When you run out of coaching ideas, try Sport Psychology?!

“We’ve tried all the coaching approaches we know, we brought in an s&c coach, asked a biomechanist, physiologist and a physio.  Perhaps you can help?”  This might sound like an unlikely scenario but is something that I actually come across very regularly.  Of the four main areas in sport; physical, technical, tactical and psychological; the psychological is usually the one left alone.  So when they’ve tried all the ‘obvious’ sources of inspiration, psychology is often investigated like the last kid to be picked on the sports field at school!

So why does this happen and why is it so often overlooked?  Coaching is not easy and as the main focus for most coaches is the development or acquisition of skills, it is not surprising that this takes precedence.  In the course of a week a coach only has so many hours in which he or she has all their athletes together for training, so they very reasonably feel that the time would be best spent working on tactical or technical improvements.  While mental skills don’t need lots of attention to develop, they do need consistent effort and this often difficult to achieve.

So time may be a factor but I find that it’s not the only one.  Coaches are often not given much training in how to use psychology and how it might help or hinder their athletes.  Yet just a little information would go a long way in helping players to get the best out of themselves and to do so more regularly.  This is why I frequently find myself doing coaching development work as this is a great way of getting sport psychology to the largest number of athletes.

Now don’t get me wrong, just doing your mental preparation right won’t earn you medals!  Sport is tough and the better you get at it, the better the competition becomes and you’ve got to do the hard work if you want to win.  There is no substitute for working hard, but with the right mental approach you can make this easier and more sustainable.

Perhaps this is why they ask if I can help?  A little knowledge goes a long way and practicing your mental skills little and often can make dramatic performance improvements.  When I get drafted in to a scenario like the one above, I always relish the challenge but make it clear that there is no silver bullet.  Sport psychology is not a miracle drug and it never will be.  The truth is that there are no shortcuts to success, it comes with consistent and dedicated hard work to becoming better physically, technically, tactically and psychologically.

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