Written by Carly Shisler, Illinois Regional Director
Lacrosse, just like any sport, can wreak havoc on your mind and body. Not many people think about what playing does to the mind or what putting together a good mindset can do for an athlete’s mental and physical state. Lacrosse training can have both mental and physical effects on a player. In college, I struggled with playing consistently, battling expectations, and having too much negative self-talk. I didn’t expect much from myself my freshman year, which was already a bad start for my mentality.
When I exceeded everyone’s expectations in my first game against a top team in the nation, I had no idea what to think moving forward. Instead of being excited for the opportunity to be a starter and role-player on the team, I was scared I wasn’t going to live up to the new expectations. Because of fear, I don’t think I met these new expectations until my junior year. I was coasting after that first game. It was not because I didn’t want to do well but because I couldn’t handle the pressure of not meeting expectations and potentially failing. My perspective shifted when I started meeting with a sports psychologist my senior year. My game changed significantly. Here are a couple of key points on the mental and physical aspects of lacrosse training.
Expectations and Standards
Expectations and standards can be a positive influence until your self-worth relies on them. It’s always good to have goals and motivation, but when those goals start to affect whether or not you think you are successful, they no longer benefit you and can damage your self-esteem. They can provide unnecessary pressure and a negative association with failure that removes the joy from the game and the ability to learn from mistakes.
Failing is not bad. We have all heard the saying, “failing is how we learn,” but clichés like this don’t make it more fun to miss our goals. We consider failure, especially in sports, as the worst-case scenario. A loss, a missed shot opportunity, an improper slide, a dropped pass; these are all viewed as failures. To not be afraid of failing, your mindset has to switch from perceiving failure as a negative to understanding them as inevitable. They will happen, but what you are doing that is positive should be the focus.
Statistics can be your best friend or worst enemy, depending on how you view them. They are great for having timely and measurable ways to evaluate yourself and your team. Going into a game expecting yourself to score four goals can have a detrimental effect on your ability to play your game and makes bouncing back from mistakes much more difficult.
Ultimately, as athletes, we typically have incredibly high standards and expect the best from ourselves 24/7. It’s what gives us the competitive drive, intensity, and strong work ethic. It’s our love for the game. If you’re experiencing pre-game or post-game anxiety, you may need to examine the pressure you are putting on yourself and ways to lessen this by changing your mindset on standards and expectations. You may also be fixating on a result, like a statistic or something else. Acknowledge your goals and keep moving forward. If you struggle to keep your head in the game and play consistently, you may need to recognize when you begin faltering. Explore ways to keep your head out of the uncontrollable and keep it in the present. Whether you struggle in the mental game or not, it is something everyone can continue to train. Just like conditioning, we want to get stronger and minimize future injury. There are mental and physical aspects to lacrosse training. Training your mental state can always be part of your game on and off the field.