Assessing Your Mental Game
By Dr. Randy Borum
How is your mental game? The world's greatest athletes are constantly assessing themselves and examining every facet of their game, looking for ways to improve. This is a big part of what keeps them at the top of their sport.
Each day offers a new opportunity for you to grow as a fighter and to advance your skills – not just your cardio, strength and physical skills, but your mental skills as well. In the previous issue of FightZone, we identified six key mental/psychological skills that are necessary for effective fight performance. Let's take another look at this skill set. Ask yourself a couple of questions about each one to determine which are your strengths and which (if any) are areas in which you need to improve.
Before a fight, do you often get jitters that interfere with your performance?
In competition, do you "gas" early, even though your cardio is good?
Do you ever feel sluggish before training or like you are "not into it" on fight day?
When you get tense, anxious or nervous before or during a fight can you quickly and easily calm yourself down?
Do you question whether you should be fighting or competing at the level you are now?
Do you sometimes feel like you have lost a fight before you even step into the ring/cage or onto the mat?
Do you quickly lose confidence in yourself as soon as something bad happens to you in a fight?
Is it very difficult for you to "bounce back" from a loss?
Do you plan your self-talk or just listen to whatever your mind says at any given moment?
Do you frequently have arguments in your head to get yourself motivated on "on track"?
Are you frequently bothered by intrusive negative thoughts about your performance (e.g., that you are not doing things right, that you are doing badly, or that you will lose)
Are you easily distracted by sights and sounds around you or by the crowd's responses during a fight?
Does your opponent score on you at times when you happen to be inside your own head?
Can you consistently hear your corner and filter out other sounds and voices?
Do you sometimes have trouble keeping your head in the game during training, sparring, or competition?
Do you regularly practice or rehearse physical skills inside your head?
Does all your visualization involve you successfully performing the task?
When you are visualizing or imagining, can you develop clear pictures in your mind and easily shift between watching "from the outside" and "from the inside"?
When you are visualizing from the inside, do you fully attend to thoughts and feelings as well as what you "see"?
Do you know how to set measurable goals?
Do you set, measure, and record (write down) achievable goals for every training session and for every pre-fight preparation?
Do you use both performance goals and outcome goals?
Do you incorporate mental/psychological skill goals into your written training plan?
This is not a quiz from a fashion magazine, so you won't just add up the number of "yes" answers to get a score and determine that your Fighter Type is "Zucchini." Seriously, think about your answers and where you can make the biggest difference in your fight game. Maybe even talk it out with your instructor or coach. Mental and psychological skills tend to have the greatest performance impact at elite levels of competition (where opponents' skills tend to be more evenly matched), but any fighter can build on these skills to notch his or her game up to the next level.