Most competitive athletes have a team of coaches and other athletes they train with on a consistent basis. They tend to train in one place or environment. Often the training is repetitive and the athlete quickly reaches his or her peak in that environment, then fails to transfer their practice skills in competition. Why is this? One major reason is how our brain works.
There is a region of the brain called the amygdala that senses fear. This part of the brain is deeply connected to all parts of our body’s nervous system and sends out messages to the body at over 270mph (that’s more than twice as fast as a human thought). One of the main purposes of the amygdala is to warn our bodies of potential dangers.
This makes it essential for athletes to train in an environment that is similar to competition (level, distractions, environmental conditions, etc.). If the athlete does not practice under similar conditions, competition often becomes too much of a challenge. This is because the amygdala sends off stress hormones that are too strong for the athlete to overcome. The result is often seen by the athlete’s inability to stay relaxed, focused, and confident. Even elite athletes have fallen short due to the amygdala’s powerful natural response to fear. For example: Pro-athletes who say they are 100% physically ready after an injury but still struggle greatly throughout the first several games or even months.
Take a lesson from the Navy Seals Training program, labeled “the toughest training in the world.” The Navy developed an intense program for all of their trainees that focuses on creating an environment similar to Seal Missions. These trainees must go through simulated war training under very stressful, yet accurate, conditions. The training is proven to help Seals succeed in even the most stressful situations.
The Formula for Producing a Champion
In regard to sports, athletes should train in an environment that provides them with the best resources but also the most accurate conditions that they face when competing. It’s no wonder why most athletes who truly excel in sports were good friends or siblings of other great athletes. They had someone else who pushed them at a level realistic to their goals of becoming a champion.
Once the environment is managed more accurately and competitively, the next step is for the athlete to learn the critical mental skills so that he or she can adjust to the demands of such intense conditions (mental training is another required part of the Navy Seal training program). Combining the 3 factors — competitive training + environment + mental training — will give athletes the best opportunity to reach their full potential.
To read more from Patrick Albán B.S., M.S., visit goSPMI.com.