While it’s hard to doubt that mental preparation is extremely important for sports performance, how much time does an average athlete devote to it?
In various coaching educations we’ve been told that physical, tactical, technical and mental preparation are more or less equally important for sport performance. In one way or the other, all these aspects are a part of every sport and all are without a doubt crucial for excellence. If you had your pie chart that is the sum of all the components you train for top sports performance, how much of it would be devoted for mental readiness?
In my experience, athletes report the time devoted to mental preparation is next to nothing. Usually, they devote their practice time to technical/tactical and physical development. Often, they will have strength and conditioning coach within their club, or will work with one in their private arrangement. But the mental part is in most cases neglected and any work done in that field is unstructured and random.
Interestingly enough, when those same athletes are asked what id the main cause of their poor performance, their answer has to do mostly with the lack of mental preparation. If asked where is their room to improve, again, it would be performing under pressure, focus, emotional control or some other reason related dominantly with mental preparation.
Luckily, just as we have sport specific coaches, strength and conditioning coaches, we have mental coaches available. And just as good S&C coach will improve one’s stamina of quickness, a good mental coach will improve various psychological factors that will contribute to optimal sport performance.
It is only logical for athletes to use all the resources available to improve their performance. Once the factor that limits you to reach the next level you feel you can achieve is your mental preparation, it is time to devote training time to your mental preparation. Becoming stronger, training more often and becoming more skilled, won’t matter at all if you cannot display any of that in competitive situations. Very one of us knows an athlete that “had it all”, but only if he was stronger in the head.
If only he could have worked with a mental coach.
Psychologist, Mental coach, UEFA A football coach