Using Sports Psychology as a Coach
As a coach, you can run drills with your athletes day and night, but if you ignore your athletes’ minds, you’ll only tap into a fraction of what they can do. Here are some ways you can use sports psychology to help your athletes reach their goals:
Implement sports psychology in practice. Simple techniques used during practice can help your athletes focus better, handle pressure, play as a team, communicate more, and maximize mental toughness. For example, have your athletes write in their performance journals for five minutes before practice to get focused. During warm up, remind them to use mental imagery to see themselves accomplishing their goals for that day.
Remind your athletes to create their own cue words for the mental state they want to be in throughout practice. Pressure your athletes to “win” certain drills in practice so that they get used to performing under pressure. At the end of practice, have your athletes journal about the progress they made that day, as well as decide what they need to work on in the next practice.
Use mental imagery. Make sure your athletes engage in some form of mental imagery — visualization techniques, journaling, or discussion. They’ll become more focused in practice, which will lead to improvement, greater confidence, and more success.
Build a “we” mentality, not a “me” mentality. Simple, daily exercises can take a team of average athletes working together to accomplish the success of a championship-caliber team. For example, engage in social activities, such as team dinners, video-game tournaments, or bowling, as a way for your athletes to get to know each other off the field.
Create athletic drills where teamwork is critical for success. Show famous movies that involve sports and teamwork as a way to keep the importance of teamwork in the forefront of your athletes’ minds. Seek out a good sports psychologist to come out and help to create numerous team-building activities that help emphasize the “we” mentality.
Motivate your athletes. One of the best ways to motivate your athletes is to get to know them personally and show that you care about them, not just for their sport skills. If you notice a drop in motivation, ask them about it. Share stories of famous athletes who fought through hard times when motivation was low.
Bring in guest speakers, such as elite athletes or former alumni, to inspire your athletes to be the best they can be. Keep them focused on getting better every day. Set short-term goals and help them accomplish them. Help them connect to the reason they’re playing the sport in the first place.
Working well with parents. Make sure to meet with parents before each season and educate them about how you work as a coach and what they can expect from you. Keep in touch with parents through e-mail or a team Web site. Tell them about your coaching philosophy (for example, everyone will play in every game or only the most skilled and motivated athletes will play).
Remind parents to have a good time because when they have fun and keep sports in perspective, their kids can relax and perform better. Tell them that life skills are the most important ways they can help their kids — being prepared for practice, working hard, establishing good habits, eating well and getting enough rest, having integrity, displaying teamwork, and bouncing back after a mistake. These concepts will help parents assist you in teaching their kids and your athletes good habits.