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A, B, See, Say
"concentration and metal toughness are the margin of victory."
Despite the large number of coaches who attribute athletic success to mental traits, they most often continue to ignore these factors in training. Most athletes have a standard warm-up they go through before practice and competition that typically includes dynamic stretching, jogging, technical drills, and possibly a few tactical scenarios.
Elite athletes are tuned in to their mind AND body to individualize their warm-up to prime the mind AND prepare the body for their optimal performance.
A proper mental preparation warm-up can get you in the right mindset.
Aware, Breathe, See the success you want, Say affirmation
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Awareness is the first step to performance enhancement. The athlete must "check in" and determine if he/she is at the right activation level (IZOF) and if emotional state, though processes, and focus are where they need to be (TAP). The athlete must be fully present and focused on the task at hand.
Diaphragmatic breathing is The Magic Elixir!!! It will trigger the relaxation response which can reduce stress (activation levels), instill and sustain composure, prime concentration & mental agility, improve reaction time, accelerate energy production, speed healing, help manage pain, improve the quality of sleep, and enhance overall performance.
The "best" way for first time breathers is to lie flat on the floor/ground. Sitting up in a chair, or on the ground in a relaxed position and even standing are acceptable.
1. Place one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest.
2. Inhale slowly through the nose for a 4-5 second count. The hand on your stomach should be the one to move, which fills the diaphragm with air. (If your shoulders move up or your chest expands the most your are not breathing "correctly".)
3. Exhale slowly through the mouth for a 4-5 second count.
4. Repeat steps 2-3 for your desired time. Practice this for 5-7 breath cycles (inhale/exhale) as you observe your stomach distend and diaphragm fill. (This entire A, B, See, Say practice routine will on take 2-3 minutes.)
Grossman & Christensen described Tactical Breathing called the 4-count method.
1. Breathe in through the nose to a slow count of 4.
2. Hold the breath for a count of 4.
3. Exhale slowly for a count of 4 (try to get your navel to touch your spine)
4. Hold empty for another count of 4.
See the success you want. Imagery primes the mind for success and repetition strengthens the neural connections. This can be primed by the coach with a Deliberate Practice Goal or topic of the day or can be up to the individual. Coach's choice.
Say your affirmation statement. Affirmations are statements that reflect positive attitudes or thoughts about oneself. Think of it as a statement about what you may want, but phrased as if you already have it.
The most effective affirmations are both believable and vivid. You want to capture a feeling of a particularly satisfying experience. Each one should express a personal , positive message of something that is happening in the present.
Examples: I am a strong outside hitter. I play well under pressure. I love taking the shot when the game is on the line. I'm faster than lightening. No one works harder than me.
Team slogans can also serve as affirmations: "Fight to the Finish", "Pride", "The Few, the Proud, the Marines". :)
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