Many teams and athletes start their season with a big dream, like qualifying for regionals, winning nationals, or reaching the top three in a specific tournament. This helps a team to pull in the same direction and to step up in their habits of excellence.

However, as a coach and mental trainer, most of the time I found that this big goal, although at first very motivational for the athletes, felt more and more like pressure the closer we got to the big tournament. When the stakes are high, doubts, fear, and frustration start to creep in. It then becomes really hard to perform at our best.

In such critical moments, how can we feel inspired, confident, and assertive without feeling that pressure that opens the door to fear of failure? Here are three tips.

1. More Love, Less Judgment

Have you ever wondered why there are so many athletes who are afraid of making mistakes? Because at some point in their life, they judged other people or were judged for their own mistakes.

Everyone has opinions about everything, about what is right or wrong. Over time, you come to believe that passing judgment is a normal behavior. Then you start valuing more and more the opinions of others because you want them to accept and respect you.

If, as a team, we want to get rid of fear, we first need to get rid of judgment. We want to keep in mind that each member of the team is unique, that we each see life through our own perspectives and filters, and that as a result we each experience life differently.

One of the best ways to drive out the fear and the judgment is to open the door to love and acceptance. What does that mean specifically in an ultimate team? Here are two very simple tips, related to how you interact with your teammates:

  1. Focus on communication and behaviors that help your teammates. As a team, you want to eliminate negative comments, criticisms, and any unhelpful nonverbal attitude, like showing frustration or discouragement after a teammate makes a mistake. This is mental discipline. Hold yourself and your teammates accountable. Be a force of positive energy or helpful information like calling the force or communicating with the last back. When you feel frustrated, find another way to get it out of yourself – for example, breathe hard and visualize all your frustration and negative thinking go out with your breath.Also, make sure everyone on your team understands that communicating is not coaching. When you communicate on the field or from the sideline, you want to give information that helps your teammate in the present moment, not tell them something they could improve in the future – that is your coaches’ job.
  2. Focus on little successes and good behaviors. Stop focusing on mistakes; instead, pay attention and be loud about the little things your teammates do well. When the going gets tough, it is easier to see what is not working, but make the effort to figure out what your teammates do right and highlight it. Send positive energy to your teammates — they will give it back to you and you will feel even more energized and powerful.

Love and acceptance are the foundation of team unity. The more you promote these values within your team, the further you are going to go on the path of excellence.

Photo credit: Jeffrey F Lin

2. Get Your Goals Right, Then Let Them Go

When you set an outcome goal, like winning a game or a championship, there are many things that you don’t have control over. As a player, you don’t control your teammates’ behaviors, your coaches’ decisions, or the performance of your opponent. These are all elements that can have an impact on your result.

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This article was published on Ultiworld, a website dedicated to the sport of Ultimate.

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