TCWG 2017: Team Canada & Mental Toughness
Team Canada is heading to Wroclaw, Poland to compete in the 2017 World Games. VC is proud to sponsor the Team Canada program and share it's experiences as it prepares to compete on the world stage.
In the following article, TCWG player Laura Mason discusses mental toughness and its importance in training.
On Team Canada, we prepare ourselves to get game ready, but that doesn’t just mean being in the gym. The other side is the mental toughness portion. We value this side just as equally, if not more, than the physical portion.
TCWG doing teamwork exercises, designed by Garry Watanabe.
TC’s Laura Mason summed mental toughness up very well, with things that she does to get in her zone. She is always prepared for any situation, with a great plan that she has established through her many years of experience at the highest level of Ultimate.
“I would generally call myself an artist. I make music, create art, and use my creativity every day to solve problems. I would NOT call myself super organized, or tidy.. or "focused" and for a long time, I always saw that as a huge weakness that I needed to get rid of. That I needed to be THE MOST organized and together in order to be successful.
I soon learned that..that was pretty unrealistic.. and that my quickest path to success was actually to find the right amount of structure for myself, while allowing space for creativity and expression.
My concentration depends on a few things:
- Goal setting
- Body care / nutrition
- Prep / habits
Daily focus & concentration:
My imagination lends itself to visualization, which was my first step towards growth as an ultimate player, and it continues to be the foundation of my focus. I visualize what I want. I am what I visualize. I visualize at least every day, and it’s generally unstructured, allowing my mind to stretch beyond what I think is possible for myself.
As a tournament draws near, my visualization narrows, focusing on skills or actions that support my goals for that event. It is often a combination of a big, aspirational goal that I have not yet reached, and foundational skills that I rely on to be a consistent player.
Keeping my process and habits the same (even though my excitement is building) helps me stay focused and confident.
Focus at a tournament:
- I always pack my bag the night before. This puts my mind at ease and frees me to think only of playing come game time, knowing that I’ll have everything I need with me - no last minute looking around for things.
- On the ride to the field, I continue visualizing and engaging my teammates, inquiring about their goals - this helps me set the tone within myself, but also amongst my teammates. This is how I let them know I’m focused.
- I create a back-up plan for those days where something inevitably goes wrong. Someone forgets their cleats, we make a wrong turn to the field, we are rushed, but my mind is calm.
- The last thing I remind myself to do is smile. I love this game, and performing to the best of my abilities gives me great joy. I think about my teammates, and being surrounded by such exceptional athletes. The joy gives me the proper lens, and the gamer inside take any nerves and converts them into a “Lets freaking go” attitude.
Sometimes I mess up, throw one away, get beat. If it happens a couple times early on, I can feel my chest tighten.. my heart start to race..my breathing get shallow. Negative talk can start to seep in.
It’s important that I identify at least one person on the team who I can go to in those moments - and be totally vulnerable with. I don’t believe in holding in or pushing away negative thoughts. I try and let out my emotion to that person, expressing my frustration and fear. Once it’s out there, it doesn’t have the same hold on me, and I’m able to accept encouragement from my teammate.
Don’t get caught without a plan. It doesn’t have to look like mine, maybe it’s looser or more structured. Whatever it is, figure it out. Put in the time to understand yourself. Each of us are accountable to ourselves and our team for our performance. “
Remember, the best thing to do is figure out what works for you! It will take time, there will be a lot of trial and error. But once you find it, you will feel much more confident about your abilities and always know what to do when a mistake does happen.
Hopefully you've picked up a few pointers from Laura and continue to grow and evolve as an Ultimate player, both physically and mentally.
Stay tuned for more great articles from TCWG in the lead up to the World Games this summer, and follow the team on Twitter here!
Team Canada in their brand new VC kits at TEP in Colombia this April.