What is Mental Training?Feb 19, 2020
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:
- An athlete who is researching various ways to improve your performance and break through mental barriers.
- A parent who is looking for ways to help your struggling athlete.
- A coach (or aspiring coach) who is new to mental training and wants to explore how it can help your team.
- A coach who is practicing mental training and wants a resource to help you explain it to athletes, parents, coaches, and athletic departments.
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.)
What Is Mental Training?
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:
- Taking deep breaths before doing something that makes you nervous (like going on a first date or public speaking).
- Rolling down the window and singing at the top of your lungs to help you stay awake in the car.
- Laughing to calm your nerves.
- Thinking about what you’re thankful for to help you relax and recenter.
- Exercising hard after a tough day at work to relieve emotional stress.
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.
Why Is Mental Training Important?
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.
What Are Some Types Of Mental Training?
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):
- Positive Psychology
- Deep breathing
- Goal setting
- + More
At Positive Performance, many of our mental training exercises, resources, and tools combine two or more of these disciplines.
What Does Mental Training Look Like?
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:
- Guided Visualizations: Visualization exercises that help players move more efficiently toward a specific pre-determined goal in real life.
- Positive Self-Talk and Affirmations: Practiced throughout the day to hep build true, internal confidence by rewiring negative thought patterns.
- Game-Day Routines: Specific routines for pre-competition, in-competition, and post-competition that will help you prepare, stay anchored, and recover from competition.
- Team Workshops: Weekly workshops that may involve visualizations, affirmations, stress training, goal setting, and various forms of team dynamics training.
- Daily Mental Drills: Including mental check-ins throughout the day and mental preparation for practice. These may include any of the above as well as focusing exercises, mindfulness/meditation, and deep breathing.
Who Is Mental Training For?
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:
- You will be able to teach from a place of experience. Your belief in mental training is the number one way you’ll get buy-in from your team.
- You will align with your athletes and work together more effectively.
- You will experience more emotional control during moments of stress.
- You’ll know how to recenter and coach with clarity.
- You will stay focused at the task at hand with a big-picture mindset.
- You will move toward your career goals with focus and intention.
- You will learn tools to help you de-stress and refresh for better sleep and better overall health.
What Can Mental Training Do For Me?
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:
- Be focused - Even at the start of practice or right after a mistake
- Be confident - Regardless of the uncontrollables
- Recover quickly - From mistakes or losing streaks
- Play through fatigue
- Grow as an athlete - Even if they’re benched or injured
- Be brave - Willing to take risks
- Maintain composure - Keep their temper under control
- Play relentlessly - Regardless of the scoreboard or game clock.
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.
How Do I Get Started Mental Training?
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.
Want to start mental training? If you do just ONE thing with your athletes, let it be The BRAVR MethodTM.
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 athletes to compete at their best, regardless of uncontrollables
- Help your athletes recover quickly from mistakes and avoid getting into a self-defeating headspace
- Teach your athletes to reflect on their performance to learn valuable lessons from every win and loss
Get your copy today and join the thousands of coaches across the world who are using The BRAVR Method™
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