Sport psychologists spend a lot of time helping athletes achieve two big goals when they compete: To play with comfort and confidence. In order to do this athletes must learn how to synchronize their minds and bodies so that they play anxiety-free, and thereby allow their previously trained “muscle memory” to take over and make plays. This concept is the “comfort” part of the equation — and a big part of athletic success.
Confidence is another important aspect to playing your best and develops largely by personally witnessing athletic successes over time. Rather than worrying about the competition, confident athletes are more aware of their own abilities and how the discipline, dedication, and perseverance they have put into their sport supersedes any concerns for the competition.
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Today we have so much knowledge about the skills needed to help athletes with comfort and confidence, including sport psychology training skills like goal setting, imagery, cue words, self-talk, and muscle relaxation, to name a few. Even better is the fact that these skills are relatively easy to learn – even for kids. Still, “mental training” continues to carry a negative connotation that some parents and coaches must first overcome if they are to sell the importance of these skills to young athletes.
Comfort and confidence are two variables not only useful for sports, but everything we do in life. When we are comfortable with the task at-hand and confident we can be successful, only then do we align our thoughts and behaviors, thereby allowing us to reach our full potential.
Mental toughness training should be a part of every serious athlete’s daily routine, as the benefits can be quite amazing. Get started with the basics like goal setting, journaling, and learning techniques to remain calm in pressure situations. Looking for more help? Check out the Athlete’s Guide to Mental Toughness.