Mental preparation another component of mental training that helps athletes tap into the zone. Sport psychology professionals can help athletes mental prepare through mental rehearsal, imagery, and pre-game routines. For example, a baseball player, the night before a game, might mentally rehearse the pitcher’s stuff (what pitches to anticipate and the pitcher’s release of the pitches) and how he will be successful at the plate.
Another intervention is developing efficient game-specific strategies and game plans to help athletes mentally prepare for competition. This is an area beyond developing basic mental skills training in which mental coaches help athletes apply pre-performance routines that help them focus on task relevant performance cues.
Mental training also helps athletes identify the level of arousal or mental activation that is necessary for each person to perform his or her best. This varies from person to person and from sport to sport. Feeling “up” and positively charged is critical, but not getting overly excited is also important. Athletes need to have a balanced level of arousal to achieve peak performance.
The Inverted U Hypothesis depicts the relationship between arousal/activation and performance. The hypothesis describes a curvilinear relationship in the shape of an inverted “U.” Increases in arousal have a positive effect on performance up to a certain point, after which, continued increases in arousal have a detrimental effect on performance. The Inverted U hypothesis proposes that a moderate degree of arousal is optimal and that levels too low or too high are detrimental to performance.