MENTAL SUNSCREEN: PLANNING FOR THE UNEXPECTED

9 06 2013

Screen Shot 2013-06-10 at 10.53.55 AMAthletes are uniquely program to expect perfection from themselves and their teammates.  Was there ever a time that you went into a game expecting things to go any other way then exactly how you had planned?  With few exceptions, perfection is the expectation.  No matter what position or skill you are performing, you have a plan for success.  Maybe there is a certain pitch you are sitting on or a plan for how to strike a guy out.  Pitcher, catcher, hitter, or fielder it doesn’t matter, you have a plan.  When it comes to mental preparation, our expectation should not be any different.  However, if you are being honest with yourself, there is probably and large part of your mental performance that you leave to chance.  In my experience with ball players, preparing for the unexpected is usually one of whose pieces.  So why do we spend time preparing for the unexpected?  Preparing for things to go wrong or or extremely well?  It seems backwards to

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focus time and energy on anything but exactly what we want to have happen, right? In most cases that’s true, but you can’t just go to the beach with they expectation to not get sunburned either.  You have to plan ahead and bring sunscreen. Planning for the unexpected, good or bad, is like mental sunscreen.  So in that way, preparing for what could happen is the best way to make sure you are ready no matter what happens.  I’ll give you some examples, it is not uncommon for teams to go ahead in a game and then lose focus or relax to much and end up losing or for individual player to allow their success in previous at-bats to cloud their preparation.  Take Brandon Crawford as an example of how important it is:

I felt really good about my fourth at-bat. I already had three hits, including the home run. So psychologically you might relax a little. You know you’ve already had a good day. But I wanted to make sure I didn’t give in. I stayed as locked in as I had been the previous three at-bats.- Brandon Crawford SF Giants Short-Stop

These types of situations is why it is so important to have a plan and give yourself the best chance to continue being successful through anything.  Here are a few preparation tips for creating an effective plan:

1. ALL POSSIBILITIES– Run through every possibility you can think of prior to the game.  It is important to consider both positive and negative possibilities.  For example, picture yourself going 4 for 4, having a fielding error, striking out 14, or hanging a pitch resulting in a home run.  Run through every possibility and establish your plan for getting refocused, relaxed, and ready for the next play.  See yourself working through every situation un-phase.

2. PICK YOUR ‘MUST HAVES’– Establish what 2 or three things you MUST do to make sure you are ready.  For example, I need to close my eyes and picture my next play, take a long deep breath, and repeat the word ‘ready’ over and over until my next opportunity.  Eventually, this will become so automatic that you will no longer even notice you are doing it.

3. CREATE EMOTIONAL CONTROL– Understanding that the actual performance will have stronger emotional based reactions is important.  We can practice in practice all week with no emotional affect, but performances in games tend to bleed emotions like excitement, frustration, anger, or regret more powerfully then day to day practice.  Understanding the impact these emotions can have on you as a player will help you recognize the situation and be prepared to handle it.

4.  TRIGGERS– Create a reminder for yourself to use in the game.  Having your plan is a great start, remembering to use that plan is VITAL.  You can plan all you want but if you forget to actually get the sunscreen out and put it on, you will burn.  So, find a trigger.  When you are frustrated at yourself, pumped up about something you just did, or annoyed and the umps terrible strike zone you will need a reminder.  Emotions are powerful, irrational, and can easily wrap you up.  So make your tigger OBVIOUS!!  Here are a few example I have heard in the past; wearing something on your wrist, putting a colored sticker on the thumb of your glove or under the bill of your hat, or even writing a reminder on your hand.  Be creative! This has to work for you and only you so make it personal!

If you truly want to be successful, you have to plan to be successful under ALL circumstances.  To be the best, prepared like the best.  Prepare for the good and the bad and you will always be ready!

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