For several months leading up to and through this summer’s France 2019 World Cup while some members of the U.S. women’s national soccer team traveled on the bus to games, they would plug in earbuds and meditate. When the adrenaline was high after playing in crazed stadiums, several players would do the same to relax on the journey back.
“We often focus on the neck-down in order to get improvements in the game and try to get those marginal gains, whether it be strength and conditioning, tracking, monitoring, sports science,” said James Bunce, U.S. Soccer’s high-performance director. “Less time is often spent looking at the neck-up and, as we all know, the neck-up is where the magic happens. That’s where the decisions are made, the emotions are felt, those crucial moments are decided.”
Every member of the women’s national team received questionnaires about personal stresses and experiences that served as the foundation for the custom mental training plans.
Being able to seamlessly integrate mental training into the rest of your routine is something that college athletic departments and pro teams are quickly being attracted to.
Published studies that have shown reduced stress and improved focus, among other benefits of mental game training. Feedback from athletes who say mental game training helps them “play more instinctually”—in other words, not let their mind get in the way of what their body can do.
Throughout the history of sport, we have completely neglected the mind even though the mind underlies everything that we do.
A key component of programs like those offered at Athletes Mental Trainer is now being rolled out with U.S. Soccer, MLS and other sports organizations as education. Most athletes don’t realize they can proactively work on mental training or that there is a body of science supporting the mental aspect to boost preparation, performance, and recovery.
I liken it to a muscle, coaches, athletic trainers talk about, if you want a stronger biceps, you do biceps curls. I point out to athletes that the science behind mental game training shows that it increases the thickness of the gray matter of the prefrontal cortex, which is where focus comes from, and decreases the size of the amygdala, which is where stress and fear come from. You are actually physically changing the structure of your brain.
I do think the area of mental conditioning is now really, really taking off at all levels of competition, no longer reserved for just the top elite athletes.
The next big push point in sports in regard to people trying to get that edge; is coaches, athletic directors, schools, teams will be looking at an athlete’s mental game mindset as criteria for acceptance into their programs.
NOW is the time to get yourself or your athlete started so they are prepared for the next evolution in sports performance.
If you have questions about your mental game or your child’s mental game, the first step is to schedule a FREE Strategy Session with us to discover if Mental Game Training is for you.
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