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The mind and the body. The body and the mind. The two go hand and hand. You cannot separate the two. This is a simple truth. While sports may feel like purely physical activity – there is no doubt that the mind is also involved.

Over the years, there have been countless studies looking into the role the mind plays in sports and how the psychological aspects affect the physical. Or how physical wellbeing affects the mind.

It All Starts in the Mind

Everything starts with the brain. What originates as a thought turns into an action. But the way our thoughts are focused or altered can also change the way our bodies react. Think back on any training you’ve experienced.

Some of that training was undoubtedly focused on the mind. What mindset to be in, how to think through a complex move. Or how to process the field in a way that feels instantaneous and natural.

While all of that may feel like the body reacting without the mind’s involvement, it is far from the truth. 

Knowing What You Can And Can’t Control

It’s easy to lose focus – to lose the bigger picture. This is especially when the stakes feel higher than ever and a season is on the line. However, it’s vital to maintain perspective. It is essential to know what is under your control (your attitude, behavior, and commitment). Likewise, one needs to know what is out of your control (others’ thoughts and behaviors, outside forces, mistakes). 

Sports and the Mind delves deeply into this concept, pointing out all of the reasons why athletics need to learn to separate these elements. It’s all about the basics of sports psychology.

Mental Skills Training

Mental skills training is a way to provide cognitive tools to an athlete. To help them find their path to optimal mental health – and thus positively affect their sports career. Sports Medicine lists some examples of these tools, such as imagery, self-talk, relaxation, and goal setting.

A study run by Orlick and Partington proved mental preparation effectiveness, looking into 200 Canadian Olympic athletes. They found that cognitive factors played a role in their success inside their industries.

Ups And Downs

Laurent Duvernay-Tardif states that “You’re the same athlete all year.” That begs the question – if one is the same athlete all year, how come they have good days and bad days? How come there are games when the athlete does spectacular and other games where they seem to struggle the whole time?

Mental health is the answer. Frequently, when an athlete is training, they are doing so at the expense of their mind. That isn’t to say that workouts are bad for mental health (the opposite is true), but the stress that comes with a heavy training schedule and juggling a busy life is detrimental to mental health. Combine that with the stress of a big sports event, and suddenly things are starting to make more sense. This is why mental exercises, conducted alongside physical routines, are so vital.