“Trust your ability.” “Trust your training.” These are two pieces of advice that coaches and sports psychologists consistently tell young athletes. Young athletes know the benefits and importance of trust, that’s not the problem. The difficulty lies in how to trust during critical moments of games.
What does it mean to trust your abilities?
Self-trust is the knowing that you have prepared for “THIS” moment. The countless hours spent in practice and training have readied you to succeed in crucial moments. Self-trust is the understanding that you have produced in the past and achieved your current level of success which proves the case for your ability to perform. Self-trust is a powerful game-changer for athletes, giving you a sense of control that you can perform optimally in any game condition.
How do you trust your abilities?
Seize the opportunity. Be excited for the opportunity to reveal your talents.
See yourself succeeding in the situation. Athletes get into trouble when they fear they are going to fail. Remind yourself there is no failure. Every competitive experience can teach you to play better in future games. Be positive. Every athlete will have doubt creep into their thinking. You do not need to buy into those thoughts which, most likely, are not based in reality anyway.
Stay present. Let go of past games. The past, including the last play, does not have any direct impact on the present play. Concern over outcomes causes anxiety and takes the focus off what you need to do right now.
Max Scherzer: A Great Example of Self-Trust
Max Scherzer, starting pitcher for the Washington Nationals, is a former Cy Young winner and has been a dominant MLB pitcher for the past five years. Scherzer had an MVP-like first half to the 2015 season posting a 2.11 ERA and holding opposing batters to a .185 average. Since the All-Star break, Scherzer has struggled with a 6.43 ERA and recording no wins in August.
Despite the recent difficulties Scherzer has experienced, he stayed positive, confident and focused during his last start of the 2015 regular season. Scherzer trusted his ability to make pitches which resulted in his second no-hitter on the year. Scherzer recorded 17 stikeouts (9 strikeouts in a row) and allowed only one base runner who reached base due to an error.
The key to Scherzer’s performance was his trust in his pitches; he didn’t over-think, over-analyze or worry about the results. Scherzer didn’t complicate things. Scherzer was immersed in the moment of just pitching.
SCHERZER: “You always simplify to one inning at a time. It doesn’t matter [what inning], you are always trying to go out there and get outs… If you want to be a dominant pitcher, you look at what you can control… going out there attacking the zone, being aggressive.”
Remember, you cannot totally control the end result. Stay focused on your game and your ability to produce no matter what the circumstances.
The Mental Tool Shed: Strategy to Develop Trust in your Abilities
Identify your strengths as an athlete (physical strength, speed, technique). These positive aspects of your game have contributed to your success in the past. Use these strengths as reminders of your ability. If you can focus on your strengths, you will be able to be aggressive instead of worrying about the ‘what ifs’.