THE MENTAL GAME: PRACTICAL STRATEGIES TO BANISH FEAR – Part 3

By John Haime

Let’s talk about some ways you can address your fears. Here are a few simple recommendations that I might use with a player that can help you deal with fear and put it in perspective:

  1. Address your fears directly. What are you afraid of, and what might be the reasons? When you understand what might be causing your fear and acknowledge it, it will help you consider ways to address it.
  2. Always remember your purpose for playing. “I love playing because I love the animal, enjoy playing with the team and competing.” Write your purpose down and keep it front and center – always! Your purpose will help you create perspective about what’s REALLY important in your passion for polo and why you are doing it.
  3. Learn to manage the most important voice in your riding … and your life – your own! As we talked about in our earlier series on confidence, sometimes our own voice doesn’t help and tells you things you really don’t want to hear … building the threats into something bigger than they are. It’s important to challenge this voice and identify the real truth. Support yourself and be your own best friend. Shift the voice into a positive narrative:

“I can’t wait to test what we’ve been working on in our training.”

“Everyone watching is supporting me. I’ll treat them to some great play.”

“My best effort is all I can do – it’s OK to make mistakes – I’ll learn from them.”

“Pressure really gives my riding meaning – this is where I want to be!”

  1. Confidence and constantly building it is a secret weapon to overcome fear. Creating a feeling of “knowing” you can do it in your training and preparation will help keep those fearful “what if” thoughts from taking over. After all, you’ve done great work in your training sessions – you know you can do it – so bring the same feelings and approach to the game.
  2. Practice mindfulness to enjoy your riding and stay in the moment. The future is where your targets are – but you don’t achieve them without staying in the moment and paying attention to the steps that will get you to those targets. You can’t control what’s going to happen, so work to keep yourself in the moment. Also choose to bring the positive experiences from the past forward to support your confidence – and choose to leave the few negative ones where they belong – behind you!
  3. Know the difference between prove vs improve – The goal in your polo career should always be trying to improve all of your skills (technical, physical, tactical, mental/emotional). Sometimes when our goal is to “prove” ourselves to others, fear will creep in – the fear of the “what ifs” and trying to meet others’ expectations of you. Trophies and winning are great, but they will only come if you are doing the right things – enjoying yourself and trying to become a better player each day.
  4. Address any fear in training with your coach. You and your coach can structure your training so that when feelings of fear might arrive in the training, you pause and use your strategies to shift into a more positive, proactive place. This will help you bring your work on your fear from the training field to the match field.
  5. Be grateful. Remember also that having a feeling of gratitude about the opportunity to play with great animals and teammates and do what you love to do can fill you with positive energy and dampen the feelings of fear.

So, if fear is holding you back from really enjoying the game of polo and using all of your abilities, fear not! Remember that you are in control of your fears and there are practical actions that can help you douse the flames — helping you to be a more confident, proactive player.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: John Haime is President of New Edge Performance. A world-class Human Performance Coach for athletes, executives and artists, former professional athlete and current bestselling Author of You are a Contender! Build Emotional Muscles to Perform Better and Achieve More, John understands how athletes think and feel. He’s been there—under the most intense pressures of amateur and professional sports. He is trusted by a wide range of clients including some of world’s leading professional and amateur athletes. John coaches professional equestrians and up-and-comers with a proven system generating measurable results for clients. He has certifications in psychology, neuroscience, emotional intelligence and coaching. www.johnhaime.com

Photography by Jaime Cabrera & Olivia Jauretche

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