In sports everyone wants to win, but not everyone is willing to do what it takes to be a winner. At EXACT Sports we understand that the mental side of the game takes as much care and preparation as the physical side. Athletes aspiring to optimize their athletic performance would do well to learn and apply the following mental skills.

1. Goal-Setting

This strategy means establishing specific, measurable and time-targeted objectives. Using the SMART framework acronym, or making sure that the goal is Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely is an excellent way to direct a goal. The most important aspect of goal-setting is outlining the steps that need to be taken to complete the goal, and sticking to them faithfully. The best way to achieve a difficult long term goal is by setting several short term goals as stepping stones.

2. Performance Planning

This strategy includes an all inclusive planned outlook for attaining better on field skills including; diet, weight-training, skills-training, cardio, sleep etc. The best way to achieve performance planning is by using a calendar to keep track of a set schedule and the required accountability to prevent deviation from the original plan.

3. Confidence

Legendary sports figures agree that confidence is one of the two principle components to the equation for athletic excellence. Building confidence takes repetition. By perfecting a given skill  through repeated practice it  becomes second nature, in large part due to confidence, allowing the cognizant mind to focus on other more pressing matters.

4. Relaxation

Keeping it cool, calm and collected on the field is difficult to do, particularly in high stress situations like the goalkeeper stopping a penalty kick or a last second shot on net. Relaxation is the absence of anger, anxiety, or fear which allows us the ability to think rationally and more clearly under competitive stress. Practice relaxation by taking a deep breath, picking up a good book, listening to calming music such as smooth jazz or our next strategy.

5. Visualization

Visualization is the technique of using one’s imagination to imagine events occurring in one’s life on the playing field. Envisioning the ball leaving the foot and traveling into the back of the net, the bat hitting an inside fastball, or using the glove to save a wrist shot helps prepare for when the situation arises in reality. Practice visualization frequently before the game. Briefly envisioning successes before they happen on the field in a timeout or play stoppage is useful as well.

6. Concentration

Staying focused and ignoring outside distractions is key on game day and on the practice field. The way to do this is to only think about the task at hand. Thinking a few steps ahead about the next best decision is also essential and takes further concentration. Blocking out thoughts of fatigue, quitting or after game plans will improve performance every time.

7. Control

This strategy is about maintaining balance and staying level headed, particularly in the most stressful situations on the field. John Wooden, legendary former UCLA Men’s basketball Coach urged his players not to make decisions based on emotion because those often turn into bad decisions made without clarity of thinking.

8. Awareness

An aware player is a ready player. Being ultra aware and attentive of one’s surroundings is critical whether is listening to your coach in practice, observing and learning intricate details of the game or on the field as a given play is developing. Awareness is obtained by staying alert at all times which aids in info retention and boosts on field performance.

9. Coping

Handling unexpected obstacles is vital to achieving athletic excellence. Poor performance, injury and exterior circumstances can negatively affect the competitive mindset and cause an athlete to become discouraged and less likely to stay on course of improvement. A good attitude and positive outlook are great assets when forced to bounce back from and or manage a problem.