Rifle shooting is a mental game. But Lanny Bassham, author of With Winning in Mind, argues all sports are dominated by the mind.
The gold medallist’s book covers ‘mental management’. Though his practices have been developed as a player and coach, Bassham insists his principles will produce results in all areas of life.
If you put your mind to it…
Focus on the process
Bassham uses sporting analogies to teach us to control our performance and not waste energy on external factors outside our control. He stresses putting in a ‘winning performance’ – your best effort – and forget about winning the gold medal. Bassham argues, if you’ve done the work in training, your best performance will mean winning.
By having the intent to control what’s within our grasp also takes away the pressure of winning and that further sharpens our focus. We may walk away from competitions empty handed but focus on the process will ensure contentment regardless of the outcome, knowing we’ve achieved a personal best.
What expectations do you hold for yourself?
We’ve all experienced times when we’re overperforming. Upon recognising our performance is ‘unlike us’, we begin to fall away to our expected level.
My brother and I played table tennis often in our younger years and Bassham’s section on self-image got me reflecting on our sweaty battles. I was regularly on the losing end of my brother’s paddle. But at times I found myself ahead only for my game to fall into a steaming heap. I still have nightmares of him standing with arms aloft in victory.
If we hold higher expectations of our abilities (combined with practice) then improved performance will soon follow.
Rafael Nadal has a serving routine:
He stutters around the court until making it to the service line. He picks at his underwear then gracefully strokes the hair from his forehead. After bouncing the ball a precise number of times he glares at his opponent and tosses the ball in the air…
Rafa’s superstitious set-up is in place for good reason. He uses these movements in sequence to trigger his mind into a state of focus. You’ll see examples in all sports from weightlifting to cricket.
To create a mental program Bassham points out it should be simple and repeatable. Usually, it involves both physical and mental cues. An example for a powerlifter’s squat routine might look like this:
- Put on belt
- Check the weight on the barbell is correct – left side first then right
- Grip the bar outside shoulder width
- Bring chest to bar three times
- Get in position under the bar
- Verbal cue – “hips out”
- Unrack the bar with two steps
With Winning in Mind is a practical book. Bassham describes ways to apply the key principles and offers personal examples – his own and those of his athletes.
You’ll walk away from this book with more than theoretical knowledge on what a ‘mental program’ is but also how to make your own effective program.
I’d recommend With Winning in Mind for people involved in a sport, particularly sports involving repetition like shooting and swimming. But for the rest of us, I found the concepts less useful as many were based on competition.
7.5 hammed bass