The abilities that most mental skills coaches emphasize include, but are not limited to, increasing one's ability to pay attention, concentrate, focus, set goals, visualize, and mentally rehearse next steps.
In my coaching practice, I teach all of the above, but particularly emphasize mindfulness: the ability to stay present in the moment. It is the single most important mental skill an athlete can develop.
Athletic challenges addressed through mental skills coaching:
- Feeling nervous, anxious or sick prior to an event.
- Playing less skillfully in front of audiences than during practice.
- Dwelling on past mistakes, reliving over and over what went wrong.
- Holding oneself to impossible standards of performance or improvement.
- Getting carried away by negative emotions and losing the ability to focus.
- Becoming distracted by noise, crowds, adverse weather, or pain.
- Worrying about injuring or reinjuring oneself when performing.
- Feeling a loss of enthusiasm or motivation for the game.
- Greater self-confidence on the playing field and all areas of life.
- Increased ability to remain composed and focused in the moment.
- Greater skillfulness at visualizing or mentally rehearsing next best moves.
- Freedom from anxiety or worry about injuring or reinjuring oneself.
- Increased ability to quickly bounce back from errors or losses.
- Newfound enthusiasm and passion for one's sport.
How mental skills coaching differs from psychotherapy:
Psychotherapy seeks to resolve self-defeating thought patterns and behaviors that limit an individual's ability to live a rational, productive and enjoyable life, usually by facilitating insights through talk therapy.
Mental skills coaching is distinctly different. Educational rather than therapeutic, it seeks to teach the already high-performing athlete how to use the mind as skillfully as the body in responding to the challenges of any demanding sports activity.
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