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Great Coaches Make Athletes “Go Mental”

Great Coaches Make Athletes “Go Mental”

This is reprinted with permission from EXACT Sports, one of our corporate partners. Visit them at ExactSports.com

Great Coaches Make Athletes ‘Go Mental’
By Barry Tarter, Executive Director, EXACT Sports

Grit. Tenacity. Clutch player. Workhorse. Heart of the team. One of the most rewarding feelings a coach can have is to train and guide athletes that use their head and heart to be successful. Some athletes come to your team with this mindset and most are shaped over the course of their time with you. There are three things that great coaches have done to turn them into great athletes.

1. Winners Think like Winners
The human brain controls all body functions by relaying ‘messages’ through the nervous system. Physiological functioning is not accidental – it is and should be carefully crafted by you, the coach. At EXACT, we often use the phrase ‘Go Mental’ to describe the process athletes to perform successfully in practice, in competition, and in life. Here is the formal definition of ‘Go Mental’:

Excellent coaches and athletes like Phil Jackson and Michael Jordan have embraced this concept. One of the first components of going mental is to define what success would be (a winning season? a conference title? making the playoffs?). EXACT has built a tool to assist coaches in defining these goals: Online Mental Resilience Course. It’s free to try and is fully web-based.

2. Coaches need ESP (or GPS!)
Managing a team is similar to driving an 18 wheeler – has lots of moving parts, other people are concerned with your cargo, it can be exhausting, yet it’s thrilling once you’ve reached your destination. How successful would the semi-trailer driver be if he didn’t have GPS to help know the directions? What about no mirrors to see whose approaching in the rear? Or no speedometer to know how fast he’s going? It is certainly possible to drive without those features (as they didn’t exist on the first automobiles), but it would be extremely reckless to go without any of those (even GPS!) in today’s day and age.

Managing a team of athletes is the same way. There are plenty of resources out there to manage and view athlete performance data. My friend and colleague, Anson Dorrance (who has won 22 national championships is NCAA D1 Soccer) monitors everything about his players, from their physical qualities to how they uphold the values of the University of North Carolina. EXACT has built tools to help any coach monitor athlete performance (which are used by Coach Dorrance and thousands of pro & college teams). These tools are included as part of the EXACT Mental Skills Curriculum.

3. Mental Skills in Sports are Life Skills
As coaches, you know that you play an important role in the lives of athletes. At EXACT, we too understand that sports transcend sports. Accordingly, we designed our online Mental Training program to give essential skills useful for sports, for school, and generally for life. The 10 module course includes the following:
Mental Skill How it Works
Destination Setting Goal setting to establish context of success for the athlete
GoMental Success Log Journaling technique to help her/him self-monitor performance
Visualization Mental imagery as a preparation tool
Creating Goals Goal setting (part 2), deciding product and process outcomes
Arousal Control Techniques to control physiological arousal (e.g. breathing)
Power Pose Confidence building technique through posture & attitude
Self-Talk Cognitive therapy approach for performance management
Performance Triggers In-game (or in-school, in-life) tool for quick action boost
Mental Lifting Unite above techniques in a step-by-step pre-game ritual
Focus Identify, manage & overcome distractions

About the Author
Barry Tarter is Executive Director and founder of EXACT Sports, the largest sports psychology organization in North America. He is an expert in performance prediction and curriculum development. His clients include over 60 professional teams, hundreds of NCAA and NAIA colleges and thousands of athletes every year. As part of his role at EXACT, Mr. Tarter is the principal investigator for a National Institutes of Health (NIH) $1MM contract.

To learn more about EXACT Sports, visit http://exactsports.com/GoMental/ or email director@exactsports.com

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