Mental Game Strategy to Improve Poor Mechanics in Sports
I work with a lot of athletes on improving their mental game, because when they improve their mindset, that leads to greater success for them on the field of court.
But one thing that we have to be honest about is are your actual mechanics not as good as they need to be?
If you're really looking for that peak level of performance then you need to make sure that you are pairing high level physical skills with high level mental skills.
So what can you do if you feel like you are struggling with poor mechanics?
Mental Game Exercise to Improve Mechanics
The exercise that I use whenever I'm working with an athlete and we've identified that there are some skills that they need to improve, is a personal evaluation exercise.
This is going to be a little bit like a skills assessment.
Think about when you go to a tryout or join a new team. The coaches will evaluate all the aspects of your game. So, you can do the same thing for yourself.
What you can do is make two lists: your strengths and your weaknesses.
Identifying Your Strengths
The first list is going to be your strengths.
With most of the work that I do with athletes, whether it's thinking about how you did this game or just looking at your skills in general, we want to make sure that we're identifying strengths first.
Number one, as a way to improve your confidence, so that you're not coming at this from a standpoint of thinking, “Oh I'm terrible.” Instead, you are recognizing that there are certain strengths you have and reasons for you to be confident in yourself.
Number two, you want to make sure that you still build on your strengths. Because if you ignore your strengths and only focus on your weaknesses, then your strengths may turn into weaknesses while those weaknesses turn into strengths.
Then you find yourself in a frustrating cycle.
So first things first, you want to identify your strengths.
Identifying Your Weaknesses
The next part of the exercise is where you want to be very honest with yourself and list your weaknesses.
What are the main areas within your game right now, in terms of your mechanics, that you really need to improve?
Then, once you have those outlined, what you can do is reverse engineer each one of the weaknesses you outlined and get very specific about what it is about the skill or what about your mechanics do you really need to work on?
What you do from there is you create a plan. This plan is going to be your practice plan to make sure that you are taking what you identified in the exercise and figure out how to put it into practice and really get working moving forward and actually improving that weakness.
Why the Exercise Works
This is a very similar strategy to the one that I use when I work with athletes on their mindset. Because if we identify that their confidence right now is a weakness, for example, then we determine what specifically about their confidence do we need to improve?
So what specific parts of your game do you need to build trust in?
Then we identify the mental training exercises and tools that we're going to use and then we put them into practice.
So, for your physical skills, if right now you are struggling with what you see as poor mechanics, you have to be honest with yourself and say, “Okay, these are the areas that I'm struggling with right now, but the only way to improve those physical skills and to improve my mechanics is to get to work.”
But you don't just want to work kind of blindly. You want to make sure that you are working on specific things that you've identified are going to help you improve that skill and turn that weakness into a strength.
Building New Muscle Memory
If you're a soccer player and you identify that dribbling or shooting is a weakness right now, or if you're a baseball pitcher and you identify that your curveballs are a weakness, the off-season is a perfect time for you to really focus on improving those mechanics.
The main reason is because when we're working on improving mechanics, we are also working on building new muscle memory.
A basketball player I was working with this past season wanted to improve his shot. He found that his shot right now wasn't as good as he wanted it to be from a mechanical standpoint.
And if he could improve his shot mechanics, that would lead to more consistent outcomes for him during games.
We talked about how difficult it is to work on that during a season. It's very difficult to change your mechanics in the middle of the season because you are dealing with muscle memory.
Now, what you can do is slowly start working on building new muscle memory, but you have to realize that if you are in season it’s going to be hard to make that new muscle memory stick in a week, let’s say.
So back to that basketball player example. He was towards the end of his season when he started really focusing on his mechanics. And so what I said was that in practice and in training was when he can really focus on building and improving this new muscle memory.
But during games, he needed to let go and not try to be perfect with his new mechanics. Because building that muscle memory takes time.
So for yourself, if you are in season right now and you're wanting to improve your mechanics, you can focus on doing so during practices and training. But then, whenever it comes to an actual competition, you have to let go and just play.
Your mechanics are as good as they’re going to be that day. What’s important at that moment is simply performing with confidence.
If right now you feel like you have poor mechanics, try out this mental game strategy to identify where your strengths and weaknesses are and then get to work on improving.
And remember, don’t just focus on your weaknesses and forget all about your strengths. You want to keep building your strengths as you work to improve your weaknesses.
Building new muscle memory takes time. So be patient with yourself, and if you’re in the middle of the season right now, work on your mechanics during practice and then let go during games. Simply focus on performing with confidence and as well as you can that day.
If you’re interested in mental coaching, please fill out the form below.
Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of success in all that you do.
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Eli is a sport psychology consultant and mental game coach who works 1-1 with athletes to help them improve their mental skills and overcome any mental barriers keeping them from performing their best. He has an M.S. in psychology and his mission is to help athletes and performers reach their goals through the use of sport psychology & mental training.eli's story
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