The Difference Between A Training Mindset And A Performing Mindset

As an athlete, there are two different mindsets you need: a training mindset and a performing mindset.   You want to make use of a training mindset during practices and a performing mindset during competition.

There are two different mindsets you need as an athlete: a training mindset and a performing mindset.

Both have equally important roles to play in your success. However, if you get the two confused this can quickly lead to trouble. 

So much of performing has to do with your mental state. When your mind is being used to your advantage, tremendous amounts of potential are unlocked. On the other hand, when your mind has become an obstacle, such potential remains hidden. 

Which is why making a clear distinction between the two mindsets is crucial. Not only that, but you need to learn the keys to strengthening the mindsets moving forward. Both of which will be uncovered by the end of this article.

 

Training vs Performing Mindset

No matter the sport you play, there are two distinct aspects of your game: training and performing.

We first must make this separation, as it then allows for the clear distinction of the two different mindsets required. 

Once you understand the differences between them, you can then be sure you are approaching each with the right frame of thought. By doing so, you increase your chances of success over the long-term.

 

Training Mindset Defined

A training mindset is all about growth. Your attention is not on proving yourself, gaining the respect of others, or any of that. It’s simply thinking about how you can grow and improve today!

A training mindset must be broad, but targeted. Meaning, you must take a broad approach to growth. Seeing it as steady progress you’re making over time. Though, in the short-term, you must be incredibly targeted with what you’re striving to achieve.

Within a training mindset, much more thought is present. The mind works more like a coach, keeping a sharp eye open for areas of improvement and ways to tweak mechanics as you go along. 

 

"A training mindset must be broad, but targeted. Meaning, you must take a broad approach to growth. Seeing it as steady progress you’re making over time. Though, in the short-term, you must be incredibly targeted with what you’re striving to achieve."

 

Performance Mindset Defined

A performance mindset is defined by being present. This differs from a training mindset in that you do not want to take a broad approach. 

Yes, overall you are still striving for continual progress. However, today is the day for allowing the progress you’ve made up to this point to shine. 

A performance mindset is much narrower, focusing only on the action at hand. A key component of this mindset is letting go. You’ve put forth your training; it is now time to step aside and allow your body to take over.

 

Keys To Developing A Strong Training Mindset

Let’s first begin with outlining the key ways you can work on developing a strong training mindset. 

Progress occurs during training and is revealed during a performance. Therefore, you must be sure you are training with focus, intent, and effort. Ensuring, when it comes game time, you have achieved the positive growth you want.

Training is where you mold your athletic potential. It is here that improvement is made and the success you achieve during a performance begins. Which is why, you must be sure you are approaching training with the proper mindset.

One that will increase focus and motivation, and be sure you are getting the most out of training; leading to greater success and continual growth.

 

Set Objectives

You first want to make sure you are setting objectives for yourself going into each training session. They provide you direction and work to center your attention on what you’ve determined will help you improve. 

Trouble happens when you show up to training day after day, wanting to improve, yet not really sure what that means or looks like. You simply want to play better your next game. 

Okay, that’s a great goal, but now you need to do a little bit of thinking to determine how that can actually happen. What is it that will lead to you playing better? What aspects of your game do you need to improve before the next game?

It’s these types of questions that allow you to dig deeper, uncovering simple and direct objectives for yourself during training. 

Now, we can break objectives down even further into two separate categories: mental and physical. This is something I do with the athlete’s I work with a lot. 

Think about what part of your mental game you want to improve. Now set an objective for that. Next, think about what part of your physical game you want to improve. Set an objective for that. 

Then, after each training session, evaluate yourself based on your objectives. Not whether or not you feel like it was a good practice, but whether or not you focused on and stuck to your objectives. 

 

Be Welcoming Of Mistakes

One of the worst frames of thought any athlete or performer can adopt is being afraid to make a mistake during practice. 

How do you suspect you’ll improve if you feel that you already should be perfect? On top of that, when you are afraid to make a mistake during training, you inhibit your ability to grow. Instead of working towards progress, you fear not being perfect.

But training is for training. It’s the time to allow mistakes to happen, and honestly, to be grateful for them. 

How are you going to grow as a player if you don’t know the areas of your game that require improvement? 

Making mistakes isn’t bad, but failing to learn from your mistakes is. 

Now, I know one of the holdbacks to allowing yourself to make mistakes during practice is that you’re afraid your coaches will see your mistakes as a reason not to play you. Look, I get it. That’s exactly how I was.

However, what you need to realize is that coaches know when they’ve got a good player. And in fact, if your coach sees you performing freely, making mistakes, learning from those mistakes, and then improving; I’d say that will increase your chances of playing time. 

If your goal truly is to be the best you can be, then a key aspect of a strong training mindset is allowing yourself to make mistakes. And always remembering, mistakes are opportunities to grow.

 

"How do you suspect you’ll improve if you feel that you already should be perfect? On top of that, when you are afraid to make a mistake during training, you inhibit your ability to grow. Instead of working towards progress, you fear not being perfect."

 

Evaluate And Move On

The third key of a strong training mindset revolves around the way you respond to practice. 

Let’s say you have what you believe to be a bad practice. How do you typically react? My guess is, you get upset with yourself and likely feel down for a bit. 

But, is your goal to be an amazing practice player or to be a great performer?

Hopefully, it’s to be a great performer. If so, you must ask yourself, “Is the way I’m responding to my training sessions putting me in the best position to improve and play better my next game?”

If right now you get down on yourself, then the answer is no. All that’s happening is you are growing frustrated and lowering your confidence.

Instead, you must begin looking at your practices objectively, evaluating them without becoming intertwined with your emotions. This plays off both the keys outlined above. 

First, you have your objectives. After training, evaluate how your objectives went, whether you focused on them, and how you can improve them for the next practice.

The second step is to look at the mistakes you made and begin questioning what you could do better. These will then turn into objectives for you in the coming days. 

So you see, it’s about evaluating your training sessions with an eye for growth, rather than seeing them like a performance; either feeling good or bad. In reality, such feelings have no place in a training mindset. 

The last part is to move on. Once you’ve evaluated your training and found the areas you wish to work on tomorrow, you simply must let that practice go and move on. Turn your sights to the future and start walking. 

 

Keys To Developing A Strong Performing Mindset

Now it’s time to turn our attention to the mindset you need while performing. Imagine, you’ve been putting in the work, showing up each day to training with the right mindset. How can you now optimize your chances of transferring that effort into game time success?

Well, just as you approached training with a specific mindset, the same is necessary for performing. Almost more so, in fact. The mind can either be your greatest asset while competing, or continually hold you back.

The difference all has to do with your mindset. 

 

Identify Your Optimal Emotional State

Can you describe the state you’re in when performing your best? How are you feeling? What are you thinking about?

This is going to be the first place to start when seeking to gain a stronger performance mindset. 

When it comes to performing your best, consistently, it boils down to approaching each game with the same emotional state.

This state is known as your peak performance mindset.

To identify what your optimal emotional state is, think about your top three performances. They can be this season or last season, but be sure you can recall how you were feeling. 

Next, outline what your mindset was. Describe what you were thinking about and how you felt while performing. 

Once you have that identified, your goal going into a performance is to get into that state. It’s as simple as that. By doing so, you are unlocking the mindset that will allow your body to take over and perform the skills you’ve developed through training. 

 

"When it comes to performing your best, consistently, it boils down to approaching each game with the same emotional state."

 

Let Go

The second key to building a strong performance mindset is learning how to let go. 

Not just letting go of anything, but something very specific. Something that can cause you to lose focus, play tightly and timidly, and hold you back. The outcome

There are many forms the outcome can take; including the score, your stats, and the opinions of others. But each one of these will likely work against your ability to perform at your optimal potential. 

Instead, you must set aside these topics of focus and let them go. 

Now this can feel very uncomfortable. Especially when you feel like you don’t care if you aren’t constantly worried about winning. But you must ask yourself, “If I really want to win, what’s the best way for me to put myself in a position to win?”

I guarantee you it’s not by worrying about the outcome. 

To help yourself let go, take a similar approach to the objectives discussed in the section on developing a training mindset. Except, this time, stick only to a mental objective. 

Whether it’s to feel relaxed, enjoy yourself, or be focused, set a mental objective you can stick to as you go throughout your performance. Providing yourself an actionable way of letting go of the outcome.

 

"There are many forms the outcome can take; including the score, your stats, and the opinions of others. But each one of these will likely work against your ability to perform at your optimal potential."

 

Be Present

The third key to developing a strong performance mindset is to be present.

The majority of the time, we are not present. Yes, our bodies are physically here, but our minds have ventured elsewhere. 

A simple example is when you’re bored sitting in class. You allow your mind to travel to what you’ll do after school or to what you’re having for dinner. Your body is present but your mind is not.

When performing, this typically takes the form of thinking about a past performance or worrying about what’s going to happen. 

How many times have you been about to start a game and your mind grows full of what ifs and maybes. You begin to fret over what will happen if you make a mistake, how much you want to win, etc. That’s an example of not being present. 

Instead, your goal should be to completely focus in the present moment. Doing so has tremendous positive effects such as decreasing anxiety, improving focus, and increasing confidence. 

Being present, however, is often difficult. Which is why, once again, having an actionable way of going about being present can help.

To do so, focus on your breathing. Breathe in for a count of five and out for a count of five. In reality, the numbers you use don’t matter as much as the attention you are giving to the act of breathing. 

Turn your attention to your breath and you unlock the powerful ability of being present. 

 

Final Thoughts

As an athlete, there are two different mindsets you need: a training mindset and a performing mindset. 

You want to make use of a training mindset during practices and a performing mindset during competition.

For a training mindset, there are three keys: set objectives, be welcoming of mistakes, and evaluate and move on.

For a performing mindset, the three keys are: identify your optimal emotional state, let go, and be present.

Put these keys into practice, and you will strengthen both of the mindsets, leading to greater success for you as an athlete.

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

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