8 Crucial Mental Techniques Every Athlete Needs to Master for Success


4 Mental Techniques Student Athletes Need for Success (Plus 4 Techniques Parents Can Help them Master)

Any young athlete knows that excellence in sports requires constant training. Most of the time, this training is physical: building muscle, increasing speed or endurance, improving precision, and so on. But mastering the physical elements of the game is only half the battle. To really succeed, and to move up into the ranks of the elite, athletes need mental discipline — to develop mental skills that can carry them through rough patches, let-downs, and challenging or high-stress environments where physical excellence is only a small part of the equation. Sometimes, an athlete’s own doubts and insecurities are their greatest enemies and performance inhibitors.

The road to this mental mastery is a long one. Athletes, particularly young ones, must devote time and energy to enhancing the skills that will ultimately allow them to thrive even in the toughest of competitive environments. So too much athletes have plenty of support along the way. Coaches play an integral role in helping young athletes unlock their potential, but parents are just as important to an athlete’s success, and to helping them learn essential skills.

4 Techniques Athletes Can Teach Themselves for Success

Outside guidance can help young athletes understand the basics, but to grasp the nuances of these particular skills, students need to practice them, regularly, from being able to picture how something will play out to controlling emotions, level of attention, and concentration.
1. Imagery/Visualization
Imagery or visualization is known as mental rehearsal. The essence of the skill is to be able to picture a scene in your mind and use all of your senses to bring it to life, whether it’s practicing a technique or visualizing a win under tough circumstances. Practice makes perfect, and this skill is no exception. As an athlete, you need to routinely walk yourself through the visualization process – you need to see what it is you want to achieve.

2. Self-Talk
Self-talk is actually part of a broader strategy for controlling your response to your environment, but it’s a simple concept: Talking to yourself in a positive way, to remain optimistic and stay focused on your goal. A good strategy to practice is to talk to yourself like you would your best friend. Self-talk is a great way to regain your focus and concentrate on what matters, not external distractions.

3. Control of Emotions
When a match or a meet has gone wrong, you’ve made a mistake already, or you are recovering from an injury, it’s easy to feel disparaged, to lose hope and to lose focus. When the pressure is on, athletes all too often take the weight of the world rest on their shoulders….and all it does is bring you down. Being able to master your emotions – to control fear, anxiety, and even anger – is crucial for overcoming the psychological barriers to good performance. This doesn’t mean ignoring them. In fact, the key is to acknowledge your feelings, and then using them to refocus your efforts. Even positive emotions can be a distraction, if you allow them to overrule the rest of your senses and your focus on the goal at hand. So recognize what you are feeling and put aside whatever doesn’t help you.

4. Attention and Concentration Control
The shouts of parents, fans and even cheerleaders can be a distraction, but they’re not the only ones athletes encounter. For that reason, athletes need to cultivate a selective attention — the ability to filter out irrelevant stimuli and focus only on what matters. Concentration is often considered to be the same thing, but it’s really more akin to endurance — your ability to sustain focus over a long period.

4 Techniques Parents can Teach Their Athletes

It is vital that young athletes have positive adult figures in their lives. Coaches are a part of this, but parents and guardians, too, can help their athletes succeed, specifically by provided much-needed encouragement and by helping them master techniques.

4 Techniques Parents can Teach Their Athletes

It is vital that young athletes have positive adult figures in their lives. Coaches are a part of this, but parents and guardians, too, can help their athletes succeed, specifically by provided much-needed encouragement and by helping them master techniques.

1. Goal Setting
Goal setting isn’t just a matter of your athlete saying “this is what I want to do” and doing it. A common approach for goal-setting used by many motivational coaches is the SMART method .
Goals should be:

  • S: Specific
  • M: Measurable
  • A: Attainable
  • R: Relevant/Realistic
  • T: Time-bound

Beyond that, part of goal-setting is to set short-term, medium-term, and long-term goals. Another approach is to set daily, weekly, or monthly goals. Whichever you approach you take, it is vital to have a serious dialogue. Listen your athlete, and understands what motivates them. It’s important that they understand what their performance levels are currently at and how much they could reasonably improve, and that they are willing to commit the time and effort to improve.

2. Interpersonal Relationships
No matter what sport your athlete plays, people skills are essential. Their network consists of friends, fellow teammates, coaches, teachers, and of course, family. As with so many other aspects of life, your athlete will find that their performance increases if they master the ability to communicate with others, including addressing their thoughts and feelings. It is also important that they learn how to resolve conflict and cope with confrontational people.

3. Stress Management
Being able to communicate with family, friends, and coaches (among others) plays directly into an athlete’s ability to cope with stress. In addition to being able to control their reactions while playing their sport, athletes need to learn stress management in other aspects of life — such as how to juggle school responsibilities and a social life with the time demands of playing a sport and undergoing rigorous training. Parents are absolutely integral to this. By building a supportive relationship where your athlete can come to you with concerns, you can help them deal with stress in a healthy, effective manner.

4. Building Self Confidence
Self-confidence is about your athlete understanding what they are realistically capable of achieving and how likely they are to achieve it. All of the skills mentioned previously play into your athlete’s ability to build self-confidence. Their own performance and mastery of mental skills such as self-talk and visualization are important to help achieve goals, but you should make an effort to encourage your athlete and reinforce positive performance, as well.


As I hope I’ve made clear, excellence in sport is only partly owed to physical training. Young athletes who build and hone these mental skills will be able to perform consistently, maintain motivation, shake off the occasional bad performance, perform under pressure and move up to the next level. Support from parents, solid communication skills, and practice are all keys to success.

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