Mental Training Myths and Truths
MYTH: Sport psychology and mental training are the same thing.
TRUTH: Well, to most people they are the same, but legally, a “sport psychologist” is a licensed psychologist who is trained diagnose clinical disorders. They may NOT actually have any training in sport, kinesiology, physiology, or have an in-depth understanding of the culture of athletics. If you are in need of help for more clinical issues (eating disorders, addiction, etc), whether they are related to sport or not, a licensed psychologist is who you need. There are some excellent doctoral programs that train individuals in sport and prepare them for licensure as a psychologist, but you need to ask about your practitioner’s background. Make sure you ask what qualifications they have (training, education, how many athletes they have worked with and what percentage of their clients are athletes) so that you can choose the best person for you.
A mental training/peak performance consultant usually has advanced training in sport psychology, kinesiology, physiology, sport sociology, as well as generalized knowledge and training in counseling and psychology. If they aren’t calling themselves a “psychologist” it usually just means they aren’t licensed, but they may have better qualifications to work with athletes than someone calling themselves a sport psychologist. However, “mental training consultant” is not a legally protected term, so again, ask about their training and current clientele.
A great place to find someone qualified to address the mental demands of sport, exercise, and performance is through the Association of Applied Sport Psychology (AASP). AASP is the governing body for the practitioners with the proper training, education, and experience to work with athletes’ mentality. To find a Certified Consultant in your area check out: Find a Certified Sport Psychology Consultant
MYTH: Only problem athletes and head cases need mental training.
MYTH: Mental training is only needed when something goes wrong or if you’re in a slump.
TRUTH: While athletes who are going through difficult times can benefit, mental training is most effective when it is used to prevent performance problems from occurring.
MYTH: Mental toughness just happens naturally as you get more experience.
MYTH: You’re either mentally tough or you’re not, it’s not something you can improve.
TRUTH: Mental toughness is a skill and can be trained. Just like physical conditioning, your ideal mindset needs to be worked on every day. By identifying how you need to think in order to perform your best and by using this ideal mindset every time you perform, you can ensure you will be mentally tough in all situations.
MYTH: Coaches will think there is something wrong me if I talk to a mental training consultant.
TRUTH: Actually, coaches will be happy to know you are working on every facet of the game. Athletes who take the time to improve mentally are demonstrating that they are willing to put forth maximum effort to achieve their potential. In case you’re still worried, everything you talk about is confidential, your coaches will never know we met or what was discussed.
MYTH: Mental training is only for people who can’t focus.
TRUTH: Focus is one area that can be improved by mental training, but there are many other mental aspects of sport that can be worked on: confidence, anxiety, stress, emotional control, pressure to impress/meet expectations, communication, etc. Even areas outside of sport such as transition issues, difficulty being away from family, or other general life stressors can be addressed.
MYTH: Mental training will cause me to overthink.
TRUTH: If you’re worried about overthinking it’s probably already a habit of yours. While initially mentally training may cause you to become more aware of your thoughts, you can actually learn how to block out your self-talk, stay focused in the moment, and make the thoughts you do have work for you rather than against you.
Make It Great!