There’s a big misunderstanding about mental training that I hear most every day: “all you need to be mentally tough is long hours in the gym.” Obviously 25-35hrs a week of “deliberate practice” is critically important to gymnastic success, but is physical training really all you need?
The mission of Mental Training, Inc. (MTI) as a company is to change the world-wide athlete training paradigm. The vast majority of gymnastics coaches we’ve talked to say that mental training is only needed by the weak and sick – in other words, people who have psychological problems. That’s the “medical model” that psychiatrists use to try to help broken people feel well again. And, it’s this outdated thinking that simply doesn’t apply to normal, healthy athletes.
Focusing just on the physical and not preparing mentally is like waiting for a cramp to start before strengthening your muscles. No reasonable person would train that way, and the same applies to your mind. Research is very clear about this – what you think affects how you feel, which affects how you perform. If you think about falling on a floor pass, the tendency is to get tight or nervous which increases the chances of falling. Mental training helps athletes learn how to control thoughts and emotions so they can perform consistently well even in the toughest conditions (like in the Olympics with a billion people watching!).
So what should normal athletes do who have big goals and dreams and simply want to perform better more often? It’s not that complicated – simply get a custom program designed, and begin practicing the mental skills for a few minutes each day. So how do you get started on a mental training program that’s right for you?
Before becoming a Mental Trainer®, I coached elite athletes for 15 years. Creating custom mental training programs was not easy, and it was even harder to get athletes to keep practicing mentally. Until recently, the mental training options consisted of buying a book, watching a DVD or hiring a Mental Trainer®. Books and DVDs don’t involve custom-designed programs that meet your specific needs, and good local Mental Trainers® can be hard to find.
When I founded MTI in 2006, I set out to develop systems that use the internet to deliver mental training programs. I knew that if anyone was going to practice mental skills on a daily basis (like athletes should be doing), the program had to be simple, affordable and easy to access. We are now the first and only mental training company in the world to offer online mental training programs for coaches, athletes and parents!
Coaches can get certified on how to integrate mental training into their practices; athletes can practice the mental skills they need to control their thoughts and emotions in big competitions; and, parents can learn to support their children in more effective ways (as well as feel more comfortable on the sidelines!). We’ve bundled all three programs together into what we call “CAP” so athlete training facilities can easily provide mental training information to all their coaches and clients.
MTI is structured to be both personable and convenient. Utilizing the internet and VideoSkype, gymnasts anywhere in the world can get automated online training programs or one-on-one live sessions, whichever they prefer. If your facility doesn’t have CAP, you can learn more about any of our affordable online programs, as well as how to work one-on-one with a Mental Trainer® at: www.iMentalTrainer.com.
Good luck in the meet – we’re walking around wearing black shirts so feel free to come talk to us! –Dr.Bob