Why Mental Skills Training is Often Neglected & Common Myths of Sport Psychology

Many performers do not realize that it is the psychological factors that primarily account for their day-to-day fluctuations in performance. I am sure we have all heard the common sayings:
“Sports are 90% mental and 10% physical” or “If you think can or think you can’t you’re right”
Even though we understand their meanings, the majority of performers still have some apprehensions or reservations about mental skills training (MST). It could be that they are unfamiliar with MST, or they are part of a climate that does not recommend MST, or simply scoffs at the idea of MST and think MST is useless.

The most common reasons why MST are neglected are listed below:

Why MST are Neglected
 Lack of Knowledge
 Misunderstanding about psychological skills
 Lack of Time

Additionally, MST sometimes get overlooked as a necessary part of training because athletes and performers subscribe to one or more of the common myths related to MST.

Common MST Myths

MST is for “problem” athletes/performers only – All performers can and should be incorporating some aspect of MST into their training and preparation.

MST is for “elite” athletes/performers only – Plenty of research indicates that MST can be beneficial for performers at all levels of sport. The key is to tailor the delivery to the specific developmental abilities (both cognitive and physical) to the learners.
Tip – be sure to ask your Mental Performance Consultant the ages and abilities of the athletes/performers they have worked with.

MST provides “quick fix” solutions – MST is not meant to provide “quick fixes”, just like improving on any other skill for your activity, training your mind takes time, practice, and a systematic implementation. This is where a trained and knowledgeable Mental Performance Coach can assist.

Side Note – “quick fix” instances do happen in relation to MST. Sometimes a performer will be told to try this or try that while practicing or performing and experience success right away. Those instances are great for anecdotal support of MST; however, it is important to remember that those instances do not happen all of the time.

MST is not useful – this point connects back to one of my earlier posts where I mentioned performers have to believe that MST will work for them. It is commonly thought, especially by older generation athletes and coaches that MST is for the weak or simply not important. Currently, not only is the research indicating that MST is very useful, but major sport organizations, professional teams, and national sport governing bodies employ mental performance coaches to work with athletes and coaches to provide a well balanced training program. Many professional athletes, coaches, and managers recommend MST and now see it as a necessary part of training.

Need more convincing?:
https://www.nhl.com/news/edmonton-oilers-david-desharnais-envisioned-himself-a-game-5-hero/c-288990276?tid=287344776
http://wrigleyville.locals.baseballprospectus.com/2016/03/07/let-it-flow-the-psychology-of-joe-maddons-cubs/

Additionally, research on elite athletes shows that the most successful athletes out perform no-successful athletes in many key areas. For example, successful athletes have:
 Better concentration
 Higher confidence
 More task-oriented thoughts
 Lower anxiety
 More positive thoughts and images
 More determination or commitment

The most useful MST topics for both athletes and coaches tend to be:
 Arousal regulation
 Imagery and mental preparation
 Increased motivation and commitment
 Confidence
 Attention & concentration
 Self-talk
 Mental plans

MST enhances sport performance. Numerous peer-reviewed research publications and testimonials from athletes, coaches, and managers indicate this as well. Important points to remember when first beginning and looking into MST, is that interventions and training must be individualized, be employed systematically (more on this in a future post), and needs to combine different mental skills – as all the core mental skills will work together to enhance your performance. A qualified Mental Performance Coach can assist with getting you started and implementing and adding a solid mental performance segment to your training program.