The Mental Game

I'm writing this from a hotel room in Naperville, Illinois with my daughter Delaney sleeping one bed over.  We are here for a softball tournament, and tomorrow holds a 5:30 a.m. wake up call.  I had planned to write about something else this week, but lately Delaney's softball and her brother Aidan's baseball experiences have led me in another direction for this blog post.

You may or may not know that in sports, the mental game is at least as important as the physical game.  The brain can be your biggest asset or your most potent adversary in sports. 

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Lately, they've both been struggling at the plate.  It happens to everyone on or off the field.  The s-l-u-m-p (we don't say the word out loud) began innocently enough with a couple bad games of striking out.  As the games of disappointing at-bats continued, other problems began to creep into both their games.  They were inside their heads with worry and stress over not hitting, and it spread like a virus to fielding.  The cause of the problem was letting the fact that they weren't hitting get to them....and fester with rumination.  It seemed that the harder they worked to correct the problem, the more it persisted.

Does any of this sound familiar?

Rome wasn't built in a day, and the s-l-u-m-p will not be corrected in one at bat for either of them.  At the advice of her coach, Delaney has been picturing positive outcomes before each at bat.  I've been walking Aidan through some guided positive visualization on the way to practices (He does this with a peanut butter sandwich in one hand sometimes.  I'm not sure if that helps or hurts the process).

The idea of visualizing positive outcomes is powerful.  I think the reason it works is because it knocks us out of the downward spiral of negative self talk......and negative language.

For example, instead of telling themselves, "Don't strike out," we encourage them each to say, "I will get a hit."   (Like I try to remember to tell myself, "I'm going to let it go," instead of, "I'm not going to get mad about that.")  Negative words bring about negative thoughts....no matter the context in which they are used.  Better to self talk in positive phrases.  

I feel like Delaney is really working on being mindful of the positives.  Aidan is going through the motions, but I'm confident he will get there.  That's the difference between being fourteen and just barely eleven years old.  They will both come out the other side of this, and Delaney is already seeing the light on the other side of it.  Hopefully, in the long run, they will be wiser for having gone through this challenge in that they realize the power of using positive thinking and self talk skills to help them out throughout their lives.  I hope I remember to do it more often too, because it works.


Update:  Last week's Try it for a Week post was a fun experiment.  I did cut way down on my scrolling on social media, but I caught myself doing it more often than I liked.  I noticed that I scrolled when I was tired.  I'm not sure what that means, other than that I am less likely to make good decisions when I'm not awake and alert.  I will continue to work on this one, because I noticed really being able to be more present.  How did your little experiment go?

Next up?  #yogaeverydamnday for 30-days.....and beyond