To Think or NOT to Think…

“There should be NO thinking when fighting…” That’s the reminder my Judo coach Gerard Lim often repeats to us.

“What does ‘No thinking’ really mean?”

“Is it possible to ‘not think’ when you are fighting, or when competing in any sport for that matter?”

Coach Gerard in Action
Picture Courtesy of Jagsport

Many coaches can intuitively relate to what Coach Gerard is referring to – the Performance Mindset, where our athletes fully trust their abilities and simply react rather than over-think.

However, although we are able to relate to the Performance Mindset, we might not necessarily be doing enough to help our athletes foster this mindset.

The Two Opposing Mindsets

When athletes make use of introspection and ‘step-by-step’ to learn and improve their technical and tactical abilities, they are making use of the Practice Mindset.

Alternatively, the Performance Mindset helps an athlete perform freely and intuitively without thinking about the “how to-s”. Both mindsets are necessary for an athlete to reach her potential.

“The golf swing happens far too fast for you to direct your muscles consciously. Frequently, I can make minor adjustments in mid-swing, but they are always instinctive, never conscious.” Jack Nicklaus

The problem with many of our athletes is that they tend to bring their Practice Mindset into a competition
. As a result, they often…

  • Over-muscle, over-control or become too passive with their strokes and technique.
  • Try too hard to be precise and over analyze, i.e., taking more time than usual.
  • Allow doubt and anxiety to affect their confidence.

What can Coaches do to foster the Performance Mindset?

Coaching Practices to Foster the Performance Mindset

The above are just some strategies that I’ve made use of, and have recommended to coaches that I’ve worked with as a psychology coach. I’m sure that many of you would have similar strategies, and it would be great if you could share these in the comments section!

On a final note, these coaching practices are in no way a substitute for the time invested in deliberate skill practice (even after achieving proficiency). The more you practice, the more likely you are able to let go of conscious controlling tendencies, and allow your skills to just run off from motor memory!

“Don’t think! FEEL…” Bruce Lee

Also, it is unlikely that an athlete is able to be in the Performance Mindset aka “Not Think” throughout competition. Hence, it’s important that she learns how to refocus on the mental/feeling cues when distracted.

Coach Hansen

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