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Northstar Invitational NSI 2017 Brian Witmer

Mental Toughness: Crucial for College Players

Lacrosse All Stars interviews Dr. Mara Smith, world–renowned mental strength and conditioning specialist. Get her take on mental fitness in college lax now!

Please welcome Dr. Mara Smith, world–renowned mental strength and conditioning specialist, to Lacrosse All Stars! Dr. Smith works in conjunction with Summit Lacrosse Ventures to bring the unique element of mental fitness training to the Northstar Invitational each summer. Get her take on the overall mindset of athletes and the crucial nature of mental toughness in college lacrosse now!

Dr. Mara Smith, mental toughness coach
Dr. Mara Smith

What are the responsibilities of a Mental Strength & Conditioning Coach?

I am 100% focused on introducing athletes to the concept of mental toughness – commonly known as “Mental Strength and Conditioning” – to help them understand its importance to them as individual athletes as well as part of a team. I teach them ways to integrate it into their training so they are more prepared to take the field as college lacrosse players in the future.

What should athletes who are new to mental fitness training expect from a session with a specialist like yourself?

First timers can expect to begin to learn ways to apply the framework they understand regarding physical training – planning, time, effort and consistency – to the mental side of being an athlete in their sport.

Northstar Invitational NSI 2017 Brian WitmerHow would you explain what mental toughness or fitness is for those who have limited knowledge of it?

When I ask athletes, in any sport, if they think there is a mental side of their sport they almost unanimously say yes. Then I ask if they have a physical strength and conditioning program they follow to develop the skills they know they need to be better and again they almost all say yes. Then I ask if they have a mental strength and conditioning plan that they follow to develop the skills they know they need to be better and very few do. So, we have established that they know it matters, but very few do anything to build those skills. They include things like – focus, mindset, intention, intensity, energy management etc.

Is mental fitness something athletes should practice all the time?

If an athlete puts time aside to train physically, they should put time aside to train mentally – the time requirement is a fraction of the physical training but it is all about good habits and consistency!

What are some easy ways to support this?

Always practice deliberate intention – the notion that each time you have a training or competition, you take time to think through what you are trying to accomplish and the things that you need to do to make that happen.

Who are few women’s pro athletes you would point to as individuals with strong mental fitness?

Mikaela Shiffrin has mental toughness
Mikaela Shiffrin

Mikaela Shiffrin (US Ski Team), Alex Morgan (Soccer), Simone Biles (Gymnastics), Jamie Greubel-Poser (Bobsled), Amanda Pelkey (USA Hockey)

There are several mobile apps out, including Headspace and Lucid, that claim to essentially put a mental fitness coach in your pocket. What are your thoughts on these and should athletes rely on these tools to improve their game?

AthleteMinder is an app project I’ve been working on for a long time, and it was the first app in the space. We’re adding deep linking within the app soon. Any app is a tool and shouldn’t be relied on to “coach” or “do” more for the athlete than what they are willing to do!

How would you describe your body of work with players and teams?

I work with a broad spectrum of athletes to develop a repertoire of mental skills enabling them to handle whatever comes their way. In addition to working with individual athletes and teams, I also consult with parents, coaches and administrators. I’ve worked with USA Hockey, USA Gymnastics, US Figure Skating, US Ski and Snowboard, US Bobsled and Skeleton and USA Luge.

Northstar Invitational NSI 2017 Brian WitmerWhat advice do you have for young athletes who aspire to play college lacrosse someday?

Remember that being a great player isn’t just about the sport aspect – having a good attitude, being a great teammate and keeping things in perspective are all part of becoming a great player.

Get to know our mental toughness expert, Dr. Mara Smith:

Working with a broad spectrum of athletes, Dr. Mara Smith’s focus is not on the specifics of the sport, but on building mental skills which benefits athletes at all levels. A graduate of Cornell University with a B.S. in Developmental Psychology, her interest in sport continued as Mara pursued a M.Ed. in Human Movement and an Ed.D. in Developmental Studies and Counseling. Mara now finds herself consulting with individual athletes and teams developing mental skills. She also works with various national governing bodies including USA Hockey, USA Gymnastics, and USA Luge, as well as parents, coaches and administrators. Mara currently resides in Lake Placid, New York with her favorite team…her husband and four children.

Join Dr. Mara Smith for mental fitness training at the 2018 Northstar Invitational! Learn more

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