Mental Schooling

Mental schooling is a facet of focus where you shed all your mental baggage of the past and pull yourself together for a forthcoming tournament or match. The inner self of a person embedded in the deep recesses of the mind needs to be calm, free from negative thoughts and reassured in order to relax before a game.

Mental baggage could be:

  • from your personal life
  • due to past game failures
  • a result of trauma from a recent injury

If resentment and negativity is not dealt with effectively, it can bother an athlete and hurt the Performance. These thoughts from the past that keep rising to the surface have to be dealt with well before the actual game.

Shedding mental baggage requires you to do two things:

Let Go or Redirect

1. Ideally one should let go of the past and live in the moment.

2. If you cannot entirely forget, at least forget for the time being, put it off till after the game.

3. Redirect your mind to game-relevant thoughts like your practice, your performance, your strategies, your tactics, etc.

4. Call to mind successes of the past and analyze reasons for those successes.

5. Analyze and understand the reasons for failures.

6. Learn from the mistakes: Don’t just stop at understanding your failures. Actively look for solutions, look for new approaches, and apply these new approaches in practice.

This process will augment your inner strength, bring back your confidence, and free you of your mental baggage.

Regain control

Once you put away your mental baggage, the next step is regaining control over your thought processes. You are in control of the way you feel, and you are in control of your thought processes. When this realization hits you, it will bring a change in the way you deal with issues that bother you (e.g., personal issues or the game failures that haunt you).

Firstly, you can exercise firm control by schooling the mind to think of relevant issues. If you exercise poor control over your thought processes, then it will result in brooding.

Secondly, only you have the power over your state-of-mind.

  • You can school your mind into a state of pre-match excitement, which will bring greater enthusiasm to your practice and performance.
  • You can school it into an aggressive state that is charged up so that you play with intensity in the match.
  • You can school your mind to take on an assertive approach in dealing with your opponent (i.e., objectively assess your opponent’s capabilities, but have faith in your ability to win).

The choice is yours. You decide you take charge, and remember; only you can control your thought processes, your thought content, and your performance. You can school your mind to focus on the task at hand and leave aside all concerns of the past. This type of focusing forms the right foundation­ for careful planning, strategizing, and skill development. It recharges your mental batteries.

Methods that can help you “Let go and regain control”


If you’re unable to shed mental baggage and regain control on your own, the technique of meditation will help you gain more control over your mental processes. There are yoga techniques that can help bring about better insights into your thought processes. You begin to evaluate your thoughts, and this improves your overall self-understanding.

For some athletes, injuries create a trauma that constantly fills the mind with anxiety. Many of the meditation exercises are designed to heal traumas. Some exercises help you in recreating powerful imagery and visualization of the past, and this method is reported to give a person the ability to confront anxieties, heal, and enhance self-esteem. The techniques are powerful enough to free the mind of persistent preoccupations with the past. These techniques should, however, be learned at a meditation center for best results, though a lot of self-help books are available.

Find a new interest:

Find a leisure activity, a pass-time, or diversion that you have never done before and always wanted to do. Preferably, it should be a creative pursuit that is engrossing and can take your mind off your traumas.

Here’s an interesting example: Marco Pantani, the Italian Cycling Champion, was involved in a very bad accident in 1995 during the Milan-Turin race when a jeep drove into the cyclists. He was unable to walk, and had a lump of calcified bone in his shin. Bolts had to be put into his leg to prevent shortening of the leg and pus oozed out several months after the crash. During his recovery period, restarted writing poetry and painting and managed to make a comeback to cycling in 1996. A major win in 1998 made him a cycling legend in Italy.

Lloyd Irvin is a martial arts coach. He holds the rank of 7th degree black belt in Thai Jitsu, 2nd degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, 1st degree black belt in judo. In 2002 he was named The United States Judo Federation International Coach of the year. Lloyd’s coaching experience includes having taught Secret Service, FBI & SWAT. Read more on:

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