Commit until the end
By Dan Atkins
‘If you want to end a losing streak, you have to commit to a mentally tough mindset.’
Our minds are designed to focus on threats to protect us. Making mistakes and losing are threats to coaches and athletes, so your mind has a natural tendency to focus on the negative. Racing in a triathlon is physically and mentally challenging. That is why I love this sport: it is a complete challenge on the human body and soul. In order to succeed, you need to focus your mind on a current goal. It is the only thing you can control. Winning isn’t just about being first past the post. It’s about achieving your goal and if you achieve the desired result, then that is a win!
Focus on winning
Your desire to win is going to flare-up during a losing streak. But the reality is you have no control over the outcome of the result. The more you focus on winning, the less likely it is that you will win because you are distracted by the outcome. Refocus your attention on the process of the race. Focus on what you can control during each moment of the race. Winning will then take care of itself.
Use anger as motivation
Channeling your emotions, such as anger, can work, but only if you use those feelings to focus your attention on the task at hand. Some athletes respond to anger with a laser-like focus on the present moment and what needs to be done. Others get distracted by the intensity of the emotion and don’t pay attention to the critical information available on the field, which is of course necessary to produce the best performance.
Try changing your approach
Sometimes you might lose an event because the other athletes are simply better that day. But perhaps it’s because you don’t actually have the talent to win in that particular contest. In the latter situation, the outcome of the race may have nothing to do with your approach to it. You wouldn’t want to abandon a race plan or race preparation routine unless it the preparations plan itself was flawed. Carefully look at the reasons for your losses and address those specifically. Don’t change for the sake of change, especially if your approach includes any of the principles listed below:
1. Do more
This can be quite a dangerous approach, especially in individual sports. If you focus your attention on the person you train beside instead of yourself you won’t be doing your job as well as you could be. Breakdowns in execution will then occur. Identify what your job is and do that to the best of your ability.
2. Point the finger at your coach
It is much easier to see to shift the blame onto someone else. Focusing on your mistakes and blaming others takes the pressure off of you and protects your ego. It also brings down others around you, undermines team confidence and erodes team chemistry and the chemistry between you and your coach. All this will contribute to a losing streak! When things go bad, step up and take responsibility for your role in the loss and work hard to correct it. Being accountable to those that support you may inspire your coach to do the same and unite the ‘team’ toward a common goal of excellence in both training and racing.
3. Beat yourself up
We feel bad when we have a bad race, maybe even guilty for mistakes we’ve made. Somehow, beating ourselves up is an expression of how much we care. It is also unproductive, hurts performance and compromises team morale. As a mentally tough athlete, redirect your focus to what you are doing well. Maximise your strengths in every training session. This will build positive momentum.
4. Give up
Losing is a motivation killer. A losing mindset will have athletes think, ‘Why should I try? I can’t win no matter what I do’. And so effort is lost. As a committed, mentally tough athlete, you must play to your own high standard of excellence – regardless of the outcome or opponent. When you give full attention and effort at all times you will maximise your chances of winning.
In short, if you want to end a losing streak, you have to commit to a mentally tough mindset. Consistently put in your full effort, focus on the here and now, and maximise your strengths. Be responsible for your own performance and hold yourself to a high standard of personal excellence. This way, you can progress toward your goals and start to achieve the excellence you visualise daily. Sit down and start to write down the things you do well and the things you need to improve. Put the list somewhere where you will see it daily until you reach your full potential.
Dan Atkins is the Head Coach at Triathlon Australia’s National Performance Centre on the Gold Coast, Australia. He has some 25 years experience as a triathlon coach and elite athlete. you can Contact Dan directly: firstname.lastname@example.org