Sports Psychology – Sports Mindset Responsible For Improved Athletic Performance

When it comes to sports psychology, most “experts” focus on studying the psychology and kinesiology of athletic performance and success rates of those athletes and/or teams.

When most sports psychologists work with athletes or teams to improve athletic performance, they often hone in on goal setting, relaxation and self-talk and, in some instances, they’ll see significant behavioral change.

But, statistics show that this improved athletic performance doesn’t always remain consistent. Eventually, the individual or the team slides back down, oftentimes to the same level of achievement previously achieved before the sports psychologist came in.

Why is this?

The answer is very simple, actually. In most cases, sports psychology is addressing the effect instead of the real root of the issue, the CAUSE or, put more succinctly, how the athlete is THINKING.

Any athlete can set new goals – both individually and in the spirit of a team – to improve his or her athletic performance. But if the athlete doesn’t truly believe – inherently – that the goal can be achieved, the goal will never be reached.

Any athlete can work on his or her sports mindset to relax more or undertake self talk motivation before a game, match or performance, but unless that individual understands EXACTLY how the chemistry and energy of his or her thought is transmitted into the athletic performance, that athlete will have a difficult time maintaining the championship “sports mindset.”

Real championship mindset is obviously a culmination of many things but, in the end, champions have one thing in common: They have crossed the “Knowing-Doing” gap. In other words, most athletes already possess the sports mindset – it’s been drilled into them just like the endless physical drills they perform every day. They KNOW what they need to do, but they’re not DOING it. Why can’t they just DO it?
In the end, sports mindset really has nothing to do with athletic ability, agility, speed or strength.

True sports mindset has to do with:
– Understanding HOW to think,
– Recognizing how unconscious thought has influenced the athletic performance to date, and
– Learning how to permanently shift one’s thoughts into properly DOING what one KNOWS to do by first understanding how energy is involved in

Mental Toughness for Athletes – How to Remove Self-Doubt

I recently worked with a high school athlete who was plagued by those nasty inner gremlins. You know the type – that little guy or gal inside your head who would not shut up and kept asking irrelevant questions. This kept my student from developing confidence and playing to his ability.

Joe (not his real name) was a very hard-working golfer. He spent hours at the practice tee and green-honing his skills. He took a ton of lessons to improve his swing and putting stroke. He was very committed to the game. He did all of this so he could play well in tournaments.

However, in competition, he did not excel. Why did Joe struggle in competition if he worked so hard in practice and was so dedicated to his sport? Joe could not shake his inner gremlins – voices inside him that told him repeatedly that he would choke under pressure and kept reminding him of his past failures.

As a result, Joe called himself awful “names” such as “You’re a choker – you choke every time under pressure” and “You’re a poor closer – you can’t get the job done under the heat.” All of this because he had blown a big lead in one tournament, which he could never forget and let go.

What are inner gremlins? I am not talking about little green men here. I’m talking about the voices of inner doubts, negative beliefs, and negative labels that plague athletes, and leave them to wallow in a comfort zone or to crumble under the pressure.

What would happen if you could banish your inner gremlins of the past before the biggest game or performance of your career? Would this help you perform with a better focus and confidence?

One thing for certain – an athlete cannot perform up to his or her potential unless he or she can uncover and eradicate the gremlins who whisper negative statements at just the wrong time. The first place to start with is to help athletes identify unhealthy beliefs, doubts, and strict outcome expectations that undermine performance.

If we don’t address the inner gremlins, the other work we do to improve focus, confidence, and composure will amount to underachievement. The gremlins will override massive amounts of positive thinking.

Sports Psychology and Fear of Failure in Athletes

One of my mental coaching students, Joe (not his real name) had a unique gift (or so he thought). Since he was overly concerned with what other people thought (coach, teammates, parents, spectators, etc.) about his performance, he often engaged in a process I call mind reading when performing.

While Joe was mind reading, he made assumptions about what others were thinking about him. He literally thought that he could tell what others were thinking about him. Joe’s hidden agenda was to avoid embarrassment, to not make mistakes, and have others think he was a good athlete.

This preoccupation with mind reading what others may be thinking about him caused him to play cautiously and avoid mistakes. He was plagued with thoughts such as, “The coach will yank me from the team if I miss an open shot!” or “My team will be disappointed in my performance.”

Joe’s performance suffered because he did not allow himself to perform freely without the fear of failure, fear of disappointing others, or fear of making mistakes.

Joe is not alone. In fact, many athletes hinder their potential by focusing too much on avoiding mistakes and not embarrassing themselves. They think it is better to play it safe than risk embarrassment or disappointment.

While no one wants to feel embarrassed or get benched by the coach, avoiding mistakes and playing safe are huge distractions to athletic performance, at the very least. This type of thinking actually makes athletes perform worse, and then realize what they feared might happen.

Ultimately, the fear of failure can cause athletes to play tentatively or defensively and actually hinder their ability to succeed. This state of mind certainly makes playing sports half as much fun for many athletes and causes some to drop out of sports.

Caring too much about what others think comes from the phenomenon called social approval. Social approval is defined as the need to be confirmed and validated by other people. In today’s society, many athletes learn *mind reading* when peer approval and gaining acceptance are primary motivators, especially for young athletes.

Let’s face it, we want the respect from our peers. And, whether you’ve been an athlete for 5 years or 35 years, the fear of letting others down can lead to tentative performances! That’s why helping athletes learn how to play without the fear of failure is so important.

How can an athlete be taught to focus on what’s important, rather than mind reading or focusing too much on the fear of failure? I start by asking my students an important question, “Do you compete for yourself *or* do you compete to gain respect or approval of people around you?”

This is a tough question for some athletes to answer. Many find it difficult to admit that they compete because they yearn for the acceptance of their team, parents, coach or spectators.

However, the bottom line is that if you want to harness a zone focus and perform at your best, you cannot care about what others think about you and/or your performance. You must learn to overcome mind reading and fear of failure.

I help my students achieve this in many ways. One way is with my teleseminars. For example, one class I teach is, “Everyone is Watching Me! How to Stop Worrying about What Others Think.” I cover the techniques needed to stop worrying about what others think to create a stronger mindset.