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Why does an Athlete need Mental Training?

This article aims to address some key points surrounding The Benefits of Mental Strength Training.

As an athlete; Ask yourself the following question: Do I need to work on my mental game as well as or as much as my physical game?

What is your answer? Why did you come up with either a yes or a no?

If your answer is yes, see if your rationale follows what is written below and if you answered no, here is dialogue on Why working on the mental aspects of sports is vital to performance?

It is very common for athletes and parents to experience doubts about the value of mental training. These doubts hold back many athletes from investigating into exploring the mental side of sports performance and see what aspects of training and its effect on competitive performances can be derived from that investment. After asking many athletes on the following thoughts on mental training, here are a few common apprehensions among athletes that have ignored mental training:

· I have no time for any additional training.

· Is it worth the money or I don't have any money to spend on this.

· Is it worth my time?

· I don't need it, my results are okay

· I don't know what mental strength training is.

· I don't know how to go about it.

· I'm not sure if it will benefit or work for me.

· My teammates will think I'm crazy.

· I'm a hard worker in practice and push my limits in practice.

· I'm already the best on my team.

· None of my friends are doing it

Do you fit into any of these thoughts?

Ask any good coach or former athlete that has been successful in their field – the mental side of things is the most important weapon and defence you can learn and develop.

Simply put - not adding a sound mental training program in your training regime will hold you back from your ultimate potential. It's a fact. Ask any failed athlete and any successful athlete – they will have the same answer!

Think about this and take the time to see the ramifications.

Would you be 100%, okay knowing that you didn't achieve all you could in your sport? Would you be okay knowing you could have done something that may have helped you succeeded or aided you in your development - after you moved on from competitive sports? Here is an interesting scenario for you – and I will be super conservative for argument's sake!

What if mental strength training could improve your performance 5 - 10 percent?

If you loved your sport and would be willing to do whatever it takes to get better, would you be able and willing to overlook the investment and ignore an aspect of training that could help you perform knowingly better? Let's return to the previous thoughts denoted above from many athletes I've talked to. Knowing what may be holding you back is key for change and can enable covering all bases for sustained continual improvement in your overall training regimen. Let's reframe each thought and apprehension.

1. "I have no time for any additional training." – Mental strengthening requires minimal time. It only requires consistent input. Do you have 15-30 minutes in the morning? 15-30 before practice or before bedtime? Not that you only need a short amount of mental strength training that could add substantial gains to your performance in competition and training.

2. "I don't know what it is." – Mental strength training is primarily about establishing elite behaviour and how the thought process either enables or hinders behaviour. It's about understanding what you do in certain situations, i.e. stress and pressure. It is about learning to think better, develop certain mental skills to play smarter, and controlling your mind and emotions to handle the roller-coaster and rigors of sport to perform at your best.

3. "I don't know how to go about it." – So just as you found a coach, personal trainer either by word of mouth or the internet, or you searched for a team or looked for a physiotherapist, you can do the same to find a mental strengthening coach, sport psychologist and or sports psychotherapist to help you learn, develop and strengthen your mental game. Get to know them, ask a lot of questions and make sure you feel comfortable.

4. Is it worth the money? – What do you place value on? There is no greater investment than you. Your education and development shouldn't have a price.

5. "I'm not sure if it will benefit me." – The research is there. It is backed by years of research and studies and many professional and Olympic athletes credit their investment into mental training for their success in their sport and why they are happy as people in general.

6. "My teammates will think I'm crazy." – Why would you care? That's a distraction. Who else cares? Are these people so important to you? Mental strength training is training for this not to be even an issue. By introducing mental training within your training regimen, you will gain a momentous edge over your competitors. The whole idea behind training is to gain a competitive advantage – what's yours? Do you have one?

7. 7."I work hard in practice and push my limits in practice." – Excellent. But that's only one piece to the puzzle. Mental training will aid in building your practice to be even better and will help you focus better in practice, work smarter and more efficiently to get to the next level in your sport.

8. "I'm already the best on my team." – "Staying the same means going backwards" – Roger Federer. I love this quote from Federer. If you think you don't need to improve, then do this at your peril. It is so important to develop a mindset that something in your game, mentally, technically, tactically and emotionally can get better.

Having addressed some concerns or common patterns of questioning begin to ask;

What if you could be even better or perform more consistently? What does that look like?

Mental training can help you go from good to great. Because if you stay the same, you're exposed. You have to keep evolving and trying to get better otherwise others will catch up to you, so when things are going great, say to yourself…. what more can I do?, how can I get better?. This is such a great reminder to all of us that if things are going well for you right now, it is actually the perfect time to make use of all the resources you have (time, money and energy) to do more, because as Roger Federer said "Staying the same means going backwards". We can always better our best! NEVER SETTLE!

In summary - you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by adding mental training to your daily regimen. Yes, it costs money and time, but extraordinary results are preceded by extraordinary preparation. Mental strength training is part of it.

So, a few quick Tips for Mental Training if you don't want to commit to a practitioner, sports psychologist or mental strengthening coach:

A) Invest in reading

You can read articles, blogs, mental training books

B) Watch videos on YouTube on self and athletic mental development

C) Talk to coaches and other athletes about mental strengthening, some of the best way to learn are by conversing and listening to others

This is a great start to begin to understand your strengths and weaknesses, where you can get better and start learning some basic skills for your mental game. However, I strongly encourage you to work with someone one on one. There is nothing more personal and effective in comparison to working one-on-one with a qualified mental strengthening coach.

Remember, a mental strengthening coach is there to enable. They are there to help you understand the principles of mental training, learn key mental skills that significantly impact your behaviour, thoughts, emotions, and performance, and will importantly tailor a program to your specific needs and goals.

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