Sport Psych or Athlete Development?

If you’ve been reading my blog, or you’re one of the coaches I contacted about long term athlete development, it might seem like I’m a little all over the map, flipping back and forth between sport psychology and athlete development.

I think the two are dependent on each other. While physical strength and ability is important to performa at a top level, I believe all those skills are useless if an athlete can’t perform under pressure. I think sport psychology should play an integral part of an athlete’s development. By developing mental skills as well as athletic skills as early as possible, I believe that athletes will learn to become sharper performers and will be able to meet the demands of any situation, regardless of how much pressure is put on them.

As an athlete myself, I’ve learned a lot of coping techniques to help me quell the worst of my nerves and anxieties. While I’ve relied almost exclusively on personal experience combined with trial and error, I think the next frontier in long term athlete development is developing the mental skill sets an athlete needs to perform at their best, specifically those to help them cope with high-pressure situations.

While a lot of the best athletes do learn to cope with pressure on their own, I think a development strataegy that incorporates these tactics could help reveal a metaphorical diamond in the rough. If you’re a coach, or even just a sports fan, I’m sure you can think of plenty of examples of a player that has the best technical skills on the field, but crumbles when the heat is on.

This is linked to my research ideas on the Finnish goaltender development program because I think there is an underlying emphasis on developing such mental skills. At press time, I’m having a very difficult time finding evidence for this claim. While there are some articles written in Finnish, I have concerns that some of the important concepts will be lost in translation due to the unique structure of the Finnish language. It is my hope that as I conduct my research, opportunities will arise to discuss this with people involved with organized hockey in Finland and get a better grasp of the specifics of the program.

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