A Guide to Mental Preparation

A Guide to Mental Preparation

Goal Setting

Many performers set themselves goals. However, goals must be set in accord to the following principles:


In addition, goals must take into account two principles:

Process – the stages on how you get there
Performance – what you want to achieve for each performance

TIP: Do not set OUTCOME GOALS alone – they do not help increase performance levels

Now set both your process and performance goals; Setting these goals must become automatic (produce these for each training and game situation).

Process Goals Performance Goals
1 1
2 2
3 3
4 4

Mental Toughness

Elite performers are known to be mentally tough. However, to get to this state they must continuously practise mental skills in order to achieve success. Mental toughness is about:

  1. Resilience – continuously seeking success
  2. Desire – to meet challenges and continuously set process goals
  3. Determined – to beat opponents and have a ‘never say die attitude’
  4. Ability to bounce back – to understand failure, learn from failure and come back stronger
  5. Confidence – to be positive and confident and believe in own ability
  6. Handling pressure – coping with pressure and handling its many aspects

Using the boxes below identify how you will develop each of the 6 areas identified above. Refer back to these boxes continuously to develop and enhance your mental toughness.


Building Self-Confidence

All performers require high levels of self-confidence as it builds up belief. Our performance can dictate self-confidence levels and invariably fluctuation will occur. There are occasions when we are high in self-confidence and at other times we are low. Remaining positive is an essential element to succeed in sport.

The table below identifies keywords that we use when we lack confidence. The second column identifies ways to reverse those words.

Words that lead to low self-confidence Words that lead to higher self-confidence
I can’t do this I can do this and I will do this
I doubt my own ability My ability is good and I want to show this
The opposition is better The opposition is good, but I am better
I easily get frustrated Frustration is part of the game, but I let my feet and ball do the talking

Psychological Skills

The use of psychological skills is a useful way to mentally prepare for competition. Psychological skills can be used in isolation or as part of a package. Benefits of psychological skills include:

  1. Helps performance preparation
  2. Directs individual to tasks
  3. Maintains focus
  4. Prepares the mind
  5. Helps deal with pressure
  6. Allows performers to cope with adversity
  7. Develops effective mind-set
  8. Enhances confidence
  9. Helps to meet demands
  10. Increases concentration levels

The table below identifies 5 common psychological skills that can be used by performers. You need to continuously practise each skill and rate it following completion. Over the season your individual score should increase (1=no use, 5=useful, 10=extremely useful).

 Psychological Skills Trial 1  Trial 2  Trial 3  Trial 4
 1. Imagery        
 2. Goal Setting        
 3. Relaxation Training        
 4. Concentration        
 5. Positive Self-Talk        

Managing Emotions

Feeling sick
Physiological ‘over’ arousal
Increased heart rate
Nerves that lead to panic
Tense muscles


Pressure Triggers – Mental

Negative thoughts
Low concentration levels
Self doubt
Low self confidence
Poor focus / direction
Inability to think clearly



Positive self talk
Goal setting
Deep breathing
Listening to music


Performers who manage their own emotions will do better than those who fail to recognise their emotions. Emotions play a huge part in sport and fluctuate between positive and negative. As a performer you need to understand your emotions and maintain positive emotions, especially when feeling negative.

The ability to recognise emotions is important and the task below will support you:

Identify positive and negative emotions in the table below: A number of triggers lead to pressure. In the same context there are a number of strategies to help overcome these pressures. The strategies provided need to be constantly practised for them to be successful. In the meantime, rate each strategy after you have practised and provide an overall rating following 4 weeks.

Trigger Strategy Rating (5 – successful, 0 – fail)


Stress Management

Managing stress through performance is important in order to achieve key targets. Although performers suffer from stress, not all stress is bad. Indeed stress can be good as it allows performers to focus. However, too much stress can lead to problems both mentally and physically.

In the table below you need to detail how you deal with stress:

Stress Situation Trigger Strategy Rating
(1=not useful, 5=very useful)
Anxiety before a game Feeling sick Deep breathing exercises before games 3 – useful to some extent, but need to practice continuously


Mental Preparation – before games (10 steps to Success)

Step 1 – Attitude – develop your attitude and become positive in outlook
Step 2 – Set process goals – to help you reach your end goal
Step 3 – Know your opponent(s) – know their strengths and areas to improve
Step 4 – Mental toughness – prepare mentally for each game (and training session) to develop focus and direction
Step 5 – Inspire – make sure that you are inspirational and inspire those around you at all times
Step 6 – Dedication – be ready to make the extra sacrifice needed to be successful
Step 7 – Concentration – be focused throughout
Step 8 – Confidence – portray confidence to your team mates and make the opponents see that you are confident. Use positive body language throughout
Step 9 – Cope with demands – relish the demands placed on you
Step 10 – Enjoy – make sure that you enjoy what you do at all times


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About the Author: Gobinder Singh Gill

About the Author: Gobinder Singh Gill


Gobinder is an expert on emotional intelligence and has written books on the subject for sport, coaching and education. He has engaged audiences through workshops, staff development and one to one work. Gobinder produces research that outlines how emotional intelligence influences performance levels and has presented to audiences both in the United Kingdom and abroad. For more information on podcasts, worksheets and other useful materials please visit: www.psychologicaledge01.com You can also follow Gobinder on Twitter – @psychedge01

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