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The Mental Battle Within

4 min read
February 6, 2021
Chemmy Alcott

The strength of this cog is such that it has the ability to both create G.O.A.T (greatest of all time) athletes and those who never live up to their potential.

It has many names - mentality, psychology, mindset, characteristic, ethos….

It is the hardest cog to master, to control, to analyse and to collect data on. How many times have you heard - if only we could bottle up a bit of that confidence?

It is an area of our lives that we rarely spend time developing and training. We feel comfortable going to the gym, hill running, training slalom on steep mountains, but opening up and talking about how we feel is one of the toughest skills of all. One of the areas of my life that I am passionate about is mine and my husband’s coaching business. The number of times I have seen careers in sport fail because athletes are scared to admit their fear. They brush it under the carpet. Try to ignore it. Thinking that if they admit their fears, they are showing the ultimate weakness (especially in a sport like downhill racing where everyone thinks you are mental with screws loose!) These athletes never develop as far as they can. They always lack freedom and continually underperform. I myself really struggled in my early career to admit to being vulnerable. As mentioned in my last blog, I was inhibited by my huge fear of failure. It took years to overcome. I wish someone had recognised it and helped me open up, but I truly believe sports psychology is only impactful in a positive way if it is driven by the athlete themselves.

There are ways and techniques which I have used myself and on others that can help you develop mentally. They may seem obvious, but I have listed them below:

Self Talk – I used to stick post-it notes to the mirror above where I brushed my teeth with positive affirmations to say to myself before my biggest events or when I knew I wasn’t in my best place. Eventually, if you repeat them enough some of the strength filters in!

Visualisation – this is key and a very difficult skill to master. I use it as a coach and time athletes running the course in their minds. Very often they ski a 60-second course in 30 seconds! There are many different techniques with visualisation - you can imagine yourself skiing through your own eyes or in the third person, or even imagine yourself skiing on a TV screen. Being able to master this helps you race in the present, confident of what is to come.

Imitation – something I used regularly post-injury and still now when I am out of my comfort zone. I channel the world’s best at that particular skill - in this situation what would so and so do, how would they enter the arena/room, how would they be acting physically and what would their posture say and most importantly what would be going on in their head to make them the master of this situation. If you imitate that person enough you can feed off their confidence.

And that really is what sport and finding your growth mindset is all about - riding the wave of confidence, taking chances, making and learning from risks. Believing that every situation whether you win or lose is developing you personally, to make sure that tomorrow you can be a better version of who you were today.

They say in sport that the elite all have the same talent, but it is their self-belief and confidence that makes the difference between those that win and those that never unleash their best.