How Can Sports Psychology Help Me?
By John R. Ellsworth – Mental Game Coach
Everyone asks the same question: Is sports psychology helpful for me? The bigger question to ask is: Do I perform the way I want to perform in competition? This article will give you some good insight about when to call upon a sports psychology specialist.
One of the biggest myths athletes often buy into is that you must develop “perfect” execution or knowledge about a particular sport before you can work on the mental game. I am here to tell you this statement is the farthest from the truth. From my perspective you simply cannot separate the mental from the physical aspect of the game when it comes to motor skill performance. Every decision, thought, feeling and image you have about your performance sets up each and every action. For every thought there is an equal and related action. Sports Psychology helps athletes develop confidence, focusing, and composure skills as they work toward mastering the technical aspects of the game.
I get questions every day like: “How do I know when a poor performance is mental or physical?”
From my years of experience in this line of work, here are a few tips that could indicate it is a mental game breakdown:
- You perform better in practice than in competition.
- You have a tough time performing well when others are watching you.
- You maintain many doubts about your sport during or before games.
- You feel anxious or scared when you perform in competition.
- You are not sure why you play your sport or what motivates you.
- You only participate in sports to make you feel better as a person.
- You lose focus or have mental lapses during critical times of the game.
- You can’t perform the way you did before injury.
- Everything is fine, but you just want to improve your mental attitude.
Sports psychology sometimes gives off negatives vibes because there is an association with illness or something being wrong with them. As a result I almost always refer to the process of working on the mental game as mental game coaching or training. It’s totally about improving current performance or taking performance to the next highest level. This is why people seek out a mental game coach like me.
As a mental game coach I often become the last result – the last option to helping athletes with their performance challenges. Often parents and athletes come to me with the idea the need to be “fixed” and all other resources have been exhausted. Well, the first thing I will tell you is that you don’t need to be fixed.
How can sports psychology help me perform better?
- Improve focus and deal with distractions.
- Grow confidence where there is doubt.
- Develop coping skills when there are setbacks?
- Finding the right level of intensity for performance success.
- Help teams develop stronger and more effective methods of communication.
- Develop health belief systems and eradicate irrational thoughts.
- Improve and balance Motivation for greater performance success.
- Get back to competition after injury recovery.
How does the process work?
When an athlete comes to me for help we start with a Mental Game Aptitude Assessment process. This serves as a guideline and helps the athlete think about the right questions. After the assessment process more supportive information is gathered so we can both get a complete picture of your mental game.
The next phase is to develop a mental game plan outline, which guides the work we do together. The mental game plan outlines what we need to improve and includes some basic mental game skills I teach all my students such as how to focus on the process and identify self-limiting expectations. Once the mental game plan is developed, we begin our work on mental skills that apply to your specific challenges. I work to provide a mental game plan that is customized to individual needs, but also include a few foundation skills for all my students.
Once the basic concepts and skills have been imprinted, the application phase of the coaching starts. This is where the we apply what has been learned.
Finally, the follow up phase of coaching helps you apply what you have learned on a consistent basis. I have found that the best results come from a long-term application of mental training as you need to apply the information, day after day. In fact, I structure my programs in such a way that provides regular follow-up following the completion the program. In doing so, I help my students stay committed to good thinking and a positive attitude until good thinking becomes second nature and the dominate habit.
Sports psychology is not for everyone because not everyone wants to improve their performance. Some might want to simply get better joy out of their sport. I would say sports psychology is not for the weekend warrior or the social performer. Most of my athletes are deeply committed to their sport. They love what they do and have great desire to be the best. Sports Psychology is their secret weapon and the #1 advantage they can use to take their performance to the next level.
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