Lessons From Olympic Athletes’ Mental Game
Can mental rehearsal or visualization help you trust in your ability during competition?
One Olympian thinks so. Read on to discover his secret.
To perform your best, you must have trust instead of over-think your performance…
I certainly learn a lot from Olympic athletes when I pick their brains. That’s why I do several interviews a year with top athletes and coaches at Peaksports Network.
Recently, I talked with Olympic Equestrian Chris Kappler about mental preparation for show jumping. No matter what sport you compete in or coach, you can learn a lot from this Olympic athlete.
I’ve always agreed that mental preparation includes knowing you can adapt to any challenge that might happen during competition.
“So much of the mental game is feeling like you are ready for anything they can throw at you at major competitions,” said Kappler.
His mental preparation starts several weeks before competition. He wants to have a detailed plan of how to attack the course. And much of his mental preparation includes mental rehearsal of the course.
If you’re not familiar with show jumping, riders have to memorize the obstacles or jumps on the course and how many strides their horse takes between jumps.
His key to a reactive mindset in competition is visualizing the course. He rides the course 100 times in his mind prior to the start of his performance!
Kappler goes as far as to use flash cards to memorize each obstacle or jump, which he says helps him react during competition.
“I do a lot of picturing of the fences, the number of strides, and the type of turns I’ll do. I keep going through this over and over and over until I feel like I have it in my mind just the way I want it. Thus, I have already ridden the course 100 times in my mind before I have done it.”
Unlike many other athletes, Kappler has complete control of his mental images. During his imagery, he wants to review the ideal performance instead of the mishaps.
“I go into competition and my mental rehearsal with a positive outlook. I try to rely on my instincts and having years of riding experience to take over if things go off plan to get back on plan. I try to go into it with only the best intentions possible,” said Kappler.
If Kappler struggles with an obstacle, he relies on his instincts and experience to carry him…
“If I have a tough moment, my years of riding, training, and mental rehearsal kicks into gear and I try to get through that tough moment and get back on track where I left off.”
Four keys to mental preparation:
1. Study the course (or opponents) and develop a plan
2. Review the plan in your mind until it becomes second-nature
3. In competition, react to the plan you saw/felt in your mind
4. Trust your instincts to make adjustments when needed
If you are an exclusive member of Peaksports Network online mental training program, you can listen to the entire interview I did with Kappler here:
Your Mental Game Coach,
Dr. Patrick Cohn
p.s. Members of Peaksports Network, can access over 38 one-hour mental training teleclasses, 26 interviews with top-notch coaches, and 28 interviews with high-level athletes about their mental game including Kappler. Check out the athlete interviews here:
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