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Improving Athletic Performance in a Different Way

Jan 5, 2024
By Anne-Marie Sylvester, Psychotherapist, Registered Clinical Counsellor

When most people think about approaches that help with athletic performance, they think about strength training, attending to their diet, spending extra time training the skills required for their sport, seeking out physiotherapy and kinesiology treatment to address any injuries or physical concerns, and so forth. However, one major factor that is often overlooked despite its influential role is that of the athlete’s mental well-being and performance.

Years of stigma towards anything psychology or mental-health related has affected the world of sports for decades, despite serious attention towards mental well-being being merited given that there is an increase in suicidality rates and more mental health struggles in Canadian athletes than with the average Canadian (Poucher et al., 2021). Although I would like to emphasize how important it is for athletes to find ways to attend to their mental health for the purpose of well-being and quality of life, if the focus is purely on performance, one should still consider how mental health can dictate mental performance which in turn directly influences physical performance.

Beyond acknowledging mental health’s impact on physical performance (and vice versa), consider the principle of marginal gains. This principle has already been widely adopted in the world of sports thanks to Dave Brailsford, Performance Director of Britain’s cycling team, Team Sky, back in 2012. It follows the principle that the sum of small incremental improvements across a number of different areas leads to a significant improvement in performance. Therefore, attending to the many mental, emotional, and behavioural components that psychotherapy can address can help athletes significantly improve their performance and get ahead of the other teams and athletes who don’t address these factors.

An image of a father with his two children at a field
At the Surrey Neuroplasticity Clinic, we have psychotherapists and registered clinical counsellors who can offer sports-focused psychotherapy services to help with increasing an athletes’ physical performance. Here is a non-exhaustive list of performance-related factors that can be addressed with mental performance services:

  • Learning strategies for staying calm and focused, navigating losses and learning from poor performances
  • Addressing and learning techniques for coping with performance-anxiety
  • Identifying and addressing behavioural and psychological blocks negatively impacting performance
  • Learning strategies for managing the stresses of pressure to perform, being a student-athlete, and living abroad
  • Learning strategies for maintaining a disciplined approach
  • Cultivating greater confidence in performance
  • Addressing and preventing mental fatigue
  • Learning effective methods to self-regulate in and around their sport
  • Learning methods for managing thoughts, unhelpful mental pressures and expectations, and self-limiting beliefs impacting performance
  • Support in navigating being a part of a billet family

We want to help athletes to not only cope with the mental challenges that come with high-performance athletics, but also to thrive by attending to mental and emotional aspects of being an athlete, thereby promoting optimal performance as well.

Did You Know:

  • Most extended benefits packages cover registered clinical counselling and psychotherapy services (athletes can use their parents’ benefits), and all of our clinicians who can offer sports-focused psychotherapy services are registered clinical counsellors as well.
  • Our mental performance services can be used even when the athletes are traveling outside of BC as long as they are a primary resident of BC.
  • We offer virtual services so your athletes can access one-to-one services while on the go while traveling for tournaments.

Reference:

  • Poucher, Z. A., Tamminen, K. A., Sabiston, C. M., Cairney, J., & Kerr, G. (2021). Prevalence of symptoms of common mental disorders among elite Canadian athletes. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 57, 102018. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychsport.2021.102018

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