Bulletproof in sport is a feeling of inner confidence, a feeling of indestructibility and a feeling of your character being imperishable.
Are you tenacious? Will you persevere when the going gets tough? If your answer to these questions is yes, then you have some of the ingredients needed to being bulletproof!
Part of being a successful sportsman, businessman or writer is having a strong character and a desire to achieve. In my playing career what helped me gain confidence was preparation – knowing I had done more than any other person; this for me then gave me the right to win. However, we must prepare in a clever and structured way starting with the basics. There is no point of training, putting the hours in, if you are reinforcing bad habits or not clear where you are going. We must have a way to measure progression. Try to find out which system works for you.
First we have to start with the body. As coaches, we are responsible for providing the players with knowledge on how to protect their body from injury and how to strengthen the body to optimise their performances. We need to make sure we are allowing time in sessions to develop agility, balance and co-ordination. If we create the environment and continuous encouragement the player’s responsibility is to do it and work hard at it!
Having a strong character, being able to come back from defeats and keep sticking with what you believe in are all traits champions have. Without these, the obstacles in life will be too great!
How committed are you? Would you rather be out with your friends or train? Do you think about your sport before you go to bed? Do you make decisions in life based on what is going to best for your craft? Is your nutrition suitable for your sport? All these questions need to be a yes if you want to be the best.
It’s a lifestyle choice.
Visualisation is a tool I used every day when playing. I really feel if you can put yourself in situations you are going to face in competitions and have a Plan A and a Plan B to deal with them, you are more likely to be prepared for whatever happens and when the real tough times comes. Having a clear system in your head of how you are going to react in difficult situations and equally joyful situations fills you with confidence and a belief you can deal with anything. This, ultimately, will stop you being fearful and scared of the challenge, it will in fact create the complete opposite effect. You will embrace the fight and look forward to the obstacles.
Technical visualisation is also extremely important, imagining you:
- Making the right shot choices
- Moving and be sharp on your feet
- Playing technically correct strokes
- Being in the right position
This also goes hand in hand with the tactical element of the game:
- Having a game plan against certain types of opponents
- Which direction you are going to play your shots
- How much spin or speed you are going to play with
Training the mind is a great chance to give you that edge when wanting to be the best and make yourself bulletproof. After all if you want to be extraordinary, find out what the ordinary do and do the opposite!
This can be done during the day in your travel time or before you go to bed, it is a great tool, don’t forget to use it!
Technical practice is another crucial part of development. This is usually a discussion you would have with your coach – to be done on the multi-ball table. Being sound technically and having good foundations help endure lots of pressure against you. Another good reason for having good technique and good habits is when the pressure is on and the nerves kick in, we usually resort back to what we know best. Let’s get it right from the start! Having many different shots in your repertoire gives you lots of tactical options so you can the change the game at any given time to help you. Technique practice needs to be planned carefully and at a time of the year with fewer competitions, adjustments need to be made and they can take time to ingrain into match play.
Protect the body
If any of you have followed my career you will understand why I believe a coach’s role is vitally important in supporting young players and filling them with the knowledge and actively encouraging them to protect their body.
Sport, places very high demands on the body and more often than not has a dominant muscle being used, this can cause repetitive strain injuries, can effect performance in a negative way and if very unlucky shorten the longevity of your career. Players start very young and are sometimes elite level at an early age. I feel it is a huge responsibility and almost unrealistic to ask a passionate 13 year old who only wants to play the game because they love it to research what physical preparation they should do and which conditioning training would be best. In my view this is the role of the coach – to know your sport and seek advice as to what demands and strains the sport has on the body and then come up with a programme to strengthen all necessary areas. Coaches then should use a period of time in the sessions for conditioning training.
“Don’t settle for mediocrity, place high expectations and demands on yourself”.
If you dissect all these elements of sport and preparations and try to focus on doing the right things day in day out, you are well on your way to becoming bulletproof!
“Nobody can be perfect, but you can be pretty close if you reach for the stars!”
Please see the link below for my blog about repetitive strain injuries: