Up Your Game: Gaining The Mental Edge
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Up Your Game: Gaining the Mental Edge

Editor’s Note: For the fastest game on two feet, it takes more than fast feet to become a good or exceptional lacrosse player. Given the fast paced nature  and how quick a game-time situation can change, it’s important for a player to always have his or her head in the game, and to be mentally prepared to respond to any situation a game may bring. “Up Your Game” is our newest series for lacrosse players who wants to not only gain the mental edge, but play the game with greater concentration, composure and confidence.

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Having watched hundreds of games at the youth, high school and collegiate levels, I have seen countless players make a variety of mental mistakes. Whether it’s constantly being distracted by off-field distractions, arguing with the refs, losing control in frustration and anger, or beating yourself up over repeated mistakes, you’re missing your potential!

You’re not weak, but you’re mental game is! Mental game is simple (kinda), it means you know how to keep your head in the game. So many lacrosse players don’t realize that if they commit themselves to working on their mental skills, they can elevate their on-field performance (quickly) and actually find (a lot) more enjoyment in playing the game.

The first thing to remember: if you don’t get your head into the game before it begins, then you are already losing when the whistle blows. So, what can you do to get, and keep, your head in the game?

It starts with identifying your thought process and what you believe about yourself. How you view your ability to overcome obstacles will determine how you perform as an athlete. If you already think that you can’t, you’re probably right, because you’re holding yourself back. Even if the task at hand seems impossible, becoming a champion is about facing it with mentality that you’re the best at what you do and nothing can stop you from reaching your goal.

If you ever find yourself losing your concentration, composure or confidence when you are playing, then you may want to consider developing your own mental conditioning program. Just like your physical conditioning program for your body to grow stronger and tougher, a mental conditioning program will make a lacrosse player, like yourself, mentally stronger, sharper and more prepared. It’s about building the necessary mental skills and strategies to become a more positive, productive and powerful player on the field.

3 Tips for YOUR Mental Game

The athlete learns how to think on his own two feet, and become internally directed and driven to play at a higher level. Today’s conditioning is about empowering you player to become more proactive – mentally and physically.

Too often do we miss the chance for proper mental preparation or mental skills training during the season, and therefore find ourselves unprepared for the various obstacles that present themselves in the actual game. You’ve heard coach yelling “get your head back in the game” but while you understand what he’s saying, it’s hard to make it happen, right?

1. Find Your Hook

Rattlers New York Lizards MLL Championship 2015

Think of a hook; the kind that you use on a wall or door. Now, remind yourself that we use hooks to basically hold things up. Without the hook, everything would fall to the ground. The hook for you, as a lacrosse player, is about asking yourself “what hooks you?” to playing the game of lacrosse.

What is it about the game of lacrosse that you love and why do you love playing this game?

The hook fuels your desire to play and your devotion to the game. It directly impacts every facet of your development as a player, and will set the tone for how you approach your training and conditioning. The hook is the one thing that will hold you up when you are feeling down or maybe feel like giving up. It is at the core of who you are as a lacrosse player and how you choose to play the game.

2. Get It Right

John Grant Jr. New York Lizards vs Denver Outlaws Photo Credit Jeff Melnik July 9 2015

As a lacrosse player, you need to know the difference between asking the wrong type of questions and asking the right ones. Too many guys find themselves asking:

  • Why am I a failure?
  • Why do I never get it right?
  • Why am I not as talented as other players?
  • Why do I always make so many mistakes?

These kind of questions will only make you feel frustrated, and in fact, can contribute to a variety of negative thoughts, feelings and expectations about yourself.

Ask questions that will put you in a positive, productive and proactive state of mind. Getting it right is all about asking such questions as:

  • What can I do today to become a better player?
  • What are my strengths?
  • How do I visualize success on the field?
  • How do I stay focused on what I control in a game?

3. Map It Out

Chesapeake Bayhawks vs Boston Cannons July 2015 Photo Credit Jeff Melnik

Like reading a map of where you are in order to plan where want to go, you need to have a sense of direction for practice and training. The mental approach to practice means that you show up with a goal, an idea of what you want to accomplish that practice in order to keep you focused and on track. It’s about being able to identify the purpose of each exercise, drill and scrimmage, and how they fit into your development and growth as a lacrosse player.

And, you’re at practice! This is where you work on honing those mental skills like: visualizing and mentally rehearsing how you want to play; learning how to tune out distractions and stay centered; and keeping your mind and focus in the present moment.

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I look forward to sharing more ideas and information on how you can gain the mental edge and become a better, if not an exceptional player. In this upcoming series of articles, we will review a number of mental skills tools, and explore how to use different mental strategies in specific game-time situations that you could be facing on the field. Also, we will be interviewing players and coaches from around the country on how to up your game and gain the mental edge.