Watching Sports as a Mental Exercise

Watching sports on TV can be stressful, especially if you're a fan of one of the teams. When your team makes a good play, you usually get happy, but when your team plays poorly, you usually get angry or sad. You can also get very angry if the referees make a bad call against your team. Overall, watching a game can put you on an emotional roller-coaster. For the most part, this is fine if you're just a fan. However, if you're also an athlete, this can reinforce unhelpful thinking patterns that can make you mentally weaker in games. When you're playing in an actual game, you don't want to think like a fan. You want to think like an athlete! You don't want to get too emotional after good or bad plays. For the most part, to play your best, you need to stay calm, focused, motivated, and confident after each play, no matter how good or bad it was. This is why reinforcing negative thought patterns as a fan can hurt your mental toughness as an athlete.

However, this doesn't mean you should never watch sports on TV. Watching sports on TV can actually be very helpful if you use it as an opportunity to train your mental toughness. You can strengthen your mind by watching sports. But in order to do this, you need to discipline your mind and take control of your attention, thoughts, and emotions. By putting yourself in the shoes of the athletes you're watching on TV and trying to maintain a peak performance mindset, you can greatly improve your mental toughness. Here are some ways you can do this.

  • Imagine yourself playing at the same moment the player on TV is playing. You can even stand in front of the TV and mirror the player's movements. For example, if you're watching tennis, you can swing at the same time the player on TV is swinging. If you're watching football, you can pretend you're the QB and receive the snap at the same time and drop back and throw the ball.
  • As you're putting yourself in the mind of the athlete on TV or visualizing yourself playing, try to think as they would be thinking. Stay focused on the task at hand.  Brush off mistakes and focus on the next play. Control your self-talk to help you stay motivated, confident, and poised under pressure. Do your best to mentally overcome any type of challenge that occurs in the game, whether it be dealing with mistakes, overconfidence, physical fatigue, intense pressure, a bad call, loud crowd noise, or trash talk.

You don't have to do this mental exercise for the entire game. Doing it for a quarter or even for 15 minutes can still help strengthen your mind. This mental exercise can be especially helpful if you do it during high-pressure moments of the game. 

There are times to relax your brain and just enjoy watching sports as a fan. But every once in a while, you should take the opportunity to watch sports as a mental exercise. Like with any exercise, the more you do it, the better results you'll get!

Lastly, you can do this mental exercise while watching your own game film. While watching film, most athletes focus mainly on their technique and strategy. You should be focusing on your mental game as well and analyze how you could be thinking differently during the course of a game.

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