What separates good athletes and elite athletes?

There’s no doubt much controversy surrounding what separates “good” or “amateur” athletes and the “elite.” However, we argue the “mental side” of sport and training to play a key role in just how good an athlete is.

More and more elite soccer clubs, rugby teams, and other sports teams are working alongside one, if not several sports psychologists, looking for ways to gain marginal increases in performance. 

However, when we look at the amateur game, very few if any clubs incorporate psychological skills and training into their game. Whether it’s perceived as “not very well-known” or “a waste of time,” it’s still not there.

This article will highlight several aspects of the mental game top athletes incorporate into their training, from goal setting to visualization, here’s what you need to know.

Goal setting – a skill used extensively by elite athletes

Goal setting is arguably one of the most important mental skills an athlete can include within their mental tool belt. When setting goals, it’s important to follow the following criterion:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Recorded
  • Time
  • Evaluated
  • Reviewed

The “smarter” acronym is widely used throughout sports psychology – tailor your goals to follow this criteria, and you too will see great progress in your training. 

Positive self-talk

Alongside goal setting, you’ll find a handful of elite athletes who regularly use positive self-talk. Self-talk is where an athlete speaks to themselves, reinforcing positive thoughts and ideas to the forefront of the mind.

When in particularly anxious situations within your sport, you can draw upon and use these statements to increase confidence, reduce anxiety, and improve performance.

The use of visualization for athletes

The final mental skill we have for you is visualization. Visualization is where an athlete takes the time to imagine specific game scenarios or outcomes. For example, you may picture yourself winning tackles, scoring goals, or winning the ball off a particular play.

Much like self-talk, only visualize yourself successfully performing when using this skill. This will increase confidence, whereas visualizing adverse outcomes may increase anxiety and decrease performance.

To conclude

There’s a fine line between “good athletes” and the best athletes, often known as the “elite”. However, we argue the mental game plays a huge role in this – especially when competing at the highest-level.