Let me ask you a question… When competing in roller derby, how much of your performance do you feel is down to your mental game?  10%? 30%? 50%? More?

If you answered 50% or more, let me ask you another question.  How much time are you putting aside to work on your mental game? If you spend 5 hours a week on skates at practice, do you then spend another 5 hours working on your mental game?  If the answer is no, then what are you waiting for?

I’d actually place a higher figure on it – at least 80% I’d put down to mental prep. No matter how many hours you practice, no matter how physically fit you become, if you are not mentally ‘there’, your performance will never be at the highest level it could possibly be.  What a sad thought!

When you look at skaters that you admire and aspire to be like… what is the one thing that they all have in common? Confidence. This confidence comes from of course, physical preparation – practice/scrimmages/off skate training/experience/the honing of skills – but it also comes from having a killer attitude.

So, if this is all completely new to you – how can you start to work on your mental game right now?

1) READ. You need to start reading some literature in the area of Sports Psychology, and as a starting point I recommend ‘Sports Psychology for Dummies‘ (yes, really) and ‘Mind Gym: An Athlete’s Guide to Inner Excellence‘. Read these and if you don’t start seeing an improvement in your attitude and as a result, your game, I’ll give you your money back.*  Make notes, scribble all over them, pick out chapters that really resonate with you and read them time and time again – before games/when having a down moment etc.

2) TELL YOURSELF YOU ARE AWESOME. I’m a firm believer in self reassurance and bigging yourself up – out loud! If you are going to a boot camp/scrimmage/bout and are feeling nervous or lacking confidence – tell yourself you will be the best skater there because of X/Y/Z, and mean it – REALLY MEAN IT! It’s not being big headed or egotistical, it’s essential!  If your mind can really believe this fact, and I mean really believe it – your game will improve instantly – before you’ve even put on your skates!  Result!

3) GIVE NO SHITS.  I constantly tell people that to play this (or any) sport you can not give a crap about what you look like to other people.  If your mind isn’t solely on you and your game in that moment, you will not play to your best. If you are too busy trying to impress someone/not disappoint someone, or if you are worried about ‘messing up’ you won’t fully commit to moves/blocks/plays and you will never ever ever ever (can I say ever one more time?) play to your best.  You can spot these types of skaters a mile off.

”Show me a guy who is afraid of looking bad and I can beat him every time.” – Ozzie Smith

If you're a jammer - doing your lap back to the pack is a great time to 'mentally check yourself'.
If you’re a jammer – doing your lap back  around to the pack is a great time to ‘mentally check yourself’.’

© Marko Niemelä

I feel like I could write so much more on this subject. It’s a huge part of my own personal training and I am really passionate about spreading the word and making other skaters realise the power your mind really has.

If you have any questions – hit me up, but those books are a great starting point.

*Disclaimer: I won’t actually give you your money back, but I will be very shocked.