The body does what the mind will tell - why an athlete needs coaching?



As an athlete your have only one goal - to be better tomorrow than you are today and to be better day after tomorrow than you are tomorrow. Better than all the others toeing the starting line with you. To be the best. 

Fact: You have spent countless hours training your physique. Technique, speed, explosiveness. Thousands of free throws, hours of working on a small micro movement on the fencing track, tons of weight lifted. Without the physical training you wouldn't be where you are today. 

For sure, among the athletes that are training with high volume, there is this one special girl or a guy that has truck load of talent and who can do half of the training and still be at the top. It would be awesome to be that special one, but don't rush out and sprinkle the stardust all over yourself yet, they have their own traits that are not allowing them to maximize the use of their full potential (high levels of narcissism for example). We will talk about that some other time, now let's get back to the athletes who need to sweat and cry bucket loads to be the best. 
Ask yourself- how much time and energy you have spent training your mental game?

Try to remember a performance situation that could have been better. Do you find the following thoughts familiar?
  • Again! I've trained so hard, why doesn't it reflect in my results?
  • I just can't focus
  • Why am I doing all this?
  • I wish I would be as confident as I am when I'm training

Often the biggest barrier between an athlete and his goals is the athlete itself. 

With some training coaching helps to overcome those mental barriers that separate the athlete from reaching his goals (maximizing his full potential at the right time). Tuuli wrote in her post about the similarities and differences of coaching and counseling. If you are not really sure, which is which I would recommend you to take couple of extra minutes and read her post also. 

So what are the mental barriers we are talking about here?
  • Low ability to concentrate
  • Coping with stress in the performance situation and it's affect on the performance
  • Having doubts in ones abilities
  • Low self-confidence
  • Low levels of motivation

We could identify tens of barriers more that are affecting the performance, but those are some of the key ones.  
How beneficial it would be if in addition to a coach who is training your physique you had a coach with background in psychology who would help you to bring your mental skills and strategies to a whole new level? 

Would you be at the absolute top of your game if you had...

  • laser-sharp ability to focus?
  • mental strategies that help you to cope with performance situation anxiety and emotions?
  • pre-performance routines that help you to prepare for the performance situation?

The most important knowledge that you could take with you from the previous is that all the mental skills and strategies are learnable and trainable, the same way you are doing with your physical skills. Of course, the change won't happen over one weekend, you need time, dedication and systematic training for that, but the results are worth it. 

Just take a moment to think about an athlete that is the absolute tip of the iceberg in your discipline. It is highly likely that in her or his support team there is at least one person focusing solely on training the athlete's mental skills. 

Photo courtesy of Red Bull Stratos

One of my favourite examples is Felix Baumgartner, who did the famous sky dive from stratosphere, 39km from the earth. We all know the story because it ended with a success. What many people don't know is that the jump that was watched live by more than 8 million people (that is more than any sports event before or after that and more than most of the live broadcasted events in world's history) almost didn't happen, because Baumgartner suffered form claustrophobia. And it doesn't really make things better when you have to spend lengthy times in a tight space suit and fly towards the ground faster than speed of sound. Now, because the jump ended up a success, you can already guess what I want to say next. 

If you have half an hour of time to spare, I'd highly recommend and interview with dr.Michael Gervais (yep, the same guy who worked with Felix Baumgartner) from Wisdom 2.0 conference couple of years back about sports, performance and mindfulness -

What do you think how much mental training would benefit an athlete?


In the next posts I will focus on different aspects of sports psychology, for example coping with injuries, motivation and mental toughness. To add a fresh breath in-between theory I will combine everything with interviews, where some top athletes will talk about their experiences. Stay tuned, some interesting interviews just came hot out of the oven!

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