We are using these easy mental tools with our boys and girls players to make sure they believe in themselves and help them find out WHY they spend so much time and effort to help our teams get better!
Anthony Lanzillo is a mental health professional with over 20 years experience. Lanzillo began writing about the mental game of sports in 2014 for such websites as FirstDown Playbook, Coaches Training Room, Lacrosse All-Stars, and Coaches Clipboard. He now reaches out and works with athletes as a mental skills coach. In 2012, Lanzillo served as the coordinator for the KBD LAX training program, and in 2013, he was a co-founder of the Haddon Township Lacrosse Club in Southern New Jersey which now sponsors a youth program, and boys' and girls' lacrosse at the high school level.
- Related: You can ready more about Anthony's work at www.thementalpeak.com
Getting Your Players To "Buy In"
"Success comes when we wake up everyday in that never-ending pursuit of WHY we do WHAT we do." -Simon Sinek
"'Why?' is the most powerful psychological question to boost motivation." -Rasmus Ankerson
As everybody knows, lacrosse is a physically demanding game. And as a lacrosse coach, you want to make sure that your players are in good physical condition and are physically ready to play. From stretching to practice drills, working out in the weight room and running through plays on the field, you want your team doing whatever it needs to do to be physically prepared to perform and hopefully succeed during the season.
While the coaches are focused on the team's physical training and conditioning, it's important that the team doesn't forget about the mental game of lacrosse. Just think about the lacrosse stick. A player can't play lacrosse if his stick doesn't have a head on it. Likewise, your players can't play lacrosse, and give their best effort, if they haven't developed their mental skills to keep their heads in the game.
One of the keys to helping each of your players with his mental preparation, and getting him ready to play, is to make sure that he believes in himself. What a player believes about himself, and what he believes about his abilities and skills as a player, will have a major impact on what takes place out on that field. Therefore, as a coach, you have to keep your eyes and ears open because not one of your players is simply going to raise his hand, and tell his coaches and teammates that he doesn't believe in himself. This is part of the mental game that no one wants to talk about or admit, even to themselves.
When a player doesn't believe in himself, he will begin questioning himself and having doubts about whether or not he can cut it on the field. But he is keeping this to himself. So, you have to look for the subtle or not so subtle signs during the game. It could start with the player who lowers his head after making a mistake. Maybe, you overhear a player talking about never getting better and being disappointed in himself. And then there's the player who is acting like a spectator, pulling back and not giving his all out of fear that he will make a mistake, look bad and jeopardize his team's chances of winning. Once you see any of these things happening, you probably have a player who's starting to question himself or have some doubts about his ability to play.
While you do want to respond to and address these kind of things when they come up during the season, you can be proactive and work with your players on their mental game at the beginning of the season during the team practices and team meetings. There are some mental skills tools, exercises or drills that you can take your players through to build their self-belief, and help them become mentally stronger.
Here is one unique approach to engaging and educating the players about how to believe in who they are and what they can do:
- At one of your team meetings or practices, bring your players together and tell them to relax. Then, tell them that you have a question. Ask the players what do they do when they go into a store and find something they like and want to take it with them. One or several of the players will say that you would pay for it.
- At that point, you tell the players that they are right. If you want something, you have to pay for it. You have to buy it.
- You then tell your players that it's the same thing in sports. If they want to become better players, and get everything out of their experiences of playing lacrosse, then they have to "buy in" to what they are doing.
- At this point, you hand out pieces of paper in the shape of a dollar bill to all the players. Ask them to write on one side of the paper the following question - "Why do I play lacrosse?" Then you ask the players to turn the paper over and write down their answers to that question. Give them about a minute to write down their answers. And remind that they can't leave that side blank.
- After the players have finished writing, you tell them that "buying in" is all about knowing "why" they play lacrosse. Whether they're playing for their teammates, a loved one, a personal cause or to be a part of something bigger than themselves, they have to be clear about why they pick up that stick and come to practice everyday. If they don't know why, then the what, when, where and how to being a lacrosse player have no meaning.
You want to talk to your players about believing in themselves and in their teammates. Tell them that this sense of belief comes from understanding and appreciating why they play the game. You tell them that they have to bring that "why" with them to every practice and game. This "why" will fuel their desire and determination to become a better player. And it will set the tone for everything they do to get ready to play and perform.
To wrap up, tell the players to put their pieces of paper somewhere visible where they can read it at least once day. And tell them to treat that piece of paper like a thousand dollar bill. Ask them to think about how they would feel if they lost a thousand dollars. And then ask them how they would feel if they forgot why they play lacrosse.