Mental Training Matters

Jul 17, 2020

By Lanny Bassham

Ask any elite athlete what percentage of their sport is mental and you will get a huge number back.  The statement I hear most often is, “My game is 90% mental!” Now, I ask the second question. “If your game is 90% mental, what percentage of your time and money have you spent learning mental skills?” The answer I receive most often is 5 to 10%. Now that just doesn’t make sense. The most important thing is the one that they tend to ignore.

I will offer four reasons why the Mental Game tends to be overlooked in today’s society.

1. Mental Training is a relatively new concept. I did a bit of research on the history of the mental game. Before 1898, I could not find any interest in Mental Training. Sports have existed for centuries, but you will be hard-pressed to find any mention of Mental Training to improve performance before the last century. In 1898 Norman Triplett, credited by many as the first sport psychologist, conducted an experiment with cyclists and wrote a paper about it. Before that event, I can’t find a thing. People tend to stay with what they are used to, so for generations, nothing changed.

2. In the 1960s, when I began shooting, mental toughness was viewed as something you had, not something you could learn. So, no one was looking for a class for something you could not learn. In the last half-century, interest in the mental game has grown steadily every year. Why? I credit the Self-Help Phenomenon. Self-Help books have changed society from being taught, to teaching themselves. Authors began to investigate why winners won and connected the dots. That’s what I did for With Winning in Mind.

3. It is difficult to find a qualified mental coach. There are plenty of technical coaches on the football field. Every team from baseball to volleyball has a coach for technique. There are golf pros and tennis pros in every country club that can teach you to swing the club and the racquet. There are no classes in school on how champions think. Teachers and coaches are not trained in mental skills. This needs to change. The most important mental coach in every athlete’s life is the parent that drives them home from the game, but parents are not trained as mental coaches. This too, needs to change. I cannot do everything, but I can do something, so I wrote the book Parenting Champions.

4. There are fewer Mental Training classes available today because it is more challenging to teach Mental Training than form training. You can video form, measure it, and demonstrate form. Not so easy with the mental game. How do you measure confidence? How do you video Self-Image?

A coach can say to a student, “See that champion. See how he holds his golf club? Hold yours like that.” Try this! “See that champion. See how he is thinking. Think like that!” There’s a big difference. But, here is the good news. It is likely your competition thinks the mental game is essential but is doing nothing about improving the thing that the elite athletes believe is 90% of the reason people win. What if you did? What if you gave Mental Training the same level of importance as you pay to your physical game? We have a name for it; it’s a Game Changer!

Olympic Gold Medalist Lanny Bassham, is the founder of Mental Management Systems and author of With Winning in Mind, Freedom Flight, and Parenting Champions along with numerous educational videos and audio recordings.

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The Mental Coach Newsletter

This article was excerpted from the Mental Coach monthly newsletter published by Mental Management Systems. 

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