It’s not unusual, in fact it’s becoming the norm in the MLB and other professional sports, for players to consult and work with “mental performance coaches.” I feel I can speak for the majority of these athletes when I say 99% of them wishes they had known and worked on these mental skills much earlier in their careers.
So why did these supreme athletes ignore the benefits of mental performance enhancement, imagery and focus training, to name a few. I don’t believe they ignored it… they weren’t aware of it and that’s our fault not theirs.
Many coaches are mired in the rut of thinking mental performance training shouldn’t be considered until players are much older and only at very high skill levels of play.
I wonder how many young players were never able to reach their full potential due to mental performance issues? And for those who were able to attain higher levels of play in their sport, how many spent more agonizing times than were necessary battling performance issues which could have been alleviated through mental actions.
Even if the kid obviously doesn’t possess the skills to reach high level competition in the sport, the experience will help him in other aspects of his life.
So why would a parent paying big bucks for private lessons, a player putting in exhaustive hours of practice and a coach pouring over films and stats, ignore, or at least not put forth the effort to learn and understand the use and need of sports psychology?
I believe they just don’t know how to overcome a few mental obstacles of their own when dealing with sports psychology. For instance.
Misconception #1 “I don’t need it.”
When players are playing well, in the zone as it’s known, the idea of needing any help, especially mental help, is the farthest thing from their mind. However, if the player was more mature he’d know every player has their ups and downs, and if they could identify and harness the emotions and thoughts they are feeling while playing well, they could call on them for help when the time comes they’re not playing so well.
Misconception #2 “I’m not a freak or something.”
It’s quite unfortunate mental training has somehow become linked or synonymous with being “Mentally Weak,” such as being unable to endure tough times or control your emotions. We know this is a totally False assumption as many elite athletes, tremendously mentally strong, still use sports psychologists on a regular basis.
The issue should be viewed from a different perspective. Why do MLB players continuously work with a batting coach? Their game is not “weak or broken”. They work with a coach so they can continue to improve, and to maintain their competitive edge.
So be it with athletes who seek the services of sport psychologists, as they want to improve their mental skills.
Misconception #3 “I don’t get nervous- I’m mentally prepared at all times.”
There are athletes that actually don’t get nervous, but that’s no indication they are mentally prepared. They may suffer in other areas such as dwelling on mistakes, lack of focus, playing as well as they practiced, frustration issues, and being “prepared.”
So nerves aren’t an issue, big deal. Most players who say they are mentally prepared, if asked, could not list the steps they take before a game or any specific techniques they use. While an athlete may think he’s prepared, they often have no concrete plan to deal with both positive and negative events.
Misconception #4 “I already talk to my kid about thinking positively, why do I need someone else to do that?
Congratulation for realizing the importance of positive thinking, and it is imperative that parents are involved in helping formulate the techniques their kids are learning, however kids often tend to listen to other people before their parent. Sorry, but that’s the way of the world.
To sooth your feelings one must remember there is no single technique or modality that works well for all athletes, for all issues. Just as the field of medicine has various specialties to address various issues that patients present, sports psychology is similar. A professional has learned an array of interventions that can be customized to adapt to the wide variety of psychological issues athletes face at every level of the game.
Contributed by guest blogger Jim Bain