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Just over 50 years have passed since Dr. Thomas Tutko and Dr. Bruce Ogilvie published “Problem Athletes and How to Handle Them.” Unlike the misleading title, this revolutionary resource assisted coaches in understanding how to examine athlete personalities and motivations in order to deliver the most effective techniques to increase their athletes’ performance. 

However, the title of the book corresponds with the stereotype that sports and performance psychology is for those who have a problem that needs to be fixed.

Read on to learn more about mental skills for peak performance in athletes.

People frequently overestimate an athlete’s physical ability, but mental skills, whether they have them or not, are just as important to their success. It’s as if they don’t see that mental abilities, self-awareness, and the capacity to comprehend and work with others are just as important as being able to sprint fast, step off with both feet, or toss a long ball.

Consider top performance to be the creation of a completely round wheel with spokes radiating out from the hub. The spokes reflect all of the many aspects required to achieve optimal performance. This encompasses physiology, strategy, tactics, conditioning, mental skills, physiotherapy, and nutrition. In essence, all of these spokes work together to form a perfectly round wheel that runs effectively.

This analogy was employed by the All Blacks of New Zealand. However, despite working on all of these diverse parts, they were unable to produce the major advances they desired. As a result, they reconsidered their perspective on mental abilities. They questioned if mental talents were truly a spoke or whether mental skills were more vital than a spoke. If mental disciplines are more important than a spoke, what do they become? They reasoned that when mental skills became the hub of the wheel, a breakthrough would occur.

Consider mental talents to be the nerve center of an athlete. Their brain processes every decision they make. As a result, it is vital to recognize it as the heart of everything we do. It is not just an exterior component of the puzzle; it is a key and significant part of the puzzle. Consider your own sporting experiences. You’ve probably met players who didn’t have all of the physical traits that others did, but what they did have working for them was their capacity to excel in the mental part of the game. These athletes are ‘mentally tough,’ which is equally as crucial as, if not more important than, their physical ability.

The most useful things learned about mental talents were from the US Navy SEALs. Their strategy is as follows:

  • Establish short-term objectives.
  • Positive self-talk
  • Control your emotions
  • Envision your productive end result.

You don’t have to be a pro player or an Olympic gold medalist to be a top athlete. You don’t have to have a trophy room, win a state title, or reach the front cover of sports magazines. Successful athletes can include an eleven-year-old figure skater who has yet to win a contest, a junior high school golfer with a zero rating, a middle-aged runner whose objective is to finish her first marathon, an Olympic medalist, and a powerlifter who owns many world records.

What these athletes and sportsmen have in common is that the sports discipline is important to them, and they are dedicated to being the best they can be within the constraints of their limitations – other life obligations, resources, time, and natural talent. They establish high, reasonable goals for themselves rather than train and play intensely. They are succeeding because they are following their goals and loving their sport. Their sports engagement enriches their life, and they feel that what they get out is the value of what they put into it.

Successful Athletes:

  • Choose and keep an optimistic mindset.
  • Keep a high degree of self-drive and self-motivation
  • Set ambitious but achievable goals.
  • Handle individuals with care.
  • Use positive self-talk.
  • Use optimistic mental imagery.
  • Effectively manage your anxiousness.
  • Successfully manage their emotions.
  • Keep their focus.

Examining the nature of the sport in question might help you discover instances when mental abilities are especially vital. Clearly, there would be differing needs for sports based on whether they are individual or team activities. One thing that sports have in common is that there are times when they don’t have to perform. These could be due to breaks (time between playing periods like half time),  injury inherent in the game, judicial breaks (referees/umpires consulting), or breaks between skill performance (for instance, trap shooting, or in golf, etc.).

Sports that involve squads of players would necessitate various mental skills for each member due to the varying demands of their respective positions within the team. Goalie needs will vary from those who take penalties, and roles responsible for restarting a certain phase (for instance, hooker in rugby) will have different requirements. 

A coach should be able to detect these needs by observation and analysis. The examination will normally take the shape of some kind of mental skills profiling. There are numerous approaches that can be taken, but a coach is typically required to assist the individual in becoming self-aware.

on their assessment of the cognitive demands placed on him or her Once they have been discovered, the athlete should be urged to analyze where he or she stands in terms of mental weaknesses and strengths, and strategies should be put in place to enhance those aspects that have been recognized as needing improvement.

Many people feel that excelling in sports is solely a physical endeavor, but elite athletes understand that having a mental edge is just as crucial as having a physical advantage when it comes to competing at peak levels.

Here we discuss some of the best mental performance skills every athlete must master for peak performance:

Mindset for Growth

Dr. Carol Dweck, a professor of psychology at Stanford University, invented the term “growth mindset.” The beliefs, expectations, and aspirations we have for ourselves and others are referred to as mindsets. These attitudes shape our conduct and how we react to everyday occurrences.

People with a growth mindset feel that they are constantly learning and that they may enhance their performance in a variety of contexts.

People with a fixed mindset assume that their intelligence, basic abilities, and skills are fixed traits. They believe that you are given a certain depth of skill and that’s all. This is not true.


Angela Duckworth, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, defines grit as passion and tenacity for long-term goals.  One way to analyze grit is to analyze what it isn’t.

Grit isn’t about talent, luck, or how badly you want something. Grit, on the other hand, is about having what some psychologists term an “ultimate concern”—a purpose that is so important to you that it organizes and lends meaning to practically everything you do.

Grit is determined to achieve that aim. Even if you trip and fall. Even if you make a mistake. Even if progression toward that goal appears to be halting or delayed. Grit is frequently the distinction between a mediocre and an exceptional athlete.

Mental Fortitude

Another crucial ingredient in the formula for success is mental toughness. Those who acquire mental toughness can handle difficult training situations as well as highly competitive scenarios.

A mentally tough athlete battles self-doubt and worry by cultivating an incredible concentration on succeeding at his or her sport of choice, persevering in the face of hardship, and keeping failures in correct perspective rather than allowing them to overwhelm him or her.

Positive Psychology

University of Pennsylvania Psychology Professor Martin Seligman is widely regarded as the father of Positive Psychology, the scientific study of human endeavor. Positive psychology is founded on the idea that certain elements foster an internal atmosphere that facilitates people to thrive.

Positive experiences that foster positive personal attributes, self-esteem, and a positive support system from relatives, coaches, schools, and the community, in general, are examples of these variables. Dr. Seligman says that a good attitude can be taught and that genuine happiness is available to all.

Consideration of Opportunities

A person who practices opportunity thinking focuses on positive methods to deal with difficult situations. A person engaged in problem thinking, on the other hand, concentrates on reasons to quit up and avoid challenges. According to research, the opportunity thinker will strive harder and hunt for new solutions. When COVID was released, the professional athletes reacted in a variety of ways, some to extremes. Some retired early, some bowed to the stresses of change, while yet others saw this as a chance to go ahead of their contemporaries!

Preparation Power

Preparation is the cornerstone for performance in athletics and all parts of life; without it, you are not being as comprehensive as you could be. Many people underestimate the value of preparation or underestimate the time and dedication required to be great.

You will become an expert after 10,000 hours of practice. Unfortunately, 10,000 hours of simply repeating the same task over and over are not enough to propel somebody to the top of their business. Author Josh Waitzkin, an excellent chess master, stated in his book “The Art of Learning” that he constantly varied his training schedule to push himself to increase his focus under adverse conditions.

Extreme Accountability

Taking responsibility for your own performance is an essential component of becoming the greatest athlete you can be. Being responsible entails arriving on time for training, listening to your instructor, not becoming sidetracked by dreams and fantasies or worries, being as ready as possible, and offering it your all.

Being responsible involves managing winning and losing with grace, responsibility, and humility, whether you play a team game or an individual one. So, who do you blame when you lose or fail to meet expectations? To take full responsibility, you should look in a mirror rather than at your teammates, coach, officials, opposition teams, or anybody else.

Visualization And Imagery

Visualization and imagery are powerful weapons that every athlete aspiring to greatness should have in his or her arsenal. Most Olympic champions admit that they saw themselves on the Olympic medal platform years before they were given an Olympic medal.

Sports imagery training assists athletes in managing pre-race jitters, relieving anxiety during difficult events, improving overall focus whether the job at hand is a training day or a contest, and even identifying goals.

If you’re out of the game due to an accident or illness, images might help you stay involved with your sport while you recover. Imagery is a skill that must be carefully cultivated in order to produce the best outcomes. A proper sports psychologist can teach you the benefits of imagery and visualization as well as assist you in developing the most effective strategies.


A recent study in sports psychology has shown that cultivating a grateful attitude has the ability to improve general health as well as athletic performance. Keeping a thankfulness diary is a great way to stay in touch with the things you’re thankful for on a regular basis.

Professional players are frequently seen thanking their families, coaches, or teammates during interviews after winning a title or the Heisman Trophy. Rather than waiting before you win the Ironman Triathlon, express your appreciation to your supporters immediately.

Writing down your appreciation compliments and gratitude will make you a stronger person and better athlete. Even if you do not have time to keep a gratitude book every day, remember your blessings every night before bed.

Intention to Implement

It is an approach that allows us to “script” our intended actions in more concrete terms by selecting exactly how, when, and where we are going to perform each of our responsibilities is particularly useful in working with athletes recuperating from an injury. Those plans are referred to as implementation intents by Peter Gollwitzer, a psychologist who has researched the subject. It is a self-regulation approach. 

The concept is that we should create implementation intentions rather than goal intentions (“I aim to achieve X”) (“I intend to undertake specific goal-directed action Y when I meet situation Z”). The more precise we get and relate them to specific activities, the more likely we are to stick to our strategy. This is especially effective when confronted with unpleasant or difficult tasks, such as performing painful physical therapy exercises while recovering from knee or shoulder surgery.

Here are some of the key benefits for athletes when they master mental performance skills:

Performance Improvement

It entails the concept that there will always be an opportunity to acquire an advantage in any performance, regardless of circumstance: competition (championships or preseason), training, or recovery.

We offer a number of cognitive restructuring approaches that can help you perform better:

  • Setting Objectives
  • Relaxation
  • Management of Energy/Arousal
  • Self-talk
  • Focus/Refocus – Concentration
  • Visualization/Imagery

It has been demonstrated that the distinction between more top players and less successful athletes in competitive athletics is typical as follows:

  • Improved concentration
  • Increased self-assurance
  • More optimistic (emotions, thoughts)
  • More determination and dedication
  • More power (thoughts, attention, emotions)
  • Olympians who execute to their full ability, in particular:
  • Set daily training objectives.
  • Simulate the competitive environment
  • Make use of imagery.
  • Plan ahead of time for the competition.
  • Plan strategies for dealing with disruptions.
  • After rehearsals and events, evaluate performance.

We can see how these skills will lead to long-term benefits, but there are also several short-term benefits to mind training.

Short-Term Advantages: Awareness And Recognition

Typically, we see instructors or other teammates who may influence a person’s decision to seek out this training, but it requires courage to be self-aware and the desire to improve on your own.

Recognizing that you are lacking a component of your training or that you wish to obtain a competitive advantage by training the mental element of your sports or performance is a significant step forward. This frequently pushes people to venture outside of their comfort bubble.

Self-awareness is also essential for this recognition. Knowing what is going on within a given scenario is what self-awareness entails. It entails being aware of one’s thoughts, internal dialogue, emotions, and behaviors. If a negative circumstance emerges during practice or competition, a player can only act and change those ideas if he or she is aware of them.

Awareness also requires examining the performers’ performance strengths and limitations and how they can potentially affect performance once they dwell on them.

These two aspects of self-awareness might be viewed as a significant win by a performer. You’re already pushing your limits as an athlete or performer, looking for new challenges and expanding your horizons.

Long-Term Advantages

Let’s be honest: life may be really difficult at times. Daily events can divert your attention to multiple locations at the same time. These events might cause us to feel worried, causing our bodies to tighten physically. We may even feel out of control on a psychological level. The techniques taught by a Certified Mental Performance Consultant (CMPC) will not only teach individuals how to regulate their concentration and perform when faced with difficulty; these abilities will also teach individuals how to feel in control.

Consider the first time you learned to ride a bike. You most likely did not begin revving on your own. You most likely began by riding a bike with training wheels. Working with a CMPC to improve your mental game is analogous to riding a bicycle for the first time with training wheels.

Self-regulation is the ultimate goal. This entails making a modification to one’s performance and then having that person evaluate and monitor their performance. Working with a CMPC can be advantageous since they offer mental skills, monitor and record the process of those skills, and improve those skills to meet the needs of the client. We then wish to remove the training wheels and transition the individual from CMPC monitoring to self-regulation. Individuals perform best when they feel in control, and CMPCs would like their performers/athletes to be able to remove their training wheels and start soaring.


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