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Why Mental Performance Coaching Matters...Not just in sports but in life

Twenty, fifteen, maybe even ten years ago, Mental Performance coaching, or sports psychology, was only heard of when watching an interview with an elite Olympic athlete or someone in the professional ranks.

However, not only within the last ten years, but more so in the last few years we hear of and read more stories of athletes who are taking a pause and talking about the trials, tribulations and struggles that they have had performing under pressure.

We can think back just a few years to the 2020 Olympics and Simone Biles, who took a break for a bit during her Olympic run because of the extreme pressure that she was feeling. After her pause, she got back to the events and recorded a Bronze medal in the beam event. At that moment, that must have felt like gold for her, based on what she was going through at the time.

England defender Tyrone Ming, prior to the Euro 2020 said that his mental health was impacted after he was selected to the team, citing anxiety over that selection. These could have been high expectations that he felt, maybe for the first time, of that magnitude.

Dr. Claire Marie-Roberts, a former promising swimmer now turned sports psychologist, reveals that she had extreme competitive anxiety. According to an article in The Guardian, by Simon Usborne, Marie-Roberts said that she would “vomit in the toilets before races, visualizing myself in armbands, struggling to swim to the end of the pool.”

These are cases at the elite, or near elite level, however, we see this scenario play out daily in youth sports, secondary school sports and at the collegiate level and not just at the prominent Division I schools, either.

Statistics show a decline in participation in youth sports. What starts out as a fun activity, for a variety of reasons, stops being fun for the young athlete and they drop out.

As athletes grow into high school and college sports, the competitiveness and spotlight increases, potentially being a further mental burden on the athlete. Tryouts, cuts, being benched, starting, not starting, etc. can all contribute to the mental stress that an athlete feels. One would think that a starting spot on a team would be the cure for everything, however, we see many times that some athletes are not comfortable with that spot. They feel a burden that is too heavy to carry. They might be more comfortable in a part-time bench role. Another example is the young baseball player who has a great swing struggling at the top of the batting order but thriving when placed lower in the lineup.

These examples of athletes of all levels point to the mental challenges all athletes have when playing their sports. Where mental performance coaching can help is helping the athlete get back to playing with the passion they had when they started. What does that mean?

Usually when starting out, they were not so concerned with technical aspects of their sport – i.e., are they dropping their hands as a hitter, is their footwork incorrect when dribbling the ball on the pitch, are they shifting their weight properly on a slap shot in hockey. None of these mattered. They just played, played with instinct, played with love, played with, essentially, just trusting their skills and letting it go.

In a nutshell, that is what mental performance coaching entails. This resource helps the athlete reset, get their thoughts and mind in the right place, and stay in the moment. This allows them to simply trust their skills and enjoy the experience.

“Enjoy” is the key work there. When anyone enjoys what they are doing, it’s a good day, right? When you stop to think about it, this does not pertain simply to athletes. Whatever walk of life, or avocation you are pursuing, if you can get the most of your talents and feel good about it, you are going to feel much more fulfilled in that endeavor. That usually translates to enjoying it more and feeling great about the experience.

So, mental performance coaching is not simply for the athlete. Whether you aspire to be the best salesperson, executive, guitar player, etc., you can benefit from this resource. Additionally, when used by athletes, it can translate into other parts of their lives, as well.

Self-optimization is another way to state that. We all strive for that, and reaching out to a mental performance coach can help any individual achieve it.

Have fun. Enjoy the process. Enjoy the game.

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