I've been the mental game coach to professional
polo players who compete at the local, state, regional, national
and international levels. It's been a true pleasure to help them
improve their mental skills and the mental toughness required to
win under pressure. The horse-rider relationship is an amazing connection.
When it is right, the horse and rider act as one, and perform to
their full potential. The mental game of the rider is often the
determining factor to this athletic formula.
How about you? Is your mental game of polo a sound one?
Here are four mental strategies you can use that will help your
mental game reach a level of excellence.
- Think Correctly: Parse and correct this sentence. "Big,
fast and strong opponents make me nervous." What would you
think if I told you that this sentence is 100% false? It is actually
false. It could never be true, under any circumstances. What makes
it false? YOU make yourself nervous, not any outside thing. I
encourage you to observe your language, and to correct yourself
when you use the construction "this or that makes me nervous."
Instead, take ownership of your thoughts and feelings and realize
that what you think is what makes you feel a certain way. So think
happy, positive, aggressive, winning thoughts!
- Learn To Stay Calm Yet Energized: Polo is a game of
extremes. One moment you are calmly moving the ball downfield
and suddenly you are racing to chase the player who just stole
your ball. This back and forth, frenetic pace can take its toll,
unless you are good at staying calm, under all these conditions.
You want your body and mental energy high, yet to also be calm,
both emotionally and physically. This is quite a trick, but it's
what knowing how the zone operates is all about. I teach the elements
of the zone, and one way to access that mental state is to learn
how to meditate. Meditation teaches you how to keep yourself calm
and centered. Close your eyes and take three or four deep, slow
breaths. Feel the tension leaving your muscles. Feel the calmness
coming over you. Sit quietly for a few minutes, doing nothing.
Continue to breath deeply and evenly. This feeling you have created
is the calmness you need when you compete.
- Handle The Dead Times As Well As The Live: Dead time
is when the action is not taking place. You need to be adept at
handling the down time in a match as well as when the action is
underway. One way to do this is to allow your mind to relax a
bit when the action first stops. Don't stay on edge and all wired
up. You'll just tire yourself out. There is no such thing as "non-stop
concentration" in a contest. You must give your mind a break from
time to time. Second, you must have solid rituals that will bring
your focus back into the action. Test these rituals in practice
so you will have solid trust in them in a match. Finally, stick
to your rituals. They are there for a reason.
- Believe That You Belong: Some polo players think they
don't really match up to the other competitors. They think they
are interlopers who don't really belong in that contest. Maybe
they are a younger player playing with seasoned veterans, or with
famous stars. Regardless, if you do not think you are welcome
there, your play will suffer. So here's a mental strategy you
can use. Remind yourself that the expectations for success are
actually on the veteran players, not you. If you lose, everyone
thinks, "Of course he lost, he's not that experienced yet.",
and if you win, they'll think, "Wow, he's really goodI
didn't expect that!". Either way, no one is looking to you
to dominate, or to win. You're not supposed to winyet! So
enjoy your match, with the pressure reduced!
Now you know more about the mental game of polo, and how to manage
what's in your mind. Remember that what you think and feel comes
from you, not the outside, and to stay calm, yet energized, and
ways to handle the dead time as well as the action, and to believe
you belong (with a way to reduce pressure on yourself). May you
enjoy and win all your polo matches!
For a comprehensive overview of your mental abilities you need an
assessment instrument that identifies your complete mental strengths
and weaknesses. Here is a free, easy-to-take 65-item sport
psychology assessment tool you can score right on the spot.
This assessment gives you a quick snapshot of your strengths and
weaknesses in your mental game. You can use this as a guide in creating
your own mental training program, or as the basis for a program
you undertake with mental coach
Bill Cole, MS, MA to improve your mental game. This assessment
would be an excellent first step to help you get the big picture
about your mental game.
Copyright © 2014 Bill Cole, MS, MA. All rights reserved.
Bill Cole, MS, MA, a leading authority on sports psychology, peak performance,
mental toughness and coaching, is founder and CEO of William
B. Cole Consultants, a consulting firm that helps sports teams and individuals
achieve more success. He is also the Founder and President of the International
Mental Game Coaching Association, an organization dedicated to advancing
the research, development, professionalism and growth of mental game coaching
worldwide. He is a multiple Hall-Of-Fame honoree as an athlete, coach and school
alumnus, an award-winning scholar-athlete, published author of books and articles,
and has coached at the highest levels of major-league pro sports and big-time
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