Mental training for athletes, also known as psychological training or sports mental training includes various methods and techniques aimed at improving or optimizing a person’s psychological skills. They are aimed, as well as physical training, to improve the results of sports game and increase achievements in the sports field.
What are the benefits of mental training for athletes
Currently, mental training for athletes is most often understood as a set of psychological methods and exercises (techniques). Due to their systematic and long-term use, the athlete learns to control his behavior and emotions, increases the level of many psychological characteristics (such as, for example, concentration), as well as increases psychological resistance to stress.
Mental training for athletes has an impact directly on the physical characteristics of the athlete. Such training can develop movement accuracy, optimal or economical energy applying and the ability to relax quickly.
Mental training for athletes develops comprehensively. And in addition to the obvious advantages for the development of character and physical parameters described above, it develops the athlete personality. Mental training for athletes can improve attention, perception and psychomotor coordination, increase self-esteem and self-confidence.
Aims of mental training for athletes
The main elements of mental training for athletes are also exercises that allow to influence the state of body. This is necessary for mastering psychoregulatory techniques. They can also be extremely useful in sports.
In recent years, in the process of modern sports training, more and more attention is given to the psyche of the players and the work of sports psychologists in the team. Working with the human psyche can be extremely useful to achieve greater and better results. Including for sports competitions.
Olympic tests conducted in 1988 by Orlicek and Partington (1988) showed that the best players associate their success with the following elements of psychological training:
- daily mental training for athletes,
- the exact definition and formulation of the training objectives,
- ability to focus on exercises,
- ability to control emotions through relaxation training or other similar techniques,
- simulation training – the introduction of elements that simulate real competitions.
The results show how important mental training for athletes is in modern sports, when the differences in physical and technical preparedness of individual athletes have become small.
This is confirmed by the research (Moran 1995) conducted among coaches working with tennis players on the use of mental training for athletes. 90% of coaches consider psychological training in tennis a very important factor determining high sports achievements.
Mental training for athletes, as well as technical and physical training, have a long-term result. However, this is a complex process that requires the athlete’s full dedication and concentration. Although an athlete uses his body as a tool to achieve certain athletic goals, his mind, thinking, motivation and needs are his driving force.
Mental training for athletes should be closely related to conventional sports training and follow similar principles.
In mental training for athletes such tools as certain thoughts, internal dialogue, memory, imagination and perception both at the level of conscious actions and subconsciousness are used.
In case of sports, such training should lead not only to the development of mental abilities, but also to improved movement and coordination, that is, first of all, to increased control over their own physical activity and actions. As a result, this may affect the improvement of sports results.
The work of sports psychologists should during such training should be primarily aimed at:
- stress management
- rapid achievement of a state of relaxation and on the contrary rapid mobilization for action,
- developing self-confidence through internal dialogues and positive thoughts,
- increased concentration and ability to focus,
- developing the ability to visualize, such as the technique of simply “observing” yourself in a state of increased control,
- focus on purpose, increased determination and commitment.
What results to expect from the mental training for athletes
The effectiveness of psychological training largely depends on the frequency of its use. To obtain significant results it should be done constantly and have no less importance than physical training.
A well-trained player is someone who can use their skills at the highest level even in difficult situations. Therefore, sports psychologists are especially necessary in competitive sports. However, in single sport, where it is also necessary to meet certain requirements, which can be hard, sport psychologist’s work will be also useful.
Mental training for athletes can be a kind of innovation for some, and so some coaches are still coming to them with some caution. At the same time, they recognize that it is the psyche that can become a factor determining the final success. Therefore, we can assume that soon psychological training will become an integral part of the entire training plan of the unit in each sport.