Every decade or so I feel the need to clean out a file drawer, and this morning I did. What caught my eye was the first published magazine column I think I every wrote. It was for a monthly tennis magazine called “Tennis Talk” in Southern California. The copy I found was untitled so I’ve dubbed it “Asking Important Questions”. I found a few others and I will post them later.
From Tennis Talk Magazine June 1980
For sometime now I have been asking questions of athletes i meet at various competitions. The major question I ask is “What do you do get ready for competition?” In a recent meeting with a group of junior players this was their reply:
X number of hours on court practicing serve, ground strokes, etc.
X number of hours in competition
X number of hours running, stretching and weight training to get in shape
This appears to be a good, solid program I said, but aren’t you forgetting something, I asked. They all answered pretty much the same. “We think we are doing what needs to be done.” I then asked what they do for the mental part of the game. At first I got blank stares. “One player said he sometimes tries to psych himself up or psych the other player out, is that what I meant?” I then asked how important was the mental side and they all agreed it was the most important, but that it was what it was.
As a Sport Psychology Consultant, I have run into this set of circumstances constantly. It seems ridiculous to me that athletes neglect the most important part of their game. [though of course I did as well when I was a player] While tennis players spend hours getting in physical shape and improving their strokes, they will not spend an hour and a half a week to improve their mental conditioning.
Reports from the Soviet Union (remember this was written in 1980) have stated that some world-class athletes are spending as much as 75% of their time on mental conditioning. Why? Because it can have a tremendous effect on you game. You can increase your potential by working on some very basic concepts. These Include:
Relaxation – Knowing how to relax your body
Attentional Focus – Knowing how to concentrate
Self-Confidence – To see yourself with a positive self-image
Avoidance of CHOKE – How to effectively deal with stress
Try working on these areas I urged them. Know that Awareness is the first step in learning how to relax. Learning the skills will help you play at a higher level.
One question they asked right away was what did I mean by attentional focus? Attentional focus is the art of concentration. More precisely, it is the ability to focus your attention from one thing to the next as quickly as possible. In tennis this is the ability to go from knowing where your opponent is to seeing the rotation of the ball to thinking what to do next. If you master this art, you improve your game.
There are many exercises you can use to improve your attentional focus. Here’s one that is fairly simple to do. Close your eyes and get an image / picture of your tennis game. Look at your opponent, then see the ball.Learn to do this as quickly as possible, making sure to see the image as clearly and vividly as you can. Remember if you condition your mind as well as your body, your game will improve rapidly.
It’s hard for me to believe that I wrote that 34 years ago. At the time we called our company Inner Sports. I struggled at the time to write which is why it took another 31 years from when this column was written to write The Athlete within You which by the way for June the Kindle version is now on sale here at Amazon.
These are the conversations I had with people on Facebook and Twitter. It made the game even more fun. Thought some would like to listen in regarding the Seahawk Super Bowl Victory and the Mental Game
It’s Super Bowl Sunday. Less than 5 hrs until kickoff. Seattle Seahawks vs Denver Broncos. My two favorite teams. I worked with the Broncos on their first visit to the Super Bowl. I have a lot of roots in Denver. This is the first time I’ve wanted a different team to win. So I ask the question. Will it come down to Xs & Os? Might I suggest that it is really about The Mental Game. Which team will be calm under pressure? Which team has the mental toughness to excel? Will Manning shake Sherman’s confidence? Will he even pass in that direction? These are the difference makers. You know, no matter what level of play, it’s always the mental game.
I did say it was all about the mental game.
I’m just about that Rainbow, boss. http://t.co/YHFP5Ij4PB” This is a Skittle thing. But it is one of the things that will be iconic about the game.
Congrats Seahawks and 12s. Great game tonight. Totally dominated. It really did show how when a team is mentally prepared the difference it makes. Seahawks preach the mental game. It’s part of their weekly focus Should be everyone’s. Go Hawks!
(From my FB Friend Steven) Mike, mental preparation before the game is so important, but what struck me tonight as I saw pictures ot the Denver players on the sideline in the 3rd & 4th quarters, was mental collapse. The point were a player decides his team is going to lose, & simply ceases to try to win. How does one prepare a team to fight to the finish?
(from my friend Karin)It was clear early on their faces, they were done.
(My comment back to Steven) I saw that as well. I think it has to do with conviction. A belief that it really isn’t over until it’s over. One of the key components of mental toughness is perseverance. Can you keep trying when the wheels fall off. Keep in mind that Manning set a completion record as did Thomas with receptions. But not everyone could when I look at Hawks I see team. Broncos have great individuals.
(Steven’s reply) Yes CONVICTION, but also individual PERSEVERANCE plus COMMITMENT to the team, which is why I so much like their mantra, “WHY NOT US?”
(my reply) Agree. It’s what I work with on all of my clients and teams. Same with business clients. Not everyone gets cooperative competition. But as we both know with conviction, commitment and perseverance most things are possible. Not to be left off is trust. Trusting coaches, teammates and staff. Doesn’t matter if it’s playing football, business, medicine or driving a car.
It has been interesting reading the media reports today on the game. Most, not all of the dislike of the Seahawks is over. Blame of course being thrown at Peyton Manning, which is OK as he can handle it. Better to be thrown at him. If it was thrown to a receiver it would either be dropped or they would fall down after the catch. The line of course couldn’t stop it. Peyton is the real deal. It was a game. A loss and butt kicking, but in the end just a game. His character never in doubt. Everyone should read Richard Sherman‘s account on how Manning sought him out to see how his injury was. Credit Manning and Sherman for recognizing that even as it is the game, their is still more to life. My son saw a report in NYC that the Seahawks bought the game. Now that’s one I would have never thought of. Preparation for next season according to Carroll has already begun. Victory definitely goes to those who are mentally prepared. Parade is on Wednesday. Take off a day or two and let’s start getting ready for next season. The one thing I can’t get enough of is Mental Preparation – BOSS. Go Hawks!
Until I moved to the Seattle area 15 years ago I was a big Bronco fan. I got my start in Sport Psychology in Denver. The first team I did any work for was the Broncos. But after a few years watching Mike Holmgren turn things around here, I started following both teams. When Pete Carroll arrived and I started watching him carefully, I read his book “Win Forever” and I went all in. The biggest post game story I heard was from Richard Sherman. Sherman wanted to acknowledge his respect for Manning. Manning came up to him to make sure he wasn’t hurt badly. After a crushing defeat when you can care about your antagonist, you are really something. This story came from Sherman himself. For those who think that this articulate young man via Compton and Stanford is a thug, think again. Years ago Manning walked off the field without shaking hands. He learned a lesson. So did Sherman. They will never approach things the same, but both are of high character. Manning has taught a lesson he perhaps never intended.
To everyone who cares to listen. This is what many of my posts during the Super Bowl were about. How the Mental Game effects outcomes. As you will see Richard Sherman talks about this being a chess match and not checkers. Checkers are who is faster, who is more physical. Chess is can you out think your opponent, can you play the entire board as one not as individuals. Are you prepared to the extent that you can play with confidence, calmness and conviction the entire game. http://dailym.ai/1jc023k The more we read, the more we learn about how these two teams prepared mentally for the game.
OK< I’m done with the Super Bowl talk. It’s been fun. A lot of interaction with people. Obviously, my addenda is to promote mental training. I really do feel that instead of the focusing on how physical or how fast the Seahawks were in the game, the focus is on how mentally prepared they were vs the Broncos. Add to this that Seattle has been working on Mental Training for at least the last two years weekly, is important. This team was built on the ideas of cooperation and competition. It shows the importance of emotional intelligence. It is the mental game. OK> I’m out.
What Team Building in Sport offers the Business World!
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So if your ambition is to be GM of the Year, call me today and let me prepare an individualized program to meet all of your company or team needs. I will work within your budget to produce a memorable event with lasting meanings. Team Building by Mike Margolies and The Mental Game I have been helping build teams for over thirty years. I do team building events and presentations for all types of non-sport organizations. I have programs that will blend into your event or I can put an event on for you. Most Team Building workshops offer insights into how a team succeeds through cooperation and many organizations play down the competitive nature of the business environment, yet this is the reality for most organizations. Promotions, project selection and salary are dependent on being competitive. Building Competitive Cooperative Teams. These events can be Keynotes, 1/2 day events or full weekend retreats. Please check my SpeakerMatch Profile for other business programs.