We are a few weeks into the outdoor season, and the conference, regional, and national leaderboards have found themselves in constant flux. As different regions across the country have started competing on a more regular basis, the state of the leaderboards has been in disaray. New leaders and new athletes populating the most important top 20 distances at the Division III level. The top 20 are the most important because those are the athletes that, if entered, will compete at the outdoor national championships this season.
Over the past couple of weeks I’ve written a lot about building confidence and instilling a sense of self-efficacy in oneself. An activity that I shared with my Holistic Coaching athletes this week focused on constructing our own personal highlight reels in our minds. Recalling three performances/outcomes in which we really shined was the emphasis of our conversations this week. The idea of reviewing three occasions and creating a one minute Sportscenter type highlight reel of our performances. The undertone of the idea being centered on imagery, how powerful imagery can be as a learned skill, and how to incorporate imagery into our daily routines.
Sometimes, however, if we haven’t quite mastered the skill of imagery, a sense of self-doubt starts to creep in. We may have the best intentions of how we want to compete, but because of our lack of preparedness or anxiety to incorporate the skill, we revert back to our old selves and allow doubt to sabotage our competition. A strategy to divert doubt and transform our negative thoughts into more positive ones goes like this.
Most throwers are aware that there is a conversation going on in their heads in and out of the throwing circle or javelin runway. These conversations might go in a variety of directions; either extremely positive, extremely negative, and of course somewhere in between. What would you do if the other throwers that you are competing against that day started talking to you the way you talk to yourself? The value in this activity is in recognizing this internal dialogue as a mechanism to separate ourselves from the undermining voice of self-doubt. One of the characteristics of self-doubt is that it tends to strengthen as the challenge increases (attempting to hit a distance standard, competing at a small meet vs. competing at nationals, having to set a personal best or near personal best to qualify for finals) or as it represents an increasing risk (attempting a new technique during competition for the first time).
Training our mind takes a concerted daily effort. Much like training to throw the shot-put or discus, it is not automatic. We spend countless hours learning proper throwing technique, yet fail to practice mindset techniques that will help us overcome anxiety, fear, or the frustration of throwing. A research based strategy to help us refocus when we sense self-doubt creeping in is to create power phrases for yourself. Destructive power phrases associated with self-doubt might include “I won’t…,” “I can’t…,” or “I am not…”. Redirected positive power phrases begin with “I will…,” “I can…,” or “I am…” Following the examples below, you can create and develop your own positive power phrases to assist you in overcoming self-doubt when you feel it attempting to take up space in your mind at practice, before, and during competition.
When you think “I will…,” this is a statement about positive change or intention. Our focus is directed towards what you want and what you intend to make happen. When competing, what are one or two “I will…” statements that will help you stay focused on what you are going to do during the competition?
When you think “I can…,” this is a statement about your potential. It is a positive statement about your ability to accomplish your goals and dreams. When you think “I can…” you focus on your belief in your ability to do something. When competing, what are one or two “I can…” statements that will help you stay focused on your abilities to accomplish your goals?
When you think “I am…,” this is the most powerful power phrase because it is a statement about who you are. Your reality and future can take shape from the phrase “I am…” When you think “I am…” you focus on the traits that you already have inside you. When competing, what are one or two “I am…” statements about who you are as a person and individual.
Dr. Charles Infurna
Charles Infurna, Ed.D., is the owner and lead coach of Forza Athletics Track Club. Dr. Infurna has coached National Record Holders, National Champions, All-Americans, and Conference Champions at the Post-Collegiate, Collegiate, and High School level.