Sunday

A wonderful time to be thankful!


In our quest for success, to be better, faster, stronger, we sometimes forget to be Thankful!

Now is the perfect time to take stock of the things, people, and traits that we can be thankful for.

So think about it...sure we always want to have new cars, new trucks, new engines, new things, but what things are you thankful for?  Sure it is easy to wish that people were sometimes different, more supportive, but what people are you truly thankful for?  And finally, as people and athletes it is always so easy to know all of the things we need to work on and all of our negative attributes, but what things are you thankful for about yourself?  

I have been working with a lot of wonderful athletes lately and sometimes when I ask them what they are grateful for they struggle.  After we spend some time writing down the specific things, people, and traits they leave feeling really thankful and really motivated. 

I am a strong believer in always trying to be better and learn and change, but it is also important to take stock and be grateful and lead with our strengths.  I am thankful for the fact that Mike and I have so many wonderful things in our life, even more importantly wonderful friends and family.  I also truly am grateful for the many McKendree University athletes that I am able to work with and learn from.   So what are you thankful for? 
 

Monday

So what are you doing this pre-season? Think Tuff!


OK, it is hard to believe that racing season is just around the corner when we just had 10 inches of snow in St. Louis in March.  And instead of working on the tow vehicle, Mike was plowing snow around the tow vehicle! 

But preseason for racing is just around the corner.  And in fact some of our friends are already racing and already winning.  So what are you doing this preseason.  What I find is that most athletes are great at getting ready for the season from a physical or technical aspect.  The golfer starts practicing swings, the baseball player starts hitting practice, the racer spends countless hours on working on the race car and the tow vehicle.  But what about the mental preseason?

Here are some questions to shake the dust (or the snow) off of the brain this preseason:
1.)  Think back to last season and the last time you were performing.  What were the challenges from last season.  What have you done to fix them?  If you haven't done anything with purpose to fix the challenges chances are they will still be waiting there for you.

2.)  Think back to last season and the last time you were performing.  What were you doing really well?  Where do you want to continue from last season?  Don't lose the momentum or the things you were doing well.  I see a lot of people end a season strong, they have learned, they have changed, they are performing well and then when the season starts they seem to forget all of that.  If you can't think of anything great from last season then go back to question # 1.

3.)  Finally it is important to work on the race car, to practice the physical or technical aspects of the sport, but what can you do mentally?  Can you practice with mental rehearsal, visualization, mentally think about scenarios, etc.? 

I can't wait for the next season to start.  Spring is the time when we have a whole new series of challenges, adventures, and opportunities.  So what are your goals? And more importantly what are you doing right now to get ready for them?

Sunday

Think To Win: The 5 BEST mental training tips!


I work with a lot of different athletes in a lot of different sports at a lot of different levels.  What is interesting is the fact that the 14 year old female swimmer is not that much different than the 25 year old male professional baseball player.   A few common tips for everyone at every level (and they seem to work for sports and life):

1.)  Work Hard:  It sounds so simple, but yet it is so hard.  Successful athletes and successful people practice hard and work hard.  To be good at something it is going to take hard work, sacrifice, and smart training.

2.)  Preparation:  Mort than just practice and hard work, a person has to truly prepare for everything.  Think about everything that needs to be done and make an action plan.  Think about past successes and do that again and think about past challenges and what things could be fixed.  Nothing can beat a really good to do list or training calendar.

3.)  Assessment:  Make a list of your strengths and challenges.  The simplest way to get better is to work on your challenges while maintaining your strengths.  It is easy to work on and do things you are good at but so much harder to work on the challenges and issues.

4.)  Pick your best team:  Surround yourself with coaches, team mates, and friends and family members that challenge you and support you.  Sure you can't always pick your teammates or your coaches but you can pick who to listen to the most.  A good team is essential for success.

5.)  You have to want it mind, body, and soul:  To be successful you have to physically work hard, mentally be tough, but also really want it and believe in it with all of your heart.  Call it passion, desire, motivation, drive, or heart you have to strive for something you truly love.

Sounds simple, but the implementation is not.  Take stock in where you are at, pick your goal, make your plans, prepare, pick your team, and then do it!

Thursday

Practice Like a Winner!


I work with a lot of athletes in a lot of different sports but one thing becomes really obvious in all of these sports, practice matters!  In some sports the athletes get a lot of practice.  For example, the McKendree University bowlers I work with have lots of opportunities to practice.  Drag racers are on the opposite end of the continuum and get very little practice opportunities.  But I think know matter what your sport is there are some lessons to be learned when practicing. 

1.)  Make every practice count!  For bowlers, baseball players, soccer players, and others who get a lot of practice, it is easy to just kind of go through the motions and not practice hard.  For drag racers, we get very little practice so every time trial has to be viewed as essential.

2.)  Try to make practice more stressful.  Yes, practice will never be like an important competition, but try to think about stressful situations while you are practicing.  Practice for a bit and then tell yourself that the next situation is really important and try to make it count.

3.)  Make practice hard!  The only way you will be able to compete well is if you practice even harder than what you will need. 

4.)  Be creative with your practices.  For drag racers we can use practice trees.  Yes, they are not the real situation but it is the best we can do when we can't be at the track.  Try to be creative in pushing yourself when practicing (for example, don't just focus on cutting hundreds of practice lights, but try to cut just ten lights all within a small range to practice consistency).  For other athletes, try to think of each practice as a chance to focus on one very specific skill.

5.)  Keep records of your practice.  Keep a practice log where you write what you plan to do each week, what you plan to work on, and then record the results.  Of course every sport is different, but a practice log can truly show you what you need to work on and what you have achieved.

The secret to being great at almost anything is a lot of hard work, practice, and commitment.  Good luck, now get out there and practice like you want to play!

Sunday

Think Tuff and WIN!



When are people at their happiest?  Everyone loves winner's circle pictures!  The www.tuffpaw.com and www.thinktuff.com dragster landed in the winner's circle first at a NHRA Open in Cedar Falls Iowa and then at the NHRA National Super Comp at Gateway in St. Louis.  The Cedar Falls win was a really special win for us because both of our families were there.  And the NHRA Midwest Nationals Super Comp win was simply amazing.  Of course, I have to put on my sport psychology hat and think about what these wins mean to people.

First, I think it is important for people to truly celebrate their wins.  All of us in sports put in a lot of time, effort, and money to be successful.  So take time to truly celebrate.  We were particularly thankful that so many of our Gateway friends stayed to watch us win and then stayed even longer to celebrate in the winner's circle.  We will never forget these two special wins.

Second, spend as much time thinking and reliving your wins as you do your losses.  It may seem egotistical or lacking in humility, but it is good for the sport mind to remember the wins.  In sports like drag racing a person has to deal with a lot of losing and many of the losses are just by a few thousandths of a second.  So take time to savor the winning rounds and events.

Third, after a win, it is a good time to analyze what you did and what you didn't do.  During our National Event win I kept telling Mike, "Just do what you always do.  You have done this a thousand times."  We also kept telling ourselves to "Play our own game and do it our way."  Sometimes people want to change up their games during big events and we tried to keep doing things the way we always do.  During the National Event Super Comp win I NEVER won a lane choice flip.  I normally pride myself on winning lane choice flips, but that day we kept swapping lanes and it is quite obvious that doesn't matter.  Right after a big win it is a good time to truly take stock of what really matters and helps you win and things that don't matter and are simply superstitions. 

And finally, after a win it is an especially good time to be truly grateful.  I am so thankful for the opportunity just to race.  I love the sport and am thankful we can do it.  I am thankful to my family for getting me started in a sport I love.  My grandpa Ed raced stock cars and my mom and dad still drag race.  We are so thankful for the great racing friends we know all around the country.  We are thankful to Danny Nelson RaceCraft Chassis for building the BEST dragsters around, for Big Block Shawn Anderson's superb engine building (and supportive text messages!), for Digital Delay electronics (simply the BEST around and Charlie is a huge help for any questions), and the list could go on and on!  And of course I am thankful for my husband Mike who can fabricate Tuff Paw Aluminum Products, support me in my career at McKendree University, build consistent dragsters, cut awesome lights, and makes life fun and special.

So Celebrate, Learn, Be Grateful for the wins and if you haven't had that big win, haven't held the big check, or had the chance to earn a Wally--Keep swinging and don't give up on your dreams!



It really is ALL mental....The most important sport psychology information!


So I love almost all sports, but I will admit that I don't watch a lot of professional golf on television.  But I truly believe we can all learn so much about the mental game of sports by watching golf.  At the level that professional golfers are at they basically can all drive, they all have the best equipment, they all can putt that ball in the hole, but what makes the good players GREAT players is their mental game.   Just today I watched an amazing golf event on TV where one man had a fairly big lead.  But the number two person just stayed strong and kept playing really well and never let up the pressure.  Eventually the number one person started to make mistakes, missed some relatively easy shots, and you could just see him losing his mental game.  The number two person ended up winning.  What was so fascinating was the excellent announcers who kept saying things like the following and these statements really are the most important sport psychology information nicely summarized:

1.)  At this level most of this sport is mental.  It is all about who has the best mental game.
2.)  This person needs to go back to basics and focus on his routine and his breathing.
3.)  Clutch situations are what separates great athletes.  Great athletes love these situations.
4.)  At this point he needs to slow down the game and get back to playing his own game and not worrying about the other athletes.
5.)  He needs to remind himself that this is what he practices for; he has made this exact shot thousands of times in the past.
6.)  In this sport you can never give up, it is not ever over until it is over.

So as you watch other sports than your own see what you can learn from them. 

It really is all mental so think tuff! 



Thursday

NEW YEAR...SO WHAT'S NEW FOR YOU?


It is 50 degrees in St. Louis at the end of December and it certainly gives you race fever!  I have been online looking for the dates of various races and so far my calendar is still pretty empty--but I know that March will be here before we know it.  We still have a few things to do to be ready for the races.  We just started our To Do list for the car, the trailer, and the tow rig.  Well, that is a good start to get your "To Do" list ready and start actually "to doing."  It is also a good time to think about tucking away some savings into the race account so you have some of those entry fees ready to go.

But what is on your "To Do" list for YOU?  For your body and brain?  I always think all dragster drivers should practice getting in and out of the car about 20 times per day?  Ever notice how much harder it is to get in and out of the car after you are out of practice?  :)  It also might be good for you to think about your mental game.  Ever notice how much sharper most racers are in October than they are in March or April?  What mental things did you do well last year?  What mental things could you work on?  Are you a believer in practice trees?  If so, time to get out the practice tree and start practicing like it matters. 

If you need some motivation to get you "To Doing" well pull up some of your photos from last season--when you see the car sitting in staging lanes, you can almost feel the sun shining down on you, you can almost hear the sounds of the engines, and you can almost smell the fuel and rubber burning,  Wow...do you feel it?  Time to get your calendar ready, your to do list started, and your goals ready for a new year!