“The Law” of Mental Preparation? Part I

“The Law” of Mental Preparation?

Part I

By: Dr. Steve @SportsShrink with Elite Coach @MattLindland

The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses – behind the lines, in the gym and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights. – Muhammad Ali

Mental Preparation

The ultimate goal of mental preparation training is for the individual to learn how to consistently create the ideal performance state (i.e., in thought, feeling, and bodily response) that can be parallel to their state at competition time. Rarely will this outcome occur if their preparation is left to chance.

For the purposes of this article, mental preparation is defined as the individuals’ use of psychological techniques or mental skills. Although all athletes and fitness buffs mentally prepare, most neglect to follow a consistent pattern in procedures.

The following excerpts were derived from a research study completed with elite athletes and their mental preparation.

The excerpts from Elite Coach Matt Lindland have been selected to exemplify his wisdom in the area of mental preparation.

Elite Coach Matt Lindland’s meaning of mental preparation is as follows:

Mental preparation means readiness. It means I’m prepared with my game plan and now I’m ready to execute it. I have every detail examined and the entire game plan analyzed for each perceivable possible outcome, every change of events good and bad.

You’ve got so many elements that go into a fight and so many ingredients. You’ve got to prepare mentally in addition to physical prep for each one of those things, specifically, and you’ve got to know the outcome before it happens.

Preparation starts in your mind.


Elite Coach Matt Lindland goes on to explain that confidence is the end result of preparedness.

You have to be confident in your training and your abilities. That’s where the physical training comes in. If people doubt themselves it’s because they haven’t physically prepared and they haven’t done all the stuff necessary to and they don’t deserve to be a champion. They don’t deserve to win that fight.

That’s what the confidence is about, that is, doing everything that you’re supposed to do until you deserve to have the good things.

I think confidence is the end result to all preparation.

Goal Setting

Here, Coach Lindland provides an elaborate explanation for the importance of detailed goal setting and goal reviewing.

I put the emphasis on my game plan and what I want to execute specifically. Then I break it down for a round, what I want to do in the first round. Then I break it down to what I want to do in the first minute, the second minute of that round, the third minute of that round; how do I want to make first contact?  Whatever you’re going to do, the first thing you’re going to do, etc.

My goals are specific and detailed; it’s fairly elaborate. It’s very specific, very specific. There’s short term. There’s intermediate. There are long-term goals. I think there’s got to be all of those and I think there’s in-between each of those, there’s whole other layers.

During the year I sit down and try to evaluate and figure that out my plan.

There’s time like when you’re on a long plane ride and you pull out your goals and evaluate them, look at them. It’s a lot of what you pull out is stuff you’ve written 10 years ago. I’ve got things from, I think, as far back as I’ve got records is ’92. It’s not just athletic goals, but all my goals. They’re very detailed, very specific.

I’ve had a lot of success in accomplishing what I wanted to accomplish.

Before and after practice I review goals. This is preparing, having what you want to accomplish in your training before you go into training. You don’t just show up at training and just train. You have to have something you want to accomplish that day in training. Then afterwards you’ve got to evaluate if you’ve accomplished that. Then set a new goal for the next day and so on…

Thought Process

Coach Lindland also believes negative thinking must be countered with neutralizing plans.

Negative thinking is detrimental, any negative thought. You’re only going to reinforce what you think. If you keep having repetitious negative talk, you’re going to have negative results. If you have neutral or positive thoughts you’re going to have hopefully positive results.

  • You can’t have any negative talk.
  • You can only have neutral or positive.

I guess the only thing I could say is if somebody were to be having negative thoughts, one of the things I coach about is if you have a negative talk or doubt, you’ve got to replace it with something neutral and not necessarily positive.

People say you’ve got to replace it with something positive. I don’t think you have to replace it with something positive.

You need to replace it with something specific, task oriented.

You have to know what you’re trying to do, if you don’t know what you’re doing, that’s why you’re having negative talk. So you’ve got to reinforce your strategy, your game plan, and your goals. Reinforce those things. You’ve got to break them down again. It’s just a process.

If you’re having negative self-talk you need to reinforce it with your game plan or your strategy. That’s all it is.

You can’t be having negative thoughts.

For example, you’re thinking, ‘What if he does this or what if he does that?’ You just don’t want that thought coming into your head. So you counter it. It could be with what I keep going back to, move forward with your hands up. You put that in that context, you know, ‘I can’t let him punch me in the face,’ well move forward with your hands up. It’s harder for them to punch you in the face. But I’m not thinking about getting punched in the face…

  • I’m thinking about punching him.
  • I’m moving forward with my hands up.
  • If I move forward with my hands up, when he comes into range…
    I’m going to HIT him.
Continue to Part II