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Don’t rush the process: Mid-season mental skills development

Back in January, we touched on the importance of working on a mental skills toolbox and strengthening one’s mental game in the offseason and early stages of training. The assessment, education, skill acquisition, and practice stages of mental skill develop are ideally completed prior to the competition phase on the annual training plan. If we put in the work ahead of time, we will be able to use our mental game to perform at a higher level throughout the season. Application of the new mental game plan is the final stage of mental skill development and is sometimes referred to as self-regulation. But what happens when we identify a new area of need once the season begins?


Each race is an opportunity to execute on a plan, evaluate performance, and discover new areas for development through training. It is common to discover areas for improvement in mental performance during competition. While mental training in the middle of the competition phase looks a bit different, the same basic process can be applied. We look to the assessment, education, skill acquisition, and practice phases to achieve mastery and then look to apply the skills properly in competition (self-regulation). The key thing to remember is not to cheat or skip steps simply because the season has begun. We still need to properly assess the performance deficiency and identify the mental skill required to improve performance. We then need to educate ourselves on the skill and learn how to develop it through training. Next, we apply our learnings to acquire and practice the techniques and principles associated with the skill. It can be tempting to try out or use the skill in competition during this phase, and if it is a training (or practice) race this might be something to do. However, if it is not a practice race, we do not want to try to apply something before it has been mastered. For example, we do not want to apply visualization to our race plan prior to mastering the ability to create and control effective, performance-specific visual images. Fortunately, we have plenty of training time over the course of the season to acquire and practice a mental skill prior to application in a competitive race environment.


Mental skill development is something that takes planning, patience, and time. Your brain is a muscle, and it requires time for a new skill to be learned. Whether it is pre-season or during the competition phase, invest the time, follow the process, and maximize your outcomes. As is the case in many things, working with a coach can simplify and accelerate the process while maximizing your performance outcomes. If you would like to schedule a free mental performance consultation with Coach Brad, click here:


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