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Winning the mental side of athletics: Tips from specialist Joshua Lifrak


"Things turn out best for those that make the best out of the way things turn out."-John Wooden

Attitude typically leads actions. Therefore, it is paramount that our attitude works for us rather than against us.

Statistics show that an average person will talk negatively to themselves 77% of the time. Most of the negative talking is done at the subconscious level without the person even realizing it is occurring. So the question is: how do we as athletes work to make sure our thoughts and attitudes stay positive to help us rather than hold us back?

Here are 5 tips to help the athlete maintain a positive attitude and make the best out of the way things turn out.

1) Create a mental game plan for whatever sport you play. Decide prior to the competition how you will think at significant moments in the game. For example, during warm-ups I will say to myself, "Today is a great day, and I feel good". Then during the warm ups say what you decided to say regardless of what the situation tells you.

2) Write down affirmations in permanent marker on 3x5 cards that describe how you play during your best and describe the qualities you want to embody in competition. An example might read..."I am a tenacious player that is constantly on the attack." Keep this card on you at all times and read it a minimum of 3 times a day.

3) When reviewing a competition ask yourself 3 questions.

a. What did I do well?

b. What will I do better then next time?

c. What did I learn?

By asking yourself these questions and working to answer them accurately you will be able to focus on positives and improvement rather than what you did wrong.

4) Understand that emotions are good if they are controlled and used to create energy rather than pull you down. That being said in competition it is natural to have negative emotions after a mistake. The key is to act like a victor rather than a victim. In other words, have the emotion, accept the mistake, mentally review it and think about what you will do better then next time to fix the mistake then move on.

Josh Lifrak
Josh Lifrak

5) Visualize yourself doing things well and competing successfully before and after competitions. The movies we play in our minds will help drive our actions.

Although these 5 tips may seem simple to do, the challenge is to have the discipline to consistently work to have a positive attitude even if everything around you tells you that you should be negative. After all it is called mental toughness not mental easiness.

Joshua Lifrak is a mental conditioning expert at IMG Academy. He has an MS in Exercise and Sport Sciences with a Specialization in Sport Psychology. Joshua is an avid runner, rock climber and mountain biker.

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