UPMC Sports Medicine’s Mental Training Program helps athletes to focus on delivering consistent athletic performance through sport-specific mental training techniques, visualization, stress management, concentration and confidence enhancement instruction, and other cutting-edge methods for harnessing the power of the mind in athletic performance.
Mental training can be provided in both team and individual settings, and can be used by individual athletes of all ages and levels, coaches, parents, businesses, and all types of performers; including actors, singers, and musicians.
Led by Aimee Kimball, PhD, services also include coaching consultation, team building and group facilitation, cognitive regulation, support during injury and healing, and parent education.
Preparing the Mind
While an elite athlete can spend countless hours training his or her body, too often, little time or attention is devoted to preparing the mind for the challenges and demands of sport. Because an athlete's state of mind can significantly affect his or her performance or the eventual outcome of competition, developing strong mental skills can help athletes of all levels searching for a competitive advantage.
Some of the influences affecting an athlete's state of mind include:
- The pressure and desire to win
- Managing a unique and busy schedule
- Past success or failure in competition
- Injuries and rehabilitation
- Expectations of coaches, parents, or sponsors
Top athletes tend to deliver their best performances when they are physically relaxed and mentally focused. Mental training instruction can help athletes better withstand the pressures associated with competition by teaching them to:
- Mentally prepare for competition
- Manage emotions that affect performance
- Improve dedication and commitment
- Increase their sport enjoyment
- Optimize self-confidence
- Respond better to adversity
- Avoid sport burnout
- Increase ability to cope with competitive stress
- Enhance the quality of practice
Given the expectations and popularity associated with professional and top amateur sports today, addressing the mental aspects of competition is becoming essential for athletes looking to improve their performance.
Mental training is not just for active athletes; it is also for athletes who have been sidelined with an injury or athletes who might have experienced a career-ending injury.
Mental training services for injured athletes include:
- Imagery to enhance the recovery process
- Mental training to minimize performance decrements
- Goal setting during injury rehabilitation
- Mental training for a successful return to competition
- Support and assistance to help cope with the transition away from sport
- Relaxation and stress management
Extending Student-Athlete Success
Dr. Aimee Kimball collaborated with the Pennsylvania Alliance in Sport to conduct a two-year study to better understand the effect of sport participation on student athletes and to identify what coaches, parents, athletic directors, and athletes felt were the benefits of sports participation. View their findings in the Extending Student-Athlete Success handbook (PDF).