What is mental training in sport?

Mental training is a segment within sports psychology that focuses on training the mind. For example, this may be improving confidence within an athlete, reducing anxiety, or even increasing motivation.

Sports Psychology and mental training are becoming greater recognized in the field of elite sport. Many soccer teams and other sports now have one, if not a whole team of sports psychologists.

The role of a sports psychologist is to mentally prepare athletes for each game. However, this can expand to all areas of life, especially if a player is going through a particularly stressful situation.

Nevertheless, mental training is an important aspect within elite sport, it can be the difference between a win or a loss, especially at the highest level.

Often, many sports teams, coaches, and athletes refuse sports psychology as they don’t know what it is. However, once athletes are ready to learn about it, they are likely to understand and receive the many benefits it yields.

Mental training requires you to work on your weaknesses 

Mental training mainly focuses on targeting psychological weaknesses and working on these. For example, one player may struggle with motivation for training. Mental training for this athlete would focus on strategies to increase this motivation, whether it be goal setting, imagery, or a pre-training ritual such as listening to music, deep breathing, or a combination of both. 

Each player has different weaknesses and no player is perfect. For example, one player may struggle with anxiety when taking a free kick in soccer. Mental training for this player would focus on developing a performance routine, designed to reduce anxiety and increase familiarity.

Mental skills take time to develop 

Much like physical skills and practice, developing and maintaining mental skills takes practice. It doesn’t happen overnight.

However, regular mental training will see a performance increase. This is why more and more sports teams are working alongside sports psychologists, improving their player’s mental state and strategies to improve physical performance.

Throughout the next five years, we can expect further emphasis to be placed on the importance of mental training, perhaps with more and more sports incorporating this into their training schedules and routines.