Sports Psychologists: Why They Can Make a Winning Game
Athletes are always looking for ways to give themselves an edge over the competition. One way that can be accomplished is through the use of sport psychology.
When you work with a sport psychology professional, such as a mental performance coach, a sport psychology consultant, or a sports psychologist, you will gain mental skills that will give you the edge you’re looking for.
Now, it’s easy to see how working with a strength and conditioning coach will improve your play or working with a coach who specializes in a specific skill will elevate your game. But how, exactly, does sport psychology improve your performance?
It is through the development of certain mental skills. These skills, combined with your physical skills, are what allow you to truly reach your full potential.
In this article, you will learn the main mental skills mental performance coaches and sports psychology consultants teach you and how they will have a direct impact on your game.
Mental Skill #1: Self-Confidence
Did you know that confidence is a skill that needs to be worked on?
It’s one of those traits that can often seem ingrained in some and unattainable for yourself. But here’s the truth, anyone can build their self-confidence. All it takes is a bit of work.
A sport psychologist will help you through such work. They will use different techniques to build your understanding of where your confidence comes from and teach you how to build your own self-belief by showing you how to trust in yourself and your skills.
Now, how do higher levels of self-confidence lead to improved performances?
Because of the way it allows you to simply perform. As a sport psychology consultant, I work with many athletes who struggle with their self-confidence. One of the main challenges they all face is feeling like they’re holding themselves back.
The reason they feel this way is because they are holding themselves back. When there is a lack of confidence, there is an increase of fear and anxiety. If you do not fully believe that you can succeed, then you feel as though you must play it safe.
You don’t want to fail and embarrass yourself, so it’s as though you go through the game with your foot on the brake. Self-confidence removes that foot from the brake and allows you to simply perform like you know how.
Mental Skill #2: Focus
If you go to play a game and your mind is darting from one thing to another, do you typically play your best? Probably not. When distractions control your mind, they keep you from being present and fully focused on the task at hand.
Certain sport psychology tools and techniques can help you strengthen your ability to focus.
What a mental coach will do is first identify the main factors keeping you from being able to focus. This is known as mental congestion-the things that are taking control of your mind during a game.
Next, you will identify which of those you can control. Because there is no use trying to focus on something that you can’t control. Then, you will learn strategies for controlling your focus during a game whenever you begin to become distracted.
The reason focus improves your play is because where you are placing your attention is where your energy goes. So, during a game, where should your attention be placed? On what you’re doing.
Except, when you are constantly distracted, where is your attention being placed? On distractions. So, by controlling your focus, you will be placing your attention more on what you’re doing, and you will be giving it more energy, which increases your chances of doing it well.
Mental Skill #3: Self-Talk
The previous two mental skills are influenced by the way you speak to yourself. That’s why it’s crucial for you to learn how to take control of the thoughts in your head. Something a sport psychologist will help you do.
A great way to check and see if your self-talk is on point is to do a thought exercise. I want you to imagine how you currently speak to yourself. What kind of thoughts do you have before, during, and after a game? What about after you make a mistake?
Now, is the way you speak to yourself a way you would speak to a friend or a teammate?
If the answer is no, then your self-talk needs work.
It’s so easy for us to beat ourselves up and speak down to ourselves. But the truth is, if we want to succeed and reach our goals, we have to speak to ourselves even better than we would speak to someone else. Your job is to be your own best friend, not tear yourself down with your words.
With sport psychology consulting, you will learn how to identify the thoughts you currently have, deciding on which ones are helpful and which ones are not. Then, the ones that are not helpful will be replaced with more positive and productive ones.
In addition, you will be shown how to alter your natural thoughts patterns, making it easier to speak positively to yourself on a consistent basis.
Mental Skill #4: How to Manage Mistakes
Once again, a skill that may not seem like a skill is managing mistakes. Yet, it is a key skill for you to learn as an athlete if you want to perform your best.
The fact is mistakes are inevitable. They are going to happen and trying to avoid them, or worse, fearing them, is only going to hold you back. When mistakes become something you are worried about and afraid of making, this causes you to tiptoe through your performances.
A sport psychologist will help you manage mistakes better by getting to the core of why you get upset about them in the first place.
But more than that, you will learn strategies you can use in the moment and following practices and games to let go of mistakes and learn from them.
That right there is one of the best ways mistakes lose their terror-learning how to learn from them. If you know that you can pull something valuable from a mistake, then it no longer becomes something to fear.
Instead, you accept that mistakes happen and feel confident that you will be able to learn something from them to elevate your game.
In addition to learning something from mistakes, when you can manage your emotional reaction to them better, this will increase your level of play during games.
So many times, I’ve talked with athletes who have said one mistake turns into another and then another. By using sport psychology tools, you can be sure that one mistake doesn’t snowball into many more because you have learned how to manage it in a positive way.
Mental Skill #5: How to Set Clear Objectives
This mental skill goes along with focus, but also helps a lot when you find yourself being too critical or feel as though you are a perfectionist.
Setting clear objectives allows you to center your attention onto something you have determined will be the best thing for you to focus on during a game. Now, the setting of objectives is something a sport psychology consultant will show you how to do.
Because there is something very important you must keep in mind when setting these objectives…they must be in your control.
Meaning, you can’t set your objectives based on the outcome. Outcome objectives would look like a certain number of points, yards, or hits. Instead, you want to set objectives that are within your control and part of the process.
The reason objectives increase your performance is because they keep your mind off distractions. Going into a game, you know exactly what you need to be focused on.
In addition, good objectives increase your physical performance because you are focusing on something that you and your coach have determined puts you in the best position to play well.
For example, focusing on staying low in your defensive stance, or using your pregame routine.
On the practice side, objectives ensure you are training with intent each and every day. And the more purposeful your practices, the more they will have a direct impact on your level of play in games.
Mental skills are a key component of athletic success. They provide you with an edge over your competition and allow you to let the talents you’ve worked hard to develop shine through during games.
But developing mental skills isn’t easy. That’s where a sports psychologist comes into play.
Working one-on-one with a sport psychology coach, you will learn all the mental skills you need to become the athlete you want to be.
If you’re ready to get started with mental coaching, click here to learn more about the sport psychology consulting we offer here at Success Starts Within.
Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of success in all that you do.
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