It is common to observe athletes perform better during their training sessions than during their competitions. While performing for competitions, they sometimes seem incapable of reaching their peak performance for many reasons.
Why does this phenomenon occur so often?
Many factors can determine sports performance, especially during a game, such as anxiety and worry concerning the performance itself. Regarding competition, anxiety can be debilitative or facilitative. Facilitative anxiety improves performance and helps athletes increase their effort and preparation, and it can also motivate them. On the other hand, debilitative anxiety results in worsened performance. Most athletes worry excessively regarding their competition, as they want to satisfy their coach, team players, administrative staff, fans/supporters, or even themselves. Thus, the pressure they feel about winning leaves them incapable of concentrating on the match affects their decision-making, and reduces their enjoyment and self-confidence.
In addition, some other essential factors that can affect performance are low self-confidence, adjustment difficulties, and other exogenous factors such as family problems or problems with other people, meaning the coach or co-players. Finally, an injury can affect an athlete’s physical and psychological performance since an injured athlete needs time to recover and get back to the level he previously was. An injury produces an immediate imbalance in an athlete’s life, affecting the Athlete’s self-confidence and self-esteem. The experience of an injury can lead an athlete to the formation of many negative emotions such as fear, anger, anxiety, stress, depression, and concentration problems. An injured athlete is often concerned about gaining his previous condition or even if he will ever be able to perform again. Moreover, an injury can cause psychological trauma to an athlete, as he might be afraid that he will be re-injured.
So, how can we help athletes perform better and reach their peak performance?
Firstly, before maximizing an athlete’s performance, we must identify the factors which affect his performance. After pointing out these factors, the Coach and the Sport Psychologist will work together and then with the Athlete through discussion and counseling to solve his issues. During this process, empathy, trust, and rapport are essential.
Secondly, as one of the most critical ingredients of optimum performance is goal setting, all athletes must set long- and short-term goals. Goal setting can help athletes to remain concentrated and focused on achieving their goals. It is essential to mention that goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-based (SMARTER).
The role of the coach is also vital. The essence of the coach comes down to teaching, motivating, and supporting athletes. How? Rewarding, encouraging, and supporting the Athlete during, though, and after a match or practice.
The Sport Psychologist can help athletes and coaches reach their peak performance by counseling, assessing, and educating athletes on using primary mental skills such as imagery, self-talk, anxiety management, goal setting, and relaxation.
The contribution of the Sport Psychologist is significant in Sports as they help the athletes to develop their personality and improve themselves. Besides this, the development of a close relationship with the coach the collaboration of the two can effectively support and provide a variety of techniques and methods to athletes, so they are helped enhance their performance and achieve their goals.
It is clear that an athlete’s performance can be affected by different factors but can also be optimized. Effort and time are needed and the co-operation between the coach, the Athlete, and the Sports psychologist. This specific triangle is vital for enhancing an athlete’s performance, and emotional stability and success can be attained through this triangle.
Whether to work or not with a Sports Psychologist primarily depends on the Coach and the Athlete. Sport Psychology aims to maximize the Athlete’s every Athlete through a broad spectrum of methods and teach new skills and techniques to both coach and Athlete, offering the Athlete the chance to eventually obtain control of his psychology to the highest level possible.
To conclude, everything arises within us. Thus, we must work from within to have results and get over plateaus. Proper counseling and mentoring are our means to achieving success.