The fact is in elite sports, there are going to be times where you feel just stuck. Nothing is going right, and you feel that there is no way out. These Mental blocks are common.
Every athlete goes through them. However, these mental blocks are commonly the most challenging and frustrating obstacle for an athlete of any age to experience.
Mental blocks affect athletes at every level…and you don't know when they are coming. They do affect players that are going through a form slump and this has a huge effect on a player's confidence.
Having Confidence in Your Skills Regress of how you Feel
Remember, confidence is everything, skills, mindset, strategy, body, and energy are all integral units contributing to confidence.
One aspect that makes mental blocks so challenging and vexing to deal with is that with many players, you know how to execute a skill, you know you have the ability to perform the skill with or without pressure and you've done it in the past time and time again. But they happen and sometimes you just lay bad. They key is to not complain about your problems and maintain the right attitude and face to persevere.
The key is the accept what is transpiring and to remove judgement and expectation on how you think you should play. It's unrealistic to feel great everyday or play well every time you compete.
Take the time to think about when you have had a mental block. What did you feel, what did you experience? Mental blocks don't just affect athletes. To illustrate mental blocks, let's examine an example outside of sports. Writer's block is a common mental block prevalent among writers.
From musical writers to journalists to storytellers, writers can be typing away, in a zone, then suddenly, be at a loss for a word, a sentence, even a whole freeze on a story.
You see, the harder and longer the writer searches for the next word, the harder it is to find the exact word they are looking for. In this instance, the writer decides to stop what they are doing, walks away and, within minutes or sometimes hours, the words magically out of nowhere pops into the writer's head.
Now, the same thing happens for athletes…but you can't just walk away like a writer. These mental blocks or hurdles as they are commonly referred to see the athlete develop a longer form slump. These mental blocks simply get in the way for athletes to succeed in training or competition.
These athletes are often ill-equipped to handle these hurdles and have no experience or training on how to handle them.
When an athlete faces a mental block, the default response is 'I have to figure this out or 'why is this happening to me now'.
Athletes fiddle with technique, begin to over-think by over-analyzing and over-working the mind the get to the bottom of the block.
This strengthens the mental block in a way by validating its very existence and simply just serves to further embed the mental block deeper into the mind of the athlete.
As stated previously, unlike the writer, an athlete can't just walk away in the middle of competition. So, what's the answer to disabling and overcoming an athletic mental block?
In short - STOP overthinking in what you are doing wrong or what you should be doing.
- Start focusing on what you are doing right. Don't validate the mental block. It is stopping problem-solving as it's creating an internal battle within the athlete.
In its place of trying to FIGURE THINGS OUT, learn to develop trust in your abilities. This is through your preparation and your training. Repetition is the mother of skill.
- Start to visualize past success and overcoming briefly, after all, you have probably successfully performed these skills in the past. Don't give the mental block oxygen and try to get it out of your head and let your body naturally perform as you trained it time and time again.
I see athletes time and time again over analyzing and overthinking – which I end up calling 'analysis paralysis; Times I see athletes in midst competition try to overhaul technique. This is not the best strategy to break through a mental block.
That is a purely physical response to a mental block.
Applying mental strategies and having a proper mindset before training and competition is vital, as it can not only help you break through blocks but also strengthen your overall mental game, preventing some mental blocks from bobbing up in the future.
Accepting that mental blocks are always going to occur from time to time is key. They happen. By fighting that fact, it can lead to increased anxiety and frustration levels for athletes. From my experience, they are often caused by a lack of trust in your skills and lack of good quality preparation. The best athletes both from a physical and mental perspective are always the best preparers. Lack of trust and self-belief in your skills or your game can come from fear of injury, fear of failure, unrealistic expectations, social anxiety or just trying to be too perfect too often.
Questions like what do you fear might happen if you can't perform well in competition? Are valid but unnecessary. These anxious based questions move the subconscious into the future outcome instead of the athlete focusing on the present.
As Michael Jordan once stated - "Practice eliminates fear'. Athletes need to know how to use fear to work for them.
To learn more about mental strength skills and help you overcome and reduce the frequency and intensity of mental blocks – book an appointment with our team at athleteiq.com.au