Mental Preparation for Athletes

Mental preparation for athletes allows you to get into the right mindset to compete. Learn how you can mentally prepare for sports and the tools and techniques you can use.

Mental preparation for athletes involves getting your mind right before a game. And this doesn’t just mean listening to some music to hype yourself up (though that may be part of it).

When it comes to mentally preparing for a performance, your goal should be to get yourself into the mindset you know gives you the best chance of performing well.

That takes you first understanding that mindset.

From there, you want to apply specific sport psychology techniques that will instill that mindset going into a game.

All of which you will learn how to do by the end of this article.

The Goal of Mental Preparation

Your mind plays a huge role in your success as an athlete. And so you want to be sure it’s being used in your favor rather than holding you back.

When you aren’t in the right mindset to compete, it’s easier for you to lose focus, deal with anxiety, and perform with fear. None of which leads to peak levels of performance.

The goal of mental preparation is to get you into the best mindset to compete. That way, you can feel confident your mental game is elevating your play.

To get more specific about why you want to be sure you’re mentally preparing to perform, let’s examine the main benefits of good mental preparation in sports.

“The goal of mental preparation is to get you into the best mindset to compete. That way, you can feel confident your mental game is elevating your play.”

Benefits of Mental Preparation for Athletes

When you turn your attention onto instilling the right mindset going into each game, there are many benefits you will experience. These include:

  • Increased Confidence: the more mentally prepared you are, the more confident you will feel going into a game.
  • Improved Focus: using sport psychology techniques, your mind will be centered as you start a game. Making it easier for you to control your focus as the performance goes on.
  • Reduced Fear & Anxiety: with specific tools, you can increase positive mental skills and get yourself into a good mindset. That will reduce the feelings of fear and anxiety you have before and during competition.
  • Increased Consistency: all athletes want to be consistent. But it’s difficult to be consistent when you can’t force the outcome. But what you can be sure of is you approach each game with a consistent mindset.
  • Improved Performance: looking at the benefits listed above, you can begin to see how mental preparation increases performance. The better your mindset, the more likely you are to succeed.

How to Mentally Prepare for Competition

The aim of your mental preparation should be to get yourself in the best mindset to perform. So, what you first must do is identify what that mindset looks like.

Next, you want to use specific tools and techniques to get yourself into the mindset you want going into the game.

So, let’s get started with helping you decide on the right mindset for you.

Identifying Your Peak Mindset

You want to be sure you are getting the most out of your mental preparation. Therefore, it’s important it’s targeted towards a specific purpose. You want to know exactly what that mindset looks like for you and be sure it’s clearly defined.

To identify your peak mindset, what you can do is a simple exercise where you brainstorm your best performances and answer these questions:

  • What was I thinking about?
  • How was I feeling?
  • What was I focused on?
  • What was motivating me?

Once you’ve answered these questions, it’s time to outline your desired mindset. You want to make the mindset as simple as you can. That way, it’s clear to you exactly what kind of state you’re trying to get into before a game.

Your mindset may involve feeling confident, feeling relaxed, and possibly feeling like you are trying to prove other people wrong.

There’s no right mindset to have going into a game because everyone’s different. I wish I could declare the best mindset for performing is blank. But through working with athletes, I’ve realized there’s no such thing.

The best mindset for you to have is the mindset that leads to you performing your best. It’s as simple as that.

Applying Sport Psychology Tools & Techniques

Once you’ve outlined your peak mindset, it’s time to begin thinking about how you can get into that mindset on a consistent basis.

What you want to do is decide on some mental training exercises you can apply going into a game. That way, you are gaining control of what mindset you’re in as you compete.

Below are some of the main mental preparation tools you can use as an athlete.


Whether your goal is to feel confident going into a game, reduce anxiety, or get into a more relaxed state, self-talk can help.

Self-talk refers to the way you think and how you speak to yourself. When using it as a sport psychology tool, it involves creating a set list of statements you can repeat to yourself to get into a desired state.

The reason self-talk helps so much with mental preparation for athletes is because of the impact it has on how you feel. By thinking in a more confident way, for example, you will feel more confident as the game begins.

To make use of self-talk, what you want to do is create a list of positive statements that work to get you into the mindset you want when performing. Then repeat that list every day to engrain it into your mind.

Then what you do is, as the game is set to begin, keep repeating the self-talk statements in your head.


Visualization is also known as mental rehearsal, and it acts as a way for you to see yourself perform in your mind.

With visualization, you can mentally prepare for a game by mentally rehearsing yourself playing.

For example, you can visualize yourself taking shots if you’re a basketball player. Or you can visualize yourself pitching if you’re a baseball player.

Using visualization this way helps you compete with more confidence.

Another way you can use visualization is by imagining a relaxing scene before a game begins. This helps if your goal is to perform in a calm and relaxed state. By visualizing a calming scene, you will then feel more relaxed as the game starts

Performance Objectives

Setting objectives acts as a way of controlling your focus. It is a tool I use a lot with athletes who want to focus more on themselves when they perform and play their best when their mind is centered on the process.

To set performance objectives, what you want to you is think about what cues would help you perform. What aspects of the process, if you focused on them, would give you the best chance of succeeding going into the game?

Try not to set too many objectives, maybe just one or two. Then, as the game gets going, focus on your objectives.


Another tool athletes can use for mental preparation is mindfulness. Mindfulness refers to the state of having your attention completely focused in the present moment.

To get into a mindful state, there are a few exercises you can choose from. But one that helps a lot, especially as an addition to your pregame routine, is count breathing.

Count breathing allows you to bring your attention into the present moment by focusing on your breathing. Specifically, you are focused on counting as you inhale and exhale.

Using mindfulness before a game helps you stay more focused as you play, but it also helps to calm you down and reduce anxiety.

How Mental Performance Coaching Can Help

I encourage you to take the strategy outlined above and put it into practice. It’s a great way for you to be sure you are mentally prepared to compete.

Alone, this strategy will work to increase your performance. But combined with mental coaching, it can take your game to the next level.

What we will do in mental performance coaching is get even more specific about what kind of mindset is best for you and the right tools to get you into that mindset on a consistent basis.

We will also identify any mental game challenges that may be keeping you from preforming in your peak mindset during games.

Click here to learn more about mental coaching, or fill out the form below and I will be happy to get back to you.

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)-371-1602 or schedule an introductory coaching call here.

Eli Straw

Eli is a sport psychology consultant and mental game coach who works 1-1 with athletes to help them improve their mental skills and overcome any mental barriers keeping them from performing their best. He has an M.S. in psychology and his mission is to help athletes and performers reach their goals through the use of sport psychology & mental training.

Mental Training Courses

Learn more about our two main mental training courses for athletes: Mental Training Advantage and The Mentally Tough Kid.

The Mentally Tough Kid course will teach your young athlete tools & techniques to increase self-confidence, improve focus, manage mistakes, increase motivation, and build mental toughness.

In Mental Training Advantage, you will learn tools & techniques to increase self-confidence, improve focus, manage expectations & pressure, increase motivation, and build mental toughness. It’s time to take control of your mindset and unlock your full athletic potential!

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Get one-on-one mental performance coaching to help break through mental barriers and become the athlete you’re meant to be!

Master Your Mental Game With One-On-One Coaching

Get one-on-one mental performance coaching to help break through mental barriers and become the athlete you’re meant to be!