It is safe and accurate to say that the mental state of a top performing athletes is just as important as his/her physical state. Without the right mindset, even the most physically gifted athlete can put out a poor performance without necessarily realizing why that is happening. That is why sports psychology has become an integral part of athlete training in recent years.
Like other psychologists, sports psychologists use similar methods to reach and communicate with their clients. The biggest difference is that when it comes to dealing with top athletes, a sports psychologist deals with huge egos that are not only strong but also fragile at the same time. The smallest of issues can put the performance of a top-rated athlete in jeopardy; something that is not exactly ideal considering the kind competitive environments in which these athletes operate.
What does a sports psychologist do for athletes?
Most athletes focus on building their physical prowess. They work out, train in different techniques and watch game tapes to ensure that they know everything there is to know about their sport and their competition. Although this is all well and good, when it comes to their mental state, most athletes would rather not deal with whatever issues they have that might affect their contract or their focus on the sport.
That in itself is a mistake because quite frankly unless an athlete is ‘all there’, mind, body and spirit, they cannot possibly give their all to the sport. The most qualified sports psychologists can help them:
- Learn how to manage stress and anxiety that comes with the highly competitive environment in which they operate
- To stay motivated even when under immense pressure
- Enhance their performance through the use of various psychological techniques
- Improve their self-image and repair their self-esteem even after a defeat
Through the application of various psychological techniques, a sports psychologists can help the athlete to become a better person and sportsman/woman all around.
What are the benefits of sports psychology on athletes and sports in general?
There is a saying that goes: If you think you are, you are! Athletes would more closely identify with this saying because, as much as many may not like to admit it, in a competitive setting, unless you think you are the best at what you do, you will not win. As unbelievable as it may sound, for most athletes, the sheer fact that they think they are the best there gives them an advantage over their competition. It fills them with confidence and it even gives them the mental stimulus they need to perform better.
But, if that mental stimulation is not available and an athlete thinks that they are not as good as everyone else on the field, they will have already been defeated even before the competition begins. Sports psychology seeks to rectify these sorts of problems and self-image issues. The right sports psychologist will help an athlete to:
- See themselves as a winner no matter how daunting the competition
- See themselves as having improved thanks to their training
- Maintain a stable grip on their anxieties and fears as they go into the competition
- Fight through injuries and spells of poor performance
- Develop a resilient attitude even when they are painted in bad light by the press
- Learn to deal with other life issues without necessarily having those things affect their performance in a negative manner
- Learn how to clear their mind and focus on the task at hand (competition)
- Take responsibility for their behaviour and performance
- Develop a positive outlook on their sport and teammates
Learn to recognise mistakes and correct them before they get out of hand
To many non-athletes, high profile sportsmen and women are like celebrities; we consider them royalty and infallible. This puts an enormous amount of pressure to perform on these athletes. Without the right kind of guidance, the love and adoration, as well as the admonishment levelled on these sports personalities by the public, can be devastating to their mental state. A sports psychologist acts as the bridge between the athlete’s mind and body; they act as the tether that keeps them grounded and reminds them that they are also human, albeit gifted ones. They keep athletes performing well under pressure despite what they are feeling.