Mental Training is a tool that is still under utilized by many coaches and athletes in sport. What is also and even more under utilized is mental training for coaches. Our ability as leaders is dependent on our psychological preparedness and confidence as much as it is for the athletes. Use mental training skills and strategies as a coach as you are teaching them to your athletes. You will benefit and enjoy your competitions even more.
Mental Training For Coaches Considerations
Dealing with distraction factors in major competitions
Many factors can represent a source of distraction and affect your overall performance as a coach, both in training and in competition.
Following is an inventory of possible distraction factors high performance coaches will likely face in training and competition.
- coach preparedness
- athletes preparedness
If you are not prepared, you may not be able to utilize any scouting information that may have been gathered for the main competition. By being familiar with the facilities and environment that your athletes are competing in, you can foresee any potential distractions that might occur as a result of a new facility etc. If you have been preparing properly, then you have been preparing your athletes in the physical, mental and technical components of your sport.
If your athletes have been given the tools and have been directed and their progress has been facilitated in a way that they can best utilize their skills, and they are not prepared, you need to consider that in your preparedness.
Potential Distractions Before a training session
- weather – dress appropriately dress appropriately before I leave
- being prepared – record practice on computer/print before I leave
- access to athletes – setup email / phone team list first meeting
- parents boundaries – set guidelines first meeting
Potential Distractions During a training session
- motivation – re-focus or take a break regularly
- tardiness by athletes – planning prior schedule night before
- fatigue – adequate rest and recovery post/pre training
- facilities – knowledge and awareness pre training check 1 hour before training
- parents boundaries and guidelines – letter / info sheet first meeting / updates
- phone calls – No cell phones on the field turn them off upon arrival
- observers – focus / concentration strategies
- general public
Potential Distractions Before an important competition
- adequate preparedness – detailed planning end of previous season
- team standings – different focus focus on the process
- media – familiarization practice, role play
- promotional and social events
- importance of the event
Potential Distractions During major competitions
- Environment – Know what is in our control
- athlete injuries – follow Performance Enhancement Team recommendations
- weather – be prepared for anything
- officials – know the rules
- spectators – distraction control strategies
- athlete fatigue – ensure recovery / regeneration methods are adequate
- opponents – use scouting reports / mental training strategies
- stress – experience with the stressors
Having athletes submit a weekly or bi-weekly journal would give more insight into how they are feeling about the environment and how you am running it. It would be crucial that they understand and believe that there would be no repercussions for their submissions such as playing time or how they are treated during competitions / training.
Preparation for Coaches
Preparation during competition begins with the first practice and athlete selection. The parents meeting and team meeting is where your program is described and how it will be carried out. Carrying out the program with a detailed yearly training plan will guide you in your training plans and competition milestones. If the athletes and coaching staff have done all that you can and should have done during the season to attain success then the final competitions should be enjoyable and easy to carry out. Monitoring during the season with measurable milestones can allow for adjustments that might need to be made.
Sport Psychology and Planning for Distractions
For Officials – know the rules thoroughly so that you know the officials part in the competition along with educating your athletes and establishing ground rules regarding conduct during competition with each other and officials.
Coach Preparedness – by ensuring that you have done your job up to the competition and done everything you can to assist your athletes in their preparation, you should not have any reason to doubt yourself and the readiness for the task at hand
Athlete Preparedness – implement regulations to ensure that athletes are taking responsibility for their own preparedness and have measures of evaluating their readiness while providing opportunities and resources to assist them
Environment – with the amount of distractions in the environment that you may need to deal with, you need to have skills and strategies to deal with them such as distraction control, relaxation, focusing, and relaxation. The strategies would be solidified during the pre season.
Opponents – By having as much information as you can on the opponents, you will be ready for them when your athlete begins competition. Their success or lack of success should not interfere with your game plan or decision making process during the competition.
A plan is crucial to your ability to be mentally prepared as having direction during the competition alleviates the amount of stress and anxiety that can easily be experienced when unprepared. Not feeling confident in the procedures and your abilities to deal with unforeseen circumstances will make you and your athletes more prone to stress and anxiety. As well, If you as a coach are not mentally prepared, you can have a negative effect on your athletes.