Sport Psych Wednesday with Brian Alexander - ​Adaptation is Part of Your Mental Game Plan

Stubbornness and near sightedness are two traits that feed the egos of coaches and athletes when the game starts to get out of control. In fact, maintaining a sense of control is usually at the core of the issues facing teams when they aren’t willing to adapt mid-game to the way it is being officiated or the system the other team is using to overcome the original game plan. This issue does not however appear suddenly during a single game. It stems from a mindset and a systematic practice of poor planning and from the team’s or individual’s philosophy of performance.

When envisioning a mental game plan, it is important to decide how you are going to find ways to focus on what you can control in every situation imaginable. There will be game situations that you could not and did not think of and in those moments you need to adapt but not completely change course. It is merely a detour on your journey toward your ultimate goal of success.

Last year, I attended a conference in which the keynote speaker was a captain in the Navy. He had led Navy Seals teams into combat for 10+ years from the tragic 911 attacks onward. You can imagine some of the hostile and uncontrolled environments in which he and his teams were asked to enter. His message was clear and simple. For each mission, he would brief his team on the strategy and execution they would follow in order to plan their attack. Their team would prepare sometimes up to 2 years before actually moving into action on their plan. You can imagine how detail oriented these plans must have been, given the success rate of the Navy Seals.

However, after all the planning and intelligence preparation the team had gathered through their training, nine out of every ten missions would not go as planned. When they would hit the ground they would need to assess the situation and right there huddle in the dirt with a stick and recalculate the plan in 30 seconds or less! The captain asserted that in order to be successful you need to plan to adapt while being mindfully aware of the environment.

Emotion usually overrides a coach’s and athlete’s ability to be presently aware of the circumstances needed for adaptation. Think to yourself when the last time was you were able to see beyond your emotions and read the play objectively right in front of your eyes. Think about how much judgment was involved of yourself and your teammates. Accepting that your plan may have flaws is an essential ingredient to every success and perfection in water polo does not exist. See the game as it unfolds in front of you so you can make adjustments and adapt to the moments that make up the process.

About the authorBrian Alexander is an athlete mental skills coach who works on sport psychology techniques that help athletes learn to train mental aspects related to their sport. Contact Brian for mental skills coaching via email:Alexander.brian3@gmail.comor atwww.athletementalskillscoach.com. Also follow him on Twitter@BA_POS_MINDon Facebook (Athlete Mental Skills Coach) andLinkedIn.