“We’d like to introduce you to Mental Conditioning Coach, Richard Dean. He knows what you’re thinking and what you should be thinking. Whether you’re a professional player, coach or weekend warrior, he has the tools to tweak any mental game strategy to achieve optimal performance. Having a mental coach is a luxury afforded by elite athletes, so we thank Rich for sharing with us a glimpse into his unique flavor of “mental conditioning” in his article below…
By: Richard Dean, Mental Conditioning Coach
The title to this article, a quote from Martina Navratilova, perfectly encapsulates what we should all be doing. I believe that psychology applied to sport is still burdened by definition and enjoy taking the opportunity to reappraise people’s views on what it’s all about. In fact, I would rather call the close convergence of mind and performance—‘Mental Conditioning’, as that term elicits a slightly different response than ‘Sports Psychology’. Moreover, ‘Mental Conditioning’ espouses a greater representation of what I do.
What is Sport Psychology (or Mental Conditioning)?
Many coaches, players and pros will tell you that psych is important in producing peak performance; in fact, almost all will say that—but having spoken with so many over the years there are few who truly recognize; A. How psych can applied, and B. It’s absolute relevance to creating maximal performance. Tomas Berdych bucked that trend, and I was very happy to see it:
“The mental side is an important part of the tennis puzzle. If you are able to master all areas of being a professional athlete, you can be successful. My mental coach has taught me very simple things, such as creating a system and a routine in your daily life that helps you to work.”
Here Berdych attends to ‘creating a system’, and infers that he is setting himself up to succeed, as opposed to merely dealing with issues as they arise. That reflects nicely with my own work, where only 20% of what I do is addressing problems, while the bulk is actually setting-up athletes to produce the best version of themselves on the pitch, court or ring.
For ease of explanation, I’d like to split the area of Mental Conditioning into two divisions and borrow a short extraction from a chapter I contributed to in the book “The Rugby Fan” by Rosemarie Lodewick:
Division 1: Reactive Psychology is addressing problems as they arise.
Example: Player comes to me and says, “I get too tense before performances.” I then work with him/her to address the WHY, WHEN, WHAT and HOW surrounding the tension. It’s therapeutic, and addresses a specific issue.
Division 2: Proactive Psychology is developing successful ways of thinking without something specific to fix.
Example: I set down a personalized agenda for match day, which is designed for the individual to gain maximum clarity about what they need to do. Providing clarity gives the athlete the best chance of being confident and ready. This is most of the work that I do, and I like that! It’s often harder to deal with weeds once they have spread.
When viewed within this polarity, it is apparent (as Berdych noted) that Mental Conditioning is there to provide a blueprint for action. An agenda helps the player to achieve. This is so important! I had a good conversation with one of the top players in the world recently, and he told me that you could work all you want to get the shot right in practice, but if pressure, anxiety and stress come to you in competition, then your technique can leave you. This is what is referred to as ‘somatic anxiety’, and it’s a big impediment to performance.
“Respect the technical by working on the mental.”
It’s common that anxiety interferes with the technical side of the game, and it’s those players who master pressure, who go on to give ‘due diligence’ to hours and hours of technical practice. I have a saying that I came up with: “Respect the technical by working on the mental.” Now that takes a lot of application—smart application—and to my mind that inclination to work on mental mastery is one of the core constituents of mental toughness.
Mental toughness may traditionally be seen as bullying forward in the pursuit of succeeding and driving yourself at every waking moment to be great. Well, yes I would advocate striving hard and putting your all in, but I also have to see that moderated with knowing when not to strive. If I don’t see a player with a level of self-awareness needed to conclude that—I work with them on it. That’s all about addressing the law of diminishing returns. To produce maximum effects, a player needs to treat him or herself as a whole person. They need to realize that sometimes dragging yourself onto the practice court might be very counterproductive.
My advice in closing this article—
don’t do something because it’s seen as what you should be doing, do it because it will make you better.
More about the issue of mental toughness in upcoming articles… look out for the next one soon thanks for reading!
Contact me in order to take part in my brand new 5-step Mental Conditioning program or if you require Sports Psych, Life Coaching consultations. Get in touch via: firstname.lastname@example.org
Richard Dean’s experiences in Life Coaching, Mental Conditioning and Sport Psychology demarcate him as a go-to expert in his field. Richard is a Mental Conditioning Coach who works with elite athletes from a variety of sports. His roster includes Premiership and International Soccer Players, NFL players and World Championship Boxing Contender — to name a few. He has published work within his specialism and is consistently finding new ways to affect his athletes in the most dynamic way possible.
For more info go to: https://www.udemy.com/u/richard419/