Sport psychology is often seen as something for professionals, Olympians, collegians, and high level youth athletes. And while this is true, improving the mental part of the game to enhance performance can be beneficial for athletes of all levels. For the weekend warrior, a better performance usually makes athletic participation more enjoyable and a better experience. That is an area where sport psychology can be beneficial to anyone.
For instance, I played soccer competitively through college. Looking back on my experience, I can say with confidence that working with a sport psychologist would have been a huge help. Now, as weekend warrior, I still play for the love of the game, to get exercise, and hang out with friends. But even though this isn’t something I train for, or practice, I still want to perform well. It’s even expected. But carrying the same expectations of my performance today that I did in college is not realistic.
I think this is true for most people. So for you weekend warriors, who don’t have time to practice, but love to play pick-up or league games for fun, here are three sport psych tips to help improve your performance, and maximize your enjoyment.
Don’t try to do it all. Don’t expect to play like Jordan or Tiger, or even your 18 year old self. Focus on one thing you do well or would like to do, and make that your success. Odds are that focusing on that one thing will clear your head and allow you to get into the flow of the game. When you get success early, confidence rises. When confidence rises, so does performance.Â
Tired? Take slow, controlled, deep breaths to recover. Frustrated? Take a deep breath to relax. Unfocused? Take a deep breath to re-focus. Breathing is your link between your conscious mind and unconscious mind. Being conscious of your breathing allows you to be in control.
Have a mantra that you repeat to yourself during competition. Something positive that sums up what you want the experience to be about. “Always run back on defense,” “I am getting a great workout,” and “Stay positive” are good examples of a positive mantra. Repeat this mentally throughout competition to not allow negative or distracting thoughts (“I am horrible!” “What am I doing out here?” “Is it over yet?”) to take over.
These three mental skills are not that different from what I would have a high level athlete do. Being relaxed and in the moment, and enjoying playing will almost always lead to better results than being tight, frustrated, and down on yourself. Weekend warriors – use your mental strength to enjoy your sport even more.