Tuesday Tips: 3 Steps To Mentally Prepare During The Offseason, Presented By Spin Ultimate

Set your purpose for ultimate in 2018.

Revolution’s Yina Cartagena lays out for the grab. Photo: Taylor Nguyen — UltiPhotos.com

When we talk about mental preparation, we often think about goal setting, positive self-talk, emotion management, focus, and so on.

Now that the holiday season is over, it’s time to get down to serious business and mentally prepare for your 2018 ultimate season.

What specific actions can we take right now to be mentally stronger at tryouts and for the next season?

Work On Your Vision

This season, you may want to improve your speed or become a great defensive player. Identifying those goals is easy in comparison to achieving them. It is very difficult to make the right choice every single day when it is time to train, to eat well, to go out and throw in the rain. When faced with those challenges, wouldn’t it be much easier to change the plan, just for today, because you feel sick or you had a bad day, and to relax and enjoy yourself?

In moments like this, what is the best way to push yourself to go out there and do what you have to do? Here are steps to work on a vision for your success.

  • Find your purpose
  • Design your vision
  • Have a dream
  • Discover your ultimate why

“Everyone has a why. Your why is the purpose, cause or belief that inspires you,” says Simon Sinek, author of Find Your Why and popular Ted Talk presenter.1

Start by thinking about what you want to accomplish in ultimate. Then, most importantly, think about why you want to reach that goal.

Jessie Grignon-Tomás is a player from Montreal, a member of Team Canada in the 2017 World Games. In her career, she had two knee surgeries. After each surgery, she was so focused on her goals and determined that she returned to the game very quickly. When I asked her what about her purpose—the why helped her to stay positive and never give up in these difficult times—she gave me this answer:

“Years after years, as an athlete I had specific goals: winning a Canadian Ultimate Championship, winning a World Championship, playing at USA National Championship, playing at World Games… What keeps me on is that I think I still can learn, there are aspects of my game I know I can improve, I do not feel that I have capped. This is my real motivation. The day I am downhill, I will be ready to stop. Also, I still have one goal to achieve: I want to be part of a high-level American team. This motivates me a lot. Ultimate is the sphere of my life where I feel most confident.”

Every day, you have decisions to make. Every choice pushes you in one direction or another. It takes good mental preparation to contend with choices like this list. Do you:

  • Go home or go to the gym?
  • Play a video game or read that article on ultimate?
  • Eat healthy or have a beer with a friend?
  • Stay longer at practice to throw a few discs or go back home to watch tv?

When you have a purpose, a dream, and a vision, it is like building a lighthouse in front of you. Every time you have to make a choice, you look at the lighthouse for guidance on your direction.

Goals become a part of your ultimate purpose. Setting goals is very important, but knowing why you want to reach these goals is crucial if you want to keep your motivation along the way. Connect your goals directly to your purpose. Then you can focus on the attitude you need to achieve those goals.

Build Your Attitude

There are three important aspects of your attitude to consider when working on your mental preparation:

  • Your Inner Attitude
  • Your Verbal Attitude
  • Your Nonverbal Attitude

Your Inner Attitude

In his book 10-Minute Toughness where he presents a routine of daily exercises for athletes, Jason Selk says: “It has been demonstrated that what people believe they are capable of accomplishing largely determines how much they actually accomplish. […] When you truly believe in your ability, the self-image motivates the behaviors needed for you to live up to your expectations.”2

Your inner attitude refers to the way you think, the way you see yourself, and how you judge what is happening around you. For example:

  • If you make a list of your strengths and weaknesses, which one is easier to identify?
  • Do you think you have what it takes to reach your goals?
  • Do you see obstacles and failures as building blocks of your performance, or do you consider them as setbacks that make recovery and improvement even harder?

During the offseason, create an inner attitude by building your identity as a player. Where do you see yourself in a few years? Do you want to be recognized as the best defender on big cutters? Or as one who can shut down any quick handler?
Having a clear knowledge of who you are and what you can bring to the ultimate world helps to raise your self-confidence and ultimately, increases your chances to be selected on a team.

Your Verbal Attitude

What words do you use when you talk to yourself or others about achieving goals and setting your purpose? Are they positive? Motivating? Inspiring?

I had the chance to meet Wayne Halliwell3, an internationally recognized expert in the field of applied sport psychology, through some of his workshops in 2015 and 2016. Halliwell insists on the importance of consciously choosing our words when we talk.

For example, you could say:

  • I have to go to practice tonight.
  • I want to go to practice tonight.
  • I have the opportunity to practice tonight.
  • I have the chance to perform and express my talent at practice tonight.

Which sentence is the most inspiring for you to wake up and do something?

Here is another example: we know how important it is to stay in the moment when we perform.

How could we translate that into the most inspiring words?

  1. I am in the moment.
  2. I enjoy the moment.
  3. I embrace the moment.

As of now, start making a list of words that inspire and push you to take each step towards your goal.

Your Nonverbal Attitude

Did you know that power, courage, and combativeness come from the levels of testosterone and cortisol in your body? High testosterone and low cortisol combine to make you feel powerful and dominant.

Here are two ways to raise your testosterone levels, which increases self-confidence and makes you less reactive to stress:

  • Very short efforts at a high intensity, like those included in HIIT or Tabata workouts.4
  • Power poses.

Power poses refer to your posture. When you take a power pose, you make yourself big; you take up a lot of space and hold your arms and legs away from your body.

For example, imagine that you made a mistake on the field. Right after the point, when you walk back to the sideline:

  • Do you look down, frustrated or ashamed? This is a low-power pose.
  • Do you stand tall, with your feet apart, head up, looking right in front of you, hands on your hips? This is a high-power pose.

Which one do you usually choose? And how do you feel with that pose?

Amy Cuddy is a social psychologist who studied the body language. In the Ted Talk “Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are,”5 she explains that when you take a high-power pose, you increase your testosterone by 20%, and you decrease your cortisol levels by 25%. On the other hand, low-power poses decrease your testosterone level by 10% and increase your cortisol level by 15%.

Since 2012, Cuddy’s study has raised debates about the embodied effect of nonverbal expansiveness. However, a power pose remains a symbol of self-confidence. Tryouts are coming. Keep in mind that high-power and low-power poses can affect your feelings of courage and combativeness, but also that they send a very different message to a selection committee. In her Ted Talk presentation, Cuddy talks about an experiment she led that interviewed and filmed different people who adopted high-power and low-power poses. Four people watched it and had to decide who they wanted to hire. Without knowing about the theory, they chose all the high-power posers, and the decision had nothing to do with the content. They said it was about the presence that these people were bringing to the speech.

Next time you participate in tryouts, stay tall. Look up. Take your space. From now on, be aware of your natural posture, and train to make yourself big in any situation.

Expand Your Comfort Zone

Did you know that:

  • Usain Bolt has scoliosis, an abnormal curvature of the spine?
  • Abebe Bikila won the marathon at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome while running barefoot?
  • Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team,  deemed too short to play at 5’11”, and was told he lacked skills?
  • Tamika Catchings, five-time WNBA All-Star, is deaf and had a speech impairment?
  • Michael Phelps won his 10th Olympic gold medal swimming almost blind because his goggles were filled with water?
  • Babe Ruth held the record for the highest strikeouts (1,330) for a decade?
  • Jim “The Shark” Dreyer swam across Lake Michigan in 41 hours, instead of the 25 hours he planned? And when he finally saw the shore, 15 kilometers away, it took him 8 hours to get there?

What do all these great athletes have in common?

They have faced adversity, and they fought through it. That is why they became so awesome at what they do.

Staying in your comfort zone will never prepare you to battle. Instead, it makes you lazy. This is your worst enemy. If you want to succeed, train yourself to thrive in adversity.

To get the best results when exiting your comfort zone, you need to find the right balance, your state of “optimal anxiety”6 . “We need a place of productive discomfort,” said Daniel H. Pink, author of “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us” (Riverhead, 2009)7. “If you’re too comfortable, you’re not productive. And if you’re too uncomfortable, you’re not productive.”

The more you move out of your comfort zone, the more you push your limits. Gradually, your comfort zone becomes bigger, and you start to feel comfortable again. But not for too long, because when this happens, you have to push yourself even further.

Here are some ideas for working on expanding your comfort zone during offseason.

  • Take on one challenge every week.
  • Practice with different cleats, not yours.
  • Go to the gym very early if you are a more of a night owl, or very late if you are a morning person.
  • Throw discs in a snowstorm. (Be reasonable with this one,)
  • Play ultimate with people you don’t know and try to adapt very quickly.
  • Practice right after a workout, when you feel tired.

Go Beyond Ultimate

If you can exit your comfort zone in sports, there is no doubt you can also do it in other areas of your life.

  • Professional: talk to someone you don’t know very well. Make a snap decision, say yes to something new without overthinking it. Speak up in a meeting.
  • Social: talk to someone who has a different point of view than you, and try to learn from it. Take an improvisation class. Make the first step.
  • Personal: go 3 days without watching TV. Forgive someone who hurt you. Do something you like alone.

Make It A Way Of Life

Every step out of your comfort zone is one step closer to your goal. Do it every day, and one day you will notice something new: you have become comfortable being uncomfortable.

Offseason is a great time to work on your mental skills. In doing so, you will start your next season mentally stronger, with more confidence in your abilities to face adversity and to reach your goals. Of course, this is not easy work; you must ask yourself the right questions and be honest with yourself. But all that inner work will pay off in the long run. On the field, and off the field.

  1. https://startwithwhy.com/find-your-why/ 

  2. https://www.amazon.com/10-Minute-Toughness-Training-Program-Winning/dp/0071600639 

  3. http://mcgillnews.mcgill.ca/s/1762/news/interior.aspx?sid=1762&gid=2&pgid=1129 

  4. Make sure to understand the movements in your workout before performing them. 

  5. https://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are 

  6. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/how-to-destroy-your-comfort-zone_b_11388326.html 

  7. https://www.amazon.com/Drive-Surprising-Truth-About-Motivates/dp/1594484805 

  1. Guylaine Girard

    Guylaine Girard is the former head coach of the AUDL's Montreal Royal. She lives in Montreal and has been coaching for 25 years. You can download her free ebook "3 Steps to Get in the Zone", check out her YouTube Channel (French), and follow her on Instagram (French).

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