Through my experience, I’ve learned that it’s impossible to be the best, most effective athlete without a firm grasp on mastering mental performance. If learning techniques and drills are like filling your car with gas, then mental performance is like upgrading the engine.Mental performance is what ultimately impacts our behaviors, habits, and routines. Good mental performance is dependent on strong mental skills. Mental skills are an important element of an athletes training because it enables the mind and body to work together. A player’s mental focus in practice and competition is a powerful tool to have in the tool kit of success. As the competition continues to grow, mastering the skill of mental performance is something you can't ignore if you are going to be the best.
Some of the mental skills athletes and clients need to be successful include:
Reframing thoughts—especially when things get hard. Knowing how to return to the present when negative thoughts pull them away from present moment awareness and push through when things get hard or they feel like giving up.
Focus and discipline. Being able to identify and consistently do the things that will have the greatest impact on reaching their goals (or the teams’ goals).
Confidence. Learning how to create unshakeable belief in themselves and their ability so they can perform consistently under pressure and navigate adversity.
Self-awareness. Being able to recognize challenges before they happen, and develop the self-regulation to get back on track to being present when things pull them off track.
The ability to develop new habits. Building new, positive habits by learning from old, limiting ones is a skill set anyone can learn—if they understand the psychology behind it and implement the right strategies.
Many of the common challenges athletes will face are more related to mental performance than anything on the physical side of things. That’s why good, committed athletes can still struggle with their game on and off the field. Unfortunately, no amount of strength, conditioning, nutrition, or sport-specific skill related strategies or methods are going to solve the problem. The physical side of performance typically gets the most attention, but mental performance is what keeps people going when they don’t feel motivated or the game is on the line. Just like there’s physical training to build muscle, improve speed or get stronger, there’s mental training to become more focused, resilient, and confident.