Sport Psych Wednesday with Brian Alexander - ​Finding a Release from Debilitating Nerves


Mental Skills Coach, Brian AlexanderIt is a busy time of year for water polo athletes. National teams are training and competing for spots to make the Olympic roster. Club teams are finding their rhythm for training cycles for summer winter, spring, and summer competitions. High school girl’s championships are reaching their peak. European club teams are fighting for playoff positions in their respective leagues. Even outside of water polo, high school juniors and seniors around the country are working on positioning themselves to gain acceptance into their universities of choice.

With all of this opportunity to realize goals, missions, and dreams come a lot of pressure, stress, and anxiety. Imagine the challenge coaches, parents, and athletes feel in order to perform up to their potential when the stakes are so high.

There is a difference between those who are successful under the threat of adversity and those who are swallowed up by the wave of distractions. Elite performers create mental and physical action plans they have tested throughout their athletic journey. They know they have those tools in their tool box when they need them.

Hope is not a strategy, have a plan.

Turn hope into action by adding some structure to what you want to accomplish. Adding structure takes a level of intention in actions that is well planned out. Finding peak performance is mostly about developing an awareness of moments when the mind is consumed by the pressure and distractions from the environment and then developing a release mechanism to detach from that “noise” and redirect attention to the present moment. All great performance occurs in the present moment. Below are some ideas for coaches, parents, and athletes to plan their release from debilitating nerves. Choose what works and remember to preview the right time and place for when it would fit into the game:

  • Breath release
    • Most underutilized skill that has the strongest impact
    • Rhythmic breathing – count while breathing (5 in and 5 out)
    • Ratio breathing – count while breathing (4 in: 2 hold: 8 out)
  • Under water release
    • Under water let it go then above water back to present
    • Under water scream
  • Wiping the water clean release
    • Wiping hand over top of water to wipe the slate clean
  • Snap/Clap/Slap release
    • Clapping hands out of the water to let it go
    • Slapping water to let it go
    • Snapping fingers to bring self back to present
  • Imagery release (coaches can bring these items onto bench in a smaller size)
    • Imagine a toilet on the bench and with finger flush out the bad to return to present
    • Imagine a trash can on bench and with arm throw out the bad to return to present

If you are interested in one on one mental skills coaching or for team building, you can contact Brian Alexander via email: Alexander.brian3@gmail.com or at www.athletementalskillscoach.comAlso follow him on Twitter @BA_POS_MIND on Facebook (Athlete Mental Skills Coach) and LinkedIn.