You know when you first meet someone & they ask so, “What do you do,” do you get to respond with one word? Like, I’m an accountant, a nurse, a teacher, or an interior designer, you know the professions that everyone knows exactly what you do. I don’t belong to that club. People ask me this question & I say things like, “I’m a sports psychology consultant or I’m a mental skills trainer or I’m a mental performance coach.” Then I get these blank stares of: you’re what now? So I elaborate: I teach athletes & stage performers to develop their mental game so they can be more competitive. Then I usually get: so what’s that look like or what do you actually do?
I think because the word ‘psychology’ is in the name, people assume it has something to do with mental health or counseling & that there needs to be something “wrong” with you to seek me out, but honestly most of what I do is teaching clients tools to handle pressure or strategies to improve their performance. They can come to me if they have a mental block, but they can also come if they want to compete at the next level.
Physical training gets so much attention, but often the mental side is never practiced. Then we get to competition time & we panic or second guess ourselves because we don’t know how to manage our emotions. If we want to nail a performance, we have to practice every aspect.
I teach clients in different formats. I do one-on-one sessions to work through individual problems like coming back from an injury & learning how to avoid hesitation, combat fears, & trust the ability all over again. I also spend a lot of one-on-one sessions working on specific techniques to reduce anxiety, improve focus or figuring out how to compartmentalize. To best help a client, I want to know the source of the stress & help them learn tools to build confidence & lessen the need to be a perfectionist or fear making mistakes.
However, I also work with teams & coaching staffs conducting workshops. Educating groups how to properly set goals, enhance a team atmosphere, or just how to communicate more productively is a big piece of creating better performances. I often find coaches coach like they were coached & there is so much new valuable research out there to be implemented. Knowledge really is power.
I think another aspect of sports psychology that gets underestimated is tying in mindset training to real life. I do several school district presentations & corporate seminars that stress the importance of having strong mental skills. Let’s face it, I can train you to do a job or I can teach you material that will be on a test, but you will only perform well if you learn how to handle pressure & adversity. If you’re not taught how to balance stress, have excellent self-awareness, or a solid presence about you, you’re not going to meet your potential.
When athletes get to the elite level, most competitors have the same talent, the ones who excel are the ones who are mentally tough & are mindful of what they focus on. Unfortunately, most just say: I’m just not good at that stuff. The thing is, you can learn how to be more mentally tough & re-wire the brain’s thought patterns to work for you.
It’s popular to seek out a strength coach, a nutritionist, a college recruiting specialist, a tutor, or a physical therapist to improve performance. Hiring a specialist in the field of sport & performance psychology could give you the very edge you’re looking for. You only get one shot at this thing called life.
If you want to stand out, be more comfortable, stress less, enjoy your sport or career more, & ultimately have more authority when you perform, seek out the help of a sports psychology or mental performance coach.