Recently I had a couple athletes mention to me that they weren’t sure if mental game coaching was warranted for them. They alluded to must being “abnormal” or “kinda crazy” if someone would need a mental game coach. It’s a curious stigma attached to mental game coaching field. Mental game coaching, mental toughness coaching, or whatever you would like to call it is simply applied sports psychology.
When Mental Training is indicated.
- You perform better in practice than during competition.
- You have too many perfectionistic qualities.
- You don’t perform well when others are watching you.
- You maintain self-doubt about your sport before or during games.
- You maintain perfectionistic attitudes about performances.
- You feel anxious or scared when you perform in competition.
- You limit performance with strict expectations.
- You attach your self-worth to your ability to perform.
- You lose focus during critical times of the competition.
- After an injury, you are physically 100% recovered, but you can’t perform the way you did pre-injury.
- You have a burning desire to get better.
- You find that your sport has turned into a stressor instead of stress relief.
A Mental Games Professional can help with the following areas.
- Improve focus and deal with distractions.
- Grow confidence in athletes who have doubts.
- Develop coping skills to deal with setbacks and errors.
- Find the right zone of intensity for your sport.
- Help teams develop communication skills and cohesion.
- Instill a healthy belief system and identify irrational thoughts.
- Learn how perfectionism is used to benefit performances.
- Improve or balance motivation for optimal performance.
- Develop confidence post-injury.
- Develop game-specific strategies and game plans.
- Identify and enter the “zone” more often.
- Enhance team cohesion, leadership & communication.
- Teach mental skills related to confidence, focus, composure, routines, stress management, etc.
- Improve practice efficiency and transfer of practice to competition.
- Improve emotional state management to increase pleasure, enjoyment and satisfaction.
A mental game professional may not be appropriate for everyone. Not everyone wants to “improve performance” or simply enjoy their sport more. Sport psychology may not be for a recreational athlete who participates primarily for the purposes of socialization and having fun on weekends (Unless of course you are that weekend golfer and you are finding that YOU are your worst enemy on the links and it is decreasing your enjoyment of the sport!). If you do not spend time improving fitness or the technical sport-specific motor skills in a deliberate fashion (i.e. with a coach or structured program), then most likely you will not adhere to a mental coaching program. Young athletes whose parents force them to see a mental games coach are not good candidates either. The young athlete should understand and desire improvement in his or her mental game without the motivation to satisfy the parent – or a coach for that matter.
A mental game professional helps a variety of serious athletes. By serious I mean athletes committed to improvement, motivated, want to explore their limits and understand the importance of a positive attitude and mental toughness. These athletes want every advantage they can, including the mental edge over their competition.
A Mental Game Coaching Professional is not a Sports Psychologist. A licensed psychologist is trained in identifying psychopathology and typically works with clients on personal issues that are not sports related.
So, no you are not crazy when you are in need of a mental game coach. Most professional sports teams have one, every US Olympic team has at least one or more, most elite athletes have used one at one time or another.