With our goal to reach 1 million athletes and coaches with mental training, an important step in reaching that goal is answering the rudimentary (yet VITAL) question: What is mental training?
If you’re reading this blog you likely fit into one of these categories:
Whatever your path, we’re stoked that you’re here and hope that we can help you find clarity about what mental training is and how it can make a massive impact.
(For the sake of clarity, we’ll be speaking to coaches in this blog, but the information provided applies to everyone.)
There is a symbiotic relationship between the physical and the mental self. As in, whatever occurs in the mind affects the body, and whatever occurs in the body affects the mind. They are not separate entities, they are one.
To illustrate, here are a few very simple examples of the mind/body connection that you might be familiar with in everyday life:
All of these examples show common ways you use your mental state to affect your physical state or your physical state to affect your mental state.
Mental Training in athletics means preparing the mind to help you perform at your best, mentally and physically.
Mental factors such as confidence, focus, self-belief, and motivation are crucial to athletic performance.
Mental training in sports gives you the mental exercises to build these qualities proactively. It also teaches tools and strategies to prepare you for uncontrollables that you might face so that you can consistently perform at your best.
Mental strength, resilience, and strategy are learned through facing challenges, succeeding AND failing, and learning to use fear as a motivating force not a debilitating one. It’s learned through life experience, athletics, and cultivation of the mind and it’s enormous potential. It’s not genetic.
Mental training gives athletes structure to build these qualities from the ground up so that they are prepared to grow as an athlete and face anything in competition.
We once performed a blind survey on players at different skill levels who had various levels of success in various sports. We discovered that most had ONE specific thing in common. Sure, they were all competitive, all dedicated to their game. They all wanted to be better. These characteristics seemed fairly representative of the average athlete and wasn't a surprise to us.
The result we were most interested in was this: Almost every player—regardless of talent or success—was fully aware they were holding themselves back mentally. Furthermore, they didn’t know what to do about it.
When we ask what percentage of their sport is mental, they sited anywhere from 50-90%... which led us to our follow up question: “If X% of your performance is mental, why aren’t you training the mental game?”
So, to answer the question, you need mental training because sports are mental!
As performance level increases, division of skill shrinks. At the elite level, what really separates the good from the great is their ability to prepare mentally and execute well under pressure.
If you’re looking for that X factor, that tide shift that will turn your team around, you can try different drills or change up the pace of practice to keep your players on their toes. You can adopt a different warm-up routine or switch up your captains, etc.
But chances are, mental training will make the biggest impact.
There are many forms of mental training. At Positive Performance, we develop our strategies based on these disciplines (you have likely heard of some of them):
At Positive Performance, many of our mental training exercises, resources, and tools combine two or more of these disciplines.
As we mentioned above, there’s no one-size-fits-all for mental training. It’s up to you to figure out what routines and strategies are right for you and your team and to practice those consistently.
That said, here are some general examples of what mental training might look like:
The short answer is: Everyone.
Mental training can benefit every part of your life. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, student, parent, or athlete, mental training can teach you to harness the power of your own mind to achieve what you want to achieve.
Since we’ve already talked about the many benefits of mental training for athletes, it’s important to note that mental training is perhaps just as important for coaches. As a leader, it’s imperative that you practice mental training in your own life to prepare your own mind for competition.
Here are just a few benefits of mental training for coaches:
Mental training will give you the ‘edge’ in competition by teaching how to mentally outplay your competition. It can help you build mental strategies to prepare for, manage, and overcome mental and physical barriers such as nervousness, mental or physical fatigue, injury, lack of focus, low confidence, perfectionism, lack of emotional control, or unwillingness to take risks.
You can put in all the physical work, all the practice, all the hours… at the end of the day, you still need to get your mind right.
Those who practice mental training have the tools they needed to:
These things don’t just happen, they are learned, practiced, and ultimately earned.
“You have to expect things of yourself before you can do them.”
-Michael Jordan, American professional basketball player & entrepreneur.
We always recommend starting a mental training program by doing just ONE thing. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with all the things you could be doing, and many coaches get caught up feeling like they need to hire an expert on the outside to come in to work with their team. But here’s the truth: You can be the mental training coach your team needs. Start by Implementing just ONE tool into daily practice and competition. Just ONE mental training tool can make a huge difference all on its own.
When you’re ready to get started implementing that one tool, the two factors that will most affect success are process and consistency.
Process: If you want your athletes to be mentally tough, focused, or confident, you can’t just tell them that then send them on their way. There has to be a process to it. If you want athletes to have stronger arms, you tell them what exercises to do to help them build that muscle. The same goes for mental training. To get real results, you have to give them a process and that process has to be made clear.
Consistency: Resist the urge to introduce a mental training exercise as a hail mary right before the big game. Implement it in daily practice as early in your season as possible and remind athletes to do the exercise whenever applicable. The more it’s practiced, the more powerful it will become.
Many mental training tools can be applied while performing your normal physical tasks or in just a few minutes in the locker room, during warm-up, stretching, pre-practice, pre-game, and cool-down, so there's truly no excuse to put off mental training any longer.
Mental Training is a worthy endeavor, and one you won't regret.
Any questions? Leave them for us in the comment section below!
What if you could do something to ensure that your athletes are in a good headspace before they step on the field?
The BRAVR Method™ is an easy-to-implement, 5-minute, pre- and post-competition routine that will:
Get your copy today and join the thousands of coaches across the world who are using The BRAVR Method™