Is Your Head Stopping You From Performing to Your Potential?
Once you get into that pool, the difference between playing well or poorly lies completely between your ears!
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 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! When 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.
To play like a champion, you have to learn to control your focus of concentration
- Championship concentration means that you have to focus on what you’re DOING and not on what you’re THINKING.
- Keep your focus on “seeing, reading and reacting” – seeing the pool, ball and position of the other players around you; instinctively “reading” your best move; and then just reacting without thinking.
- Focus in the NOW on the moment by moment flow of the bout.
- Whenever your focus drifts to thinking about the future (winning or losing) or the past (a mistake), quickly “reset” and return your focus to the NOW.
- Leave your expectations for the bout at home. Stay away from an outcome focus.
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 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.
This also means that as a player, you need to know what the biggest concentration mistake is that water polo players make: FOCUSING ON THE UNCONTROLLABLES or UCs! (anything that is directly out of your control)
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 the critical mental part of your game up in the air?
With a little work, you can develop the reputation as a mentally tough competitor.
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 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 Mental Toughness Training Packages.
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