How can getting “more reps” actually make your athlete worse?
As moms, we all want our athletes to level up. We wish to see her play to her full potential, lessen minor mistakes, and reach the next level in her favorite sport. And whenever we see our daughter struggle to keep up, we often resort to getting “more reps”.
More gym time. More reps. More time on the field/court/pool.
Physical training is, without a doubt, a critical component in helping athletes reach their full potential. However, if we stop there and believe that’s all we need, we’re doing a huge disservice to our athletes.
The belief in the idea that athletes simply need more reps and court time is what keeps them underperforming.
Scroll down to learn why physical training alone isn’t enough for athletes to reach their full potential. Why mental training is the perfect spark for an athlete’s hard work to pay off. And why “more reps” could actually be making your daughter worse.
1. Physical training doesn’t address the underlying cause of poor performance
I was coaching a high school volleyball team when I realized that it’s not always the physical aspect that needs enhancement. There was a time when we would go out to play and lose. One of the reasons we lost is missing 20 serves, and in volleyball that’s terrible. After that, I designed our next practice to focus on “serving”. I was confident that those physical routines and practices worked well. But when we went out to play another high-pressure game, we missed 22 serves. I just spent all our time working on serving, so what’s missing?
The girls have acquired the skill to serve, but they missed the skill to serve under pressure. They were lacking the skill to focus and find it difficult to be consistent under pressure.
Physical training/more reps are not the only solution to the underlying cause of poor performance. When you see that your daughter is not playing to her potential, it could mean a variety of things.
“Maybe she does have a lack of training.” That’s usually the first thing that comes to our mind. We want to correct the situation as soon as possible. Determine how to improve our athlete’s shot or enhance her form so she can begin executing.
But what about the mental skills behind performance? Could those string of mistakes or “bad game” actually be linked to something beyond just the physical aspect of the sport?
But what about the mental abilities that underpin performance? Could a streak of errors or a “bad game” be linked to something more than the physical side of the sport?
When athletes underperform, make mistakes, fail to execute, or become caught in slumps, there is usually more than one element at work.
There are other contributing factors to consider such as:
- Lack of focus.
- Lack of preparation.
- Inability to manage pressure and nerves.
- Inconsistent routines.
- Inability to bounce back from mistakes.
- Focusing on the uncontrollable
- Lack of clear vision and goals.
- Lack of discipline and consistency.
- Negative self-talk…and more
All of the mental skills above aren’t as easy to pinpoint as contributing to poor performance, but they are big drivers in the results athletes get on the court/field.
We think our athlete missed her serve because her mechanics were off.
But what if the thoughts playing in her head before she served were something along the lines of “Don’t mess up. You always miss your serve. You’re going to let your team down.”
With thoughts like that replaying in her head, how can we expect her to confidently execute a skill? She misses, and we automatically assume it’s because her form is off and she just needs more reps.
When she doesn’t improve after “more reps”, she loses even more confidence. This is where you’ll see slumps in performance and athletes who can’t “get out of their heads.”
2. More reps can lead to burnout
Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result…doesn’t work. It’s like pushing a “boulder” uphill. Whenever you push it does not work, yet it’s exhausting. Whenever you stop, the “boulder” rolls down the hill.
Working hard without seeing any results would get you easily exhausted.
It’s the same idea with getting “more reps”, whenever your daughter struggles to level up. She would not get any relief from the frustration of making the same mistakes. And she would easily lose enjoyment in playing her sport.
We need to be careful about not pushing our daughters to exhaustion. She might lose enjoyment because what she’s doing isn’t working. And we don’t want our athletes to feel like this is just a job. We want her to have an underlying sense of enjoyment in doing her sport and improving.
If “more reps” are causing her to have resentment towards her sport and what she’s doing, that’s where burnout happens.
3. When talent is equal, it’s the mind that separates athletes
It’s not the physical talents that separate teams and athletes, especially as competition heats up and talent levels even out.
Those with strong mental skills will rise to the top and separate themselves – this becomes clear as the stakes rise and the level of play increases.
- The ability to handle the stresses on and off the court
- Handling bad calls or circumstances of the game that don’t go an athlete’s way
- Pushing past the comfort zone in training
- Being able to quickly respond after mistakes and setbacks
- Performing under pressure
- Playing consistently regardless of who or where an athlete is playing
These are all examples of mental skills that separates great athletes from the ones that “have potential.”
These are mental skills that are honed and reinforced before being manifested on the court in conjunction with talent and hours of physical training.
They are responsible for the physical training’s effectiveness. They are what will ultimately distinguish exceptional athletes from the pack.
Giving your daughter only physical skills puts her at risk of being overlooked.
Mental training is weight on the gas pedal. The car is getting her where she wants to go. Take care of it, put gas in it, and make sure it’s tuned up. The gas pedal is what makes the thing go!
The car won’t go anywhere without that weight on the pedal, and the more there is, the faster/further it will go. That’s the power of mental training.
You can help provide them with the opportunities they need to have these mental skills. It’s especially important to support your daughter in their sports journey. This is a path both of you have to take. Your best version as a sports mom will help your daughter thrive. An athlete who has dependable support is always at the advantage.
Although there is no way that mental training can replace what physical training does, just like physical training can’t replace mental training. They go hand in hand.
Elite performance is a product of three things.
Physical x Knowledge x Mental = Elite Performance
Physical training, Knowledge of the sport, and Mental training. We can think of this as a multiplication problem. Physical training multiplied by the knowledge of the sport, and mental training equals your daughter reaching her potential.
If one increases, they all increase.
An athlete can receive all of the physical training, lessons, and practice she desires. But if her head isn’t in the right frame of mind to make the most of her physical training, it’s a waste.
You can’t just “rep” your way out of a negative mindset.
The most effective strategy to ensure athletes get the most out of their physical training is to combine it with high-quality mental training that will allow them to nurture confidence, respond well to adversity, and perform consistently.
Like PB&J, mental and physical training perfectly complete one another.
Think twice the next time you’re tempted to believe that your athlete’s performance will increase solely through greater physical training. You’ve just learned why physical training alone isn’t enough to allow players to achieve their full potential, and how mental training is the ideal spark to allow an athlete’s physical work to pay off.
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