The Mental Edge: The Future of Sports


Athletes do many things to train for their sport. Most of what athletes do is physical. Practice, weights, stretching, physical therapy, and drills are all examples of physical activities athletes do to prepare. Eventually, an athlete will reach their physical peak. This leaves athletes wondering how to take their game to the next level, when their bodies have reached their max.

The mind is one area that athletes can really maximize their performance and achieve greater heights. Athletes and coaches try to build their mental edge and probably didn’t know that’s what they were doing. Watching film and listening to pre-game music are both ways athletes currently try to build up their mental edge. Having the mental edge means, developing mental skills needed to achieve peak performance beyond just physical performance.  Developing your mental edge can occur in a variety of ways. Here are some of the ways you can develop your mental edge.

Mental Skills’ Training: Mental skills’ training allows an athlete to identify the skills they need in order to be successful during performance and mentally build those skills up. Mental skills’ training consists of an athlete repeatedly hearing positive affirmations in order to build up and store those affirmations in their mind for use during performance. The skills an athlete might need could be internal or external. Internal skills include increasing confidence, focus, energy, leadership, and any other intangible skill. External skills include increasing endurance, performance enhancement, or mentally visualizing a particular physical skill you want to improve on (e.g., free throws, pitching, putting, serving, etc.).

Relaxation Training: Relaxation training allows an athlete to learn to relax their body in times of stress. Being able to relax the body is extremely important for an athlete. Relaxation reduces the chances of injury and allows athletes to make better playing decisions under pressure.

Guided Imageries: Guided imageries is a part of mental skills training. Guided imagery helps an athlete further develop an area they want to improve on and explore that skill more in-depth. Guided imageries are often used in conjunction with relaxation training. Guided imageries can be used for not only skill development, but also pain management and relief of anxiety following an injury.

It is always important to keep your body in good physical condition in order to endure the challenge of a long season. Throughout the Fall and Spring of 2012-2013 I have been able to adapt my training routines by adding Mental Skills Training, Relaxation Training and Guided Imagery.

The first time I was introduced to visual/guided imagery was through a book called “Mind Gym” by Gary Mack. In the book featured and article written about Alex Rodriguez on how vital and productive his mental training was early in his career. After reading the article I felt as though visual imagery was worth a try, especially if the professionals have progressed to new methods.

When I began the first session of imagery the only thing I remember was taking about six or seven deep breathes to relax my body then my mind and everything else went with it. In other words, I was sleeping like a baby. Only about 30-minutes later I woke up feeling rejuvenated and ready to take on any obstacle. As I worked on the mental aspect of being a basketball player, the game on the court became easier. Using imagery to increase focus on the court, to become a better leader and to relax while performing; aided in my success of being named Pacwest Player of the Year.