Training the mind, as well as the body, is increasingly being recognised as vital to achieving sporting success. Understanding how to apply psychology in sport can help improve an athlete's motivation and ultimately their performance.
Both sport psychology (focusing on the dynamic interplay between psychological factors and athletic performance) and sport and exercise psychology (focusing on using psychological insight to increase exercise and activity levels) are essential components in empowering performance. Whether that be for professional athletes or the general population, an understanding of how the mind works can have a huge impact.
Psychology for sports performance
The understanding and application of psychological principles is widely recognised as a fundamental element of performance enhancement in elite sport. Recognising the impact that behaviour, motivation, personality, stress and pressure can have on performance can be instrumental in improving the way we coach, train and compete.
Athletes all react differently to different situations based on personal natural tendencies and traits. This should be taken into account when considering team dynamics and relationships, both between teammates and between athletes and coaches.
In order to build successful relationships, communication and motivational styles should be modified to suit individual preferences, enabling differentiated training and performance strategies to be implemented both at an individual and team level.
Performance profiling in sport
Performance profiling can provide a rigorous evaluation of psychological characteristics and can be used in conjunction with existing measures of physical ability to provide great insight for players, athletes and coaches. Psychometric assessments can help athletes explore their own unique characteristics, such as self-confidence, motivation, resilience and mental toughness. This greater self-awareness can help athletes to shape their development and can encourage them to take ownership of their performance with a significant impact on focus, drive and achievement.
As psychometric profiling highlights strengths, it can also identify potential areas for development and improvement. Such comprehensive understanding of their behavioural and emotional traits can complement an athlete's physical training, improve performance in competition and help with the psychological impact of recovering from injury.
Thomas works in partnership with psychologists, so that they are trained to administer our assessments and deliver valuable feedback to the rest of the organisation. This approach will enable them to build on their detailed knowledge of the athletes, coaches, sport and organisation so that feedback is unique and based on a high level of relevant content.
Sport psychology tips
1. Be aware!
Try to increase your self-awareness. Think about your personal preferences and the way that you react in certain situations.
2. Be in the moment!
When training and competing, try to ensure that your attention is focused on the present. Mindfulness techniques can help you to avoid dwelling on potentially negative thoughts, reducing distractions and anxiety levels.
3. Be optimistic!
Optimism is often related to overall performance. Try to have self-belief in your ability and be positive about outcomes. Set yourself specific goals that are realistic and have the mind-set that you will achieve them.
Sports psychology can be seen as a complex science, but it does not need to be as scary as it looks. By incorporating performance profiling into your sport psychology programmes, it will give you a common ground and vocabulary with your athletes, easing their fears and helping to motivate them to train their mind as hard as their body.