Combat Sports Psychology Tips: Helping Fighters Who Self-Sabotage Success
Helping combat fighters stay committed to their training
When supporting fighters in combat sports one of the biggest challenges that I come up against is helping them help themselves remain committed to their mental and physical training.
Often plateaus in performance occur when you don’t see any measurable improvements even though you are working very hard. “I’m training more than ever, but I don’t seem to be improving in the ring when it matters,” many fighters tell me in disappointment and frustration.
As a result, when performance gains aren’t visible, a lot of fighters commitment levels to their training plans suffer.
What is Total Commitment in Combat Sports?
A fully committed fighter will stick to their training plans, be focused and make the most of their time. They’ll likely be optimistic in their outlook too. In terms of goal orientation, they’ll score high in this measure, enjoying having goals to work towards. Personal goals will act as a source of motivation where they’ll know what they want to achieve, they’ll likely often visualise success too and imagine what success feels like. Importantly, on achieving their goals, they’ll be driven to keep on improving and do better next time.
For achievement orientation, this fighter will work hard, seriously hard, harder than most fighters to achieve their goals. Whether their goals are set by themselves or their trainers they will not get distracted. When they’ve multiple goals to achieve this won’t phase them as they are very reliable and tenacious. Setbacks, such as small niggles won’t stop them, they’ll find solutions. When the pressure is increased, the closer it gets to fights they’ll dig deep. On off day’s when they’re feeling fatigued, they’ll ignore the signs and show grit to keep on going. When it comes down to planning and preparing for fights, they’ll be meticulous and gain lots of satisfaction from sticking to their promises.
Sadly, many fighters don’t fall into this description above though.
3 Steps To Help You Stay Committed To Your Training Plans And Personal Goals
- Complete a performance profile, reminding yourself of your long terms ambitions and dreams. Then break down into small, shorter term goals and manageable daily tasks to help you reach your goals.
- Keep these goals visible every day so that you don’t go off track. For example, you could place them on a pinboard in your room or on your fridge.
- Understand better what beliefs or distractions can sabotage your ability to achieve your goals.
- Visualise yourself on these tough days and when the “usual” setbacks occur and see yourself responding positively how you’d like to.
Now that you’re armed with this information there is only one person stopping you being the fully committed fighter above, YOU – you are in a great spot to change your mindset, for the better.
5 Ways Fighters Self-Sabotage Success
1.Inability to focus on the process
My advice above in point one tells you briefly how to go about setting your goals. The reality is many fighters are clueless in this respect. We’re not taught how to set goals as youngsters which means a lot of fighters get caught out simply “dreaming” and placing too much focus on the outcomes of sparring or bouts.
2. Too strict expectations on your performance
We’re told to dream big with quotes bandied around, “work hard, dream big” and “dream big, set goals take action” which is great and provides an optimistic mindset. However, the downside can be high and strict outcome based expectations which then mean that you can set yourself up for failure. When things don’t go quite right in the run up to a fight, when you feel the pre-fight butterflies or have a slow start to a bout you may doubt yourself or become frustrated.
Fighters often look for quick fixes, they look for things that work immediately. If they find something doesn’t work and fast, they’ll likely throw it away and move on to the next fix.
4. Fear of going all in and not succeeding
From my work I’ve noted a lot of fighters are afraid of chasing their goals and dreams, and putting in 100% commitment. As we know there are no guarantees however if you work “really” hard and put all of your energy into improving it will pay off. For some fighters FEAR gets in the way. They’re too outcome focused and struggle with fear of not attaining their goals so they go on to NOT give it their all.
High and strict expectations in combination with a lack of trust in their ability forces some fighters to train too much and NOT give themselves the opportunity to take a step back and rest up. If they aren’t in the gym, sparring or lifting weights, they’re building up their stamina running. Or they may be consuming different fights online via YouTube. Prioritising rest and recovery and taking breaks is something that they don’t factor in. Yet it is vitally important in order to remain fresh and achieve your goals.
Overall, if you are looking to become the best fighter that you can be and increase your commitment levels this is possible if you take the appropriate action as highlighted above. Go for it!!
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Online Sports Psychologist and Mental Toughness Trainer who supports Combat Sports Fighters around the world from San Diego to London, and Dubai to Perth, using ONLINE Video Conferencing.
Managing Director – Inspiring Sporting Excellence, Host of Demystifying Mental Toughness Podcast and Founder of The Sports Psychology Hub. With over a decades’ experience supporting athletes, coaches, parents and teams to achieve their goals, faster.
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