What is Performance Psychology?

Mark Bellamy: Performance & Sports
Psychologist at The Bosworth Clinic
Competing at sport means putting yourself 'out there'. Rarely do you find a situation where you are so far ahead that you will just win, every personal victory, be it an Olympic gold medal or completing your first park run, means you woke up that day and you had put yourself 'out there'. You set yourself a goal and you did you best to achieve it. You had to answer a question of yourself that only you could answer. You made yourself vulnerable. 

Is Physicality really the only part of sport?

It is so much easier to see vulnerability in movements, these are frequently called (unfairly) weaknesses. It is very easy to see vulnerability when looking at an athletes climbing ability, or speed, or power. There is always an answer, a physio exercise, a time goal, a target or hurdle which you know, by over-coming you can develop to the next level. But what happens if this hurdle or vulnerability is actually internal, sounds silly and is difficult to articulate. Your self confidence is maybe lower, a personal issue has made you question what it is that you are doing or even who you are. Life gets in the way of your aims, ambitions and dreams. Ironically, we know if we need to get more powerful, we see a strength and conditioning coach; we need to fade less, we seek out our nutritionist; we want to run faster, we speak to the coach; we need to strengthen our glutes…we see the physio. But what happens if we want to strengthen our resolve? Increase the decision making speeds we have? Fuel our plan or become a more powerful competitor in the mental side of the sport? What is the plan then? How do you do it?

Optimisation of more than your athletic life

Performance psychology is about optimising everything surrounding the athlete’s sport and life, and of course while we also deal with any issues that may be impacting on an athlete’s life, we are dealing with how to make things really work for an athlete, get them to know themselves and how to get the best out of themselves both when in the big competition and day to day training.

One way to consider this is if you had to climb a ladder. Certainly you would put the ladder on a stable platform. As you get higher up the ladder, the risks are greater. Movements can be exacerbated due to the height. You wouldn’t balance the ladder on say a swiss ball or a trampoline. When you put your head above the parapet, you want to ensure that everything supporting you is working together to hold you up and is stable. These events take a lot of time and commitment; you don’t want to think about how you are going to stay up, as the ladder is falling. You want to put in place safety measures, so everything stays upright even in the event of an unforeseen earthquake. [See this useful blog on setting up all your goals and plans.]

Control the Controlables

We know that there is a set of experiences that athletes in any area of sport or life tend to deal with such as: anxiety management, imagery, pre-competition routines, focus and distraction control (to name a few). So it would seem to make sense to acknowledge these and ensure they are being used not only appropriately but actually as an advantage. Mental coaching is only a little bit of what psychology is all about, but it is certainly an important part which can also be a lot of fun to work on. They say that in top competition, the victory boils down to who wanted it more. Before you get to that point, it is probably truer to say who could focus on it more clearly in the many months before the event.

Do you want to strengthen your platform?
Follow this link to see how you can work with our performance psychologist with your coach to bring you the best possible results.

Performance psychology has everything to do with you and is probably one of the single most effective areas to invest in not just for your sport, but in all areas of your life.