Athlete Psychology:
Your Missing Ingredient to a Mindset of a Champion

Athlete psychology or sports psychology is too often ignored when training young athletes. Could it be too many think of it only if someone is having emotional struggles? In reality, athlete psychology is really about training athletes to develop the thinking processes, mindset, and emotional management skills that enable them consistently perform at their peak level. It should be a part of any complete athlete training program.

Athlete Psychology and Trusting Your Training

Understanding the athlete psychology is to understand the importance of the mind-body connection. Superficially, an athlete’s performance is determine by their sport specific and athletic skills as well as their ability to consistently enter what most athletes refer to as the flow state.

The key is consistency.

Let me use baseball as an example. By the time you get to the upper echelons of baseball there is not much difference, athletically speaking, from the average player and the elite player. Unquestionably, there are those who can run faster, jump higher, move quicker, and have better eye hand coordination, but there have been outstanding professional baseball players who were great athletes and many average professional baseball players who were great athletes. 

In a typical season, a starting player who plays 152 games will get somewhere between 450 and 600 at bats. An elite hitter will get around 165 hits in those 152 games. An average hitter will get 125 hits. If that average hitter got one more hit every four games they would go from being an average player to potential all-star. What is the difference? Athlete psychology.

Elite athletes more consistently have the ability to slow the game down and enter the flow state. The flow state is where their unconscious mind takes over, conscious thinking goes to sleep, and they trust their skills and training.

Young athletes need to learn about athlete psychology and all that entails if they want to maximize their full potential as athletes and humans.

Athlete Psychology and the Essential Learnings

An athlete should learn how to discover what obstacles to consistent peak performance may lurk in their unconscious mind. Once they discover them they need to understand how to let them go from their past and file away the learnings from those experiences.

Next, they need understand what their beliefs are about their abilities and how to remove beliefs that are placing limits on their potential and how to adopt positive ones.

More training into their athlete psychology would entail how to enter into the flow state on demand. They would need to learn how to practice and develop that skill. Much of this training relies on developing habits which would include habits around managing emotions daily and your attitudes. We refer to this as applying HEAT – habit, emotion, attitude, training.

Athlete psychology at its essence involves learning

  • How to eliminate negative emotions and limiting decisions.
  • How to discover the strategies your brain runs to do specific behaviors.
  • How to interrupt those behavioral patterns when necessary and create new ones.
  • How to manage the flow state.
  • The psychology of winning.

 How many athletes have that basic understanding of athlete psychology and the skills needed to apply that understanding?

We humans tend to hold onto emotions, which is a good thing when those emotions are positive emotions such as joy. It isn’t so good when we hold onto negative emotions such as fear. Fear may be the greatest barrier to success and it is often lurking in our unconscious minds. It is psychologically possible to release those negative emotions from your memory. The positive benefits go far beyond improved performance.

Limiting beliefs or decisions also can wreak havoc on our ability to perform at peak levels. Discovering those and then removing the psychological effects of those limiting decisions and beliefs can likewise be a vital component in improving your athlete psychology.

Strategies are simply how your brain knows how to do a specific behavior. For you to make a decision your brain runs a decision making strategy or program. For you to become motivated your brain runs a motivation strategy. Knowing your specific strategies for key behaviors such as motivating yourself are invaluable. Knowing how to change them if they are not very effective is priceless.

Managing the flow state involves understanding the mind-body connection. It also involves understanding athlete psychology and basic behavioral psychology. The use of anchoring or conditioned response is incredibly simple and powerful in managing the flow state. One other powerful and simple technique for managing that state is breath control.

Lastly, athlete psychology includes learning about the psychology of winning. If you could quantify the components of winning you could create a mathematical formula:

       If ((Attitude + beliefs + emotions + decisions + skills)*intangibles)faith > ((Opponent’s Attitude + beliefs + emotions + Decisions + skills) * intangibles)faith

       Then: victory

When your attitude toward winning, beliefs, emotion, past and current decisions, and skills are multiplied by the intangibles of your spirit, which is influenced exponentially by your faith, and may be faith in yourself, teammates, coaches, game plan, or God is greater than that of your opponents you will win. This formula can help explain how the 1980 US Olympic team was able to win the gold medal and defeat the mighty Russians among others. We see this played out often when teams with superior skillsets get upset by the underdog.

The good news is on this site you will have all you need to design and create a training program that will develop the athlete psychology necessary to create the mindset of a champion and become a champion not only on the athletic field, but more importantly life.

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