It goes without saying that a lot of the people I work with have put in the necessary time and effort to reach peak physical condition. What I find, however, is a rather haphazard approach to the other side of the coin, the non-physical stuff – the mental pictures, goals, beliefs and expectations. These can have a dramatic impact on the end result and make the difference between winning and everything else.

The key to working with the non-physical stuff is to understand that it works in the same way as the physical stuff. If you leave it to chance you will get random results. It's the same with the mind and the emotions. Leaving it to chance and hoping is like picking the lottery numbers – you will win occasionally but more often than not, you will be let down.

Consider the following example. Tracy-Ann is a tennis player who had reached the final of a tournament. Her opponent was the top seeded player for the tournament. Tracy-Ann hadn't expected to reach the final, she just went into the tournament “hoping to do her best”. Obviously this approach had worked – she'd reached the final!

As the final started, things began to go wrong for her. Here's a sample of some of the dominant thoughts she was having:

I didn't expect to reach the final... how should I play?
Wow, the number one seed, who'd have imagined that I would be playing against her?
I can't beat her, I’m not the top seed, and she’s the number one player.

Instead of focussing on playing her natural game Tracy-Ann become embroiled in an internal dialogue and within a few games the first set had gone to her opponent, 6-1.

If she had mapped out a strategy before hand, and worked through any objections and doubts ahead of time, her mental state would have been much clearer and she'd have been able to play with greater focus. Instead here she was struggling internally and externally both to find the right mental state and face down the barrage of balls from the top seed.

Unfortunately Tracy-Ann lost the match. Not because of her lack of ability, but rather from her poor mental planning. When you are in the heat of a match it is very difficult to sort yourself out mentally if you are not adequately prepared.

So next time you have a big match or tournament ahead of you, remember to spend enough time on the softer side of things, the mind and emotions. Otherwise you could end up like Tracy-Ann, who earned herself a wonderful opportunity but ended up blowing it because she didn't plan properly for the eventualities beyond the goal.

Author's Bio: 

Matthew Green works in the field of sports performance management/improvement helping clients remove blocks to their greatest success. These blocks come in three broad categories: Physical, Mental and Emotional. Matthew has helped both amateur and professional sports people experience dramatic improvement as a consequence of his work with them.