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Using Sports Psychology to Train the Brain to Win

William Rover explains how training the mind can have a positive impact on performance.

Many people working with, and as, professional athletes are becoming more interested in using sports psychology in order to help them train their brains to win more easily, and more often. They might need to be as mentally tough at certain times as Rafael Nadal, tired and stressed, but dominating at the French Open, for example.  Or long to be as driven and dedicated as LeBron James remains all season long, upping his game for each of his games.

Sports psychology is the research-based study of behaviour, emotion, and mind as they relate to athletic performance and physical activity. The mental demands of competition can be overwhelming, and this means that sports psychology plays a crucial part in any athlete's training programme. Olympic champions and hall of famers are backed up by decades of empirical research when they agree that properly making use of the wisdom of sports psychology can considerably improve the performance of any athlete.

Athletes who consistently train their brains perform at their best more frequently, experience greater levels of enjoyment from their efforts, and drastically increase their odds of victory. As they progress to the higher echelons of whatever sport they are expert in, physical skills still tend to reach a plateau amongst competitors, and the only way for professional athletes to distinguish themselves at this level is by making sure their mindset is superior.

The Most Important Mental Skills

When exploring the benefits of sports psychology, the most obvious advantages that athletes who make use of it enjoy are:

  1. An unwavering confidence in their ability to perform
  2. The ability to maintain focus, even when surrounded by various distractions
  3. The capability to maintain a very high level of motivation throughout the course of a lengthy season
  4. The power to use their will to conquer anxieties, frustrations, and discouragement
  5. The faculty to bring the requisite intensity into play when necessary

Effective Mental Training Tools

In the same way that professional athletes ensure that their bodies are always in top form and able to execute whatever their discipline demands; sports psychology equips them with similar ways in which to ensure they are on point mentally. The tools for this kind of training includes:

  1. Creating short- and long-term goals that are clearly delineated, and challenging without being overwhelming
  2. The visualisation of succeeding on the field, on the court, or in the water
  3. The use of positive, motivating language in order to stay on track as far as goals are concerned, and which move them into a constructive frame of mind
  4. Using breath control in order to get the most out of their movements at every stage of play
  5. Implementing confident, enthusiastic body language in order to foster feelings of success throughout their bodies and minds

Sports Psychology Can Be Implemented Any Time

Athletes who are interested in improving their game can enjoy the benefits of applying these kinds of sports psychology methods and exercises at any point in their careers. Junior athletes can enjoy getting a considerable head start on their peers by developing this kind of mental strength earlier rather than later, and seasoned professionals can ensure they remain at the top of their games, and avoid death by complacency, by ensuring their mental faculties stay strong.

The Application of Sports Psychology

The Application of Sports Psychology

The services of sports psychology can be applied to almost all scenarios, with specific examples including:

  1. When the athlete is focussed on reaching their full potential. Fine-tuning their game emotionally and mentally in this manner could well see them exceeding even their wildest expectations.
  2. When the athlete in question has experienced a setback of any kind. This could take the form of a mental block, a prolonged slump, a demotion, a debilitating injury, or a performance plateau.
  3. When off-field concerns or issues start interfering with their performance.

At the end of the day, athletes' mental states will serve to hold them back or be the reason they are able to step up and meet the requirements. This is the reason they should be striving to master their minds rather than being mastered by it. If they do not, they risk losing their games before these even begin! It is recommended that stock is taken in terms of performance improvements by the answering of these questions:

  1. What preparations are being made mentally during training?
  2. How can a positive mindset be maintained on competition days?
  3. How are thoughts at the moment of action being managed?
  4. How are distractions being dealt with, in practice and in contests?
  5. Are competition results being used to build a character from event to event?
  6. How are communications being handled, as a leader and as a follower?
  7. How are athletes decompressing, both during training and when competing, in order to stay fresh and avoid burnout?

Athletes need a game plan for each one of these areas. For example, when dealing with results, they should be learning the lessons a poor performance has to offer, rather than brooding over it, or simply trying to forget it. The punters who wager on the results of these performances at the betting sites available the world over know how to find out what needs teaching when something fails to go according to plan and athletes should be no different.

As trained professionals, coaches can prove invaluable in helping athletes to master their mindsets in a quick, effective manner. Sports psychologists can work collaboratively with both trainers and athletes in order to identify any challenges, identify actions which can negate these, and generally just teach both parties how athletes can come to be in an optimal state of mind in order to achieve their goals.

The sports psychologist's role will, to some extent, parallel that of the coach, in terms of their input being just as pivotal a part of keeping athletes performing at their full potential. Sports psychology is the key that can render a weak performance a very valuable one and can make a good athlete a great one.

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • ROVER, W. (2018) Using Sports Psychology to Train the Brain to Win [WWW] Available from: [Accessed

About the Author

William Rover is an important Canadian coach with over 10 years' experience. He holds a Master of Science in Exercise Science from the University of Toronto and is always looking for new ways to improve his game. Bill works as a trainer for champion athletes in a variety of different disciplines and is frequently asked to lecture at events and universities around the world.

Related Pages

The following Sports Coach pages provide additional information on this topic: