We all know the mental aspect of wrestling is critical to success. Some wrestlers seem to raise their level in big matches, while others fall short of their potential due to the lack of correct mental skills. We have often talked in practice about setting goals, developing mental toughness, and building confidence. Many wrestlers lack confidence because they focus too much on winning. As a result, they are afraid to lose. Your goal should not be to win every match for the rest of your life. Your goal is to either win or do the very best you possibly can at whatever post-season tournament you are wrestling in. By focusing on the areas we can control, our confidence will grow and there will be less negative feelings and less self doubt.
Outside of competition, you have control of the amount of time you spend improving your technique and perfecting the skills that enable you to win. You have control of your diet so that you aren’t worried about your weight allowing you to practice intensely and with purpose. You are in control of the amount of sleep you get so your body recovers and is able to perform at its best. You control staying on top of your school work so you can focus on wrestling and not have the stress of being behind or struggling in class. You control all of these things and when done correctly, they clearly help you wrestle your best.
In matches you have control of wrestling smart and intensely, battling your opponent for every point and in every situation. You control if you stay focused throughout the match, even after a bad call or an opponent’s score. You control how you react to everything that happens. You also have control of whether or not you attack your opponent and stay aggressive for the entire match. You have control of your game plan, setting up your leg attacks, getting to your strongest position on top, and moving until you are out from bottom.You have control over beating your opponent back to the line on a restart versus slowly walking back looking nervous. You control your body language and you control how you react to adversity during the match. By choosing to focus on these areas which are in your control, you will perform better.
Leading up to competition, if you feel nervous you can control your thoughts and re frame your mindset. People often comment “just don’t think about it” which doesn’t typically work. However, you can replace negative thoughts with positive ones. Think about things that make you excited to wrestle. Instead of getting nervous when you have to wrestle a tough opponent, let yourself feel challenged. If the thought process is “I’m going beat this guy today” then you will be excited about the match. If you think “oh no, I have to wrestle him” then you step on the mat scared and unable to open up. Enjoy the challenge and don’t fear or even think about losing. Once again, these are the things that you can control and will help you to wrestle your best.
I encourage all of our wrestlers to buy in to this mindset and take control of these areas. As I mentioned earlier, this will allow wrestlers to feel more confident. If you feel more confident and you are doing the things that benefit you such as extra training and proper weight management, then it should be clear you will perform better. By controlling your thoughts leading up to competition you can put yourself in a state where you are able to focus on positive thoughts that help you to stay focused and to win.