Four Steps to Mental Toughness

altYour ultimate mental toughness goal is to achieve “peak play”. Peak play is when you are playing your best and everything feels right. You are on automatic pilot and you just see it and do it. It is truly amazing what the body and mind can accomplish together.

Mastering mental toughness is mastering your mind and your emotions in order to optimize performance. Just as you work on serves, shots, and training to build your physical skills, you have to prepare your mind for competition since your body acts and reacts to the mental and emotional instructions that it receives. By planting positive thoughts, strategies, and techniques in your mind, your body will follow. The good news is that since you can pick the thoughts you focus on, and your emotions come from your thoughts, you can use these techniques to help the mental side of your game.

Here are the 4 steps to the mind part of the equation, getting you mentally prepared for peak play:

  1. Nostril Breathing – Begin to slowly inhale and exhale through your nostrils. This form of breathing quiets your mind, opening up the right side of your brain helping to tap into the visual and memory banks of your brain.
  2. Visualization – Your sports brain works through pictures, not words, and does not know the difference between a vividly imagined picture in your head and actual reality. Start visualizing your perfect performance by creating images in your mind of what you want to do on the court.
  3. Affirmations – Adding positive personal statements to the images you create on the court like, “I feel great today! I am a quick, talented, and fearless player!” These sentences imprint the images more deeply.
  4. Cue Words – After developing affirmations, add cue words or are shorted versions of the affirmations after performing well, like after a great shot. Saying a cue word like “Yes!” helps your body memorize the muscle activity that produced the positive performance.

Mental toughness is needed at all levels of play, and no more so then in the pro game, like:

Rocky Carson versus Ben Croft in the semifinals of the ProKennex Tournament of Champions in Portland: After losing the first and fourth games to Ben, I had to remind Rocky to call upon a few of the steps above in order to win the match in the 5th game. Rocky showed how mentally tough he was by visualizing his game plan and using his affirmations that we discussed prior to the match.

Paola Longoria versus Rhonda Rajsich in finals of the LPRT stop in San Antonio, TX: Paola showed how mentally tough she was when, down 0-2 games, I had to remind her to not to be negative, but rather to use her cue words in order to build her confidence level and make her believe in herself and her skills again. Paola came back to win the match by winning the next 3 games.

In Nationals Championships in Fullerton, CA: My partner’s 15-1/2 year old son, Jack, won the Men’s C Division. I was coaching him and I kept telling him to take deep breaths (nostril breathing) as he won both the semifinal and final matches in an 11-9 and 11-10 tiebreaker, each match took over 2 hours.

Mental toughness is yet another required skill on the road to championship racquetball. ALL of the players I coach, from the professionals led by Rocky and Paola to the amateurs, know just how important it is to follow the “4 Steps to Mental Toughness”. Their records speak for themselves…Rocky and Paola are BOTH 2 of the most decorated athletes in racquetball.  Paola finished the 2013/2014 ranked #1 on the LPRT for the 3rd consecutive season WITHOUT dropping a match since May 2011 and Rocky finished the 2013-2014 IRT season ranked #2 on the International Racquetball Tour (IRT). They BOTH competed at the World Championships in Toronto, Canada June 14-20, 2014 where Rocky won a gold medal, his 9th World Championships career medal. Paola defended her doubles as well as singles titles…. with me along side her coaching her.

In the next issue, I will continue to build your Championship Racquetball Game one level at a time so you too can be ready to become the champion you always dreamed of becoming, by giving you the tools to make it a reality. Rocky ‘s and all my athletes “Championship Racquetball Games” stem from their focus on ALL 3 sides of the triangle working together so they can develop into top competitors. Without a shadow of a doubt, they KNOW just how important it is to do the work. They are living proof it works and their titles substantiate it

.For details on more racquetball playing tips, personalized instruction, a weekend camp, instructional DVD’s, our book, Championship Racquetball, and our APP (coming soon), ALL which covers all aspects of the Sports Racquetball Triangle and more, please visit www.FranDavisRacquetball.com. Fran Davis is a 2004 racquetball Hall of Fame inductee; Racquetball Woman of the Year 2009; Coach #2 IRT Pro Racquetball  Players / 1X US Open Champion / 4X and present World Champion, Rocky Carson; Coach #1 Women’s LPRT Pro Player / 4X and present US Open Champion & World Champion, Paola Longoria; Coach Jr. World & National Champion, Intercollegiate Champion, & International Racquetball Tour (IRT) Pro Racquetball Players, Taylor Knoth; Coach Intercollegiate Champion & LPRT Pro Player, Sharon Jackson; Master Professional Instructor/Coach USAR-IP.