Did you know that more elite athletes report almost 50% of superior athletic performance is a result of mental or psychological preparation? That’s right! In some cases, mind over matter really is important in the athletic world. And that’s why sports psychologists exist.
Despite the fact that mental power is an important factor in athletic performance, it’s common to still have questions about how sports psychology actually plays a role in that. So to get some of the confusion out of the way, we’ve compiled a list of some of the most frequently asked sports psychology questions and answered them just for you.
What exactly does a sports psychologist help with?
We discussed mental performance before, but there are different psychological factors that can contribute to this performance. In sports psychology, as in ordinary psychology, it really depends on the person. So the answer to this question is plain and simple: sports psychologists take the needs of their clients into account and work towards solutions to those specific mental blocks.
Why do athletes seek out sports psychology?
In truth, each athlete may seek out sports psychology help for a different reason. No two sports are exactly alike, and no two athletes are either. However, there are some fairly common reasons that stand out from the rest. Some of these reasons include:
- Recovery from a serious injury
- Transitioning to a higher competitive level
- Mental toughness
- Issues with perfectionism
- Coping with setbacks
Does seeing a sports psychologist indicate mental weakness?
Absolutely not. Seeking out psychological help is done for a countless number of reasons, such as those listed above. The truth is that sports psychology treatment often has nothing to do with weakness at all. Rather, it has everything to do with a desire to better yourself in your chosen profession and in life.
The life of an athlete certainly isn’t something to sneeze at. From sports that are extremely demanding physically to competitions that are mentally exhausting, athletes often need help too. If you’re experiencing changes and want to mentally grow with them, you should consider seeking out a sports psychologist.
What does the feeling of being disappointed in yourself do to your movements and decisions?
You have just given up a point (or a goal) due to your error, or what turned out to be a bad decision.
Now the score is against you because of something that you tried that didn’t work out.
You took a risk and bet on your skills, or strategy, and it didn’t work out.
What happens next inside your mind?
Do you spend some time;
- telling yourself what a useless idiot you are?
- fighting against the idea that you are not as good as you think you are?
- experiencing disappointment with yourself/
- worrying about being a disappointment to others?
or do you
- shift into the learning mode you have been practicing and design a response to that error that makes you stronger/faster/smarter?
Are you a perfectionist?
Perfectionism makes this worse. Every single error triggers self-criticism and self-doubt.
The danger here is that your self-criticism and rising self-doubt
- impair your ability to pay attention to the essential elements that allow you to perform well in the moment, and
- cause you to take fewer risks.
Eventually, you will find yourself playing so conservatively that the only skills you are using now are the ones you felt comfortable with several years ago.
You have regressed to the player you were years ago. In this way you are getting further away from your skills as an athlete.
Identifying the key elements of your successful performance and practicing refocusing on them after a distraction, makes your positive focus stronger. Having strong focus makes it so that distractions are less able to derail your performance. You stay connected to your strengths instead of losing touch with them.
Everything you try and fail at gives you good information for the next attempt.
The key is to look for this important information even when the failure stings. Our natural tendency is to avoid paying attention to the unpleasant error.
Practicing shifting into a growth mindset will help you deal constructively with errors.
Eventually, you will have the sense of impending growth along with the sting of the mistake.
And you will be less inclined to stop taking risks.
What do you want?
Identify how you want to grow in your sport.
What are you willing to risk in order to grow?
- Are you willing to risk your identity as the sports phenom in your family, on your team, in your town?
- Are you willing to risk your reputation as the ‘star’ in return for being an even better learner?
What are you not willing to risk right now? Where do you need security and how does having security help you extend yourself?
If you notice that you are not willing to risk your reputation in order to grow, this is an important piece of information.
Notice what it does to your performance when you are playing in a situation that puts your reputation at risk.
Does this type of pressure tend to make you play small?
If you want to be more able to take risks with your ‘star’ reputation in order to reap the benefits of learning from mistakes, here is something to do that will help you:
- Strengthen your leadership qualities.
- Pick a teammate or two and help them learn what you know. Get some of your pride from raising up the newbies.
- Use your social skills and befriend a teammate who could use some help in this area.
- Help a teammate be calm under pressure by being reassuring about their skills.
- You will need these skills if you want to be Captain or a Coach in the future.
- Model learning from mistakes for your teammates. (Deliberately taking the risks that you envision as helping you progress, responding with self-acceptance instead of self criticism, Praising this process in others instead of criticizing them.
What types of mistakes do you want to accumulate so you can learn from them?
- over- hitting?
- being too conservative?
- being too aggressive?
- Being too flexible?
- Being too inflexible?
Practicing and performing with a growth mindset allows you to handle mistakes constructively.