Yogi Berra is quoted with saying, “Baseball is ninety percent mental. The other half is physical.” The physical aspects of sport most assuredly get the greatest attention. However, mentally preparing for competition is where elite athletes separate themselves from competitors. Research has proven athletes who utilize sport psychology techniques have mental advantages over their competitors.
Great athletes who utilize, or have utilized sport psychologists include Russel Wilson, National Football League Pro Bowl Most Valuable Player; the late Kobe Bryant, National Basketball League, 18-time All Star; and Aaron Judge; National Baseball League, Rookie of the Year. Wilson’s mental coach instructs him to create images of his future successes. Kobe Bryant’s mental coach challenged him to avoid “stinkin thinkin”. Meanwhile, Judge stated, “The mental game is what separates the good players from the great players. So, anything I can do to get that mental edge to help me stay my best, I’m gonna try and do it”.
Another aspect that is often overlooked is the injury recovery process. Every athlete feels invincible until they realize the human body and mind are delicate. No athlete is immune to intermittent or season ending injuries. An athlete’s individual self-efficacy is based on how they perceive themselves performing in future events. When setbacks occur, players may suffer emotional challenges such as anxiety or fear of reinjury. These emotions are fueled news clippings detailing stories of players who are unable to return to their previous elite status. These emotional instabilities can lead to depressive behaviors and low self-esteem. Therefore, practicing goal setting, imagery, and positive self-talk help athletes maintain self-confidence during recovery and rehabilitation.