Why does one athlete excel when another performs far below his or her potential? What separates a winner from a loser? How can a person use their mind to improve every aspect of their game? Sport psychology is a relatively new science that is only now becoming familiar with athletes and coaches alike. It strives to educate athletes and to answer questions like these.
Scan the books and magazine articles that are emerging on today s sports scene and you ll find a new focus for training athletes ..an internal focus. The mental revolution in sports has arrived. Interestingly, these books and articles are not written by coaches but by experts in other fields. Impressive evidence has been gathered by psychologists, psychiatrists, kinesiologists, physiologists, physicians, and even theologians .the dramatic conclusion is that the power of the mind is the driving force behind all athletic achievement, Stan Kellner wrote in his book, Taking it to the limit.
Today, sport is undergoing a mental revolution. More attention is being given to an athlete s attitude, emotions, motivation, being psyched up, and mentally prepared. They are also looking deeper into the psychological factors of success. Until now athletes have been given the right technique, the right exercises, the right meals, and the right equipment, but they have not always understood all of the aspects of mental preparation.
When this important side of athletics is ignored, many promising athletes perform with mediocrity. A common phrase is that sports are 10% physical and 90% mental, so it is extremely important to pay attention to both aspects.
The mind-body connection is a very powerful one. For everything you think in your mind, your body has a reaction, regardless of whether it is real or imagined. For example, have you ever had a bad dream? Usually, you will wake up and your heart is racing, you are sweating and very agitated, even though all you were doing was sleeping. But, in your mind there was something bad going on and your body was reacting to it. Here s another example: if you are home alone and you hear a noise and interpret it as the wind, you are fine; but if you interpret it as a prowler, your fight or flight response takes over and you become fearful, your heart begins going a mile a minute, your eyes dilate and you are scared. These are just a few examples of how strong the connection is between your mind and your body. With this premise, it becomes unmistakable how necessary it is to train both the mind and body for peak performance.
Slowly but surely athletes, teams, coaches and managers are not only saying that they feel sports is mental, but they are doing something about it. They are hiring Sports Psychologists, reading books, and devoting time to team building and mental training.
In sports, so many things are left to chance. Sports are predictably unpredictable. Why let your mental mindset be another one of those things? You have the power and authority to control that. These tools and resources will help you remove psychological barriers that can get in the way of peak performance and give you some control over your own performance.
Up until about a decade ago, a Sports Psychologist or Consultant was considered a person who athletes went to see only when they had a problem, not someone who healthy and productive athletes and teams spent their time with. Luckily, this stigma is changing; the change is slow, but it is evident. You see Sports Psychologists everywhere now; recreational athletes, colleges, professional teams, Olympic athletes, businesses, and corporations all seek them out. People are realizing that no matter how good you are, you can always improve, and one way to improve yourself is to become well-versed in performance enhancement techniques. There is no room for complacency; the complacent ones get left behind. This philosophy holds true not only in sports but in business as well.
Athletes spend so much time physically practicing to get an edge on the competition. Yet what teams and athletes can really do to get an edge is to develop their mental concentration, their composure and as a result their confidence.
Most athletes are not utilizing their most powerful resource, the mind. They fatigue mentally before they fatigue physically, due to the fact that their mind is not in as good of shape as their bodies
Competition is tight, athletes are physically fit, and the margin for victory is slim. Managers, coaches and players are realizing that to get ahead they need an added resource, and that resource is a trained mind. Still, many coaches are blind to the importance of mental skills in their athletes. When there are two teams that are physically equal, it is the team that works together smoothly and is mentally prepared and confident that will come out on top. Keep in mind, though: no mental training will compensate for ineffective technique. You need to be strong, technically and mentally. Unfortunately, many times one aspect of your game is magnified at the expense of the other. You should give equal attention to both; that is the ideal approach. You are given the talent, it s your job to develop it and watch it flourish by combining physical and mental training with a great work ethic. Oklahoma State University s Baseball Coach Gary Ward says, Combining the two elements [mental training and technical training] gives the players an opportunity to establish a consistent, peak performance every time they step on the field (Brennan, 1990, p. 252). You want you and your team to be prepared mentally and physically to the best of its ability to increase the chance of success. If your mind is always working, why not have it work for you?