What is mental conditioning?
Mental conditioning focuses on using core mental skills, in order to improve overall performance. These mental skills can be catered to individual athletes, teams and/or coaches, of all ages and abilities. Learning these skills can help an athlete prepare and perform at his/her highest level on a consistent basis, both on and off the field. These skills help athletes to gain a mental edge over competitors and develop more resources for success.
Mental conditioning focuses on increasing awareness of the mental and physical states that allow athletes to play at their best. This awareness helps athletes regulate their bodies and minds. Mental conditioning, much like physical conditioning, is a process that can be increased through education and training with a mental conditioning coach, but it also requires self-motivation and personal practice on the athlete’s part to work most effectively.
How can mental conditioning help you?
Mental conditioning helps athletes perform at their best by gaining control and consistency. It also helps to increase self-awareness, confidence, motivation, and ultimately mental toughness, while decreasing anxiety and doubt. Mental conditioning helps athletes deal with potential obstacles in sport. Mental conditioning should supplement your physical conditioning, leading to optimal sport performance.
The core mental skills are the basic foundation for mental conditioning training. These skills help create a basis for building an individualized approach for each athlete, team and/or coach, and require individual motivation and regular practice to be most effective. These basic skills include:
Goal Setting: It is important to have clear objectives throughout the year, for both practice and competition. Setting both short-term and long-term goals help athletes stay on track, focus on what they need to do in order to achieve their goals, and see successes along the way, or to maintain desired levels of performance.
Energy Management Techniques: It is important to be aware of anxiety and stress levels throughout practice and competition. Learning how to effectively manage anxiety and stress is important for helping athletes stay focused and in control. Energy management techniques help athletes to calm down or get pumped up, giving them the necessary tools to control both their physical and mental energy levels.
Imagery: Effective imagery involves using all five senses to imagine an ideal performance. Imagery techniques are a useful addition to a regular practice and pre-competition routine, because they allow athletes extra practice time without the physical strain. Visualization can help increase confidence, self-awareness, and motivation, as well as decrease anxiety, stress, and doubt.
Self-Talk: How athletes talk to themselves during practice and competition can affect their performance. Increasing awareness of what is being said in different situations, and learning to shift to productive self-talk, helps athletes perform at their best on a more consistent basis. Productive self-talk can help improve confidence, control, and motivation, both on and off the field.
Who can use mental conditioning?
The skills and key concepts of mental conditioning can be used by anyone, in any sport, and at any skill level. Mental conditioning enhances the performance of athletes, coaches, teams. In addition to sports, mental conditioning skills have been successfully applied to a number of different fields, including medicine, the military, and business. These concepts are also helpful for developing life skills, such as leadership, communication, teamwork, sportsmanship, and can be used to assist injured athletes in the rehabilitation process.
Where can mental conditioning be done?
Mental conditioning can be done anywhere. Settings may include one-on-one sessions with an athlete in an office or classroom, a full team participating in the weight room or with a small group of athletes on the playing field. Mental conditioning training can happen anywhere sport is played and at anytime.
How is mental conditioning done?
Mental conditioning is practiced in a very flexible manner. Athletes can learn mental skills by simply talking with a consultant. They may be given a workshop on a whiteboard or given paper notes. Also, teams may have group discussions or even work on mental conditioning while participating in a sport related activity. Workshops may even involve activities, unrelated to sport, that may be particularly useful for learning mental skills. Similar to physical conditioning, mental conditioning takes practice. Mental skills are successfully developed through athlete self-motivation, dedication and consistent training.