Men-tal Health in Professional Sports
If athletes can invest in their physical and nutritional health for peak performance, can you imagine what the game could look like if they also invest in their mental health and mental performance? I am tired of the chutzpah surrounding the word “mental health” in sports which is why part of my goal as a mental health professional is to help people, help athletes through different points in his or her life through a lens of general wellness so they can work through all of their issues - things that are frustrating them, things they are thinking about. After all, in a game that is 90% mental, you can’t win the game based on physical fitness and nutritional health alone.
Dr. Meghan Braun is a professional athlete, lacrosse coach, and physical therapist helping athletes and people of all ages in Jacksonville, Florida. I loved sitting down with Meghan and having this brief talk on mental health, athletic performance, and reacting versus responding in sports. I am so grateful for professionals like Meghan who are out there helping others achieve and succeed through physical health and wellness. Check out her website when you have a chance and enjoy the video!
There is a common belief that the only way to improve performance as an athlete is to work harder than the competition. Unfortunately, most athletes will learn the hard way that hard work alone often isn't enough. The high performing athletes that I work with know that the physical side of their performance is just ONE piece of the puzzle. Mental performance is just as important. And as a mental performance specialist, working with my clients' and athletes' mental skills is a critical ingredient in the recipe used to create successful outcomes. I regularly remind my clients' to focus on mastering his or her mindset to unlock true potential.
Mindset is one of the most important yet most frequently overlooked aspects of performance. But what exactly does mindset mean? Mindset is another way to describe perspective. It is how you perceive your self-image; how you perceive the present moment; and how you view the world. A quote by Charles R. Swindoll describes mindset perfectly: "I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you...we are in charge of our attitudes".
When we are faced with challenges, our mindset will determine how we will respond. In my role as a mental performance specialist, I help my clients' develop strategies to redirect their focus when challenges arise. I work with my athletes' on developing an elite mindset so that they are able to win the game inside their head and ultimately achieve peak performance.
Now before you go ahead and start searching the internet for motivational quotes on mindset, I want to stress the importance of recognizing that mental conditioning is a skill that is developed and strengthened over time with consistent, intentional practice.
You have to be in control of your mindset before you can control your performance.
If you are not already aware, Shark Week on the Discovery Channel begins tonight! That being said, Sharks are my most favorite animal in the entire world. Unfortunately they get a bad reputation for being blood thirsty and aggressive predators. The photo you see above is from a trip to Jupiter, Florida. We traveled to Jupiter just to swim with sharks in the ocean.
The day we were out on the water, we initially encountered some very shy bull sharks. Gradually once we passed the vibe check and the sharks could trust us, there were twenty-one plus bull sharks coming to the surface. Because the sharks could trust that we were not going to harm them and were not weak or injured prey, they allowed us to swim closely with them. The bull sharks approaching us was not an instant process. They key word here is PROCESS.
Trust is critical for any working relationship. In therapy, trust is an important if not critical factor for successful outcomes and progress.
Amy Pope-Latham, LCSW is a board certified mental health professional in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL.