Mental Toughness Digest for Sport & Performance.
The 7 Biggest Reasons Why Most Athletes Don’t Bother with Mental Training
By Gareth J. Mole (PSY0001372747)
One of my key roles at Condor Performance is speaking to the many people who make enquiries about our sport psychology / mental toughness training services. Although I don’t keep track of the exact number, I’d say in the eleven years that Condor Performance has been operating and assisting people, I would have spoken to approximately three thousand parents, coaches, athletes, performers and administrators and learned, amongst other things, a lot about the reasons why most athletes still don’t bother with mental toughness training. Below are the seven biggest causes:
1. They have no idea there is a mental side to performance:
Mental Toughness is not as tangible / visible / obvious as the other performance areas. Consequently, in many instances it’s not targeted for improvement because athletes have no idea their confidence, concentration, communication, emotions and motivation can be developed and strengthened to improve their performances.
2. They confuse mental training with another type of training :
Similar to the above but arguably worse – it’s very common for athletes to fall into the trap of thinking that working on the physical, technical and tactical aspects of their sport will naturally result in greater mental toughness. So for example, because it took motivation to get up at 6 am to go for a run in winter, it will automatically result in an improvement of my overall motivation. This is not the case and in fact there are specific mental methods that target improvements in the mental side of sport alone.
3. They know there is a mental side, but have no idea how to improve it :
Even those who are aware of the importance of the mental side, and are motivated to try and improve it, can be left really struggling to find genuine, dependable ways to actual work on it. Most resort to Googling questions like ‘how to improve my concentration’ which results in millions of websites full of contradictory ideas. For us, that’s a bit like Googling ‘how to improve my car driving ability’. An alternative would be speaking with a genuine expert who can tailor strategies to best work with for you, as we are all unique.
4. They tried it once and it didn’t work :
This can be due to two reasons. Firstly, the mental skills an individual has been exposed to were duds, which means it wouldn’t have mattered how long they had persisted with them, they were never going to create the kind of impact that would’ve encouraged a long-term pursuit of mental toughness training. Secondly, the mental skills were actually effective but they gave up when they didn’t see any immediate (“magic bullet”) effects.
5. They confuse mental training with therapy / counselling:
Unfortunately the words ‘psychology’ and ‘psychologist’ still evoke thoughts of mental illness and disorders, so a large number of athletes incorrectly feel that seeking the assistance of a sport and performance psychologist is a sign of mental weakness.
6. It’s too expensive and / or difficult to see a sport / performance psychologist (due to location) :
Even when none of the above barriers apply, often cost gets in the way as the current recommended hourly rate for psychologists is well north of $200. At Condor Performance we reduce the chances that cost alone is the reason for the ‘no, thanks’ by allowing new clients to start on one of our more affordable monthly options, thus allowing them to dip their toes in the water without breaking the bank. Location (“there are no qualified sport psychologists near me”) is also a hurdle we’ve managed to overcome by ensuring all of our team are trained (technology-wise) and confident at working 1-on-1 via the ever improving platforms of Skype and FaceTime.
7. They’re not motivated enough:
There is a certain amount of irony in helping people with their motivation in the knowledge that it needs a certain level of motivation in the first place to get a mental training program up and running. Life gets in the way for far too many people and ‘next week / month / season’ never actually arrives. Before they know it, the small window of opportunity has come and gone and they join the list of those left pondering ‘I wander what I’d have achieved if I’d really put my mind to it’.