If you ask athletes how important the mental side of sports is compared to the physical and technical aspects, most of them answer, "very important". If you then ask them how much time they spend on it, the answer is usually "little".
Despite its obvious importance, the mental side of sports is most often neglected, at least until a problem arises. The sports world seems to hold mental training to a different standard than the physical and technical aspects of sports.
On the other hand many people have the impression that mental training can produce miraculous results in a short time. You wouldn’t believe the number of calls I get from athletes a couple of weeks before an important competition! Though I consider myself very good at what I do, I am definitely not a magician. You wouldn’t expect increases in strength by lifting weights once or twice or an improvement in technique by working on it for an hour. Why would mental training work that way?
The qualities that make physical training effective, like structured, consistent, periodized and personalized also apply to mental training. If athletes make the same commitment to their mental training as they do to their physical and technical training, it can play a key role in supporting them achieve their goals.
I would like to give you an overview on my approach to mental training for athletes.
The key to success is that you can learn how to systematically perform at your best! Factors like for example, intrinsic motivation, confidence, resilience, emotional intelligence, habits, focus, practice are necessary to perform at your highest level and achieve success. In my coaching I work on several areas, train the mental strength and give them tools they have to implement in their daily routine.
RMP® Reiss Motivation Profile
To get more insights how an athlete ticks, I use a personality profile, the RMP®. It is a scientifically based personality profile using factor analysis (tens of thousands of profiles from many countries around the world have now been evaluated). On the basis of the Reiss Motivation Profile® 16 different life motives are distinguished. The result is a breakthrough in motivation research, because with it one is able to describe very precisely what drives people, i.e. their individual needs and motives for action.
The Reiss Motivation Profile® helps coaches to work with the personality structures of athletes in their personal development. Today we know that the unconditional orientation towards the individuality of the athlete is an essential requirement for sporting success. An optimal basis is created to accompany and support a person in such a way that it corresponds to his personality and that she or he can finally deliver his sportive top performance.
Mindfulness is key to create an awareness for possible obstacles, unconscious patterns and limiting beliefs. Being mindful also enables the athletes to listen to their physical condition and possible signs of their body, such as exhaustion. My goal is to remove these obstacles so you can attain a psychological and emotional state that liberates you to pursue your goals with commitment and confidence.
The second step is to create a vision. What is the athletes big picture and longterm goal? Creating a clear vision is important to stay motivated to reach your goal. I use imagery and visualization. Visualization is about having mental images or a big picture of their goal. It is a clinical technique used to assist athletes with overcoming performance anxiety. By engaging athletes in a mental rehearsal of their performance in their respective sport, it can sharpen his or her focus and restore confidence in their ability to follow through. Imagery is considered a mental process that can involve all five senses. These tools are the most effective to be able to tap full potential.
Once you've created your big goal, it's time to set clear goals and define a strategy for your prep
aration. To be able to train the athlete's mental muscle, he or she will learn different mental techniques that provide them with the practical strategies they need to ensure they are comprehensively prepared to perform their best when it counts the most. These tools are aimed at attaining and maintaining an optimal mental and physical state required to achieve success.
Last but not least we will work on the athletes mindset and motivation. Mindset
Is Everything. Burn that statement into your brain. Mindset should be considered the intangible X-factor that can strongly determine your competitive success or failure.
you perceive is always the end product of your mindset. But a nigh overlooked aspect of mindset is this: your mindset is but a true reflection of who you are as a person. In other words, the personal qualities you possess and represent fully shape your mental outlook.
I'm often asked how quickly athletes can expect results from a commitment to mental training. Positive change varies widely depending on the individual athletes and the issues that are presented. Just as with the other contributors to athletic performance, there are no guarantees that mental training will result in improved performance and results during the course of my work with athletes. In some cases, improvement is immediate. In other cases, athletes show steady improvement in the months and years during and following the conclusion of
our work as they continue to apply what they learn from our work.
Goals we can achieve
Increase the awareness and understanding of how the athletes functions.
Provide information and insights that will instill in athletes healthy attitudes toward competition, success, failure, and the role that sports and achievement play in their lives.
Identify and mitigate obstacles (e.g., fear of failure, risk aversion) that may be holding them back from their goals.
Strengthen their mental “muscles” to enable them to be mentally prepared to perform their best in their sport and other aspects of their lives.
Provide athletes with a mental toolbox they can use in their sports and lives.
Do everything I can to support athletes to fully realize their abilities and achieve their sports goals.
Anchor all of the above to not only assist athletes in their sports lives, but also to help them to find success and happiness in their future educations, relationships, careers, and lives.
This is what mental training means to me and what I do in my work with athletes. I hope this article takes some
of the mystery out of mental training and helps readers to better understand what it can and cannot do, and how it can help YOU to achieve your goals.
If you are an athlete, that needs support in mental training, please drop me a line, no matter if you are a professional or an ambitious amateur athlete. I know from my own experience how frustrating it can be when you fail at competition, even though so much time and energy was put into training.