How To Know When It's Time For A Mental Game Coach

Eli Straw
How To Know When It's Time For A Mental Game Coach

When it comes to improving your skills, for most of us our minds immediately turn towards physical training. The same holds true for when you’re struggling. Spending extra hours refining mechanics seems like the best option.

While physical training is a key component of peak performance, it is not the only factor. In fact, thinking this way may be limiting you and keeping you from unlocking your true potential.

In addition to physical training, athletes and performers will greatly benefit from mental training. Working hard to build mental skills such as confidence, focus, resilience, and many others that will add an additional element to the physical skills they already possess.

Since physical training is the mainstream approach; there isn’t really a question as to when it should be used. Everyone knows that if you want to improve, you must work on your physical skills.

However, when it comes to mental skills and sport psychology, many athletes and performers question when is the right time to turn their attention to this other form of training?

What Is A Mental Game Coach

A mental game coach is one of a few terms used to describe a professional who instructs athletes and performers in the mental game. Some other phrases you may hear include mental performance coach, mental skills coach, and sport psychology consultant.

All of these refer to an individual who is an expert in mental skills and works with others on cultivating such skills within themselves.

Now, the field in which a mental game coach operates is sport psychology. However, the key difference between a mental game coach and someone who can refer to themselves as a sport psychologist is that a sport psychologist has obtained a PhD and is licensed to practice psychology.

But when it comes down to it, the mental skills taught are the same.

Think of a mental game coach much like a strength and conditioning coach. A strength and conditioning coach works to improve an athlete's physical strength. While a mental game coach works to improve an athlete’s mental strength.

This form of work is typically performed through weekly coaching sessions. The mental game coach will first identify your strengths and weaknesses, using this information to craft a custom mental training plan for you.

Then, through the application of sport psychology tools, work will take place seeking to turn your weaknesses into strengths and build upon the strengths already present.

But as I said, at a certain level, all athletes know they need to improve their physical strength and will be directed by a strength coach. Though, how do you know if the time is right for a mental game coach?

The answer to that is simple, it depends on the approach you want to take.

"A mental game coach is one of a few terms used to describe a professional who instructs athletes and performers in the mental game."

Reactive Approach

The first approach to sport psychology and mental training is a reactive approach. This is the most common approach, and the one that led me to work with a sport psychology consultant and the one most of the athletes I work with have used.

When you react, you are responding to something. Typically a situation, a form of thought, or a pattern of behavior. In terms of sport psychology, what is it an athlete or performer is reacting to?

They are reacting to struggles within their game.

A reactive approach to mental training happens because you feel as though you are performing below your potential. You know you possess the physical skills to succeed, yet, something is keeping you from performing well in competition.

Top Mental Game Challenges Faced By Athletes & Performers

The areas keeping you from performing your best are known as mental game challenges. Every person is different and the situation they’re in is unique. However, at the core, there is a group of common mental game challenges that are often to blame for performing below your potential.

The top mental game challenges faced by athletes and performers include:

  • Performance Anxiety: when you’re overly worried about what may or may not happen you develop performance anxiety. With this mental game challenge, thoughts race through your mind before and during a performance. They are centered around trying to control the outcome. More specifically, seeking to keep a negative outcome from happening.
  • Fear of Failure: failures and mistakes are common in sports, as they are in life. When you start to fear making mistakes, you form fear of failure. Fearful of making a mistake, this leads to playing timidly and tense.
  • Perfectionism: this occurs when you feel a deep need to be perfect. Instead of seeing yourself as a continual work in progress, you seek perfection. What’s worse is, perfectionists tend to never feel perfect and get caught in a perpetual cycle of always feeling as though they’ve failed.
  • Self-Doubt: confidence is the cornerstone of greatness. You must have a belief within yourself that you can succeed. Though, when you doubt yourself such belief vanishes. Self-doubt leads to second guessing, freezing during competition, and holds you back from performing freely.
  • Poor Focus: during competition, distractions are everywhere. To keep your mind focused, you need to have the strength to control your attention. Lacking such strength will result in poor focus that is impacted by the many distractions which are present.
  • Loss Of Motivation: whether due to failing, losing the passion to play, anxiety, or any other cause, a lack of motivation will negatively impact you. You need motivation to push through adversities and train hard. When it’s absent, you will be falling short of the potential you are capable of reaching.
  • Social Approval: desiring positive feedback is one thing, but needing the approval of others as a way to boost your own confidence and self-worth is dangerous. This leads to fear of failure and anxiety since performing poorly will result in you losing the approval you so desperately need.

Each one of these mental game challenges will have a negative impact on performance. They are the main driving factors behind an athlete or performer seeking sport psychology help.

These challenges must be worked through by utilizing sport psychology and mental training tools. A mental game coach will help you identify your main mental game challenges and work through them.

But you don’t need to wait until one of these challenges wreaks havoc on your performance. Instead you can use mental training in a different, more proactive way.

"A reactive approach to mental training happens because you feel as though you are performing below your potential. You know you possess the physical skills to succeed, yet, something is keeping you from performing well in competition."

Proactive Approach

When you take a proactive approach this means you are seeking to cause something to happen rather than responding to it afterwards. With a proactive approach, you aren’t waiting for your performances to turn bad in order to utilize a mental game coach.

With a reactive approach as outlined above, you respond to feelings of self-doubt, anxiety, fear of failure, or any other mental game challenge you notice is keeping you from performing your best.

Now, instead of waiting for those to happen, you recognize the possibility of them and also the benefits mental training will have on your game, and proactively seek the help of a mental game coach.

This approach is much more aligned with traditional training on the physical side.

Athletes don’t tend to wait for their performance levels to drop before they begin weight training or working on their skills. From a young age, training mechanics and working on the fundamentals of their sport has been impressed upon them.

There is an understanding that if you want to reach higher levels, more and more training must be put forth. A proactive approach to mental training simply adds working on your mental game to this formula.

By taking a proactive approach to sport psychology, you aren’t so much seeking to overcome mental game challenges as you are desiring the many benefits mental training has to offer. Some of the main benefits you can expect include:

  • Increased Confidence: one of the major benefits is an increase in your confidence. No matter what you do, there needs to be an underlying belief within yourself that you are capable of success. Mental game coaching can provide you with such belief.
  • Improved Focus: during a game, with the many distractions present, you must be able to focus. Through mental game coaching, you will learn mindfulness. A powerful technique to train focus and strengthen your ability to concentrate.
  • More Resilience: setbacks and failures can be expected in sports. It’s not really whether or not you experience them that matters, but how you respond to them. By strengthening your mind, you will gain a greater ability to be resilient in the face of adversity.
  • Decreased Anxiety: being able to calm your mind before competition is a huge advantage. In doing so, you center your attention in the present moment and reduce many of the anxious thoughts that typically fill your mind.
  • Increased Motivation: whether it’s motivation to compete or train, mental game coaching will help you uncover what it is that drives you. By approaching each day with true motivation, you will be more focused and bring more intent to all that you do.
  • Positive Self-Talk: the cornerstone of emotions and behavior is thought. If the voice in your head is negative, the emotions you experience will mirror that. However, by taking control of your thoughts through instilling positive self-talk, you will gain more confidence and find more joy in performing.
"By taking a proactive approach to sport psychology, you aren’t so much seeking to overcome mental game challenges as you are desiring the many benefits mental training has to offer."

Final Thoughts

In addition to training your physical skills, there is another element you need to add to your plan. That element is mental training.

Through the use of sport psychology and mental training tools, many positive benefits will be experienced, all helping to take your game to the next level.

When it comes to using a mental game coach, there are two approaches you can take. There’s the reactive approach and a proactive approach. But no matter which approach fits you, mental game coaching will be a valuable addition to your game.

If you’re ready to take the next step and make use of powerful sport psychology tools and techniques, click here to learn more about the mental game coaching program offered here at Success Starts Within.

Through our twelve week program we will uncover the mental game challenges you’re currently experiencing and craft a custom mental game plan for you.

Each week you’ll have a fifty minute coaching call, followed by action steps and exercises for you to do that week. It’s a very in depth and actionable program perfect for you if you’re serious about mental training and taking your skills to the next level.

Click here to learn more.

Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of success in all that you do.

Contact Success Starts Within Today

Please contact us to learn more about mental coaching and to see how it can improve your mental game and increase your performance. Complete the form below, call (252)-317-1602 or schedule an introductory coaching call here.

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