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U.S. Olympic Committee offers mental training guidelines

This is an excerpt from Foundations of Sport and Exercise Psychology, Fifth Edition with Web Study Guide, by Robert S. Weinberg, PhD, and Daniel Gould, PhD.

U.S. Olympic Committee’s Top Ten Guiding Principles for Mental Training

  1. Mental training can’t replace physical training. An athlete needs to be talented and well prepared physically for competition.
  2. Physical training and physical ability are not enough to succeed consistently. Mental training needs to supplement physical training for consistent success.
  3. A strong mind may not win an Olympic medal, but a weak mind will lose you one. Although mentally strong athletes do not always win medals due to a variety of conditions (e.g., health, training), athletes with a weak "mental game" virtually never win at the biggest competitions.
  4. Coaches frequently don’t know what their athletes are thinking. Although most coaches know athletes’ behavior and know that psychological factors are important for competition success, few are aware of an athlete’s mental state before and during competition.
  5. Thoughts affect behavior. Consistency of thinking = consistency of behavior. Understanding and controlling the thinking process help athletes control their behavior.
  6. Coaches have a different view of changing technical mistakes versus mental mistakes. Coaches work with athletes for years trying to fix technical errors but don’t spend near as much time helping with mental errors.
  7. Coaches must be involved in the mental training process. Although they don’t have to be the prime provider of mental training, coaches need to be involved and support mental training for their athletes.
  8. Sometimes it is OK to force athletes to take the time to do mental training. Just as coaches "force" athletes to work on certain technical skills, at times it is appropriate to "force" athletes to work on certain mental skills.
  9. Like any other skill, mental skills need to be measured in order to maximize performance of these skills. "What gets measured, get’s done." This saying applies to training mental skills just as much as physical skills.
  10. Coaches need to think about their own mental skills. Coaches can benefit from the same mental skills that help their athletes because they too need to deal with pressure, maintain confidence, keep attention focused, and so on.

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