The Mental Edge
How can a baseball player easily hit a ball in front of 50,000 fans? Why is a sprinter undeterred by a large field of competitors? What helps a runner find the strength, endurance and determination to continue to run mile after mile? How does a football or hockey team come from behind and suddenly begin winning every game? How can a basketball player easily and confidently make shot after shot, time and time again? What helps champion skiers eliminate anxiety and fear? What separates one swimmer from another? How does a golfer keenly focus despite continuous distractions? What turns a very good pitcher into a standout? What helps a tennis player stay calm, cool and collected under extreme pressure? What keeps a young gymnast on a 4-inch beam, seemingly oblivious to the noise and commotion all around them?
In addition to physical conditioning, good coaches and trainers — ask any athlete of the highest caliber what allows them to perform so well and the answer is bound to be the same – Mental Conditioning.
Mental Conditioning is completely safe. The techniques were approved by the American Medical Association and the National Institutes of Health in 1958. Mental Training is commonly used to help athletes bring about powerful and positive change and will also help them perform at peak and optimal levels both in the classroom and on the field, track or court.
Today, Mental Conditioning has become an essential part of sports training programs all over the world. Athletes in every sport, age group and level are finally enjoying the benefits of a very real competitive edge. And as a result, more games, meets and matches are being won and every day more records are being broken.
Mental Training provides athletes with a significant competitive edge. At the high school level, athletes are also being well groomed for Collegiate Sports. But athletes are also learning skills and obtaining tools they can use to greatly improve their overall health, happiness and well-being for the rest of their lives.
In What Ways Does Mental Conditioning Help Student Athletes?
In essence, it provides athletes with the mental tools they need to improve concentration and focus, avoid distractions, deal with constantly changing arousal levels, increase confidence and attitude, improve endurance, consistency, agility, power, speed, coordination, balance and strength. It also helps improve team dynamics and intra-team cohesion. In addition, Mental Conditioning helps athletes set goals and helps them achieve these goals. It frees them from negative self-limiting and self-defeating beliefs, thoughts, habits and attitudes they might have already developed about themselves and replaces these negatives with improved confidence levels, greater self-esteem and self-belief. Mental Conditioning can help any athlete with a strong will and the sincere desire to succeed, become an exceptional athlete who stands-out, is always advancing, progressing and further developing their skill, ability and talent.
What is a Mental Conditioning Session Like?
Mental conditioning sessions are conducted in an office setting, a school gymnasium, field, an off-site training facility that is stress-free. Mental Conditioning sessions can even be listened to by way of audio recordings. During a session, athletes are helped to relax both their bodies and their minds using deep relaxation techniques utilized in Clinical Hypnotherapy. When physical and mental relaxation occurs, positive suggestions are given at the core level that will improve various levels of play and performance. In time, these positive suggestions take root and are acted upon by the very powerful subconscious mind helping to bring about positive results and noticeable improvement.
The incredible sub-conscious mind, is truly one of the most powerful forces in the universe. It controls your heart beat. It allows you to breathe without you having to tell yourself that you have to take a breath. It also controls the immune system, blinking response, metabolism, digestive system and much more. Providing all of the suggestions given to a client are positive and beneficial and are in no way conflicting with ones own moral, spiritual or ethical codes, the subconscious mind readily absorbs each suggestion and sort of leaps into action to generate the desired results.
The athletes I’ve worked with have come to me already equipped with a sound knowledge base, an understanding of their sport and its history and all share a reasonable level of ability. Most have also had the benefit of excellent Coaches and Personal Trainers who provide outstanding programs. Problem is, they frequently lack the definitive edge that the addition of Mental Conditioning can provide. You see, it is the combination of physical and mental training that is key to outstanding athleticism and ultimate success. Separately, each will produce results – but combining the two will produce maximum results and will help any athlete at any level reach higher levels of performance and enjoy greater success. Sports Science studies have revealed that the dual approach is up to 300% more effective than physical training alone.
Mind Over Matter we’ve all heard this cliché…
Elite and professional athletes know that mental mindset plays an extremely important role in sports performance. Many more also realize that their thoughts and moods directly affect their performances. But very few athletes or programs dedicate sufficient time to the mental side of sports. With the human mind being so powerful, it’s no wonder that an athlete’s INNER world helps create and shape their OUTER world. Thoughts and emotions have a direct link relative to an athlete’s physical goals and sports performance. Truth is, it is the mind that determines what results are ultimately achieved. The process goes something like this: Your thoughts and beliefs lead to your emotions, which in turn lead to your actions, which then cause your results.
Before your body does ANYTHING, your mind “thinks” the action first. If those initial thoughts are positive and powerful, you have a far better chance of accomplishing the goals you set for yourself. Want to PR on the track consistently throughout the season? Want to make every shot? Want to play every minute of your football game in the zone (or flow) at optimal levels of performance? Do you need to remove psychological barriers that might be having a negative impact on your performance? (Such as returning from injury, moving past a crushing defeat or a series of disappointing performances at a previous game, meet or match?) Want to improve strength, speed, power, quickness, endurance, consistency, focus, stamina and accuracy? Many of my athletes surprise themselves by what they are soon able to do when Mental Conditioning is added to their athletic training regimen.
The four-minute mile is a notable example of a psychological barrier. For years runners simply could not run a mile in under four minutes although many came close. Poor results led to the common belief that it was just physically impossible for any human being to break a four minute mile. But incredibly, within weeks of Roger Bannister’s famous breakthrough, many other runners accomplished the exact same feat. This did not happen because other athletes were suddenly training harder or used new training techniques. It was simply due to the fact that these athletes were no longer limited by the psychological barrier that kept them thinking and believing a four minute mile was impossible. Once Bannister demonstrated it was possible, the barrier was removed, the mental mindset was altered and many athletes enjoyed the same level of success as Roger Bannister.
There is a direct link between “What We Think and What We Do.”
Helping athletes think, see and envision greatly improved performances is an very important part of mental conditioning. Nearly every month, the results of new and even more in-depth studies are being released with very surprising results. In one study, the muscle movement of sprinters training for the Olympics was measured and recorded. Then the same athletes muscle movements were measured while they were only “thinking” about themselves running a particular race. Results clearly noted that when sprinters only imagined running a perfect race — the exact same muscles they would use while actually performing suddenly engaged as though the athletes were physically moving on the track. Heart rate and blood pressure also increased and many of the athletes even perspired, although every one of them were resting comfortably in a chair in a highly relaxed state of focused concentration.
Fact is, science has proven that the same neurons that fire during physical action, fire in the exact same way while only IMAGINING it happening. Many believe that by repeatedly “imagining” successful performances in one’s mind, an athlete can pre-program their success and/or train their brain to produce the most desired results.
Watch Tiger Woods during any televised golfing event. His former long time Coach, Jay Brunza, is a Hypnotherapist. Tiger Woods can clearly be seen blinking several times in rapid succession before a difficult shot. When he does this, he’s using a Mental Conditioning technique called “anchoring” to help him focus and get in the zone. In previous mental conditioning sessions, he has already mentally played the difficult hole in his mind many times. This anchoring technique instantly brings back recollection of him playing that particular hole perfectly, and so that’s precisely what he does. There is no question that Mental Conditioning has helped Woods become one of the greatest golfer in the world.
In the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, the Russian team 11 Hypnotherapists with them to the games and later attributed their sweep of medal victories to Mental Conditioning. In the 1970’s and early 80’s the Soviet Union dominated many Olympic sporting events. Many people thought their success was due to steroid use. But it wasn’t. It was simply because of the unique training methods Soviet scientists had discovered, namely, Mental Conditioning.
The Russians discovered and later revealed that they found the combination of physical and mental conditioning to be 300% more effective than physical training alone. This means that if you are already in good physical shape, have a basic grounding in any sport, and a very good physical training program, you will get THREE TIMES MORE BENEFIT from adding Mental Conditioning to any physical training program.
During the Olympics of the 1970’s and 1980’s the rest of the world could only stand by and watch as the Russian athletes won event after event. What is even more surprising is that the Russian athletes actually spent less time engaged in physical training than the rest of the field — yet they dominated the majority of events.
Time magazine reported, in a cover story on the 1984 Olympics, that in the darkness before the finals in women’s gymnastics Mary Lou Retton, (16 years-old at the time) lay in bed at the Olympic Village mentally rehearsing her routines. She had done the same on hundreds of preceding nights, visualizing herself performing beautifully in her mind. The end result was a routine of flawlessness, presented with charisma, incredible focus, composure and calm that culminated in a gold medal.
Evidence of this declaration has been provided innumerable times. Mary Lou Rhetton pictured a perfect routine in her mind, then her body fashioned it. The same capability is accessible to any athlete. Any high school or college athlete with high hopes, a willingness to train hard, and an emotionalized desire to succeed can reach new and higher levels of athletic achievement with the tool Mental Conditioning provides.
The point is, we truly do master all of our skills and abilities in our minds first. What we THINK and how we FEEL plays a significant role in how we behave. For athletes, (in addition to good physical training, coaching and conditioning) thoughts, feelings and mental mindset will determine how well they will ultimately perform.
In his groundbreaking 1980 book “In Pursuit of Excellence,” sports psychologist Terry Orlick stressed the importance of visualization saying, “Athletes who make the fastest progress and those who ultimately become their best, make extensive use of performance imagery.”
He described the case of an Olympic figure skater stymied in her attempts to master a particular skill. After working with her to get her to mentally see herself completing the move flawlessly, the skater began to have success with that skill during her practices, and within two weeks of their first session was performing the skill “with more quality and with more consistency than she had ever done it before.”
Former Olympic springboard diving champion Sylvie Bernier would mentally practice her dives (all ten of them) each night before going to sleep.
“As I continued to work at it, I got to the point where I could feel myself on the board doing a perfect dive and hear the crowd yelling at the Olympics,” she said. “I worked at it so much, I got to the point that I could do all my dives easily.”
Orlick speaks of training the mind and body to execute skills to perfection by programing a high quality performance into the athlete’s brain. While it might sound like psychological mumbo-jumbo, visualization has taken its place as one of the key components of what goes into turning a skilled athlete into a champion, supplementing inherent skill, expert coaching, and training regimens specifically geared to bringing the athlete to a performance peak at exactly the right time.
Regularly used today by the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, PGA, LPGA, Team USA and the IMG Performance Academies and many more,Mental Conditioning is now a core component of elite athletic training programs worldwide.
I believe every aspiring young athlete should be afforded every opportunity available to help them enjoy optimal levels of success. With the power of the Internet, CD’s and MP3’s, sessions are available to student athletes everywhere. I now work with athletes in 11 different countries in all different sports, age groups and levels from elementary school all the way up to elite and professionals. I am also proud to share that my client base includes many of the most talented young standouts in the United States. All of my sessions (with student athletes) include academic boosters as well, so my clients also tend to excel academically as well.
So, if you don’t currently utilize mental training and mental conditioning techniques you or your team are probably not performing at peak and optimal levels and you are missing out on an enormous competitive edge. With the tools Mental Conditioning provides, you can expect superior results from your athletic training program and far more success during every competitive event. If you have any questions or you would like to discuss scheduling sessions, please feel free to contact me.
Maggie Ferrari, CCHT
The Mental Edge
Mental Conditioning for Athletic Excellence