Getting Athletes to Embrace Mental Training

How does a parent or coach get an athlete to buy into the need for mental training?  One parent asked me recently, “She is really having a bad time with her performance and she knows it, but sees mental training as a something to fear.”

There are a number of obstacles preventing many athletes from embracing the concept of mental training.  How does this type of think effect parent and coaches. Read on and you will learn how mental training can boost confidence and success.

To begin, I have listed a few reasons why young athletes give for resisting mental training. They say,

1. I don’t want to have a crutch I will have to depend on in the future.

2. Coaches sometimes don’t believe mental training can help and downplay mental training with athletes.

3. Teammates will think they are weak.

4. Performing well is about working hard, not about what goes on in an athlete’s head.

Let’s take a few minutes to go over these one at a time. First, all great athletes have one thing in common: they are interested in improving their skills and becoming a better performing athlete.  70-90% of all sport performance is about the mental aspect of performance. There is nothing weak about taking advantage of mental training.

Ty Cobb said, “The most important part of a player’s body is above his shoulders.” Ben Hogan said, “Competitive golf is played mainly on a five-and-a-half-inch course, the space between your ears.” Mia Ham said, “the most important attribute a soccer player must have is mental toughness. Before you can win, you must have the will to prepare to win.”

What’s more, athletes who worry about what others think and believe should embrace mental training because they think too much about how others view them! This most definitely is not supportive of performance success.

Second, many coaches especially good ones use mental training from instinct. If they don’t they often don’t know much about sports psychology. After all, most of them have not received any instruction about it.  Those coaches I know that have mental skills training use it religiously.  Sometimes it takes the parents to provide the education.

Third, if I were to ask anyone of the athletes I have worked with about seeing mental coaching as a crutch, they would say that if it helps them perform better who cares what it looks like. It does not matter what it looks like because no one has to know I am working with a mental game coach.  A college basketball player once told me, “I look to my mental game coaching as my secret weapon.”

Fourth, yes, hard work and dedication are critical to performing well.  It’s important however for athletes to know when and why they are doing so well. This is where mental training comes in.  Performing well in practice, but not being able to take it to the competitive arena is a definite mental game issue. Sports psychology can help solve this as well as many other performance challenges.

If you want to convince your young athlete to take advantage of mental training, it’s very important to neutralize these and other untruths.  It’s important that they understand there is nothing dysfunctional about asking for coaching help with the mental aspect of their game.  It’s important to also explain how important mental training can be with strengthening confidence and improving their focus.

Want to learn more about helping kids embrace mental training, boost their confidence, and take their physical talent to the next level?  Visit and Ask Coach John to answer your question or give you the information you need.

John R. Ellsworth – Mental Game Coach – Protex Sports, LLC, 800-608-1120

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