Five Sport Psych Myths: Part 1

The scene is likely something along these lines:

A pitcher can’t get the ball over the plate. A basketball player can’t find her rhythm. A golfer can’t make the big puts. A track athlete can’t get psyched up enough to go for the win.

You get the idea.

An athlete faces adversity and then (sometimes reluctantly) seeks out a solution. In each situation, the athlete is underperforming.

But it doesn’t have to be that way!

Sport psych isn’t just for when things go wrong, it’s great when things go right too! In today’s post, I’ll cover this and other sport psych myths.

Myth #1. Sport psych is a hoax.

Would you eat nothing but junk food and expect to perform well? How about 4 hours of sleep per night? Would you still be functioning at the top of your game? What about that nagging ankle injury? Skip the wrap and the post-practice ice? Not work out a day and then expect to be game ready?

You know what you need to perform from a physical perspective. Why wouldn’t you train your brain too?

I’ve come across skeptics throughout my sport psych consulting journey. Some claim not to believe in the mental game…well that is until there’s a loss. Pay attention the next time you’re watching a sporting event. You’ll hear it from the stands, the announcer’s booth, and in the post-game interviews. The mental game often takes the blame.

“They weren’t mentally ready. Lots of mental errors out there today. They need to stay focused. He let the fans get in his head.”

Thankfully, we have a lot of research to back us up. If you’re more into celebrity endorsements, the field has that too. You don’t have to look far to find a famous athlete embracing the role of mindset. In fact, most Olympic athletes work with a sport psych consultant. There has to be some truth to it. ?

Myth #2. You’re either born with mental toughness or you’re not.

“Champions are made not born. Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”

We all know stories of athletes who weren’t naturally gifted but put in the work to level up their game. Same goes for mental toughness. While of course it’s great when you don’t have to work at it; it isn’t a you either have it or you don’t situation.

You may have teammates that always seem upbeat. They can laugh and be relaxed before the game and then be fierce on the field. They take challenges in stride. A strike-out doesn’t phase them. They know they’ll get the next one.  Sometimes you’re envious of how easy it seems for them. I’ve got good news! You don’t have to be born with it or taught at an early age. All athletes, at all levels, can do this.

“Mental toughness” is actually a skill. With training, you can pick it up. Some sport psych professionals, myself included, prefer the term “mental skills” to “mental toughness” for that very reason. I’ve known recruiters and coaches to pass on an athlete because they didn’t think the player had the mental toughness it takes for the next level. This is such a missed opportunity. Just as you can develop your fundamental sport skills, you can improve your mental game. Lucky for you, this is what we do!

Myth #3. Sport psych is only for “problem” or struggling athletes.

Maybe you’re already bringing it. You’re throwing a respectable distance. You even hit a PR this season. Wouldn’t it be great if you could best that PR by the conference meet?

Maybe your game is on point, but you are a little frustrated at your roommates/siblings for not respecting your sleep schedule and need for quiet while you work on homework.

When the competition is fierce your mental game is the game changer. Sport psych skills can elevate an already great game. It helps you take things up a notch. Working on your mental skills allows you to bring your best performance to every performance no matter the conditions or the competition, because you’re prepared to handle whatever comes your way. In addition, we provide support for off-the-court concerns that may keep you from competing at the level you know you’re capable of.

Of course, we can still help when things go wrong, but it’s actually better when implemented BEFORE you’re facing difficulty. While we can start sessions at any point, the ideal time is off-season/pre-season where there’s time to practice the skills before implementing them in game situations. Just like you practice your sport before a game, it’s ideal when you practice your mental skills before a game too.

Let’s wrap up 5 Sport Psych Myths: Part 1 by looking at that beginning scenario again.

Maybe there is a struggle or concern, but maybe there isn’t.

Maybe…

A pitcher is playing well. Has a great ERA. A basketball player has found her rhythm. A swimmer gets pre-race jitters before every race, but knows it means she’s ready. A golfer is making the big puts. A track athlete is psyched and ready to go for the win.

They just want to keep it that way.

Athlete consults with a sport psych coach during the season through sessions, check-ins, and game day texts to get support as she implements the mental skills of successful athletes.

Athlete stays consistently great and can bounce back from any challenge. There is no slump, no need to “get out of her head.” Season is a success. Life is good.

If you’re intrigued and ready to get these results in your performance, sign up for a free mini session!