The sports community now recognizes that mental factors such as confidence, composure, focus, and motivation are highly significant to athletic performance. As a result, over the year’s performance enhancement has become an emerging career track within the field sport psychology. Sport psychology (or sports psychology) is the study of the psychological factors that affect participation and performance in sports. Sport psychology professionals who focus on performance enhancement aim to increase athletic performance by minimizing the psychological effects of poor performance and instilling the mental skill needed to attain peak performance. In order for the field of sport psychology to advance professionals must educate the sports community on the value and benefits of mental training.
Psychology principles such as positive thinking, imagery, and goal setting can be applied in sports to help athletes perform and prepare for competition. At the elite levels all athletes have the talent and the physical tools to compete. In an interview hall of quarterback and sports analysis, Troy Aikman stated, “When you get to the elite level in sports, athletically, what separates the really great performers are the ones who are mentally tough and see things a little bit quicker than their competitors.” These athletes have the ability to move on after mistakes, maintain confidence and composure in the face of adversity, and focus on what is need to execute each task successfully.
The best practice to enhance athletic performance in the field sport psychology is through mental training. Mental training is the segment of sports psychology that concentrates specifically on helping athletes break through the mental barriers that are keeping them from performing up to their peak potential. Many athletes and coaches resist mental training because they do not understand how it can help them. In order for athletes to get the most out of their sport, it is critical for them to understand the value of improving their mental game. Athletes are more likely to embrace mental training when they understand it and its benefits. However, the best way for athletes to embrace into mental training is when they actually experience its power firsthand.
Mental training is about improving one’s attitude and mental skills to help them perform their best by identifying limiting beliefs and embracing a healthier philosophy about their sport. Mental skills, just like physical skills, take repetition, practice, and game-time application to develop. Helping athletes and coaches understanding the mental barriers that limit performance and the benefits of sports psychology intervention is a critical step in the mental training process. Mental barriers include high expectations, perfectionism, fear of failure, lack of emotional control and attentional focus. Athletes can overcome these barriers through sport psychology intervention that aim to enhance confidence, focus, composure, trust and mental preparation.