders stop. When they go into their competitions, they hope they’ll perform well, they hope that they’ll have their “A” game with them today, they hope that they’ll finish high. You would never leave your strength, conditioning, or technique to chance. So why would you leave the most important part of your performance – the mental part – to chance?
Being successful when it counts is 95% mental and 5% physical. You have the proper conditioning, timing and technique. To race well or nail those big tricks when it counts the most, you have to be able to stay calm under pressure, keep yourself focused on the right things, believe in yourself, and, most important, manage last-minute negativity, fears, and doubts.
Without these mental skills, you will consistently sabotage yourself and underachieve.
A number of snowboarders struggle with incapacitating fears. Their fears may prevent them from being aggressive when they drop in or race and this tentativeness sabotages their performance. Fears within your sport are exceptionally common and are integrally related to the very nature of snowboarding. Crashing is just part of learning new tricks and a normal occurrence when you compete. Sometimes these crashes are exceptionally scary and can result in injuries.
Every time that you have a scary crash, close call, or injury, your brain/body memorizes the entire experience in exquisite detail. You unconsciously remember all the sights, sounds, smells, movements, emotions, and thoughts from the experience. In fact, long after you crashed and this experience may have been consciously forgotten, it still remains frozen in its entirety in your brain and body. The problem with this is that the next time you are under pressure or are in any way reminded of that original scary experience, (i.e. getting ready to drop in or going for a big trick (Double McTwist 1260), components from this original upsetting event (images, sounds, emotions, anxiety, physical tension, and/or negative thinking) get activated and bubble up, interfering with the present performance. Oftentimes when this happens, your body automatically goes into a self-protective FREEZE mode in an attempt to keep you safe from a perceived danger. When this happens, no matter what you consciously try to do to correctly execute or go faster, your body instinctively stops you.
This is the kind of work that we focus on with snowboarders. In addition to teaching them specific mental toughness training techniques to help them stay calm under pressure, focus on what’s important and block out everything else, rebound quickly from mistakes and failures, develop self-confidence, and manage last minute negative thinking and self-doubts, we help these athletes get over their incapacitating fears, using mind-body techniques to help them calm their nervous system down!
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.
Dr. Alan Goldberg is an internationally-recognized Sports Performance Consultant who works with snowboarders at every level helping them overcome performance fears and blocks, develop mental toughness and perform to their potential. Dr. G is the author of the revolutionary book, This Is Your Brain On Sports: Beating Blocks, Slumps and Performance Anxiety for Good! Check out his popular Mental Toughness Training Package.
Coach G, Thanks for the CDs (14 Steps)! I absolutely love the content. You have helped open my kids' eyes and I have seen the difference immediately in their confidence and improved performance on the mountain and in the half-pipe. What a gift!
Alan, I just wanted to let you know that you helped me out a great deal and I have been back on the board for awhile now and having success and feeling good. Of course there have been some ups and downs but all in all I wouldn’t be in this position still without your help!
Dr. G! Ever since my crash, whenever I'd drop in, my mind would shut down and I'd be unable to get my body to do what it knew how to do. Your work with me has been almost magical! I'm not afraid of those tricks anymore and I can finally go for them fearlessly whenever I drop in. Wow!
OVERCOMING PERFORMANCE FEARS AND BLOCKS Are you struggling with a seemingly mysterious performance problem? Have you or your athlete suddenly lost BASIC abilities? FINALLY understand where this FRUSTRATING problem comes from and what you can do about it!
THE MENTAL SIDE OF ATHLETIC INJURIES The mental pain caused by your injury and the temporary or permanent loss of your sport can be far more devastating than the strained or torn ligaments, pulled muscles, ripped cartilage or broken bones. Unless this type of pain is directly addressed and “treated”, your overall recovery will be slow and incomplete.