As an athlete, your awareness is your catalyst to increase your performance. It also acts as your neutral ground or foundation from which you can grow. Awareness comes in many forms, but at the core, there is self-awareness, awareness of our environment and finally and most importantly is our awareness of ourselves as we interact within our environment.
Mindfulness is a concept that is well talked about and introduced, but often misunderstood or not fully applied. It is an important concept and very relevant to our discussion of awareness. There is a lot to discuss, so being mindful of time, I will be short. Being present, in the here and now is one of the cornerstones of mindfulness. A second component is the ability to see things for what they are without holding them in judgment towards yourself or others. This concept can be applied to both negative and positive outcomes, but is often found to be most common when addressing outcomes that one may not necessarily desire. Lastly, the concept of mindfulness is showing understanding, compassion, and acceptance to oneself and others.
Let’s say that you fail to reach your goals for yourself or miss the final shot to tie or win the game. One way to react to this might be to devalue yourself, judge yourself negatively, or declare yourself less than or not enough. Conversely, acting mindful would look at this situation as a mere moment, not the end-all of who you are. You or your teammates would show compassion, support, and encouragement. Acting mindful acknowledges the result, but does not attach this result to define you. Good or bad. For example, if your team won the championship and you made the final shot to win the game, you would mindfully acknowledge your teammates, coaches and so on. To claim the win as your own would not be in line with mindfulness.
When we can be fully present and aware, a greater sense of awareness is possible. As an athlete, your greater sense of awareness can help you become more efficient in your gains by avoiding unconscious escape routes that derail your path to your goals. An escape route is often an unconscious habit or behavior that gives you short term relief. These escape routes are often triggered by fear and anxiety as one competes and if you keep following them they can lead to burnout and derail you from your goals.
It is extremely difficult to know where you are going and how you are going to get there without knowing where you are right now. This is awareness and acceptance.. Know where and who you are.
To be able to avoid mental traps, escape routes, and other barriers you really need to start diving in to get to know yourself. After winning Gold in the 2014 ASICS World Series Beach Volleyball Tour, Kerry Walsh Jennings (beach volleyball icon) talked about her partnership with April Ross and expressed, “We’ve been really honest with this partnership and our play, and we look at ourselves and evaluate ourselves,” she went on to say, “To be great, you have to look at the dark side, you have to be willing to be uncomfortable and we’re more than willing.” This is a great example of a champion who has done a great deal of introspection and who has stepped into her fears and took the risk to be great by being ready to be uncomfortable.
There are many ways to increase your level of awareness. In competition, you are forced into many situations that test your mental, emotional and athletic abilities. There are ways to train your awareness off the field of play so you are better able to adjust, react, and implement changes in the heat of competition that best serve you and your teammates, which allows for a significant competitive edge.
Ways to Kickstart Your Awareness
THREE MINDFULNESS EXERCISES: Engage Awareness
Ami Strutin-Belinoff, M.A., LMFT and CMPC, is a certified mental performance consultant. His private practice is based in San Diego, CA and he works remotely with athletes at all levels and in all sports.
If you would like to train your resilience, you can follow training programs by downloading the WellU Mental Training App on apple and google play devices. WellU provides engaging mental training opportunities to help athletes develop peak performance. Visit www.wellumentaltraining.com to download the app!