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Trust Your Skills, Trust Your Game, Trust Yourself

“Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.”

“Self-trust is the first secret of success.”

---Ralph Waldo Emerson---

Two great quotes from writer Ralph Waldo Emerson reveal what mental performance coaches talk to their athletes about on a daily basis. Trust your skills. Let your natural talent fly and flourish.

Yet, for many of us, it can be very difficult to do.

• How can I trust myself when I just hit that last shot in the water? I need to make sure my weight shifts correctly, my hands are in the right spot, that my head is still.

• How can I trust myself, when I just threw four straight pitches out of the strike zone? I need to make sure my elbow is not below the ball, that I am stepping straight ahead, that I’m not opening up too soon.

• How can I trust myself when I just let that forward skate right around me like I was a pylon? I need to make sure my footwork is correct to be able to turn quicker, that my weight shifts and I’m not on the heels of my skates.

As humans, we do not do a great job trusting our skill set and the fact that we can accomplish the skill that we are about to do. We want to THINK we can but, then, there’s that doubt that creeps into our thinking.

We have that negative self-talk chirping at us about how we “screwed this up the last time” so there is a slim chance it is going to work now. All of that and then some edges ever so deeper into our psyche, like a slow moving lava flow, before - Boom! We erupt in panic and start to overthink the pitch, steer our swing, and think of eighteen things we have to physically do before turning and cutting off that skater coming at us. The end result? I think you can fill in the blank from there.

Trust for an athlete involves being in the moment, not thinking about mechanics (the “how to’s”), and committing to the shot, swing, play.

This mindset involves an athlete’s ability to trust that what they have learned is inside of them already, that they do not have to bring it back out each time they attempt to make a play. For a baseball hitter, your thoughts should involve one easy, small statement, “Attack the baseball,” for example. From there, once the pitcher is into his delivery the hitter now simply focuses in on the pitcher’s delivery, release point, and takes a rip, “attacks the baseball.”

The hitter is not going up to the plate bringing up the four of five mechanical things that he wants to make sure happen. “Make sure you explode those hips”, “Hands ahead of the ball”, “Don’t drop your hands,”, etc., etc. That is mechanical, overthinking and a sure fire way of clouding your focus.

In this example, a trusting mindset would allow the player to have confidence in their skills to put their hitting ability on cruise control and just let it happen. A hitter’s struggle here probably would not come up in a backyard wiffle ball game. Why? The reason would be that he just goes up and takes a rip at the pitch, not caring about any mechanics. That mindset needs to be taken into a competitive environment, as well.

A trusting mindset gives you the permission to just go out and play, specifically, just go out and execute the play. It’s a hall pass for your mind to take it easy and just let your body do its thing. It is perfectly capable of it. You need to give yourself the OK to simply let it happen, and not try and control it. “It” here, again, is the skill that you are looking to execute – a hitter’s swing, hockey player’s wrister, golfer’s tee shot, or a tennis player’s lob.

Playing in the present and trusting is getting lost in the present time

, and letting your natural skills and abilities just take over for that one moment. That’s trust.

It’s a challenge, but one that can be met. Just “let it fly!”

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