Alleviating Mental Mistakes in Games

Winning games isn't just about physicality, and it's not solely based on mentality either... It's a wholehearted combination of the two, especially when it comes to the later stages of games where mistakes can be so crucial

If you were to ask athletes who have held their team's victory in the palm of their hand and lost it what the main reason was - 9 times out of 10 we bet they'd say concentration or mentality

And this type of mental endurance... this kind of mental acuity is oftentimes incredibly hard to train. In essence, what we desire to develop and train is their mental cognition under stress. Or more commonly, their ability to make decisions when fatigued

I was first introduced to this concept by a friend of mine who used to be a phenomenal teenage MMA fighter in England. We spent a day training kettlebells, and at the end, he smiled at me and said: "now you're going to have some fun"...

He began me on a simple circuit of swings, snatches, pushups, and lunges. Nothing out of the ordinary and quite basic and easy to me. The challenge came, however when he began to throw maths problems at me...

I began to have to think about something else, and my body had to go into an "automatic, autonomous" stage with the movement. I was already quite fatigued, but this little mental stimulus completely threw me and turned what technically could have been a warm up into a very challenging training circuit

How We Do It

At The Academy, we love to throw cognitive challenges our client's way in some of their conditioning sessions - so they're performing movements that essentially don't require too much mental energy to perform, and they're moving quickly

Quite commonly they'll be maths problems, or animals/countries/cities/movies beginning with a specific letter we say - the sky is the limit here

One of our favourites is something we perform with our Lakeside Rep Netball girls at the end of our training sessions with them. We set them up in a 2x2m square, and have them perform fast feet for a minute in the centre of the square. Intermittently, we will yell 1, 2, 3, or 4; signalling to them that they need to run to one of the cones marking the 2x2m area and back to the centre. But whilst at the centre, we will throw the mental challenge their way - this exercise is shown in the video above

Try it out for yourself. It's a simple concept that can add a ton of value to young athletes, as well as adding some fun and variety

Nick Maier