What is Sport Psychology?
As a sport psychology coach, my aim is to help you reach your full potential. What an incredible feeling that is! Knowing your hard work has paid off and the talents you’ve built are now shining through during your performances.
This elite level of performance is one all athletes and performers strive for.
Yet...it’s one so few actually attain.
Why is this?
Well, for most athletes, the mind immediately shoots to all the physical aspects of their game which can be tweaked and perfected. While there is a definite need to build high level physical skills, they can only take you so far.
In addition to physical skills, there is an accompanying trait that must be present in order to truly reach your athletic potential: a strong mind.
This is where a sport psychology coach comes into play.
The Field of Sport Psychology
Sports are a competitive environment. Athletes are constantly being judged by themselves and others. Pressure can be found everywhere, and the desire to succeed is numerous. What does all of this lead to?
A strong susceptibility to frames of thought such as anxiety, low confidence, fear, and perfectionism. This is exactly what the field of sport psychology works to improve.
A strong mind is important to an athlete, as it allows you to not only perform your best but enjoy yourself in the process. When an athlete’s mental health, just as with their physical health, takes a downward turn, performance levels drop and the love for the game vanishes.
Sport psychology is the practice of identifying mental game challenges and the causes of these challenges and then working to build positive mental characteristics that counteract these known challenges.
While all athletes aim to be tough, there is a certain vulnerability that comes with working on the mind. Though, it need not be seen any differently than working to improve physical skills that are so well known to be necessary to success.
A sport psychology coach works to generate a strong and healthy mind within an athlete, which is a key ingredient to athletic success.
"A strong mind is important to an athlete, as it allows you to not only perform your best but enjoy yourself in the process."
What Does a Sport Psychologist Do?
Within the field of sport psychology, there are those who carry out the strengthening of an athlete's mind. They are the ones who listen, understand, and teach. Now, these professionals can go by a couple different names depending on their level of education.
First, there is a sport psychologist. This is an individual who has received a PhD/PsyD and is licensed to practice psychology.
Next, there is a mental game coach (also referred to as a mental performance coach and a sport psychology coach). Now, this professional may or may not have a PhD/PsyD but what they will have is at least a master's degree in sport psychology. The difference is, they are not licensed psychologists.
Either professional you work with will use the same concepts and techniques to help you improve your mental game.
How Can a Sport Psychology Coach Help
Now how is it, exactly, that a sport psychology coach helps you?
Well, there are many ways. But, the amazing part is that it will be completely tailored to you.
A good sport psychology coach or mental game coach will craft their work to your specific situation. That way, when you work one-on-one with them, you’re receiving personalized attention based on your needs and your goals.
Overcome Mental Game Challenges
One of the main reasons someone will reach out for sport psychology help is due to something holding them back within they’re game.
Right now, if you’re struggling with sports performance anxiety, fear of failure, you get too down on yourself after a mistake, or you lack trust in your abilities, these are the types of mental game challenges a sport psychology professional will help you overcome.
The first step is to identify what the challenges are and why they’re present. Typically, there are underlying causes driving these feelings. This work will largely focus on your own thoughts and the reactions you have to situations.
Thoughts drive emotions, so if the thoughts leading to your anxiety or self doubt, for example, are uncovered, then overcoming the challenge can occur.
A mental game assessment is given to uncover the main mental challenges you face and to gain insight as to why they’re occurring. With this information, mental training tools are then taught.
"Right now, if you’re struggling with performance anxiety, fear of failure, you get too down on yourself after a mistake, or you lack trust in your abilities, these are the types of mental game challenges a sport psychology professional will help you overcome."
Teach Mental Training Skills
Mental game coaches and sport psychology coaches make use of mental training tools and techniques to help overcome mental game challenges, along with strengthening the mind. These tools are aimed at cultivating positive mental characteristics, such as:
- Increased self-confidence
- Increased focus
- Greater motivation
- A calm mind
- Improved emotional control
The tools used will vary, but some of the main ones used within sport psychology include:
Cope With Injuries
Injuries suck! They not only sideline you, but can lead to depression, anxiety, and a drastic drop in your confidence. Sport psychology is a phenomenal tool that will aid you when injured.
A key characteristic of any good mental game coach or sport psychologist is their ability to listen. They will patiently listen and talk you through all the doubts and frustrating thoughts/feelings you have due to your injury.
In addition to helping you manage the thoughts and feelings that accompany an injury, sport psychology helps you improve your skills while injured.
Now, you may be wondering, how can this be? Well, it’s thanks to a tool mentioned earlier: mental imagery. By learning how to mentally rehearse your skills, you can actually gain mastery along with confidence even while you’re injured.
"A key characteristic of any good mental game coach or sport psychologist is their ability to listen."
Handle The Weight of Pressure & Expectations
There are countless moments of pressure within a game and many expectations you feel as an athlete. But do you know the number one thing they all have in common?
They are created within your own mind.
This isn’t an easy concept to grasp, but one that is worked through within sport psychology. Pressure filled situations are only seen as such because you are viewing them as more important. The expectations you feel from others or yourself are only experienced due to your thoughts.
Now, understanding this does not mean it’s easier to manage. Which is why, a sport psychologist will help you handle the vast amounts of pressure and expectations you feel as an athlete.
No matter what sport you play or what your performances look like, sport psychology will help. Though often overlooked, it’s a key ingredient to your success.
Learning how to master the mental game and turn your mind into an asset rather than a liability is game changing. And that’s exactly what a sport psychologist or a mental game coach will help you do.
If you’re ready to make use of sport psychology within your game, click here to see how you can get started with 1-1 sport psychology coaching. Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of success in all that you do.
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