Athletes train day in and day out to work on their physical skill and performance. In all this one very important training is left behind and that is mental training. A sport psychologist is someone who uses principles of psychology and applies it in sports. A sports psychologist can work with an athlete to improve their mental strength, confidence, focus, discipline, and help reduce their anxiety, fear, and self-doubts. The sport psychologist and athlete relationship is a professional one where the athlete is the client who has specific targets to achieve. The psychologist facilitates mental training for an athlete using various techniques and mental tools just like a coach facilitates physical training for the athlete. Sports Psychology does not have to be done one day before the competition but it is an ongoing process. Just like you can’t practice one day before your match to become the champion, similarly, you cannot build your mental power in one session before your match. Mental training is a gradual and committed process and develops the athlete’s mind overtime to perform their best under pressure in any circumstance.
Sport Psychologists may also work with sports teams together and deliver mental training in a group environment. One of the main aims working with teams is to build team spirit, mutual respect for each other, stronger communication between players, and a cohesive environment which brings out the best of the entire team not just one or two star performers.
Sports Psychologists may also work with coaches to help them understand the psychology of the players, inform the coach of any fears that the players may have. The sport psychologist can advise the coach on how to motivate the player, how to communicate better with the team, and how to deal with pressure from the management and organization.
Parents and family of athletes are also fundamental in their sports journey. Sports Psychologist can also provide counselling to parents of athletes. Counselling can help them understand the pressures of the game, the anxieties of the athlete, and can counsel them on how to best support their athlete during challenging times.
A Sports Psychologist takes an active role in the mental traiing process. The psychologist will design a mental training program that is unique to the athlete they are working with. They use cognitive restructuring, behavioural modifcication, goal setting, and mindfulness as therapeutic tools.
Just like we go to the gym to train our body regularly, we need to train our mind to match up to the skill of our body. At the end of the day, in high level competition the champion is not the best athlete but the athlete who performs the best on that day. Mental training over time is essential to deliver high performance consistently. That is why on-going training with a Sports Psychologist is necessary for professional athletes to become world class performers.