Demystifying mental skills training
Mental skills training has a reputation and can have many labels – sport psychology, coaching, therapy, etc. Why? Is there still a stigma about mental training? People still think that if they get help for something going on in their head that something is wrong with them. That is not the case. That is a myth. In fact, developing a mental skills approach is similar to developing a physical skills approach and may have a greater impact. You can actually gain an advantage and a competitive edge if you can teach your mind how to process a situation – whether good or bad. Simply said, it’s coaching…. Just a different part of the body.
There is nothing wrong with you
The first thing to understand is that developing mental skills does not mean there is something wrong with you. None of us are born with mental skills which means we have to develop those skills.
There’s only a very small percentage of us with these skills and it has a lot to do with the environment you were raised in. That is not to say that if you don’t have them, you were raised in a terrible environment. Kids are raised differently and there are a lot of things that go into how kids are raised. Different generations raise kids differently and there are many other outside influences such as coaches and teachers that contribute to how kids are raised including the development of or lack of developing mental skills.
Mental skills training is not inherent
No one sits kids down and talks about how to develop the right mental skills and there is no class in school educating kids about it. Kids figure out how to deal with situations as they come up. An action happens, and kids react. Just as a situation arises, and adults react. No one tells them how to react or deal with different incidents; they just figure it out because they must. It’s usually evolves as something that’s easily accessible – slamming a racquet, kicking the dirt, throwing a tantrum or crying. As kids unconsciously learn very early in life how to deal with situations, many times no one tells them if what they are doing is effective or ineffective, so they keep doing it.
The challenge with that model is that much of the time the ways kids figure out how to deal with situations in their environment – losing, mistakes, nerves, and low confidence – aren’t the best way. As kids get older and the coping mechanisms they learned at a young age continue to be a part of their life, problems can start to arise if those coping mechanisms weren’t consciously talked about and developed. Not only can it be problematic in sport and performance, but it can be problematic in other areas of life – school, decision making, advocating for themselves, perfectionism, and individuation to name a few.
What is mental skills training…really
I work with athletes and performers to develop the mental skills they need to optimally deal with their environment. Athletes and elite performers (generally) work hard physically. They put in a lot of time and energy perfecting whatever it is they do but when they don’t put time in to train their mind, it gets in the way (nerves, anxiety, beating yourself up, overanalyzing and not letting go of mistakes) and doesn’t allow for all the physical hard work to show up. When you allow your head to ‘come along for the ride’ without training it to do what you want, it will get in the way of you achieving your goals. You put time into physically training, why wouldn’t you put time into mentally training? You need both to perform, not only optimally, but the way you know you can.
If this isn’t therapy, what is it?
This is NOT therapy. Sure, we talk 1-on-1 about what’s going on but that’s, so I have a sense of where you at and where you want to go and can customize plan to help you develop the optimal skills. Skills aligned with your individual needs. Not all mental skills work for everyone or work for everyone in the same way.
We talk. We develop awareness, new coping skills, put a plan together and reinforce the skills so they become instinct/natural/automatic response. Between sessions, clients practice using skills in practice, training and life. Once we determine that you have skills that work, we transfer those skills to your competitive environment. Our work is done when you feel more confident, consistent, and in control of your emotions as well as less nervous, less stressed, and better able to perform. And it doesn’t take forever which is another myth.
One of the great things about mental skills training is that the younger they are developed, the shorter the amount of time it takes to develop them. Even for adults, the amount of time it takes to develop mental skills is relatively short in comparison to the length of time it takes to develop your physical skills and the impact is what sets you apart from your competitors.
You have a physical coach or teacher. I am the mind coach and teacher. The brain is a big muscle and it needs to practice also. You have the ability to improve. You can develop the optimal mental skills you need, and combine this with your physical skills, and tada, you perform at your best.