The big meet is right around the corner. Maybe it’s the conference meet, maybe it’s states, maybe it’s even NCAA’s! Whatever that meet is, you are laying in bed staring at the ceiling, wondering how you can prepare for the big event. The intensity is seeping through your joints, you can sense the anxiousness of all the throwers before the meet and you are still 5 days out! You can smell the chalk, you can hear the grunts and the music blaring...how are you going to prepare mentally for this massive event? How can you be as optimally prepared mentally to enable your body to take over and do its job?
Mental preparation is rooted in a few aspects of training and competition. One of the most important pillars behind the foundation of mental preparation is having a coach that fully believes in their system of training and fully believes in their ability to manage the individual based on their own personal character traits.
When the coach believes in their system, their charisma should pass on enough confidence in training to elicit a positive response from the athlete. Another pillar to the foundation of mental preparation is having a positive relationship between the athlete and coach in training. When the athlete and coach can handle stress on a unified front in training, they can in turn conquer any type of external stress thrown their way during competition!
The final pillar to the foundation of mental preparation is having positively established habits, both physical and mental habits. When athletes execute the same habits EVERY SINGLE DAY over a very long period of time, they create and establish their identity as a thrower. Do they go to practice and write down their 1-2 cues? Do they visualize and focus daily? Do they eat well for optimal recovery? Do they know the focus of each session? When these habits are established, the identity of the thrower is essentially forced into the elite echelon of training and competition!
Tools of the Trade
Coaches often forget that being “mentally strong” must be an aspect of training that is also cultivated and trained. Having mental strength and having an ability to manage stress accordingly is all related to having the necessary skills to manage the external perception of stress. Often times we hear coaches saying, “Get out of your head,” with those same coaches neglecting to recognize that a statement of that magnitude is just as idiotic as proclaiming, “Just throw the shot further!” The individual athlete must-have skills and tools developed throughout training to enhance their mental preparation.
Outside of actual therapy (which I recommend for everyone, especially cognitive behavioral therapy), I believe there are a few ways to educate athletes on handling competition, external stressors and mental development.