What is Sport Psychology? How does it help you?

The role of sports psychology and how mental training can improve your performance is today’s subject. My last post talked about why sport psychology and mental training is important in hockey player development. If the last post was about why, today’s is about What.

The goal of sports or performance psychology is to help players and teams perform their best by improving mental skills that help athletes excel in sports. Sport Psychology is not about working with problem athletes or abnormal behavior. Mental training or mental game coaching is the segment of sports psychology that focuses specifically on training athletes on how to break through the mental obstacles that distract them from performing up to their peak potential. Learning mental game strategies via mental game training helps improve overall performance by enhancing preparation and consistency.

A myth that most athletes maintain is the view that mental and physical aspects are separate. Some athletes believe they must first master “perfect” technique or mechanics before they can improve their mental game, mindset, or mental skills. You cannot separate the mental from the physical when it comes to being your best. Sports Psychology helps athletes develop emotional control and is just as important as mastering the technical aspects of sport. Here are some lists I have gathered over the years from various places you might find useful.

When is Sports Psychology Needed? When …..

  • You are more relaxed and perform better in practice compared to games
  • You become upset if your performance isn’t perfect
  • You become distracted and anxious when others are watching
  • You experience doubt about your ability to perform
  • You are tense, feel anxious, or scared when you perform in competition
  • You limit your performance with strict expectations
  • How you feel about yourself or your self-worth depends on your performance
  • You lose focus during crunch-time
  • After injury, even when you are fully recovered, you play hesitant and do not perform the way you did prior to injury
  • You know you could play better if you had more confidence
  • You want to accelerate your learning
  • You know that to perform at your best being mentally and physically ready is critical to peak performance

How can Sports Psychology be useful?

  • Improve focus and block out distractions
  • Increase confidence and reduce doubts
  • Learn how to move on from setbacks and errors
  • Find the right zone of intensity during pregame warm-ups
  • Help teams develop good chemistry, communication, and cohesion
  • Create a healthy belief system and correct irrational thoughts
  • Increase motivation and work ethic
  • Help players return to sport with confidence after an injury
  • Learn how to enter the “zone” more and refocus
  • Learn how to relax body and mind
  • Learn how to effectively use imagery or visualization
  • Learn about emotional control and understand your EQ or Emotional Intelligence

So to make sure I am making this clear. Sports Psychology in first and primarily performance oriented. I myself do not work with athletes with issues unrelated to performance. I work with healthy individuals that are looking to improve performance. This is not about eating disorders, depression, ADHD or any abnormal condition. Yes there are clinical sports psychologists, but when you hear that an athlete is working with a sport psychology consultant you can be confident that the athlete is doing mental training to improve performance, the same way you might work on improving fitness to perform at a higher level.