Early season is the time you develop your mental game. Like physiological adaptation and technique improvement, mental skill development takes time. Waiting until a race is falling apart or a performance outcome has already been missed is just like waiting to do the physical training until after the race. Even if you are just starting out you can evaluate the benefit of developing a mental skills toolbox that is specific to you and your progression as an athlete.
Sport and performance psychology is a hot topic, and mental toughness is a trait that is admired and desired by many athletes and coaches. Dare I say it is a “sexy” topic in sports. While it is true that some athletes are naturally more gifted in this area than others, more often than not, the mental fortitude and talent that we so admire has been built over time. The bottom line is, whether you are naturally gifted in this area or not, we need to train our brains before we ask them to perform (hmm – that sounds like a familiar training principle).
So, how do we go about doing this? Well, it comes down to the “unsexy” part of sport psychology. We need to identify areas of focus and build the foundational skills that are required for us to improve and maximize our performance in training and racing. This starts with an assessment of current mental strengths and matching the need for skill development with your goals. Oh, and of course, we need to assess how our goals are structured and align them with our desired short-, medium-, and long-term desires in sport and beyond. Goal setting itself is a mental skill that requires evaluation and practice to master. With your goals set and your assessment complete, we can begin individualized skill development that will influence things like your motivation, emotional regulation, and attentional focus, which lead to improved performance and increased enjoyment of training and racing.
Don’t wait until your season is already underway! Now is the time to assess, develop, implement, and master your mental game!