By Coard Wilkes
Before I shared my story about lacking confidence, which brought me to the realization that I needed to work on a mental game. In this sport, it’s inevitable that you’ll want one, too. But now that we know we need it, how do we achieve this mental strength we’re after?
Well, I wish I could tell you exactly what to do and save you some time, but unfortunately it’s not that easy. I don’t know what makes you tick, what drives you, or how you think. Everyone is going to be a little different. Much like weightlifting and its different styles and techniques, there are many different avenues to getting a mental game, and what may work for one person may not work for another.
Before going further, let me just say that I am not by any means an expert on this subject. I know what works for me; I also know there are many other ways to find and build your mental game. The main goal is to enlighten you on the importance of finding your mental game, as well as introduce you to some ways that athlete’s work on it.
Here’s an illustration of how athletes have differing approaches to a mental game, using my brother Caine and myself as examples. For me, I am a Christian and believer; I find that my faith and belief in God the Father and through Christ Jesus is at the center of my mental strength. I used to keep God and weightlifting separate because I didn’t believe that God cared about weightlifting. Now, I still don’t think he really does, but I came to a realization: God may not care about weightlifting, but he does care about me. On this thought is where I put my faith and confidence when it comes to weightlifting. To fortify this thought, I read and recite verses from the Bible and pray a lot during my mentally weak moments. Doing this at competitions or during training helps calm myself and simplify my thinking. It helps remove doubt from my mind.
Caine’s mindset is very faith based as well. He prays and knows that God is looking out for him in his life as well. However, with his weightlifting mindset, Caine uses different avenues than me. For example, Caine likes to read books about mindset, motivation, and positive psychology. Some go into how the mind works, others give tips on building a strong mental game. He also uses visualization as a tool for his mental game, picturing himself achieving successful lifts. All this helps Caine develop a positive mindset for himself. He has realized that we often are our own worst critics, and negative criticism often crushes our confidence. Albeit different from my methods, doing these things has helped Caine achieve a strong mental game.
While I prefer some methods to my mental game, I believe others can be just as productive for other athletes achieving their mental game. And these are just a small sample of different approaches and methods to mental strength; there’s a variety of methods and processes. I know athletes who have used methods like self-help books, motivational movies, or sports psychologists and have had a lot of success.
No matter how different one’s approach is from the next, every serious athlete is working towards a common goal: achieving a better mindset. Just like one needs to train their muscles to become stronger physically, one needs to constantly focus and train their mind to become more confident. No matter what avenue you use, find what helps you become more positive in stressful environments, such as a competition or even a bad training session. Find what makes you a stronger athlete in the mental game.