In the world of sports psychology, we learn that athlete’s performance can be enhanced with the right frame of mind. Today, it is no longer enough to be a supremely talented athlete, you need to have the right attitude and approach for a long and successful career.
Numerous studies have found that sports psychology delivers results. As such, the role of the sports coach has become an integral part of professional sport of every kind.
In 2010, the British Journal of Sport Medicine, published the following: “Research shows that mental training, in addition to physical training, can improve results much more than physical training alone. Sports psychology has significantly changed lives of many athletes, coaches and other sports and exercise professionals.”
With a growing body of evidence to support the framework that sports psychology provides, we take a look at some of the important ways it contributes to athlete’s success.
Wellbeing has become a buzzword in recent years. This has been an area that sports psychology has devoted great time and consideration towards. Sports coaches promote a number of helpful techniques for mental preparation. This includes guided breathing techniques, mindfulness and imagery. Combined, these can have a powerful effect on an athlete’s state of mind and wellbeing. However, they require dedication and practice to be effective.
Develops team cohesion
One of the core foundations of sports psychology is teamwork and good communication. A strong leader, or sports coach, will galvanise their athletes by bonding them together; after all it’s the sum of all parts that are stronger than just one.
Creating an environment of openness, recognising individual contributions on a team level and building trust are all extremely important ways of helping to create that glue that binds a team.
Equips athletes with coping skills
From the onset in athletic training, it’s important to lay the foundations for success. Since failure is an inevitable part of the journey, it’s important to equip athletes with coping skills for success.
One of the most important elements of this is setting short term and long-term goals. These can help with motivation and keeping athletes upbeat despite challenges along the way.
There’s also problem-solving skills, and reflection techniques that can help athletes with the way they process difficult situations.
Underlying all of this, the sports coach will encourage athletes to open up and talk about their feelings with friends and family too.
A number of techniques used in sports psychology can help to reduce anxiety. Guided breathing techniques are one example. This skill can help refocus the mind, relax the muscles and ease tension. Ahead of a big event, it can also help block out external distractions that might otherwise lead to increased pressure.
For instance, guided breathing can introduce more oxygen into the body which in turn relaxes muscles and helps to reduce feelings associated with stress and anxiety.
Positive self-talk goes hand-in-hand with this, and is again seen often in sports, where athletes allow themselves to ‘get in the zone’.
A pre-performance routine, short term goal, reward and recognition, are all techniques used in executive coaching. These can enhance motivation in the athlete, since it helps keep them interested and engaged.
Even though many athletes are driven by their sheer passion for a sport, they still need to be incentivised to get up on a cold early morning for training!
Helps with negative thoughts
In sports coaching we learn techniques for dealing with negative or irrational thoughts. This includes post-performance routines and reflecting on events and competitions. We also work with athletes to manage expectations prior to event, with positive imagery helping to refocus their attention.
Professional athletes have a single-minded focus that makes them quite so dedicated to their sport. The downside of this is that it can lead to tunnel vision. Sports psychology teaches athletes self-awareness in every sense.
Staying focused is essential in sport, however this is not always easy to achieve. From training practice to competing in sports, there’s always external influences that create distractions.
Sports coaches can help share certain techniques that help to focus the mind. Mental preparation is every bit integral to a training regime as physical training.
Setting goals and objectives is the first place to start. By really understand what you want to achieve, you can help focus your mind-set on achieving this.
Muhammad Ali, arguably one of the greatest athletes of all time, used sports psychology to maximum effect. His mantras and self-affirming quotes have stood the test of time, and remain as powerful today as they once did.
Ali believed he was the greatest, but he was able to back this up with an impressive fighting record too. In sports psychology, we learn ways for framing our mind with a positive outlook, using self-talk as part of this.
Frame of mind
We have talked much about having a positive mindset in sport. From positive affirmations to reflecting back on past successes, it’s important to work with a sports coach to achieve this.
Specifically, it can help athletes ‘get in the zone’ before a big event. Think back to the American swimming team at the last Olympics. Many of them had headphones plugged in, and were reciting words in their head. By all accounts, despite being on a world stage, they had managed to block external distractions out. This in no small part is sports psychology in play, and can go a long way in getting the athlete into the optimum mental position.
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