WIN ARTICLE #132 Maximum Performance Mastering the Mental Game


Maximum Performance
Mastering the Mental Game

By Greco Roman World Champion: Mike Houck 7-26-‘17

Doing ones best and achieving maximum performance when it counts is an elusive endeavor for many. Most everyone can recall times they failed to compete to their ability. For me my high school career was wrought with disappointment. My passion, ability and work ethic were well above average and yet I just couldn’t figure out how to keep it all together when it really counted. I probably have some kind of record for finishing second in tournaments throughout my early career. As a three time Minnesota State High School wrestling tournament entrant, (two individual and one team) the most stinging reminder of my failure to perform came at our wrestling banquet my senior year in when I received the “Lucky 7” award for a perfect career state tournament performance of 0-7. Painful but true.

When I made the decision to continue wrestling and pursue my Olympic aspirations a number of things changed. First and foremost was coming to a saving faith in Jesus Christ and a new commitment to live my life for God. Second was the decision to stop cutting weight. Third was training with the Minnesota Wrestling Club which provided a training environment filled with America’s best Greco-Roman wrestlers. And finally, the decision to attend Maranatha Baptist Bible College where two time Olympic Medalist, (one gold and one silver) Ben Peterson, was not only the coach but a competitor still active on the world level.

It wasn’t my decisions alone that changed my mental game. My decisions provided me the opportunity to learn and pick up on the positive mental habits of great competitors. My positive mental transformation took place over time and the maintenance of it was a constant mental exercise. James Allen in his book, As a Man Thinketh, States; “The body is the servant of the mind. It obeys the operations of the mind, whether they be deliberately chosen or automatically expressed.” Allen’s statement implies two very important points; one, the mind controls the body and two, that control is either intentionally directed or unintentionally directed.

It was the realization of the latter implication that really transformed my mental game, the simple realization that I could intentionally control and direct my thinking. That realization allowed me to begin training my mind like I trained my body with discipline, effort and intention. Too many athletes miss this. They are mentally lazy or they think their thoughts are not under their control and they place little to no value on mental training never taking the time to construct their mental framework. For some a positive performance mind set comes naturally but for others it is a challenge and stumbling block to great performances. Regardless of how natural or unnatural a great performance mindset is, all wrestlers can benefit from enhancing their mental game through an intentional mental training construct.

Throughout my post high school wrestling career I went on to compete and excel far beyond my abilities with the development of mental tools that allowed me to reach maximum performance every time I competed over my entire career. Those same great mental habits I learned as an athlete became imbedded in my coaching and conversations with my athletes. What follows is a mental checklist for developing a mastery of your mental game.

1. Be aware of your self-talk

2. Know that you have total control over your thoughts

3. Learn to counter negative thoughts – Don’t just fight negative thoughts, replace them with positive constructive thoughts.

4. Develop an internal language of success

a. Redirect and Counter all negative thoughts.

i. i.e. positive self-talk, poems, favorite sayings, Bible verses, etc

b. Remind yourself of what you do well _ Trust your preparation.

5. Focus on performance first not just on results

6. Develop a “reset” mentality. Know how you will respond or proceed when things don’t go well. How will you recovering from mistakes, bad calls by the official, personal setbacks, etc.?

Physical Preparation:

1. Develop a routine that is centered on your skill set…Technique, Proper warm up, visualization, etc.

Things you can do to master your mental game:

1. Remember your best performance ever. Describe everything about it. How did you feel? What were you thinking? Seek to recreate it.

2. Develop a personalized repertoire of words, sayings and quotes that promote a healthy productive inner voice.

Every athlete must learn to prepare themselves to perform at their very best every time they compete. When you find something that works for you, reproduce it. Value your thoughts and don’t be mentally lazy. Understand that your thinking shapes who and what you are. “Garbage in garbage out or quality in quality out”, you get to choose. Develop positive patterns and routines. And finally let your coaches and team mates know what you need. Remember, the goal is to achieve maximum perform every time you compete.

Asics USA Wrestling The Competitor
USA Wrestling
National Wrestling Hall of Fame
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