Ever get the feeling like you have everything under control during practice, but choke up during game time? When it comes to volleyball, controlling the thoughts that run through your mind is as important as ball control. Demonstrating mental toughness during games is crucial to your success as an athlete, as it has the ability to make or break your game. Just like meditation, mental toughness is something that must be properly investigated and regularly practiced.
To test out your athletic mental stability, ask yourself the following questions:
On a scale of 1-10, (1 being nervous and 10 being stable) how nervous are you before you step onto the court?
If you go into a game nervous, you will find that you make more mistakes and, as a result, come out of the game disappointed with crushed confidence. If this is something you struggle with, there are some great strategies to help you gather your wits. Deep breathing, putting an emphasis on longer exhales, will help you to slow your thoughts and quiet the loud voices in your head. There is a great app called Headspace which provides 10 minute guided meditations for daily use.
On a scale of 1-10, (1 playing poor and 10 playing well) how well do you play under pressure? Are you nervous and jumpy or calm and relaxed? How does your body feel?
Identifying your ideal playing conditions will help you develop a critical eye on your success rate. It is important to take personal inventory and to make sure you feel grounded before jumping into a new game. Volleyball is a sport that requires you to make quick decisions on your feet and act under pressure. Have you developed strategies to keep your mind in a solid place? Some tips include:
- Focus on one task and not the outcome of the game.
- Be positive and optimistic during high pressure moments.
- Lighten the atmosphere by being playful and having fun with your partner.
- Slow the moment down and call breaks.
- Be vocal with your partner about how you are feeling in the moment.
On a scale of 1-10, (1 being poor and 10 being great) how is your concentration during game time? Do you have the ability to focus on what’s important and let go of your other thoughts?
It is no secret that volleyball is a very fast-paced game. It is crucial to find a way to always be present in the moment. Don’t think ahead and don’t think behind. What’s happened, has already happened and there is no use in dwelling. You are better off finding a way to staying present in the play. In between plays, try getting in touch with your senses – What do you hear? What do you smell? What do you feel? This will bring you back to the present.
On a scale of 1-10, (1 being low and 10 being high) how is your self-esteem on the court? Do you believe in your abilities? If you make a mistake, do you recover quickly?
Confidence has proven, time and again, to be a major factor in the outcome of a game. When you make a mistake, what do you do with that negativity? Do you carry it with you throughout the game and get mad at yourself? Champions have the ability to recover from their mistakes quickly and move forward, in any realm of life. Anxiety and fear of failure is only an inconvenience, but not a reality. When fear of failure arises, try to embrace it and let it flow through you instead of blocking it. This is the key to overcoming.
On a scale of 1-10, (1 being intimidated and 10 being tough) if you are getting picked on by an opponent, how do you feel?
It is like having a sibling. The more an opponent sees you react, the more he or she is going to bother you. Never show your fear, even if you feel it. If you are in the habit of allowing your focus to linger on your opponents, their skill level, size or reputation, or how important the match is, then you will quickly find yourself getting intimidated. Overcoming happens when you are focused on yourself and your job on the team.