Mental Preparation in Sporting Athletes:
Firstly, I think there is a lot of misconceptions and a lack of understanding from players, parents and some coaches of what mental preparation actually is for athletes in general…
Mental preparation is not: PSYCHOANALYSIS OR PSYCHIATRY…
So, what is Mental Preparation?
Mental preparation centres on the learning techniques and strategies of an athlete to improve a motion or master his performance and environment, therefore transferring his skills from training to competitions.
Some coaches still have a lot of pre judgements about mental preparation:
‘Just need to unplug the athlete’
‘In my time there was no such thing and look how xxx turned out’
‘If he is sick send him to see a psychiatrist’ etc etc ..
On the opposite side, many coaches think this:
‘The mental side makes the difference’
‘Concentrate, relax, be motivated’
‘We give up on nothing or no one’
So we can see there a lot of things going on about the mental side in sport. Below are the main differences between mental preparation and psychology:
|Focus on 1 specific event
||Children, Family, Psychic Issues
In mental preparation we use different tools to help and guide the athlete; helping him to take conscience of his behaviour and change them for better, and change these performances in competitions.
Most of the time the athlete has to respond himself, we just try to help to find these behavio risms !!
We can use differents tools depending on the athlete, as everybody is different, and everybody responds differently to the tools we use. We therefore need to adapt to the following:
routines / mental imagery
self talk / negative thoughts
So, is mental preparation useful for all sports athletes to prepare for competition or challenges?
Yes, without doubt, the most important thing is the competition or challenge for the athlete. The doubts, anxiety, and fears that come up in the mind from a young athlete to a world champion are the same.
Champions are able to manage their thoughts and emotions more effectively. They can identify their fears and negative thoughts (also known as ‘GREMLINS’), which speak to you and introduce negative thoughts into your head. There is a lot of different families of gremlins that make you think of the past or future events. Athletes cannot allow these thoughts into their head whilst performing. The behaviours often derive from tension, higher heart rate, sweating, heavy legs, lack of reaction and explosicity, sometimes stomach cramps, vomiting before the match etc.
Mental preparation helps athlete to reduce and better control these gremlins and allows the athlete to perform freely on any given day.
Hope this helps you to understand mental preparation more effectively.
Certified Mental Coach
International Tennis Coach
Yves Latreille has just taken a paper in Mental Preparation and completed his diploma in Sports Psychology. I think this is a really interesting topic, so asked him to write a piece on it. I will be interviewing him as part of my blog next week and would be interesting to have a few questions sent my way so you can find out more about this topic yourselves. Please have questions sent via social media by Wednesday 23rd August or via email on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mark Wylam (Managing Director sportsprosconnect.com)