Athletics News

Brian Alexander Named Official Athlete Mental Skills Coach For USA Water Polo ODP

Former National Team athlete Brian Alexander will serve as the official Athlete Mental Skills Coach for USA Water Polo ODP
Sept. 17, 2016 Huntington Beach, CA - September 15 - Longtime National Team athlete and former UC-Santa Barbara water polo standout Brian Alexander has been named the official Athlete Mental Skills Coach for the USA Water Polo Olympic Development Program. Alexander will be speaking to athletes, parents, and coaches at the upcoming ODP National Championships and also supplying sports psychology content for use at, in SkipShot magazine and on various USA Water Polo social media channels. With an emphasis on learning, preparing, and performing to find consistent improvement and peak performance, Alexander presents the tools necessary to succeed not just in athletic endeavors such as water polo, but in everyday life. He holds a masters degree in sport psychology from John F. Kennedy University and is a certified consultant through the Association for Applied Sport Psychology. His first article for USA Water Polo is below.

"The addition of Brian Alexander to our High Performance Team is another step in the right direction for us to provide our athletes, coaches, and parents the proper tools to maximize their potential. Brian's vast water polo experience and upstanding character will exponentially compliment the science that he's developing and sharing with our community," said John Abdou, USA Water Polo High Performance Director.

"After playing at the highest level with Team USA, I realized the important impact a positive mental attitude can have on your performance as well as the success of the team. My passion is to collaborate with aspiring athletes in the sport to help them find their personal level of excellence. I am very excited to work on the mental game with the ODP athletes, coaches, and parents," said Alexander.

Contact Brian through his website:
Follow Brian on Twitter @BA_POS_MIND and on Facebook

Controlling the Controllables in Water Polo

Do you ever wonder how athletes stay calm when under immense amounts of pressure? How about when athletes seem to “rise to the occasion” and make a clutch play when the game is on the line. There are a number of ways that peak performances happen but usually it has a lot to do with your focus on controlling what you can control.

When training your own or your athlete’s ability to play mentally tough, it is important to develop communication strategies and models which are memorable and can be translated easily to the pool. Mental skills training is an intentional approach to training the mind to perform that helps athletes develop a deeper level of self awareness and self-control. They learn the mental skills that help them prepare to repeat their peak level of performance. A key area to address is the management of energy and emotions.

Every sport has specific physical skills, techniques, and tactics that are unique to successful execution. Water polo probably has the most unique physical skills of any sport due to the uncertainty that the water brings in terms of balance and the motion of the lower body. However, a lot of mental skills are similar across sports with the common factor being that they are people skills first. Think about how the skills of resilience, perseverance, ambition, and motivation translate to the classroom and the workplace. Energy and emotions are two attributes that every person has. In order for a water polo athlete to be successful they need to develop ways to establish a level of self-control that puts them in the driver seat.

Controlling the controllables teaches athletes to shift their focus away from the aspects of the game that zap their energy and spin their emotions downward in a negative direction. It teaches them how to invest their energy supply into the areas where they will see the largest return on their investment. In every game and practice they will not always have 100% of their max but they can decide to give 100% of the energy they do have toward the aspects that yield the best results. What can you control 100% of the time that will increase your impact in the pool?

Attitude –Athletes who have an attitude of optimism and generally see their progress in their sport as positive tend to improve steadily. They also seem to enjoy their sport with the rate of burnout decreasing.

Effort – Everyone has to show some form of effort to simply jump in the pool but the athletes who do more than what’s expected on a constant and continual basis will continue to find mastery in the pool. This controllable is about maximum effort and sacrifice of the “me” for the “we”.

Energy – Your energy tank can be controlled by the amount and type of fuel you fill it with (i.e. nutrition, hydration, sleep, etc…) and you can use the right attitude and effort to use the energy you have. (Hint: we often underestimate how much energy we have and mood plays a role!) What was your energy when you had your best game? Were you relaxed, in the middle, or hyper before and during?

Enjoyment – As the stress of expectations and competition rises this controllable usually is forgotten. The majority of athletes start and stick with their sport because it’s fun. Think of this as your “why”. You can always control your motivation for playing and competing. It’s important to remind yourself when the going gets tough.

Confidence – One of the myths about confidence is that you either have it or you don’t. You are not born with confidence. It is a skill that is developed through a controlled conscious effort to acknowledge micro-successes in your play and also affirm your abilities through self-talk. What do you say to yourself to give yourself a “pep-talk”?

Have a look at these controllables. Challenge yourself to manage your emotions when a referee makes a questionable call or when the coach yells to make sure you know you made a mistake. Are you making excuses as to why something happened the way it did based on aspects out of your control? Aspects out of your control are usually other people or parts of the pool environment.

Exercise: Before the next important game and/or tournament make a list of all the thoughts that bring you anxiety or nerves. Write this out as a team or on your own. Once you have the list cross out all the thoughts that you do not have 100% control over and circle the ones that you do. Use the circled items to remind yourself of where to focus during the game or tournament when you recognize that you are focusing on the uncontrollables that you crossed off.



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