Do I need a Mental Game Coach or am I just Crazy?

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.

  1. You perform better in practice than during competition.
  2. You have too many perfectionistic qualities.
  3. You don’t perform well when others are watching you.
  4. You maintain self-doubt about your sport before or during games.
  5. You maintain perfectionistic attitudes about performances.
  6. You feel anxious or scared when you perform in competition.
  7. You limit performance with strict expectations.
  8. You attach your self-worth to your ability to perform.
  9. You lose focus during critical times of the competition.
  10. After an injury, you are physically 100% recovered, but you can’t perform the way you did pre-injury.
  11. You have a burning desire to get better.
  12. You find that your sport has turned into a stressor instead of stress relief.

 A Mental Games Professional can help with the following areas.

  1. Improve focus and deal with distractions.
  2. Grow confidence in athletes who have doubts.
  3. Develop coping skills to deal with setbacks and errors.
  4. Find the right zone of intensity for your sport.
  5. Help teams develop communication skills and cohesion.
  6. Instill a healthy belief system and identify irrational thoughts.
  7. Learn how perfectionism is used to benefit performances.
  8. Improve or balance motivation for optimal performance.
  9. Develop confidence post-injury.
  10. Develop game-specific strategies and game plans.
  11. Identify and enter the “zone” more often.
  12. Enhance team cohesion, leadership & communication.
  13. Teach mental skills related to confidence, focus, composure, routines, stress management, etc.
  14. Improve practice efficiency and transfer of practice to competition.
  15. 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.


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 I need a Mental Game Coach or am I just Crazy?

  1. Dean, so much can be said about the mental game and how our mindset directly impacts performance. Energy is fuel, and we need to put all of our energy into performance for optimal results. Negativity, however, burns through our fuel causing the tank to empty sooner than necessary. On the other hand, a positive, focused athlete, puts all of their energy, and their effort, toward high performance.

    So you have a choice, you can either allow your mindset to siphon some of your energy toward dealing with negativity or you can develop the mental skills necessary for high performance. A strong mindset is great at all times, but really pays off when you’re able to stay cool during those high pressure moments.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    I am seeing a sports psychologist and it’s been one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life. It’s not just about improving your mental game, but having a better sense of well being and getting more satisfaction from what you do!

  3. Dean Hebert says:

    That is great to hear. There are athletes who actually fear seeing one because they think there is something “wrong” with them if they do. Like it’s a sign of weakness.

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