Principles of Mental Preparation in Sport

As you might already know, this month is the National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, recognised by the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, and this year’s motto is ‘Move in May’, so as promised here is the second part of my mini-series, which I have developed for sport coaches and individuals who like to improve their physical ability, in mind!

Exercise by Naomi

Identifying and recording the mental capabilities required for a sport related activity is important in order to improve one’s capability. In dancing, for example, an athlete needs to be confident to perform in front of an audience, be able to concentrate, be motivated to practise to get better, to be willing to work in a team and to have emotional control.

There are 5 key areas and methods that can be used to improve participants’;

  1. Confidence; Athletes can be encouraged to identify their abilities or capabilities and can be coached to challenge negative beliefs or self-talk. Praising athletes can be beneficial as well.
  2. Concentration; Athletes can learn and practise focusing on a single object or a sound and also identify common distractions and avoid or end those distractions in order to concentrate better.
  3. Motivation; Athletes can use forms of NLP for example visualising positive outcomes and affirmations.  Setting SMART goals and breaking those into small chunks can motivate athletes too.
  4. Emotional control; Athletes can learn relaxation techniques like yoga and a form of NLP for example anchoring.
  5. Cohesion; Athletes need to be made aware of common team goals during training and before a contest and during a contest.

The principles of participants’ development (in particular children or young adults) at the different stages of cognitive, emotional and social development                              

  • Cognitive Hand-eye coordination has to be learned over time, which means that children need more time to develop their skills.
  • Emotional Most children, compared to adults are not able to control their emotions as good and therefore a coach has to give children more positive feedback and time in order for them to stay motivated.
  • Social Social behaviour (taking turns, being patience, sharing etc.) has to be learned, with this in mind a coach should teach children in a different way than adults.

How a coach can profile participants’ mental skills

You can profile a participant, or yourself by using a chart type of form and by giving the participants mental skills a rating, for example by rating his/her motivation, confidence and team cohesion.

For a 5 year old child it could for example look like this:

Motivation            10/10

Confidence           6/10

Team Cohesion    3/10

How to develop mental skills for training and competition

As a coach you can teach the athlete a relaxation technique in combination with visualisation, or if you want to use it for yourself you could to so as well. During a relaxed state of mind the athlete or you can rehearse the training and competition in their/your mind, in order to improve his/her/your performance over time.

Step 1 Find a relaxing position either sitting or lying down, close eyes

Sep 2 Concentrate on deep breathing

Step 3 Visualise the perfect performance in training and during a competition

Step 4 Repeat the visualisation and relax for a while

Find out more about the National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, recognised by the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition here.


P.S.: I hope the two posts have been helpful for you, if so please like, share and leave me your comment below.

All the Best,




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