Over the last few weeks, I’ve gotten this question more than I usually do. I don’t know if it’s a new-found interest in the field, or that I’ve been more in contact with people than usual. I’m going to use the April post to explain what I do and how it can help others. Mental training is another name for applied sport psychology. Mental training is the education and implementation of skills and techniques that can aid in athletic and personal performance. What are these skills? I’m glad you asked! These are skills such as attention and focus, goal setting and attainment, self-talk, self-awareness, imagery, leadership, communication, and building mental toughness.
I work with teams, individuals, and small groups to develop these skills and more. Mental training creates a space for athletes and coaches to focus on the mental side of the game and make gains here alongside physical gains. Not only does it give athletes and coaches a chance to get mentally engaged in athletics, but also work through any concerns they may have as individuals or as a team that is effecting athletic performance. Mental training services are like having an athletic trainer and strength and conditioning coach for the mental side of athletics. It is both proactive and reactive in a sense that skills and techniques are developed before they are needed as well as executed in reaction to different situations.
I will also like to point out what I cannot do as far as mental training services. Some professionals in the mental training field have a background and licensure as mental health professionals (therapists, counselors, etc.) or psychologists with a specialization in sport psychology. My background is strictly in the field of sport psychology (performance psychology). While I focus solely on athletic performance, that does not mean I neglect different aspects of life that can influence athletic performance such as school, life, family, etc. I do not work with athletes for pervasive or clinical concerns such depression, eating disorders, or bipolar disorder. I am not trained to do so and understand and know my boundaries as a professional. I refer athletes to professionals that can help them work through these concerns. This is something I’ve very OK with because I know what I can and cannot do to help an athlete. If there is something I cannot do, I will make sure that I can get the athlete in contact with someone who is qualified to do so.
Hopefully, more people and programs will implement full time mental training programs alongside athletic training, strength and conditioning, and nutritional programs. I’ve had conversations where the need or importance of mental training is acknowledged, but not implemented. There are various reasons for this, but I do think that sooner than later, more and more programs and individuals will find the resources to implement mental training programs. When you’re ready, mental training professionals will be there to help get things going.