What are ‘Mental Routines’

Traditionally sports people have dedicated an enormous amount of preparation to their physical conditioning and technical skills. The importance and attention to psychological preparation can often be over looked. The intensity, diversity and unpredictability of sport places challenges to the athlete both on a physically and psychologically level.  The human mind is complex with people learning and developing at different speeds.  Therefore some psychological skills will be an inherent ability for some individual’s to control their state under pressure and maintain focus during extreme circumstances of uncertainty. What they do as a matter of course helps to provide appropriate mechanisms to cope. However, those without the ability to do so will require the skills to effectively help the athlete use the appropriate mechanisms to cope.

The mental training skills can be viewed as a tool kit of strategies that can help the athlete cope with different situations. Many strategies are designed to optimise the athlete’s performance and provide them with the appropriate tools needed to cope.  It is important to develop an awareness and understanding of the environment that is placing a stress on the context to which they compete.  Stresses in the environment can have a detrimental effect on performance.  Having the versatility to deal with these situations is key to a holistic approach to the development of the athlete. This can be achieved in a variety of ways depending on the needs of the individual.  Routines can be an effective way for athletes to take control of their emotions and give them more awareness about their environment.  Athletes need to recognise their own arousal levels and learn how such levels affect performance. There is not ‘one size that fits all’, we are all individualistic some of us develop such coping strategies through experiences whereas others have to work hard mature their psychological readiness. Athletes have to accommodate and assimilate these experiences as they integrate them into their game and eventually become automatic in nature.  Some athletes adapt into this process quicker than others but the potential is there for everyone to achieve a high level of mental capacity to cope through a structured approach.