Sport Psychology 411

What is Mental Training?

Mental training, also known as sport psychology, is similar to physical training in that the goal is to prepare athletes to consistently perform their best. While physical training focuses on teaching the body proper execution of skills, mental training focuses on teaching the mind to remove mental barriers that might hinder the athlete’s performance. Through mental training athletes learn to identify and recreate their ideal mindset in order to perform their best in competition and in practice. Mental training gives athletes and other performers the knowledge and ability to control their thinking, their emotions, and, in turn, their performance. Mental training can also help athletes outside of sport in dealing with life stressors, working through major life decisions, and transitioning out of sport.

Mental training isn’t just for athletes “with issues”. Many athletes find it is helpful to talk when things are going well so that they can identify the mindset that is helping them to perform at that level. This can help prevent problems from occurring and, if their mind does ever get off track, they know exactly where to bring it back to. If you are someone who tends to overthink or worry, talking to someone can help sort out your thoughts and clear your mind.

Why is My Mind Important?

Many people go through life rarely acknowledging the influence their mind has on everything they do. Whether it’s pulling yourself out of bed in the morning, focusing at practice, or playing hard in games, your mind can have a huge impact on your ultimate success. The difference between good and great often comes down to your mindset; talent only gets you so far. So, whether you think sport is 1% mental or 99%, if you’re not training your mind along with your body it is unlikely that you are performing to your potential. Typically, if you are physically good one day you should be just as good the next. It’s not physical skills that keep you from playing well, it’s your mindset that can make performance inconsistent. So, by knowing how you think to perform your best and by recreating this mindset, you can increase the likelihood that your game will always be at its peak.

So How Should I Think?

I can’t tell you exactly the thoughts that should be going through your head or what your specific focus should be. Every individual has a unique mental state under which he performs best. Some people do well focusing on technique while the same mindset causes others to under-perform. The key is knowing what you are thinking and how you are feeling when you perform your best.

Build Your Mindset

You can either go into games hoping your mental game shows up or you can make sure it does. It starts with knowing the mindset with which you perform best. After that it’s about choosing to stay in this mindset throughout the game. You can do this through pregame routines, trigger words, and by simply telling yourself, “This is how I’m going to think today.”

Make it Great!