Many times the mental aspect of sports is overlooked by players and spectators alike. Athletics requires the ability to train both the body and the mind. Athletes must be able to strategize in the middle of the game or race, no matter if they are on a team or play an individual sport. Physical conditioning, practicing the nuances of the sport, hard work, and strategy all go into a winning performance.
But, the increased stress of competition can make athletes react both physically and mentally in a way that negatively affects their performance. They can become tense, muscles unresponsive and heart racing. They may worry about the outcome of the competition to the point that the outcome is a given result. They may also find it hard to concentrate and focus on the task at hand.
These reactions to competition have led to the development of sport psychology and treatment of competitive anxiety. The treatment options focus on the mental aspects of the game. Professionals, coaches, psychologists and trainers who coach athletes on sports psychology find that athletes who focus on several factors have the most positive results.
The first factor is concentration. Concentration is the ability to maintain focus to the task at hand. When athletes are unable to focus on the task at hand they are unable to effectively perform. The ability to focus varies with the sport. Athletes who perform distance running or cycling and tennis find that concentration is needed for sustained periods of time to effect a successful outcome. On the other hand those who play golf, field events or football require short bursts of concentration.
Confidence in the second factor involved in the mental game of sports. An athlete who is confident believes in their own ability to perform their tasks successfully. Athletes who are confident in their ability also appear to perform with more perseverance, even in the face of failure. They are positive in their approach to the sport and enthusiastic. Coaches encourage athletes who lack confidence to practice visualization exercises to help their mind attain a goal their body hasn’t yet attempted.
Athletes who play a good mental game are also committed to reaching the agreed upon goal. Commitment to a goal happens through years of practice, competition, work, studies, hobbies and discouragement. Commitment can be undermined by many obstacles in the life of the athlete. Setting achievable goals and teaching athletes to work smarter will help to improve the rate of success that athletes experience in their performance.
Maintaining control of your environment, commitment, confidence and schedule go a long way toward improving the mental aspect of sports events. Athletes find that when they work to focus on their performance the increased ability to manage the mental part of their game their performance improves dramatically.