Mental training interventions are designed to enhance athletic performance in practices and competitions. Mental skills are the set of strategies you learn during the mental training intervention, which have a specific set of steps to target what is hiding your athletic potential. To understand how it works, think about the sport psychology professional as the personal trainer for your mind in sports, and mental training is the strength and conditioning training of your mind in sports.
You will learn and practice mental skills to develop the mental toughness (strength) needed to deal with whatever the competition brings and stay focused on your goal. Also, you will learn and practice skills to develop the resilience (conditioning) required to deal with challenges and pressure associated with the demands of an athletic career and recover from failures. Goal Setting, Performance Routines, Imagery, Self-Talk, and Time Management are examples of skills inside the toolbox called Psychological Skills Training. However, we also use skills from Stress Management and Biofeedback.
During any type of performance, there is a stimulus (or the stressor), which is fileted through your values and beliefs. And there is a response. Depending on how you interpret the stimulus as a challenge or a threat, you will experience different levels of activation to deal with the situation. Stress management is about making you aware of “how you are responding” and teaching you “to manage the activation levels” so it matches the demand (not too much and not too little).
We know that performance in sport is not only about what is happening in the competition, so you can also learn skills to deal with irritants of daily living, improve sleep and maximize recovery after intense workouts. We call it “stress management”. But do not worry. “Stress” is not a “bad word. “Stress is just a response from the body to any demand made upon it. However, if you do not deactivate the stress response and experience it for a long period, it leads to chronic Stress, which can damage your health.
Biofeedback is just biological feedback. It is about attaching sensors to your body to measure brain waves, respiration rate, heart rate, muscle tension, skin conductance, and peripheral temperature. And it may seem awkward to have a bunch of sensors from your body connecting to a box (encoder), and a computer software shows a bunch of lines going up and down! It might look senseless, but when you are exposed to minor stressors such as a math task and/or recalling a negative experience in sport, there is a system you use more often to respond to Stress. If we look at those responses, we can develop a holistic picture of your mind/body reactions and help you train responses that maximize performance and optimize health. For example, if you respond with increased muscle tension, it can influence reaction time, coordination, and interfere with the execution of motor skills. So, when the pressure is on, you make mistakes that usually do not happen in practice.
“Mental Training is about teaching you skills to help you perform to the best of your abilities when it matters most.”
MENTAL HEALTH OR MENTAL WELLNESS OF ATHLETES
We do not talk about the mental health of athletes. We talk about the mental wellness of athletes. The tools of psychological skills training and stress management can help you deal with the good and bad emotions elicited during competitions and practice. Stress management skills can help deal with daily stressors, improve sleep, monitor how you are responding to training, and maximize recovery. Sometimes, undetected overtraining can lead to overtraining syndrome, which in extreme cases will proceed to clinical depression, but it can be prevented.
The World Health Organization defines mental wellness as;
“A state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”
The set of skills we have to offer you can improve your mental wellness. Our role as a performance psychology specialist is to help you develop your skills to the best they can be, increase enjoyment in the sport, and teach you skills to deal with physical and psychological Stress. We do not offer mental health services. If your concerns require a mental health specialist, you can share your concerns with us, and we will help you to find the best professional to address your specific concerns.
Mental Training is “training”, which means that athletes must practice regularly to learn and implement those skills. Mental Training can help athletes change their attitudes and remove the roadblocks that are between them and their athletic goals.
KEY BENEFITS OF MENTAL TRAINING
WHO THIS MENTAL TRAINING IS FOR
High school, college, professional, and recreational athletes. Often athletes from 12 to 80 years old. Any other profession where “stress” can interfere with performance (business and healthcare profession).