Mental Exercises and Sport Psychology Training

My past posts have mainly been about attitudes and performance tips, but this kind of teaching is only one half of what sport psychology has to offer. The second half of sport psychology deals with what I call "mental exercises." Like physical exercises, these are activities that are meant to improve specific skills. Whereas an exercise such as the bench press strengthens the chest, mental exercises strengthen skills such as motivation, confidence, and arousal control. And just like physical exercises, the more you do mental exercises, the better you'll be at them.

Throughout the next couple months, I will be writing about several different kinds of mental exercises, such as imagery (visualization), meditation, and goal-setting. But today, I just want to overview mental exercises in general and explain their importance.

Sport psychology has become more popular throughout the last decade. Almost every professional team hires some sort of sport psychologist. However, sport psychology still isn't as mainstream as it should be. There are still way too many athletes and coaches who ignore it completely. Compared to technical, physical, and strategic training, it is the least emphasized. This is a shame, because when given the respect and attention it deserves, sport psychology can greatly help athletes. When sport psychology is actively applied by athletes, mental exercises is a big part of what they do on a daily and weekly basis. Here is what I envision as an ideal sport psychology training regimen.

 Half of it comes from the attitudes, beliefs, and values you think about on a daily basis. The conversations you have with a coach or sport psychologist, when talking about work ethic, motivation, or confidence is an example of this. Another example is reading this blog, reading books, reading inspirational quotes, and watching youtube videos about sport psychology. The athletes that actively try to maintain an ideal sports mindset are using sport psychology whether they are aware of it or not.

 Another big component of sport psychology training is professional psychological therapy or counseling. This isn't just for people who are "messed up" or depressed. Seeing a therapist on a routinely basis, maybe once a month is a very smart thing to do. It can be a form of preventative health care. It helps manage your stress levels, maintain an ideal mindset, and it can help fix behavioral problems.

 Lastly, mental exercises are a big component of a sport psychology training regimen. An athlete can perform 5-7 mental exercises a week, preferably one per day. He or she can alternate between practicing meditation, imagery, and all the other mental exercises. This consistent and systematic approach to practicing mental exercising is the best way to see gains. Just like a fitness regimen, you need a consistent and systematic schedule to get results. You wouldn't just do one set of push ups and expect to be the strongest athlete. The same is for mental exercises. It takes years of practice in order to master them and perfect peak performance skills such as concentration, motivation, confidence, self-talk, and arousal control.

You probably don't know many athletes that are this committed to sport psychology. This does not mean sport psychology is overrated and is ineffective. It is definitely effective, but it just hasn't been completely normalized in our sports culture yet. But this can be a good thing, since it can give you a competitive edge on your competition. If you take the time and effort to practice mental exercises on a daily basis, your mental game will improve at a much faster rate than the average athlete.