Players become mentally tough

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Players in the NHL grow wild playoff beards, former professional football player Tim Tebow prays, Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps blares hardcore rap, and Miami Heat basketball player Lebron James claps a chalk cloud—all for mental endurance. From professionals to high school athletes and the Super Bowl to the OAA White Division State meet, success is not accomplished solely through weeks of practice and physical training throughout the season. During competitions when mental preparation is just as important as physical preparation, students take tips from the pros, turn to their teammates, and swear by other strange rituals to keep their minds strong and confident in order to get fired up and inspired to perform their best.

 The “I can do anything” mindset

Before performing, self-doubt and negative attitudes are detrimental to athletes. When one team is favored to win over another, or the person he/ she is defending is twice his/ her size, athletes must take it upon themselves to convert the potential for negative energy into motivation through means such as inspirational talks, meditation, and team unity.
“Running requires a lot of mental strength, and during the race or hard workouts, knowing how hard everyone on your team has been working is a huge motivator. Although running is seen by many as an individual sport, having a close-knit team makes a huge difference—besides, no one understands better than the team how much hard work and dedication this requires,” said senior cross country captain Meghan Santella. “We also have the best team huddles before races, and even though the ‘quote of the meet’ always ended up being the same, the pre-race huddle is always motivating.”

Pump-up playlist

Across the spectrum, music can affect athletes’ mental state by providing a distraction from fatigue or pressure. While lower tempo music such as Coldplay or John Mayer can relax nerves before competing, upbeat music such as Eminem or Katy Perry provides energy, fast rhythms, motivation and.

“After we listen to the Riff Off, we get fired up as a team to perform our best. It’s a fun way to start the games and get us into a competitive mode,” said senior varsity cheerleader Meghan Ostrander.

Traditions, superstitions, and rituals

Just like knocking on wood, many teams have specific rituals that must be completed in order to gain confidence and comfort for mental success. Before games or meets, many times coaches will give a pep talk to get players into the winning mindset.

“We pray as a team before every game. Patritto always gives a speech and the locker room goes crazy before every game,” said senior varsity football player Andrew Lamkin.
Also, individual routines and quirks such can help motivate players and prepare them mentally.
“We have the weirdest warm up routine! We always do dances and sing-a-longs to lighten the mood, in addition to technical warm ups,” said Santella.
Before big events such as playoff games or states, teams turn to the professionals and follow their playoff traditions such as crazy hairstyles, beards, or friendly competitions among teammates. Not only is this a distraction from the pressures lying ahead, but it unites the team to create a positive moral before the final trial.
“The entire football team gets together before playoffs and has to trust each other to cut your hair. Each teammate cuts someone else’s hair so you have to trust your teammates to do a good job,” said Lamkin.

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