Dr. Jim Afremow is the bestselling author of The Champion’s Mind, The Champion’s Comeback, and The Young Champion’s Mind. His global work has helped pro athletes in all major sports and has trained a broad range of athletes including college players at Arizona State, the San Francisco Giants, Olympic gold medalists, and more…

Here he shares with Opening Up the keys for coaches to consider when looking at the mental side of sport…

Good mental health matters in ALL competitive sports
No athlete in any sport can maintain a consistently high level of performance physically unless he or she maintains good mental health.
Most often, these athletes have prepared their bodies to win, but their mind is another matter. Mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression, as well as many off-field stressors, including financial problems and relationship concerns, can—and do—interfere with their athletic performance. This interference includes doubts, fear, distractions, muscle tension, and decreased motivation. All of these symptoms can result in a “neck-up” block, a performance plateau, a prolonged slump, or an injury.
In contrast, good mental health helps these athletes reach their true and full potential. Importantly, sports psychology, or mental training, is not only for the struggling athlete but also for everyone who wants to win.
All athletes benefit by thinking clearly, being in the moment, and controlling their emotions. They fine-tune their game mentally and emotionally and exceed their expectations.

What coaches can do day by day to develop their players’ skills
·  Mental imagery and visualization. Prior to doing a skill or a drill during practice and training sessions, coaches challenge their athletes to spend 5-10 seconds rehearsing in their mind’s eye the successful execution of a task. They must do their best to make a play as lifelike as possible: Go 3 D and see, feel, hear, taste, and smell it.
·  Body language. Coaches ask their athletes to adopt a predator’s pose—eyes up, chest out, confident smile, standing tall, and moving powerfully. Supreme confidence, regardless of the score, mistakes, or fatigue, will help them retain a winner’s mindset.
·  Gratitude: Research has shown that people who express gratitude on a regular basis are happier, more optimistic, and achieve greater success. They are also more likely to realize their goals and be healthier physically. Knowing this, ask your athletes what’s good in their lives and get them to share with each other what they’re grateful for in life and in sports.

The importance of a commitment to training
Train your mind first, whether through visualization, mindfulness, affirmations, or keeping a gratitude journal, and make the same commitment by training your body second. Repetition for both builds strength.
Commit to your mental and physical training because commitment maximizes the probability of success. Just accept this fact: You deserve to be the best possible version of yourself. Oh, and another fact: Do the work!

How techniques differ by sports
Peak performance is…well, peak performance. While it is beneficial to understand the nuances of each sport and speak each athlete’s language, the mental coaching I do is similar across all sports.
I teach a science-based mental framework or performance philosophy to help athletes think, feel, and act like a champion, and I provide effective mental skills and strategies, including self-talk strategies focused on techniques and visualization exercises.
My approach is to always personalize a mental game plan for each individual client after identifying his or her strengths, areas for improvement, and understanding specific struggles.
My ultimate goal for all athletes is to win the internal battle by reducing or eliminating mental interference and getting into the ideal state of mind to play the way they are capable of on a consistent basis.
Remember that we are all champions…unless we beat ourselves!