Mental Training is the science “Psychology” applied to enhance athletic performance. There are many factors influencing performance, and the mental performance professional will perform an investigation of what is hurting performance and teach psychological skills (mental skills) to change it.
Mental training is not any magical or motivational words that athletes receive from a “mental professional,” and the athlete’s entire life will change. Mental training does not make any ordinary athlete become the next superstar athlete; the level of commitment, time of involvement in sport, and the quantity and quality of practice also determine how far the athlete will go. Mental Training is not positive thinking; it is about improving the way the athlete thinks to enhance performance. It is true that individuals can train their automatic responses to emotions, improve motivation, and enhance interpersonal skills leading to better performance in sport, work, and school. However, changing old habits and learning new skills is not easy and requires a lot of effort.
To change old habits, the sport psychology professional acts as a detective collecting data from what happened in the past, what is happening now, and what is driving it. The data collection can include statistics from past and current games, some testing, and interviews. Then, the professional comes with a case formulation, which is a theory that explains the decrease in performance. This theory is shared with the client/athlete who can approve or disapprove and help the professional to revise it. The next step is the intervention, which is the mental skill to be learned, but the athlete’s preferences are also important to choose the mental skill that will bring the desired result. Sometimes the client is the coach, and both (coach and mental performance trainer) will investigate what is affecting the team performance and come up with a plan to improve the athletes’ performance.
The mental skills can enhance athletic performance and improve the athlete’s wellbeing. But it is not only about performance in sports; those skills can be applied in everyday life.
Andrea C. Dias, MA, ABSP
Masters in Sport and Performance Psychology
American Board of Sport Psychology; Board Certified Sport Performance Consultant