Sports Psychology and Performance – from Zero to Hero

Aspiring of becoming a better athlete than you already are? Or do you want to find a way to perform better under stress? Sports psychology is the only answer! Here are some tips on how to stay focused and improve your performance!

What is sports psychology?

Sports psychology is a form of science that includes knowledge from the fields of kinesiology, biomechanics, physiology, and psychology to study how mental factors can affect sports.

It is now seen as a mainstream and highly-utilized field in the world of sports, with many professional athletes and sports teams working with sports psychologists to get better results.

These psychologists can often help athletes to cope with all the intense pressure they’ve been put under from the media.

Once you remove the worries from your mind, you can perform at your highest level. Psychologists can also help with individual confidence, teamwork, self-belief, and much more.

Some sports psychologists have chosen to concentrate on enhancing their patient’s lives through exercise and sport.

Can sports psychology improve an athlete’s performance?

It has been proven that psychological sessions with a professional can improve your performance, as well as making you more consistent. What we are talking about here is essentially removing any negative thoughts from your mind.

This can come in the form of stress, anxiety, pressure, and any internal factors that could hinder a person on their quests to perform at their best.

Professional sports are all about getting in the zone, setting goals, believing in yourself, and freeing your mind to perform at your peak week-in week-out.

For example, an athlete might feel constantly under pressure if the media discusses his transfer to one of the biggest teams in the world or having to deal with being in the spotlight can affect your performance.

Such as if a player has not been performing great, instantly the media and fans will have an open discussion about it on social media or in the news.

Sports psychology is about ensuring that none of these outward factors linger in the mind and affect performances.

Professional sports is all about getting in the zone, setting goals, believing in yourself, and freeing your mind to perform at your peak week-in week-out

sport focus
Volleyball player Wilfredo Leon focusing on reception. Photo by Gertrud Alatare

Why do I need sports psychology?

It is simple if you are a professional athlete, or a sportsman aspiring to become professional, sports psychology could give you the boost that you need.

Think of it like this, the vast majority of the best athletes and teams invest time and money into sports psychology, meaning if your competitors are doing it why shouldn’t you? If you choose not to, you could be holding yourself back while they take easy advantage.

Sports psychology is designed and proven to remove the psychological weight that can harm your performance. In professional sports, we are always dealing with extremely small margins. For example, you are a long-jumper looking to become a professional athlete.

It could be the difference between cutting or not. It could be the difference between winning your opponent by an inch, or just falling short.

Sports psychology is designed to ensure that while you are standing at the start line, you are blocking out the crowd, the expectation, the pressure, and focusing solely on your performance.

Some simple techniques You can use straight away

The main criteria for the vast majority of simple sports psychology techniques are the focus. It doesn’t matter what sports you do, the focus is the key to performing at a high level.

Whether you are playing golf or rugby, that fact remains the same. So, what kind of techniques does a sports psychologist use when working with an athlete?

  • Know your focus – Be sure of what you are focusing on, be clear to yourself, and concentrate all of your energy on that. This could be to keep your eye on the ball, to beat an opponent, or to exceed your personal best.

  • Control – It is always important to focus on what you can control. Worrying about things beyond your influence is pointless. Focus on your process, remain confident, picture the positive outcomes, and the rest will follow.

  • Relaxed – You must keep your body and mind relaxed during game time. Despite the high pressure that may occur in the world of professional sports, it’s essential to keep calm and stay relaxed. Try and find yourself a routine to control your nerves. This may include deep breaths, stretching your muscles, using music, or anything else that keeps you focused. Studies have shown that if you make yourself aware of the surrounding it will eventually help you stay calm and solely focus on your performance.

  • Cue words – These are simple words and phrases designed to keep your mind focused on the job at hand. Self-talk phrases will change depending on your sports and your goal. For example, if you were a diver at the top of a 10m board, you may tell yourself ‘relax’. If you are a long-distance runner, it may be ‘steady breathing’. If you play football, it could be ‘quick feet’.

  • Mental imagery – This is the art of picturing yourself where you want to be. Imagine yourself achieving the goal you have set out. It could be winning a race, hitting an incredible shot, overtaking someone, or scoring an amazing free-kick. Visualize the process, and then follow through on that plan. And don’t be afraid to dream big.

  • Rate your focus – Keep a journal and rate how your focus has been that day. What was good? Was there something you didn’t like bad? What could you improve on and how? Always aim to do better the next day.

  • Confidence honesty – You need to tell yourself that confidence is something that can come and go. It may arrive with ease when you are at the top of your game but can vanish after some poor performances. Confidence is not all or nothing, so don’t linger on it.

  • Concentrate on you – In some sports, it can be easy to keep one eye on what your teammates are doing. At one point you may be distracted by your opponent, but remember you are in charge of how this will affect you. However, the key is to have a narrow-minded approach and focus on your own game and your game plan.
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