Working With a Mental Coach as an Athlete
Working with a mental coach will have many benefits for you and your game. But here’s the truth, it’s not always the easiest idea to get behind. I get it. I felt the same way when I was younger.
In high school, I began to experience anxiety, fear, and low confidence. I felt it in all areas of my life but it showed itself the most within baseball. That was my passion and my life. Fast forward to college and these challenges only grew worse.
Now working as a mental performance coach, it’s easy for me to look back and wonder why I didn’t work on my mental game sooner…say, in high school when I first noticed it holding me back.
But I know the truth. The reason I didn’t work on my mental game was that I didn’t know what to do, for one, and two, I couldn’t gather enough courage to accept the fact that something needed to be worked on.
I was embarrassed and hard-headed. Neither of which helped me grow as a player. These feelings only kept me from making use of an additional aspect of training. Eventually, I accepted the necessity of such work and began working with a mental game coach myself.
The reason I say all that is to show you that I understand your apprehensions when it comes to working on your mindset. It can feel scary, vulnerable, and sometimes embarrassing. But I also know the importance of developing high-level mental skills.
So what I want to do in this article is highlight what it’s like to work with a mental coach as an athlete, the benefits you can expect, and help to dispel some of the resistance you may have to such work.
What it’s Like to Work With a Mental Coach in Sports
I’m going to share what it’s like to work with a mental coach from the perspective of an athlete and the perspective of a professional. I’ve been lucky to witness the field of sport psychology from both vantage points.
In college, I began working with a mental game coach as a sophomore. As I mentioned in the introduction, I struggled with anxiety, fear of failure, and low confidence since I was in high school, but it wasn’t until college I realized enough was enough.
There was no other path for me within baseball other than working through these challenges. As I worked with my mental game coach, I not only realized a lot about myself but gained valuable mental skills. Skills that have stuck with me to this day.
Now as a mental game coach myself, I work with a wide range of athletes to develop their mental skills. Through both experiences, I have come to understand what it’s like to work with a mental coach.
Not just from a program perspective, but from a psychological and emotional perspective. So, here are the main things you can expect from working with a mental coach.
You Will Learn More About Yourself
One thing is for certain, you will learn a tremendous amount about yourself as you work with a mental coach. In the work I did as an athlete and the work I now do with athletes, an assessment is what begins the coaching.
This assessment forces you as the athlete to think deeply about aspects of yourself and your game you may not have put much thought into before.
In addition, the work you do will help you understand yourself on a deeper level. This stems from questions asked that lead you to examine your mind and your game in a different way.
Through this newfound understanding, you gain control over yourself. Without awareness, it’s difficult to make a change. Once you know yourself better, you can control yourself better.
You Will Be Challenged
Working with a mental coach as an athlete is not easy. It’s not something you will do without having to put forth any effort. It’s definitely not something you can walk through without the slightest sign of challenge.
If that’s what you’re looking for, this type of work isn’t for you. The reason is that challenge is where you grow and a mental coach’s job is to help facilitate your growth. Therefore, challenge is necessary.
What can sometimes come as a surprise is that a mental coach will not always agree with you or tell you what you want to hear.
They will listen to you, empathize with you, and understand you, but will simultaneously challenge you to look at things differently and think about things in a unique way.
So be prepared to be challenged, because as you know as an athlete, that is how you improve.
"Working with a mental coach as an athlete is not easy. It’s not something you will do without having to put forth any effort. It’s definitely not something you can walk through without the slightest sign of challenge."
You Will Be Understood
While you will be challenged, you’ll also be understood on a level you may have never experienced before.
One of the main apprehensions I had to working with a mental coach is that I didn’t want to be judged. I was worried they would judge me for how I thought or would view me as weak when I opened up about what I was dealing with.
The truth is, a mental coach (or a good one, at least) will never judge you. They will understand you and help you grow, but they are not there to judge.
This can feel odd and you may not believe it to be true, but trust me, you will be in a place where the only aim is to help you. Help that does not come from judgment but understanding.
It’s All About Action!
Another reason I did not want to work with a mental coach initially was my experience with traditional therapy. I had gone to see a counselor once before and despised it.
Maybe I didn’t give it enough time and maybe I was immature, but one thing is for certain, I left feeling worse than when I started. As I began work as a mental game coach, I came to realize I’d felt this way because of the emphasis put on past experiences.
To me, it seemed like the entire time was spent searching for reasons I felt the way I did. And if you search for something long enough, you’re bound to find it. So, I decided that’s not how I would go about working with athletes.
When you work with a mental coach, yes, some time must be spent looking into the past to gain an understanding of your current mindset. However, that is a very short amount of time. The rest will be spent focusing on the future; developing stronger mental skills.
This focus on developing positive traits requires action. Action I am sure you, as an athlete, are all too familiar with. It’s the same concept you apply to physical training. Whether you want to get stronger, quicker, or faster, action is required.
The same is true for your mind. If you want to develop stronger mental skills, you must put forth the action to do so!
"When you work with a mental coach, yes, some time must be spent looking into the past to gain an understanding of your current mindset. However, that is a very short amount of time. The rest will be spent focusing on the future; developing stronger mental skills."
Benefits of Working With a Mental Coach
In the last section, I introduced the fact that mental coaching requires action. It’s one of the main things you can expect from working on your mindset. The reason is that your goal is to develop stronger mental skills.
Skills that will have a direct positive impact on your game.
So, what are those skills and what benefits will they bring? Well, there are many benefits you can expect from working with a mental coach, with some of the main ones including:
- Improved Confidence: no matter what sport you play, you need confidence. You need that trust and belief in yourself and your skills. A mental coach will help you understand where your confidence comes from and how you can work to increase your self-confidence.
- Increased Focus: during a game, if you can control your focus, you will have a greater chance of succeeding. Distractions are everywhere, some external and some internal, but no matter what, they will work against your ability to perform if they control your attention. Mental coaching will teach you tools and techniques you can use to increase your focus.
- Build Resilience: failure is going to happen and you must learn how to manage mistakes in a positive way. In fact, mistakes are the best way for you to grow, if you know how to go about doing so. A mental coach will help you build resilience so you can bounce back from failure and learn how to turn mistakes into positive learning experiences.
- Increased Motivation: when you’re playing, what can cause you to lose motivation? Two major things I see are having a few bad games, and losing the love for your sport. A mental coach will help you understand what drives you to compete and help you leverage your motivation to increase success in your sport.
- Stronger Mental Toughness: every athlete wants to be mentally tough, but how do you actually build mental toughness? That is something a mental coach will help you do. They will teach you what it means to be mentally tough and show you the skills you need to develop and how to develop them in order to build stronger mental toughness.
Should You Work With a Mental Coach?
Up to this point you’ve learned what you can expect when working with a mental coach, along with the benefits the work will have on you and your game. So now, the only question left is, should you work with a mental coach?
The only person who can answer that question is you.
I know you may have some resistance to working on your mindset because as I told you, I did too. I thought the work was a waste of time and saw no real way it could help me. Let alone increase my play on the field.
But the truth is, it did. And as you can imagine, I now put a tremendous amount of importance on the mental side of the game.
My encouragement to you is to truly analyze why you don’t want to work on your mental skills if that’s how you’re feeling. What is it that’s keeping you from taking that step to improve an additional skill that has the potential to help you reach your goals?
What initially kept me from making use of a mental coach was embarrassment and shame. I couldn’t imagine what would happen if my teammates or coaches found out I was working on my mindset. To me, they would think I was crazy.
I was also ashamed that I couldn’t handle it on my own. It seemed to me that other people were confident, and somehow I must be weak since I didn’t feel as confident as they seemed.
Funny enough, I didn’t feel the same way when it came to working with a strength and conditioning coach. I understood he had knowledge and skills that would be useful in helping me improve as a player.
What I came to realize is that the same concept is true when it comes to the mind.
It had nothing to do with being able to handle it or being weak, it was simply the fact that, at the time, I was not a skilled professional in the field of sport psychology and mental training.
So for yourself, I encourage you to truly think about what’s holding you back. If it’s any of the reasons that held me back, or anything similar, my advice is to look past those feelings and focus on the many positive benefits this work can and will have on your game.
The field of sport psychology is growing and more athletes are acknowledging the importance of developing strong mental skills. But it’s still not as common as physical training and can leave a lot of athletes feeling resistant to the work.
I know this to be true because it’s something I experienced myself in high school and college.
Now as a mental game coach, I have seen time and time again the benefits of mental coaching. Through this work, you will improve your confidence, increase focus, improve motivation and resilience, and build stronger mental toughness.
If you still have questions about mental coaching or whether or not it’s right for you, there’s a contact form at the bottom of this page, so please fill that out, and I’ll be happy to get back to you.
Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of success in all that you do.
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