Mental training: certainly as important as physical training, yet many athletes pay too little attention to it. And that is strange, because athletes currently suffer more from pressure, fear of failure and stress than ever before.

Nathan de Veer was a student-athlete himself at DePaul University and is now a mental performance coach for athletes. He knows better than anyone what it is like to experience these feelings, and is now happy to help other student-athletes overcome this. In this article he gives 5 practical basic tips and offers all Slamstox readers a free mindset test! But first, a word from Nathan:

Before I dive in, I think it’s important to realize that there are many athletes worldwide who would love to be in your shoes right if you go to or compete in college. Some parents can’t afford it, other athletes might not have the skills, and there are other reasons why they can’t make it. If you’re lucky, it’s 4 years of college, that’s it. You’ll never get these years back, so how can you make it an unforgettable experience? As a former student-athlete and current mental-performance coach for athletes, here are 5 practical steps.

Nathan de Veer – former college tennis player at DePaul University

1. ‘College Dream’

Imagine… what would make your time during college incredible? What things do you really want to do and achieve that excite you? Dig within until you really find that spark. Once you’re clear on this, ask yourself who you need to become in order to make that happen. What skills and mindsets do you have to upgrade or adopt in order to live that amazing college life? 

Action: Take some time to think about your answers and write them down. And most of all: have fun with this exercise!

2. A new way to improve

Most (student)athletes want to improve and win more, maybe you can relate? Working harder or putting in more hours is definitely helpful. However, there is a limit to this approach because how well you perform is always directly correlated to your mindset at that moment. You can confirm this for yourself by looking at the times when you did well. You felt better and focused differently compared to the times when you didn’t perform so well. Mindset not only impacts your performance, studies confirm now that stress and pressure increase your chances of getting injured. Something to be mindful of. Finally, the best athletes in the world all agree that mindset is what differentiates them from the rest. So it’s time to get started!

Action: Make your mindset a priority and decide to start working on it today!

3. How to overcome negative emotions

Learning to deal with negative emotions that come along with losing, challenges, etc. is a valuable skill for athletes. Statements that coaches, parents, or athletes say sometimes are: “be positive” or “control your emotions”. These words are well-meant but might be vague and can do more harm than good sometimes. Why is that?

If a negative emotion is perceived as bad or not good, then athletes will (unconsciously) try to avoid these emotions. So if you try to think positive but still feel negative, then that won’t help. In the moment, it might feel slightly better, but here is what happens. By ignoring or pushing these emotions away they actually build up!

You guys probably started thinking: so what do we have to do deal and overcome these emotions? No worries, Nathan has a solution for that!

Action: Observe, feel, and let the emotions be without trying to get rid of or avoid them. 

4. Deal with pressure

Feeling pressure, nervous, or anxious is common for athletes. It is the most common problem to solve within mental training. So, is this you? No worries, you’re not alone.

It happens mostly because athletes don’t want to lose, look bad, or experience uncomfortable feelings. There two things most athletes do to ‘solve’ this: 1. trying not to worry about the results, and 2. taking a deep breath. A good start, which may help in the moment. However, usually it’s not very effective because pressure or nerves will continue to come back if you still want to avoid the things you’re nervous about.

> Action: Realize what you want to avoid is not the end of the world and compare it to something that is actually more impactful or bigger than your fear.

5. Accelerate your progress

When Nathan works with athletes, he helps them reflect and write down their thoughts, feelings, and actions to help them be more aware. First, it’s nice to have this in a diary or document to look back on. It allows you to see what you’ve experienced ‘back in your college days’ and how you’ve developed as a person. Also, it will help you to make more progress both mentally and with your performance. What is an effective way to do this?

Write down your:
1. Successes
2. What you can improve upon
3. What experiences you’re grateful for

Even though these 5 insights can give you results, real lasting change is a lot easier said than done. Even though we live in an information age with mental tips everywhere, studies show that more athletes than ever before struggle with their mindset these days.

Nathan is a mindset coach and has experienced the life of a student-athlete in the USA, just like many of you. There he, like many other athletes, struggled with stress, anxious feelings and negative emotions. And precisely for that reason he now helps other athletes to overcome this, because he knows better than anyone how this feels and how to deal with it.

If you’d like to learn how good your mindset is at the moment and what you can improve upon, Nathan has offered the readers from Slamstox a free mindset test with some personalized feedback too. How cool is that?! Simply email him at ‘Mindset Test – Slamstox’. If you’d like to know more about working together, you can use that email too.

Do you want to become a student-athlete in the USA? Or would you like to know more about your possibilities? Reach out, and we will help you!