Mental Preparation for Champions with Brian Alexander

Brian AlexanderWith eight years experience as an Olympic level athlete paired with a Master's degree in sport psychology from John F. Kennedy University and vocational training in business leadership development, Brian Alexander has partnered with athletes and performers of all ages and levels!

"My passion is to empower others to succeed in life, athletics, performance, and daily activities. With a successful past in the athletic and professional arena, I have found some of my signature strengths to be connecting with people, performing under pressure, and adapting in the moment by being open-minded. I approach each moment with optimism and each person with a genuine, non-judgmental, empathetic listening ear. It is important to identify learning opportunities and develop a plan to grow as you move through your career. My personal mission statement is to be a genuine and honest leader who collaborates with and learns from others in order to find a mutual personal level of excellence physically, mentally, and spiritually."

KAP7 has partnered with Brian to bring you mental tips to give you the competitive edge.

With the Men's Water Polo NCAA Championship Tournament right around the corner, Brian's first topic is:

Mental Preparation for Champions

This weekend, you’ll have the opportunity to watch the top collegiate water polo teams go head to head in the pool at the NCAA championships. These athletes have sacrificed and dedicated more than you will see this weekend to the game and it didn’t start this week, last week, or even this season. It started when they decided they wanted to be a champion. Champions rise to the occasion in every moment of every opportunity they have in and out of the pool. The way you mentally prepare and rise to the occasion is a culmination of everything you do throughout your career. In order to become a champion, you need to live and prepare as if you already are a champion.

Here are some mental skills you can immediately put or help others put into practice that will help you prepare to be a champion:

1. Visualize every shot, every pass, and every defense the way you would ideally like to execute them again and again so that when you get in the game you will feel like you have already played your best game. The mind doesn’t know the difference between imagination and actual physical play. Think of how real a vivid dream feels after you wake up. You feel like you actually lived it. Once you are in the game it will be a matter of trusting your body to do all the work while playing one play at a time. Champions use visualization best when they see themselves executing successfully rather than dwelling on mistakes. Imagine yourself making every shot rather than hitting the post. See yourself in your mind’s eye winning every sprint and making every pass with great precision.

2. Reframe nerves and thoughts to your advantage because the reality is they have been a part of everything you have ever done. Use your awareness of how you think and feel to redirect them toward what you want to do rather than what might happen. Allow yourself to sit with positive belief and be ready to perform in the moment rather than worrying about being nervous of what might come.

3. Your breath is your most powerful tool when learning to work with your nerves. Most of the time we breathe unconsciously. It becomes very shallow and rapid then debilitating by creating muscular tension. Try shooting a 5-meter penalty shot with your shoulders shrugged up into your ears! A trick is to channel your focus into deep belly (diaphragmatic) breathing; inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. Your focus will move away from the nerves toward something you can control. Directing your attention to the present moment allows you to put your energy into your game and your team’s game plan.

4. Focusing on the process rather than the outcome of the championship will give you a better shot at the results you want. When you set a goal to win a championship, your goal is unattainable because you haven’t decided how you will accomplish it. Game specific routines or checklists for different situations are the steps in the process that produce the results you want. Long before the games start, decide what your routine will be before you sprint for the ball, as you swim into 2-meters, or when the ball turns over and you counter to defense, etc… These are your checklists and routines that you can use to evaluate on after the game and decide whether or not you were successful.

These skills will start you in the right direction toward your next championship at any level. You can even use them as cue words to remind you to practice them: Visualize, Reframe, Breathe, and Process. The key is always systematic practice. If you practice to be a champion in everything you do then you will compete the same way you practice—like a champion.

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


KAP7