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Mental Training Tips: You Can Either Complain or Compete

ComplainOver the last few days with the Olympics upon us, these athletic events have created some very fun and interesting dialogue with some of the student-athletes I work with at Westminster, as well as some of the athletes who I work with along the Wasatch front.
For instance, the other morning, a snowboarder asked me what I thought about some of the athletes complaining about the slopestyle course being too dangerous and the halfpipe being “garbage.”  Without missing a beat, my response was short and to the point, “if they are complaining about it, then they already have lost.”
I explained to them a concept I try to instill into every athlete.  It doesn’t matter the sport, it could be lacrosse, soccer or even snowboarding.  Every athlete has 2 choices when conditions aren’t ideal.
An athlete can either “Complain or Compete.”
Athletes sometimes get fixated on things beyond their control.  In the aforementioned example, athletes complaining about the course being sub-standard (FYI: the grumblings were even worse about the halfpipe), they forget what they should be focused on, which, is the stuff they have control over: their effort and attitude.
It is common for athletes to allow external factors to control their performance, as it distracts them from their game.  Which, could even increase doubts, as they begin to start thinking about what could go wrong, and simply get “trapped” in their own negative thoughts.
I often tell the athletes I work with that they should hope for less than ideal conditions.  Since, everyone has to compete with the same conditions, they will have the advantage cause they know their performances are not dictated by the weather or other external factors, but rather focusing on what they control. Essentially, they know they can go out and compete!
3 tips to help an athlete compete instead of complain.

  1. Have The Right Attitude:  More often than not, when conditions aren’t ideal we tend to worry too much on the things that could go wrong.  When rather we should take the time to focus on what we need to do to perform our best in those conditions.
  2. Embrace The Challenge:  Instead of putting worry and doubt into the performance.  Realize that it’s an opportunity to build confidence by knowing that even in poor conditions, you can still bring maximum effort.
  3. Just Relax!:  Often times the best thing to do when adverse conditions presents itself, is to take a deep breathe, relax and center yourself.  A calm and quiet mind goes a long way.

Jared Ocana, M.S., is a Mental Skills Coach and Adjunct Faculty at Westminster College in the Human Performance and Wellness Department. Besides working with student-athletes at the school in 17 intercollegiate sports, Ocana also provides coaching and training to individual athletes along the Wasatch Front. To connect with Jared, or have questions or comments, visit his website: or follow him on Twitter: @MindCoach_O

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