January 12, 2023
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by Andrea Dias

When I talk about implementing a mental training program, I am talking about offering a range of strategies to maximize athletic performance, such as psychological skills training (mental skills), biofeedback training, and mindfulness approaches to sport performance. Those techniques come from different scientific disciplines, which have been shown, through research, to promote improved cognitive function, motivation, some control over emotions, and better interpersonal functioning that all ultimately lead to enhanced athletic performance. It is important, however, not to confuse this area with therapy; Performance Psychology focuses on developing desired traits in athletes rather than treating current issues or problems they may be facing. Not only athletes but surgeons and business leaders also use these skills to maximize their performance in different settings.

Sadly, many athletes are hesitant to work on their mental preparation because they have a misconceived idea that they will find a therapist digging deep into their past experiences, and they get blinded by all the stigmas behind the word “psychology”. FORGET the traditional idea of mental illness; psychology is a broad science that has multiple applications to improve the individual’s wellness. Performance Psychology is not about deep introspection and intimate conversations. Instead, think about mental training as a progress-oriented education that empowers clients/athletes to understand their decisions and become more successful in pursuing their goals.

Working collaboratively and openly, the client and performance psychology practitioner strives to identify any barriers that may be interfering with peak performance. By building a strong team mindset, they can use data-driven insights as well as meaningful conversations to develop personalized interventions designed for success. No magic words or one size fits all solutions are used – just focused effort on making tangible progress towards your athletic goals!

As a sport psychology professional, I like to work closely with athletes, parents, coaches, and other professionals involved in the client’s training to ensure success in the competitive arena will occur. We (the client and mental coach) evaluate existing mental skills, and I suggest effective implementations while also being able to adjust strategies as needed based on performance feedback. When the skill set does not produce the expected results, we (athlete and practitioner) work together to explore alternative strategies that will make the desired outcome. Together we can create an optimal environment for peak performance achievement!

Mental training is an effective, structured approach to tackling performance-related issues head-on. It all starts with establishing a baseline measure that provides insight into the presenting problem or performance deficit; then, skills are applied and monitored against that initial measurement over time to track progress until resolution. This targeted solution is both skills-based and limited by duration — meaning clients can expect clear results within an outlined period. Unlike therapy, athletes will NOT be in “therapy training” for many months or years. After resolving the performance-related concerns, if the athlete wants to learn new skills, a new performance goal is set, and we work on the mental skills to achieve that goal.

In conclusion,

Mental training is an essential tool to maximize athletic performance, and it is becoming increasingly recognized as such. The scientific disciplines associated with mental training are diverse, but the common thread that connects them all together is the goal of enhancing performance. These objectives are achieved through a range of mental skills, biofeedback, and mindfulness approaches. Many forms of therapy that promise to enhance athletic performance are available, but those should not be confused with Performance Psychology, which is about developing performance enhancing behaviors in everyone from athletes to surgeons to business leaders. If you wish to further explore the benefits of mental training in order to enhance your own performance or that of team members, then I would urge you to do so. If you want to learn more about mental training specifically and its many advantages, then take this opportunity and contact me today!

Andrea C. Dias, MA, ABSP

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