What happens after a sports psychology coaching session?
What are the next steps athletes take after a session or between sessions? Many athletes we know have misconceptions about sport psychology coaching or working with a mental game expert. One big misunderstanding is that athletes are fixed after talking to a mental coach or sports psychologist and are free to perform their best.
Athletes can obtain immediate improvement after a sport psychology coaching session, but the real work is done outside of the actual mental training sessions. In a session, athletes learn to identify mental game challenges that hold them back. They also learn about mental strategies that can help them improve their performance and consistency.
Most athletes and parents do not realize that sports psychology coaching is an educational process and NOT a remedy or quick fix for problems. We like to think of our coaching as education and not therapy. For this reason, we prefer to help athletes over months and years, not weeks or one-shot sessions.
If most of the progress or improvement is made outside the actual sports psychology session, then what happens after a session? We usually ask athletes to take what they have learned, such as a refocusing strategy, and apply it to practice and later to competition. Education is the first step in sport psychology coaching. The next step is practice—taking what you learn and using it in practice.
Old habits are hard to break and this holds true for your mental game as well. It takes patience and dedication to improve you mental game, the same process when you change your technique. Here’s an example of a lesson we teach in sports psychology. If you commonly allow distractions to run unchecked in your mind, then these distractions become normal for you. Learning how to refocus can help you regain concentration quicker by learning to recognize the distraction, stop it, and refocus on the task at hand. The key is to practice your refocusing until it becomes the dominant habit during training. Thus, breaking the old habit of allowing distractions to run unchecked.
After a sports psychology session, we also provide athletes with out Mental Edge Workbooks so they can learn between sessions. This way you are working on mental skills between sessions. We do not want you to rely only on the time spent with a sports psychology professional. We found this helps to accelerate the coaching process and to help athletes come more prepared to the coaching session.
In addition to giving you sports psychology exercises to do between each session, we often ask you to record or track something we work on in the sports psychology sessions. For example, we might ask you to record the number of times you became distracted during practice or competition and how this affected your performance. In sport psychology, we call this an awareness exercise because you learn to become more aware of the things we want to change. Psychology professionals would call this self-monitoring your thinking or performance.
Thus, I hope you see that most learning and changes take place after a sports psychology session. This is when you want to apply what you learn to practice and competition so you can make lasting changes in your mental game and improve your performance.