Do you need mental game work?

How do you know when you need to improve your mental game? Here are the top eight signals from Dr. Patrick Cohn (Ph.D. in Sports Psychology and Master Mental Games Coach) that your mind is blocking you from peak performance in sports:

(1) You perform much better in practice than you do in competition. You might feel more tense, controlled, anxious, or worried in competition compared to practice. You feel relaxed and in the flow in practice because you don’t feel the same pressure to produce or not make mistakes.

[This is the number one reason athletes and coaches use mental game coaches!]

(2) Your pregame jitters or anxiety stays with you after the start of competition. You continue to feel anxious, tight, or have a knot in your stomach well into the first period or quarter. Your extra tension changes your timing and you can’t flow.

[This is the number two most common reason for using a mental game coach!]

(3) You worry too much about making mistakes and how to avoid screwing up the race (i.e. play it safe not to lose). Fear of failure causes you to try to avoid mistakes because you don’t want to embarrass yourself during the race. All you can think about is NOT going out fast so you don’t “die” and as a result lose out on potentially great breakthrough runs!

(4) One mistake or mishap can cause your confidence to go into the tank. Your high expectations about how you should play get in the way. You get frustrated quickly or lose confidence after committing what you think are unacceptable mistakes. Confidence spirals downward.

(5) Your performance feels too controlled because you focus too much on technique or how to perform perfectly. You over-control your form because you want accept performing well or not disappoint others.

(6) You get easily frustrated when not playing up to your own high expectations or start to protect your position when you are in the lead. This allows others to catch you, instead of you burying them. Your comfort zone causes your mind to misfire when running better than or worse than expected.

(7) You have trouble concentrating in the present moment because you’re too occupied with results of the race and consequences if you don’t perform you absolute best. You can’t focus on execution in the moment because you are over concerned with the outcome of the game or how others might perceive you.
[This one is a top three lister!]

(8) You don’t perform well when others are watching you. When others who you care about, (such as parents, fans, coaches) watch you perform, you become too self-conscious of their presence and lose your focus on the task. Often you may even worry about letting others down or failing in front of others, similar to stage fright or fear of embarrassment.

Here is the top priority for my athletes…. Perform up to their capabilities in competition based on what they have shown in practice. Not every athlete can raise their performance when it counts the most. However, with the proper mindset and mental game, you can get the most out of your ability each time you perform.

If you identify with any of the mental game boo-boos above, you should invest in your mental game. Contact Coach Dean for options on improving YOUR game.
Coach Dean also presents to teams of all levels. Contact Coach Dean for information and topics.


About Dean Hebert

I’m a mental game coach, author and speaker. I work with individual athletes, parents, coaches, and teams on sports performance enhancement. Beyond my academic post-graduate work in sports psychology - the psychology behind athlete performance – I am a certified Mental Games Coaching Professional (MGCP) and certified hypnotherapist. I’ve authored several books and hundreds of articles. “Coach, I didn’t run because…” (2008) is a seriously light-hearted look at making excuses not to workout and how to overcome them. “Focus for Fitness” (2009) and “Screw the Goals Give me the Donut” (2010) are two of my eBooks on mental game approaches for the everyday athlete. I wrote these because I believe that everyone can benefit from the powerful mental techniques that the world’s best athletes use. I have been cited in Runners World, Best Health magazine (CN), SWEAT Magazine, and the Washington Examiner amongst many other publications. I have been a featured mental games coach in Runner’s World and for the internationally acclaimed trail running resource - I also regularly appear on sports and fitness talk shows such as LTKFitness, Runnersroundtable and for more than three years I have co-hosted a weekly video series with Coach Joe English for I specialize in mental toughness training. My clients include tennis, synchronized swimming, golf, race-kart, soccer, motocross, volleyball, MMA, cycling (road, off-road, time-trialist), running, duathlon and triathlon, basketball, football and baseball athletes. I have coached world-class athletes and athletes internationally. I have a passion for working with youth athletes and helping them apply mental game skills and techniques to all areas of life. Most importantly, my aim is to have people enjoy sports and life to their fullest through peak performances.
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4 Responses to Do you need mental game work?

  1. run4change says:

    I like this post. I love the 8 signs. I see some of those in myself. They are not overpowering at the moment but they poke their head out sometimes.

  2. Dean Hebert says:

    I think most everyone has some of the symptoms some of the time. But some of us have certain ones a lot of the time… and that is when it most likely is holding our performances back.

  3. Mark says:

    My problem is that i do great doing practice but when it is time for a race do worse times and end up 20th instead of 5th or something like that. I think my problem is that i don’t push myself as hard. Am not sure really why some days i get great times and others i can’t drag my feet.

    • Dean Hebert says:

      We’ll work on this. It takes time. But taking pressure off of racing is important. And focusing on the things you control (i.e. effort) versus don’t control (i.e. outcomes, places) is a big step to take.

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