Last week’s issue covered the fact that: #1 – Sport Psychology is not “psychology”
Not only is sport psychology not psychology, it is also not just a measure of last resort. There can be a tendency to think of sport psychology only as a reactive measure – when the athlete is struggling mightily with performance. But working on the mental game is valuable as a proactive tool too.
Let’s look at the Mental Game on this spectrum:
In our experience at SPINw, the majority of our athletes are on the lower end of this spectrum. They are usually trending toward the Struggling mode or worse. But we do serve as a proactive measure as well. For young athletes, as they grow physically, become more skilled technically, and learn their sport tactically, the psychological aspect of sports can’t be ignored. The older a player gets, the more pressure, the higher the stakes become, they must have the tools to handle. For older athletes, a strong mental game is needed to keep consistency in performance.
A Proactive Success Story
I once worked with a high school quarterback who was up toward the higher end of the spectrum and told me the reason he came in was because he “heard sport psychology could help make me a better player.” Simple. He was a confident kid, but this was his first year to potentially be a starter. He was in a preseason battle to win the starting job and wanted to do everything he could to give him a competitive edge.
We worked together on setting goals for the season to sharpen his focus. He worked on improving his leadership skills to communicate better and get the most out of his teammates. We implemented breathing and visualization techniques to help slow the game down. He ended up not only winning the starting job, but leading his team to an undefeated regular season.
A Reactive / Proactive Mix, with predictably mixed results
The coach of a basketball team I once worked with called me halfway through the season for the first time after a tough 5 game losing streak. He wanted me to help the team re-build their confidence. At first, the players “having to meet with a sport psychologist” was a little offensive and demeaning to them. “What like we’re crazy and we can’t figure it out on our own?” I remember one player muttering. Fortunately, after a couple meetings, they completely warmed up to the concept and enjoyed the sessions and told me it helped them get back on track.
The following season we did a more proactive program and this team had a better season, playing more consistently to the higher end of their potential. They had a few big wins, including beating a highly ranked rival, and ended the season higher than their preseason prediction polls. Several players mentioned they felt more mentally tough and mentally prepared, lingo that had entered the team lexicon.
The proactive nature of that season allowed for “sport psychology” to be a normal part of the proceedings. There was no stigma around having me present at practices, games, and in-season mental game sessions. This helped get the team in the green part of the Mental Game Performance Spectrum, whereas the year before they were deeply in the red part of it.
Where do you land on the Mental Game Performance Spectrum?
Our SPINw consultants have over 50 years combined experience training, competing, coaching, and mental game training. Contact us today to get started on a program tailor-made for you, no matter where you fall on the spectrum.