The Mental Side of Sport

Sir Clive Woodward was famous for taking every detail of the rugby game and looking to squeeze an extra few percent out of those details, and he ended up taking England on to win the World Cup in 2003.  Much like Sir Clive Woodward, Sir Dave Brailsford adopted the mantra of the cumulative impact that the sum of the small parts had on performance.  This attention to detail should not be exclusive to professional sport and indeed many amateur athletes are able to learn lessons from both Sir Clive and Sir Dave.  Now there are a hell of a lot of small parts that go into making a great athlete so I want to concentrate on one in particular….the mental side.

Having watched far too many interviews of world class ironman triathletes there seems to be one common denominator, and that is mental strength.  Fitness is no secret so as long as you are doing the hard physical work there is always gains to be made by improving your mental ability.  Albeit in long distance triathlons this mental strength can really boil down to a certain stubbornness in the last half of the marathon, and the amount of people taking part in this sport is limited.  However, mental strength comes in many different forms and can result in considerable ‘on field’ improvements in almost every single sport.

Working with a sports psychologist or a mind coach can be incredibly beneficial for those looking to get an edge.  After all, what is the point in flogging yourself in training if you keep getting beaten by the smallest of margins?  Coaches like Tony Wrighton use NLP techniques for sport and also have the experience of working with top athletes around the world.  They can help identify where you might be failing mentally at crucial points in a race or game…..or even training.  It might be that some of the areas that they are identify are things you already know – but where their expertise comes in is the ability to help you work around these problems and improve your mental game.  It is not good knowing that you do not start a game well, or that your nerves get the better of you in high pressure situations if you cannot do anything about it.  This is where coaches come in.  They help you figure out how to conquer these issues and apply them to your specific requirements, something that reading a book cannot do.  Getting that second opinion and approaching an issue from a completely different angle is the value that these coaches bring to both training and racing/matches.

The process is not instant, but with perseverance it may well result in you NOT throwing that intercept pass in the 80th minute, or it might result in you giving the pass at exactly the right moment.  It could be working on the ability to let those athletes overtake you early in the race because you are confident of catching them later in the day.  Whatever the results, the process evidently works with big name sport stars like Andy Murray succeeding after sorting out their ‘mental game’.


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