What is Sport Psychology and what do Mental Performance Consultants do?

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Mental performance (or sport psychology), the most recent addition to elite performance and human development is a crucial ingredient in the recipe for the path towards excellence and mastery. In this article, you’ll learn what sport psychology is and isn’t, what the main goals are, what the benefits of doing mental training are, what some of the most potent mental skills are, and how athletes work on these skills.

5 Myths on Sport Psychology

Before we go into what sport psychology is, let’s debunk a few common myths around.

  • It is a form of therapy for people with mental issues. It is not. It’s for mentally healthy people who are looking to enhance performance.
  • It works equally well for all athletes & challenges. Not at all. It takes more effort for some people and for specific challenges because we are all different.
  • It is a quick fix for all problems. This is not true. It takes time and quality effort to improve our mental abilities and skills.
  • It is for mentally weak athletes. Not true. Mentally tough competitors may want to remove some psychological barriers or boost their mental performance to the next level.
  • One size fits all. Nope. Tailored interventions and strategies are used with each client. Each case is individual and unique, and there is no algorithm, rulebook, or recipe to follow

What is Sport Psychology?

Simply put, sport psychology is applying psychological principles to sports to help an athlete or a team improve their performance. It is mental training that enhances performance and overall helps the athlete in their sports life (in training, competition) and non-sports life (work, relationships, school).

What are the main goals of sport psychology?

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There are many objectives for working with a mental performance consultant, the main goals of sport psychology are:

  • Optimize performance enhancement
  • Manage performance dysfunction
  • Address performance impairment
  • Facilitate performance transition

How can athletes benefit from mental training?

Keeping in mind that making any sort of lasting change takes time, and a change in brain takes 8 weeks, there is a variety of amazing effects mental training can have on you. Through doing consistent, quality mental training, athletes may notice the following benefits:

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Those benefits may optimize performance. But better results cannot be guaranteed (even though they often accompany the above-mentioned benefits).  

What mental skills do athletes learn?

Everyone has a unique experience with mental training, strengths, weakness (areas for improvement). However, here are some mental skills that are commonly developed by athletes and coaches:

How are mental skills developed?

Mental skills are developed through several avenues. They may be developed in individual consultations with a mental performance consultant (or sport psychologist). An athlete may also work on these skills in training and work to incorporate them into their skill execution. Workshops with teams are a great introduction to mental skills where learning and that initial training may occur. The biggest source of learning however is self-reflection and any homework they take home with them from a mental training session. Doing mental training may take anywhere from a couple of minutes to an hour per day and is usually integrated into the performer’s daily routine.

Is sport psychology and mental training only used in sports?

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Mental training and principles from sport psychology are often applied in other high-pressure domains outside of sport which include business, organizational and industrial development, military, education, politics and medicine.

Main Takeaways

  • Sport psychology (or mental training) is applying psychological principles to sports to help an athlete or a team improve their performance.
  • The mental skills often transfer to other areas of a performer's life
  • Mental training takes consistent, quality effort
  • Performers in business, military, education, politics and medicine can benefit from applying sport psychology principles to their craft

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