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Five Mental Training Skills in Sport Psychology

Mar 10, 2021 | Sports Psychology

Introduction

The improvement of oneself is the individualistic dogma of modern times. “Today I need to be better than yesterday” and to continue improving in the future is an expectancy of our authority figures which we internalize as individuals. In that way, we put pressure on ourselves to be better.

This tendency to be better is necessary in order to perceive ourselves as being proactive to our own physical and mental health. We adopt this “need to excel” and use it as a sort of a Mantra, a sacred utterance, which echoes all around us from the foundation of society itself.

As it becomes this collective thought, there arises an overwhelming need for mentorship on how to achieve that which we most desire. Because there is a need, there is a market for it. Where a market exists, so do people who want to make a profit arise. We are witnessing the explosion of so many spiritual gurus, life coaches, new age movement entrepreneurs, as well as all these “successful” stories of people who found “The Secret” on how to be better, and what it means to be “The Best”.

Whether they are stories of transcendence or gaining total control over a situation or oneself, we as consumers, have a soft spot for their products. When there are so many “truths” for us to consume around us, but time is more important to us than ever and we don’t have much of it to spare, the problem arises. That problem states “What do I believe in, and what makes the most sense, so I can put my time into it to get the greatest benefit?”.

Time equals money, and no one wants to have their time wasted without getting something valuable in return. How to be better at my job and what can I do to perform better? Sports and fitness performance are intertwined with our sense of achievement, so if we have the skills necessary to be fitter at performing tasks, those tasks expand from ordinary housework to job performance and fitness and sports performance.

Sport Psychology – Explained

Science enters the room. Through scientific categorization and the scientific method, we have a way of generalizing what is good for most people and how we can benefit the general population in the quest to be better. Almost always, being better equates to how do I perform better at the tasks that I am given. So, performance is divided into mental and physical, and sports psychology addresses both.

“Sports Psychology addresses the interactions between psychology and sports performance, including the psychological aspects of optimal athletic performance, the psychological care and well-being of athletes, coaches, and sports organizations, and the connection between physical and psychological functioning.”

Sport psychology, as a science, branches into a bunch of scientific disciplines and draws knowledge from many related fields in order to study how psychological factors affect performance. Also, how participating in exercise can affect those psychological and physical factors. Incorporating biomechanics, kinesiology, physiology, psychology and more, it provides a scientific system for attaining knowledge on how to exceed both physically and mentally.

Performance in its entirety is the object of its research. To address the whole “being better” conversation, in the beginning, sports psychology uses the collective practice of scientific explanations and facts. Those facts are directed primarily towards professional athletes, but their advice can be incorporated into the lives of the general population. Everyone can improve their performance in their desired area through the benefits of sports psychology.

Sports psychology will help you improve your attitude, mental skills, and fitness performance, by identifying limiting beliefs and embracing a healthier philosophy.

The methods in sports psychology are directed to improving focus and dealing with distractions. A basic proposition in sports psychology is how to grow confidence in athletes who have doubts;

Also, how to develop appropriate coping skills to deal with setbacks and errors. Sports psychologists help to instill a healthy belief system and identifying irrational thoughts which can be a “brick wall” in attaining our desired performance. And finally, sport psychology addresses motivation, which is the driving force of our thoughts and actions and so much more.

Five mental training skills in Sports Psychology

There is a substantial body of research indicative of the efficacy of mental training methodologies and performance enhancement techniques used to enhance athletic performance, especially as it relates to elite (Olympic or professional) athletes.

As we go through this section I will have mentioned only a few, but in others, as well, there is a general agreement on five major skills of mental training that psychologists use in facilitating the creation of a high-performance environments or individuals.

1. The Incorporation of Mental Imagery Into the Strategic Planning

This refers to the process of recreating the experience; the movement; the exercise; in the mind. The psychologist will ask for the athlete to rehearse the act in his own mind. The subject needs to envision himself/herself in the situation of performing the action. Thus, the benefits of this technique are: to reduce anxiety; to improve self-confidence; and become aware of the surroundings.

2. Using Performance Routines for the Aim of Maintaining Consistency of Skilful Responding

A footballer kissing the grass every time he enters the football field is a good example of this; Playing the same song every single time before attempting to break the world weightlifting record; Cracking your fingers every time before you make a speech; Having a cup of coffee and a glass of water with lemon each morning before jogging.
It is a ritualistic practice, which allows the subject to enter into a “competitive state of mind”. To enter into predictability, consistency, and accountability. When repeated daily, in the same way and the same sequence, is enough to establish a firm foundation.

3. Using Positive Self-Talk in Order To Mediate the Execution of Challenging Tasks

Where the mind goes, the body will follow. Our cognition, the way we address ourselves will determine our current emotional state. Our confidence, our anger, our happiness, our drive, whatever we feed on during performing a challenging task, is the emotion we aim to unlock during the self-talk session before the performance. The “You can do it” speech in front of a mirror is a greatly underestimated tool in our arsenal.

4. Activation Control Strategies for the Self-Regulation of an Optimal Energetic State

What we refer to here are techniques of relaxation as well as hyping up strategies. Some athletes perform better when they are relaxed, while other need hyping up in order to perform at their best (this is sport-dependent; and less but also important is the individual preference of the athlete). Deep breathing techniques when an athlete is overhyped and anxious can calibrate his optimal energetic state in order to perform at the highest level. Also, when we are “too calm for comfort”, we need to aggravate “the beast inside us” to excel.

5. Appropriate Techniques for Achieving a State Where You Have Sharpened Focus and Sustaining Attention and Concentration

Willpower training; Meditation; Practicing Mindfulness through the day; Physical exercise; Practice memorizing etc. I will write about these techniques and more in-depth in another article, but you get the point.

Conclusion

In conclusion, we can all be viewed as athletes in one way or another. The striving for greatness is a characteristic which we all have, and performing the best that we can is a must in the modern-day world. Sport Psychology has the answers to our calls, and the incorporation of these five mental training skills will help you not just on your fitness journey, but at becoming your absolute best self.

As I continue to develop this series on Sports Psychology, I will introduce more and more psychotherapeutic techniques. This will show that the approach to sport psychology is an integrative one and that working with a professional in the field of sports psychology, psychotherapy, and related fields is of great benefit. As we strive to become better and better, these scientific fields have produced incredible results in the modern age.

Although I advise having a professional in your arsenal, the utmost importance in achieving every “victory” is self-assertion in the action of bettering yourself. What I mean by that is that each and every one of us who wants to progress needs to apply himself or herself to that task. That is why I will be sharing techniques, theories, methods, and general information attached to these fields of science.

So, you can try to apply them and get a sense of what works for you particularly and by that, hopefully, we can continue the progressive path to reach our absolute best self. In fitness and in life.

Tose Zafirov in a black shirt and a bowtie staring directly at the camera wearing black sunglasses

Author:

Tose Zafirov

Bodybuilding and Fitness Expert

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