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Topic: WNBA - July 04 2024
Advice from VIS Mentor Ariel Atkins: Mindset, Confidence, and Overcoming Obstacles

We caught up with VIS Mentor Ariel Atkins, before her game against the LA Sparks to discuss her mindset as an elite athlete. From her success with the Longhorns at the University of Texas, to her current role as a star guard for the Washington Mystics, Atkins knows what it takes to build the right mindset in sports. In this article, we share Atkins' insights on her pregame mindsets, her advice for building confidence, and her strategies for overcoming obstacles.

By: Chloe Sharp

VIS Creator

Ariel Atkins

VIS Mentor

Topic: WNBA

July 04 2024

Image source: VOICEINSOPORT via Nick Dominguez

Ariel Atkins, VIS Mentor, WNBA star for the Washington Mystics, and Olympic gold medalist, is hot off a clutch win against the LA Sparks. Her team won 82-80 and Atkins scored 12 points and had 5 assists. Atkins and her team are in the heat of their season, with a little over three months until the WNBA Championships. 

When watching professional athletes like Atkins from afar, it can seem like they are superhuman with their stoicism and eliteness. But it’s important to remember that professional athletes are human, too. They face obstacles, they get anxious, and they have their own set of challenges – just like we do. We spoke with Atkins about her pregame mindset, her tips for gaining confidence on and off the court, and her approach for overcoming any obstacles thrown her way.

The Pregame Mindset

Atkins' consistency and success on the court doesn’t happen by chance. She makes sure she’s in a good headspace before the whistle blows and the game begins. “My pregame mindset is to really just lock in and focus on the opponent and what we need to do to I guess make their lives uncomfortable,” Atkins shares. “But just making sure that I am good personally, making sure I get something to eat, making sure I am calm, making sure I am having a good time. I try to just enjoy myself and prepare to play and go to war.” 

Having a good pre-game ritual is key in priming our minds and bodies to compete at our best. Atkins’ insight shows us that the pros are not that different from us. We should all try to cultivate a healthy pre-competition routine that helps us feel our best before gametime and prepares us to perform at a high level come game time. Check out this VIS article, 5 Ways to Mentally Prepare for Your Performance, to learn more about getting in the right mindset before competition. 

Gaining Confidence 

To feel our best going into our competition, we also want to feel confident. And as we know, confidence can often be a difficult thing to cultivate. Even the highest-level athletes sometimes struggle with their own confidence. Despite our preparedness, we sometimes still feel anxious or might even feel some imposter syndrome on game day. Atkins reminds us of the power of our minds and our self-belief. “My confidence is just making sure that I’m prepared and just trusting and believing in the work and the people around me and my support system,” she says. 

Atkins also speaks to the importance of intentionality as athletes."You can do hard things," she says. But “you have to be intentional. Have your priorities in order: What's actually important to me? Not people around me." By setting intentions and priorities, we can build confidence and focus in our sport and beyond. 

It can also be helpful to remember our younger selves, when we first started playing sports. Most of us started playing sports for the simple love of the game, without worrying about external pressures or game stats. "Don't take yourself too seriously," Atkins advises. While it’s okay to be serious about our sports, we have to remember that it’s a game, and we will be okay regardless of outcomes. Check out VIS article, Remember Your Why, to learn more about connecting with your inner purpose and finding more joy in sport.  

Overcoming Obstacles 

Despite a very successful WNBA career so far, Atkins still faces challenges in her sport and personal life. "I am good at what I do, but sometimes I just have a bad day at the job," she says. Atkins credits her support system and flexible identity for helping her cope with the obstacles she faces: “You have to believe you are more than a basketball player. If you don't believe it, the world will treat you as such: a robotic athlete machine that can just ‘go, go go.’ Nothing can break or shake you.” The reality is we all have bad days, sometimes even bad weeks or months, so it’s key to reminding ourselves that we are so much more than our sport. 

In addition to expanding our identity beyond sport, we also need to make sure that we are surrounding ourselves with positive and inspiring people who believe in us. “I think overcoming setbacks has a lot to do with faith in your support system and knowing that you can overcome anything as long as you got the right people around you and the right mindset,” Atkins shares. 

Improving and taking care of our mentality and mindset is just as important as getting stronger and more physical in our sports. By following Atkins’ advice, we can stay grounded through our journey in sport and make sure that we adopt a healthy and positive mindset and support system. With a positive pregame routine, a mindset of self belief and confidence, and a healthy support system, we will be unstoppable!

Take Action

Want to learn more from our WNBA x VIS Mentors? Sign up for these upcoming VIS sessions with WNBA stars, Aliyah Boston and Haley Jones. And check out our other WNBA feature story, Cameron Brink: Sparking Change in the WNBA.