How to Train Your Mind
Controlling attention is a superpower every athlete should master—here’s how to do it. At Versus, we like to go deep on mindset.
Training the Mind--Master Your Mindset & Improve Your Game
Controlling attention is a superpower every athlete should master—here’s how to do it.
At Versus, we like to go deep on mindset.
Skills work, physical training, and advice from experienced coaches and mentors are essential for any athlete’s development—but it’s only part of the work of reaching that next level.
Without the right mindset, an athlete can’t capitalize on their unique talent or the learning opportunities that present themselves.
A genetically-gifted athlete can participate in the best training program in the world, but if they don’t have control over their mind, their development will be limited.
Fortunately, unlike genetics and inborn skill, mindset can be trained—almost infinitely.
Psychologists and neuroscientists now agree that thanks to neuroplasticity, people can continue improving their mental abilities until the day they die.
What does this have to do with training the mind for sports?
Sports psychology provides solid evidence to confirm what athletes and coaches have known forever. Mindset techniques, such as goal setting, visualization, self-talk, pre-performance routines—offer real-world improvements in sport performance.
The challenge is, mindset in sports is a HUGE topic!
Sport psychology has had its own division in the American Psychology Association for almost 40 years. So it’s not like you can learn everything in a blog post or a couple of YouTube videos.
But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.
Versus has been hard at work with our starting lineup, developing training sessions on everything you need to know about mindset in sports.
We cover every aspect of a winning mindset in-depth, with the help of an elite athlete or world-class coach. This ensures you get the right mix of theory and practice to take your mindset game to the next level.
Up today, we’re going to explore training the mind to control attention, with softball legend Amanda Lorenz.
Amanda is one of the greatest hitters to ever play the game. She’s also an expert in mindset. Not only does she have years of high-level playing experience in college and professional softball, but she’s also a talented coach in her own right.
We’ll start with a brief overview of attention and its link to performance—then finish with some practical tips from Lorenz on training your mind.
The Most Underrated Superpower in Sport
Focus gets a lot of coverage in sport training.
Concentrating intensely on one aspect of competition at the exclusion of others (also known as focus), is a critical component of sport performance.
And while all athletes should sharpen their ability to focus, there is also a related skill that is just as important, but often gets overlooked: Attention.
Attention sits one level above focus. And it can make or break an athlete's ability to concentrate.
You could think of attention as the general theme of a player’s mindset. During a game, a player’s attention might be concerned with things like:
- Negative self-talk about how they handled the last play
- Confidence they’ve done the necessary work to succeed
- Being preoccupied with the possible outcome of the game
- Commitment to their process and game plan
- Anxiety about personal issues
- Fear of failure
- A commitment to focus only on the play in front of them
Looking through this list, the link between attention and focus becomes clearer.
If we’re paying attention to something negative—like a fear of failure—it’s going to be very hard to focus on the next play.
But when a player directs their attention to something positive and empowering (like confidence they have done the work to win), focus naturally turns to the game.
Now that we understand the link between attention, focus, and sport performance—it’s time to learn how to put this into practice.
What follows is a summary of an exclusive video interview with Amanda Lorenz on training the mind.
While we’ve covered the main points from the session, if you are serious about upping your mindset game—sign up for one of our training packages.
You can try out the Versus platform for free. And our paid options give you unlimited access to all of the sessions on mindset, skills, and more.
Now, let's take a look at how to quickly and effectively deal with negative thoughts, with Amanda’s “flush routine.”
Give Yourself 10 Seconds—Then Flush It
Ruminating on errors can destroy game performance.
Particularly in sports like baseball and softball, the opportunities to get stuck on mistakes from a previous play are endless.
There are more complex strategies to deal with dwelling on negative thoughts—but in a game situation, they often aren’t practical.
That’s why we’re such big fans of Amanda’s simple, yet effective “flush” routine, which she details below.
“I give myself 10 seconds. Then after that 10 seconds are over, I focus on my team and my teammates and how I can help them win. Because it doesn’t do them any good—or myself any good—if I’m sitting there upset for the whole half-inning”.
Pro Tip: Come up with your own flush routine. Try counting down from 10, then have a phrase you mention to get your head back in the game.
Being self-confident doesn’t require a giant ego.
Often, self-confidence naturally arises to fill the void that’s usually occupied by negative self-talk.
A super practical, but powerful tip from Amanda to improve self-confidence is to start your day off with positivity.
How does she do this?
To set a positive tone for the day, Lorenz writes a message on her bathroom mirror the night before in dry-erase marker.
“It can sound a little cheesy,” she admits. But something like, “You are enough” or “You look beautiful,” can set a positive tone for the day (men, feel free to adjust as needed!).
Pro Tip: Get creative with this one. If you reach for your phone first thing, try adding a note to your screensaver. If you’re short on inspiration, Google “motivational quotes” and you’ll have more ideas than you know what to do with!
Manage Who Gets Your Attention
Our unprecedented access to information and digital connection has numerous benefits—but it comes with a downside.
The term “attention economy” describes the efforts by businesses (and individuals) to hijack our attention.
This isn’t all bad. If your social media feeds and inbox are filled with content that makes you feel positive and inspired—that's great. Just make sure to do an occasional review, evaluating whether the people you follow are actually adding benefit to your life.
“I’ve started paying attention to people I follow on social media,” explains Amanda. “If they’re not making me better and building up my confidence. If I’m playing the compare game. Then I need to unfollow and get that off my feed.”
Pro Tip: Pay attention to your internal dialogue and thoughts while on social media. If something makes you stressed, down, or just “yuck”—unfollow.
Be Prepared to Deal With Failure
“It’s a game of failure,” is a phrase often used by athletes and coaches of all backgrounds.
Unfortunately, this comment is usually thrown out without much constructive advice or direction—but not by Lorenz.
In the video, Amanda uses her experience of not making the cut for her junior national travel ball team to give solid direction on dealing with failure.
Her first piece of advice is to tap into your love of the game as motivation to keep going after a setback. Try to resist the temptation to dwell over not making the roster, losing an important game, or missing a particular milestone. These goals are important—but seem less significant when compared to an athlete's love for the game.
Having an accountability partner to keep you on track is another good recommendation.
However, Amanda’s most powerful piece of advice on failure, is to ask yourself the following question.
“Am I going to let this break me and change me into someone I don’t want to be—or flip the script and use it to get stronger.”
Pro Tip: Don’t wait until failure strikes before figuring out how to deal with it. Be proactive by getting an accountability partner and deciding how you’re going to respond when the game knocks you down.
Learn to Get Out of Your Own Way
Amanda Lorenz’s practice wisdom and coaching prowess comes through loud and clear in her closing comments on training the mind.
She masterfully ties all her advice together with one statement: “Learn to get out of your own way.”
This concept represents a powerful perspective shift for mindset work in several ways.
First, it moves the focus on mindset from being something “out there,” to an internal process. Learning about new mindset strategies is important, but the only time they actually matter, is when the athlete applies them in the real world. Contrary to popular belief, mindset is as much about doing as it is learning.
Second, it reminds us that a fundamental aspect of mindset is avoiding negative states. Many of the big wins in mindset come from eliminating automatic negative thought patterns, which makes space for more empowering narratives.
Finally, remembering to “get out of your own way” encourages athletes to focus on process, game plans, and training. In most cases, the goal of mindset work is being able to pay attention to a pre-existing plan for success, while avoiding self-sabotaging behaviors.
In the beginning of this article, we touched on just how big the topic of mindset is.
A winning mindset definitely is something that can be learned. But it requires a commitment from the athlete to learn the theory—then put it into practice.
At Versus, we believe mindset is just as important as skills training. Mindset is a competitive advantage athletes can continue to develop throughout their career, long after maxing out their full physical potential.
If you’re interested in learning more mindset techniques that have been tried and tested on the field by elite athletes—head over to Versus and sign up.
You’ll get access to the exclusive training video this article is based on, plus our full library of mindset and skills-based digital content.
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