Trust your Training
And Train your Trust
Ever had a player consistently show up on practice days but not so much on game day? They are skilled, prepared, work hard but it just doesn’t seem to translate to game day. It often seems like they are “over-thinking”. Does this ring a bell?
Dr. John Eliot is a professor at Texas A&M who focuses on Performance Psychology and Human Capital Development. In his book Overachievement, he introduced the ideas of the training mind and the trusting mind, which provide a helpful framework for how we can help athletes translate their practice to performance.
In this week’s 3 point’s, I’ll introduce the training mind and trusting mind, why they matter and how utilizing both can enhance performance.
1. What are they? They are both important to sustaining performance excellence. To put it simply, think of the training mindset as an analytical and evaluative feedback-giver whereas the trusting mindset lets go of feedback and trusts your skill.
2. The training mindset is incredibly helpful in skill acquisition. I’ll use a basketball shot as an example; on the way to become a great shooter, one would need to examine their shot carefully. Where are my feet pointing? Is my elbow underneath the ball? How was the arc & rotation on that shot? I missed that left, what do I need to do differently?
You can see how this is productive thinking while working to improve our shot, but what if we are lining up for a game-winning free throw? When we are performing, especially under pressure, we don’t want all the feedback coming in. As Dr. Eliot explains,
“All that reasoning and evaluating that goes with the Training Mindset—the brain’s pattern generators get overloaded and thus the system gets bogged down, producing less efficient, less successful action, with a greater number of mistakes. In short, you don’t perform with your ‘A game’”
This is where the Trusting mindset comes into play, to perform at your “A game” you need to be totally immersed in the task. By focusing our attention on the task at hand, our instincts rather than evaluative feedback takeover. This is where we want to be during competition.
3. So about that player you have likely coached, the one who puts in all of the effort and time and is awesome in practice but maybe isn’t able to translate it onto the court. There’s a chance they’ve developed their training mind but not their trusting mind. And that’s the case for a lot of us. Think about it. We spend infinite more hours in practice/training than we do playing/performing. The good news is we can work on our trusting mind and here’s a couple ways how:
Spend time practicing in the trusting mindset. As Eliot put it, “think about scheduling just as much time for the trusting mindset as you have the training mindset.” Spend time simulating competition (scrimmaging, playing, competing) without technical feedback, self-monitoring from the athletes, and coaching.
Mindfulness training. With mindfulness it becomes easier for us to allow thoughts, feelings and evaluative feedback to pass through our consciousness without becoming too attached to them or to absorbed in them. This allow us to stay focused on the task in the present moment, which is exactly the kind of here and now experience that we're trying to create with the trusting mindset1.
Trusting mindset can also be referred to as competition mindset*