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Bringing the Mental Game to the Valerie Arioto Clinic Experience

I was honored when my dear friend, former teammate, and current USA player Valerie Arioto asked me to work her clinics this Spring. She has a deep passion for training the “complete athlete” - mind, body, and soul. As a performance coach and mindfulness based therapist, I have had the honor to work with several different teams on a wide array of topics. I sent Valerie a menu of topics and I was excited when she chose the ones that she did. I am going to share with you the five tools that were chosen for the Spring workshops and I hope you will be able to find something that you can apply to improve your game today!

1. Self Care

Self care is more than an Instagram meme saying “treat yo self” or going to get a mani/pedi on the weekend. Self care is about nurturing your mind and body so that you’re able to perform your best. Athletes at the highest level make this a priority, which is why they’re able to consistently compete at a high level. Managing your Energetic bank is very similar to managing a checking account. You can’t spend more than you have and if you’re going to be making a big purchase you will need to save. If you’re training hard, but you’re not eating well or sleeping enough, you are expending more energy than you have available. If you have a big competition coming up and you don’t have enough in the tank, you’ve failed to prepare appropriately.

I encourage athletes to create a way of tracking the balance of their energy. Notice your deposits, withdrawals, and constantly monitor the balance. Some of the categories we encourage our athletes to assess include, but are not limited to: sleep, nutrition, hydration, training, illness/injury, school, relationships, and fun!

2. Body Awareness

Noticing the way your body feels before, during, and after training and competition is integral to your performance and longevity in sport. The more you’re able to bring mindful awareness to your breathing, muscle tension, flexibility, etc.. the better you will be able to make adjustments, avoid injuries, and stay present during practices and games. As an athlete you can do simple “mindful check-ins” to notice all the physical sensations you may be experiencing at any given moment. This serves as a guiding force for the recovery process and physical adjustments connected to your sport.

I also encourage coaches to check in with their team during practices to encourage this process. During every water break a coach can say “check in with your body!” or “take time to notice how you’re feeling!”; this can really help athletes (especially young athletes) start creating a new habit.

3. Facing Challenges

Overcoming obstacles in sports and life is a clear determining factor when it comes to high performance. Top competitors use adversity to learn and grow. They take the hand they’ve been dealt and play it to the very best of their ability. At Valerie’s clinic we ask the athletes to think about a challenge they’re currently facing and shift their mindset to “Oh my gosh! I can’t believe this is happening to me!” to “How is this happening for me”. There is a lesson and an opportunity to grow in each challenging situation we face. When we start to train ourselves to reframe the narrative, we immediately begin to notice a shift from “Victim Mentality” to “Warrior Mentality”. This is a skill that can be applied in your personal life as well.

4. Being A Good Teammate

No other team, coach, or organization I have worked with chose this as a topic to discuss. Yogi Berra has a great quote, “ When you’re part of a team, you stand up for your teammates. Your loyalty is to them. You protect them through the good and the bad, because they would do the same for you.” Coaches often just assume their athletes will support each other and they don’t provide athletes with tools on improving their game in this space. There are a number of ways that you can become a better teammate, but one reflective journal prompt I would encourage you to do once every couple of months is below.

What am I doing that may be hurting my team? (showing up late, talking behind people’s backs, slacking off on my training etc.)

What am I doing that is helping my team? (help pick up the equipment, encourage my teammates, stay after practice for extra reps etc.)

What are some action steps I can take to become a better teammate?

5. Building Habits of Leaders

We are what we repeatedly do. This means our habits are exceptionally important when it comes to developing our mental game. One habit of high performing athletes is that they take great accountability for the work they do. They are adamant about not allowing excuses to be in their vocabulary. In my mental game workshop I challenge athletes to take full responsibility for their performance. This allows you take complete ownership over every aspect of your game. One of the activities you can do to begin working on this is to take some time and reflect on your two or three most common excuses. Maybe you don’t take extra reps because you have too much homework, or you don’t eat the right foods because your parent only buys junk food, or maybe you say the coach isn’t playing you because he likes another player more. You get the point. Now, for each excuse find one specific action item that you can take to embrace responsibility for the situation. Use this practice regularly and start to build the habit of taking accountability for your game!

If you are looking to bring this type of training to your organization, team, or small group please submit an inquiry on my Contact Page. Also, if you found any of these tools useful and you’re integrating them as part of your training routine, I would love to hear from you! Shoot me an email at

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