Here’s an example to illustrate this problem that I hear of time and time again…Mike is a dad of a 15-year-old boy, Jake, who plays baseball. Jake’s been playing since he was little and loves the game with a serious passion. Jake hasn’t yet integrated the common advice from everyone in baseball to accept that baseball (as with most sports) is a game of mistakes.So, Jake still beats himself up after striking out in crucial situations or allowing a home run from the opposing team when he pitches. It seems to take him days, even weeks, to fully get over it and it not only affects his play in the short term, but he brings it home and makes life miserable for the whole family for a period of time.
In addition to that, Mike and Jake’s coaches can clearly see that he’s not the same hitter in the game as he is in practice. Coach says there’s nothing wrong with his swing it’s just that it disappears and turns into a weak version of it in a competitive game. Jake has done everything he has been told by his Dad and coaches and yet, his batting average is still nowhere like it should be given his talent.
After reading books together and going over games and strategies and following pro baseball together, Mike and Jake have a good relationship centered around baseball.
But it’s all still not enough to overcome Jake’s resistance when Mike suggests that he work with a sport psychologist. When Mike asks if he would like some help with this, Jake always answers something like:
“No, I’m fine, I just need to work harder like coach says…and refine my swing.”
…and nothing changes.
I hear this so often from parents it makes my head hurt!
Why is Jake (and other kids) so resistant to this kind of work?
Because Jake thinks that to have to work on your mental game means there’s something with him or that he is somehow “broken.”
This is why I call myself a “Mental Toughness Trainer.”
Everybody is interested in being trained.
On the contrary, many people do NOT want the stigma of seeing a “psychologist” or even a “mental coach.” You see why now? These labels have powerful meaning to people. Do not underestimate the power of labels and how they affect identity.
But, avoiding this “broken” thing is not just for us mental coaches. Parents and team coaches need to do everything they can to avoid the athlete getting this idea as well because it prevents them from addressing and fixing the real problem. There’s no amount of practice that Jake can do to overcome his performance anxiety at the plate no matter what he’s been told.
He’s got to access the controlling functions of his nervous system and change the responses that keep getting triggered when he steps up to the plate in competition or makes a mistake anywhere on the field.
The deadly accurate truth about athletes (and people in general) is that nobody is broken anyway! There’s nothing “wrong” with anyone. If you are not performing to your potential in any endeavor, then you simply have some belief programs at the level of the unconscious mind that are not in alignment with what you want to do.
There’s no mystery here.
There’s no ethereal punishment either.
There’s no faulty genetics.
It’s nobody’s fault.
They are just belief programs!
Anyone can change these nervous system responses triggered by the belief programs…I’ve been assisting others to do this for years and have changed some really strong ones myself, personally.
Nobody is broken. Nobody needs to be “fixed.” Nobody “is just born that way.”
These ideas destroy a person’s belief in their ability to change and ironically prevent the person from seeking the assistance that even the most confident people need from time to time.
But here’s the kicker to all of this…
You’ve got to give the person more than just hope that they can change these nervous system responses…you’ve got to give them the HOW it’s going to happen.
People who have struggled with issues for long periods of time and done everything they’ve been told have lost their hope.
It’s been proven that people do so much better psychologically speaking when they have a model for how they work and how the world works. That is the Awareness (A.) in my R.A.C.E. Formula model that I teach all my athletes and trainers.
But I can’t even help someone who is stuck in the idea that if they see a mental coach, that it’s somehow an admission that they are “broken” or “abnormal.” That’s a huge shot to the ego and people (especially athletes) will avoid it at all costs.
Whether you are a parent or coach, filter whatever you say to your athletes to make sure there isn’t an embedded message that if they are struggling with something, that they are NOT broken and that they are just going through a typical thing that most athletes have to deal with.
If you’ve done a good job of that, then the next step is to talk about the mental side of sports just like you do the physical side in that it is just another type of training and skills to learn and master that will get you to your goals a lot faster than if you ignore it.
Let’s do this,