Mental Skills Training (MST)
As an athlete, how you think and feel about yourself and your abilities has a significant impact on your performance. At critical performance points, physiological functions and your ability to execute are greatly affected by your state of relaxation and intensity level (breathing, reaction time, decision-making, attention control, energy consumption and efficiency).
Through a collaborative process, Athlete and Consultant work together to assess current competitive strengths and weakness and to identify target areas for mental skills training. An Individual Performance Plan (IPP) is created for specific, measurable skills and strategies that will be learned and practiced as part of the athlete's training program. Feedback sessions are used to evaluate the effectiveness of the skills and to make adjustments as needed.
The process can be short-term and focused on a specific issue (i.e., a current slump, difficulty with concentration, injury/rehab) or it can be more general and open-ended (i.e., during the off-season to plan for next season, preparing for first triathlon or marathon). Specific skills may include:
- visual imagery
- intensity regulation
Psychological strategies often involve:
- pre-competition and pre-shot routines
- decisions regarding race strategies
- adjustments during competition; dealing with performance mistakes
- dealing with injury and rehab
- post-event analysis
- high-pressure performance simulations
Mental skills training can be delivered in many formats: in-person, telephone, email, or any combination of the above. The process can be short-term and focused on a specific issue or it can be more general and open-ended. Of central importance, is that the format of consultation fits with the athlete's training schedule and other life demands. An athlete may wish to work on specific aspects of their mental game at critical points during a season or before an important event or game. While another athlete may benefit from engaging in a program similar to physical periodization that will take them through a progression of skills training throughout a season or training cycle.