Is Your Head Preventing You from Wrestling Like a Champion?
Do you keep your aggressiveness and smarts when you step onto the mat?
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 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 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.
To wrestle like a champion, you have to learn to control your focus of concentration both before and during your matches
- Championship concentration means that you have to focus on what you’re DOING and not on what you’re THINKING.
- Keep your focus on your “target,” on “seeing, reading and reacting” – Seeing your opponent and his movement; 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.
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. I hope if I shoot, it will work and I can score.” 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.
This also means that as a wrestler, you need to know what the biggest concentration mistake is that wrestlers make: FOCUSING ON THE UNCONTROLLABLES or UCs! (anything that is directly out of your control). When you as a wrestler focus on anything that is directly out of your control, (i.e. the size, reputation of your opponent, who’s watching, how big the bout is, other people’s expectations of you, the win/lose outcome of the match, etc.), you’ll get nervous, lose your confidence and perform way below your potential.
As a wrestler, learning to focus on the right things will help you believe in yourself and have the self-confidence to wrestle your own match, rather than let your opponent dictate how the match goes.
With a little work, you can learn to develop concentration and other mental skills to the point where you develop the reputation as a mentally tough wrestler.
Dr. G works with wrestlers at every level, helping them develop mental toughness and perform to their potential. As a regular columnist for a number of national and international publications, Dr. G writes on the subjects of peak performance training and mental toughness. Check out his popular Mental Toughness Training Package.
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