At a sport where mental performance plays such an integral part, most athletes understand the necessity of taking time out for mental training. Unfortunately, most don’t treat this aspect of their game with equal dedication as physical conditioning and skill development; this is an error; athletes should utilize mental training tools as often as fitness or technical techniques to increase performance.
Mental Training refers to proactive actions designed to develop and strengthen psychological abilities such as confidence, concentration and composure. This is accomplished through exercises like goal setting, visualization, breathing exercises and progressive muscle relaxation. Like any skill, mental training needs to be practiced regularly for it to have any lasting benefit for athletes – use these tools during practice, warm-ups, pre-game and locker room time for maximum effect.
These tools will assist athletes in learning to manage their emotions, remain present in the moment and focus on the present situation. Athletes will also gain the tools necessary to move beyond doubts or negative thoughts that might hinder performance and learn coping techniques for dealing with errors and disappointments during competitions. Furthermore, athletes will use imagery preparation during game or sport situations and will have tools at their disposal should their concentration start wavering during competition.
Mentally tough athletes stand out from others by how they manage adversity. Athletes that can rebound quickly from difficult situations and remain calm during competition typically outshone their peers – an aspect covered in many mental training programs.
Mental training programs also teach athletes to manage stage fright and pressure situations that occur during competitions, providing invaluable assistance for peak performances under duress. Athletes must master this area if they wish to perform at their best under stress.
Development of mental skills and coping strategies are vitally important for all athletes regardless of sport or level. Young athletes in particular must learn these techniques so as to build self-esteem and become masters of their sport. This will enable them to become more successful as they age and reach the higher echelons of their sport. We hope that this article inspires coaches and parents alike to work on improving the mental aspects of their athlete’s game and see an increase in performance as a result. At the same time that an athlete trains their legs and explosiveness, they must also work on strengthening their psyche in order to perform at their highest. Doing this not only will increase performance but will also heighten enjoyment in sport.