#2: The Missing Link to Elite Performance

click here



Alright athletes, parents, and coaches. I want you to give me a nod if you can relate to one of the following…

Parents, you’re seeing your athlete do “all the things.” You’re providing opportunities for her, getting her private lessons even. You see the work she’s putting in, yet she still lacks confidence in herself and feels stuck. 

Coaches, you’re experiencing the same thing on your teams. You provide all the training, situations, and scenarios they need to be successful..yet when it comes to competition and performance, it’s like they are a different team. 

I see and hear about this all the time. 

I’m here to tell you that there’s a missing link when it comes to playing to potential and elite performance. And it’s more than just the physical that counts. Which is why so many athletes feel like they are not getting the results they want even though they are training their tails off. So, what’s missing?

Simply put, they are missing the link to high performance: Mental Training. 

Specifically, I’m talking about how to train our minds to perform under pressure, bounce back from mistakes, play with confidence every time an athlete is on the court/field.

And without it, at some point all athletes will get stuck. Because the fact is, many of the physical blocks they are experiencing: not playing to potential, making multiple mistakes in a row, inconsistent performance…are actually NOT physical blocks. 

They are mental. And that’s why without training the mental part of the game, athletes will never be able to reach their potential. They might get really good! And getting better at a skill does help develop confidence to a certain extent. However, if athletes are only focusing on their physical game…at best they will never be as good as they can be, and at worst, they will end up putting in a lot of work and be left feeling frustrated, defeated, or quitting the sport they once loved. 

So, today I’m diving into why mental training is the missing link to an athlete’s performance and why we don’t see it as often as we should. 

Here we go! Reason #1 that mental training is the missing link to athletes reaching their potential…

Mental Training Addresses the Underlying Cause of Poor Performance 

When athletes underperform, make mistakes, fail to execute, or get stuck in playing slumps, there is usually more than one contributing factor. 

Could it be form? Lack of training? Lack of reps? Lack of experience? A fluke?

Typically, that’s what we think of first. We want to fix the outcome right away. Figure out how to get our athlete’s shot fixed or form improved so that she can start executing. 

But what about the mental skills behind performance? Could those string of mistakes or “bad game” actually be linked to something beyond just the physical aspect of the sport?

Lack of focus. 

Lack of preparation. 

Inability to manage pressure and nerves. 

Inconsistent routines. 

Inability to bounce back from mistakes. 

Focusing on uncontrollables. 

Lack of clear vision and goals. 

Lack of discipline and consistency. 

Negative self-talk. 

…and more

All of the mental skills above aren’t as easy to pinpoint as contributing to poor performance, but they are big drivers in the results athletes get on the court/field. 

We think our athlete missed her serve because her mechanics were off. 

But what if the thoughts playing in her head before she served were something along the lines of “Don’t mess up. You always miss your serve. You’re going to let your team down.”

How can we expect her to confidently execute a skill with thoughts like that on replay? So, she misses. And we automatically think it’s because her form is wrong and she just needs more reps. 

It’s the mental skills that precede the physical. 

Both are needed in order to create peak performance and confidence on the court. 

Mental Training Addresses the Underlying Cause of Poor Performance 

When talent is equal, it’s the mental training (not physical) that separates athletes

Especially as competition increases and talent level evens out, it’s not the physical that is separating teams and athletes. 

It’s those that have solid mental skills that will rise and separate themselves – this becomes obvious the higher the stakes and with each increase in level of play.

“New levels, new devils” as they say. Your athlete might be performing really well on the team and level that she is right now. But what about when the competition gets harder? She has to play a role she is unfamiliar with? 

With each new level, athletes also have to be able to handle…

-The ability to handle the stresses on and off the court

-Handling bad calls or circumstances of the game that don’t go an athlete’s way

-Pushing past the comfort zone in training

-Being able to quickly respond after mistakes and setbacks

-Performing under pressure

-Playing consistently regardless of who or where an athlete is playing

These are all examples of mental skills that separate great athletes from the ones that “have potential.” 

These are skills that are developed and strengthened in the mind, then manifested on the court in combination with talent and hours of physical training. 

They are what allow the physical training to pay off. They are what will ultimately separate great athletes from the rest of the pack. 

Mental Training Addresses the Underlying Cause of Poor Performance 

When talent is equal, it’s the mental training (not physical) that separates athletes

Physical and mental training compliment each other for peak performance

In no way is mental training a replacement for physical training. 

Just like physical training can’t replace mental training. 

Visualization is an extremely powerful and effective tool. I can’t tell you to just go visualize yourself jump serving an ace and you’ll be set. You have to combine this with actual physical reps. 

However, the opposite is true, too. If you’ve been practicing your free throws but choke when the pressure is on…you’ll never be able to make that shot when it counts the most. 

Physical and mental training go together and compliment each other perfectly to allow an athlete to achieve peak performance over and over. 

An athlete can have all the physical training, lessons, and practice in the world. But if her mind is not in the optimal place to utilize that physical training, it’s a waste. 

You can’t just “rep” your way out of a negative mindset. 

The most effective way to ensure athletes are getting the absolute most out of their physical training is to pair it with high quality mental training that will allow them to cultivate their confidence, respond well to adversity, and perform consistently. 

Like PB&J, mental and physical training perfectly complete one another. 

Mental Training Addresses the Underlying Cause of Poor Performance 

When talent is equal, it’s the mental training (not physical) that separates athletes

Physical and mental training compliment each other for peak performance

Now… if mental training is the missing link, why isn’t it the norm? Why isn’t it as routine as practicing a layup, a serve, or any other foundational skill in sports?

I have a few theories why. 

And they aren’t necessarily anyone’s fault. However, with knowledge comes responsibility! And we owe it to our athletes who are grinding it out daily and putting in the work to allow their hard work to pay off. 

So, here’s why we don’t see mental training as often as we should and how you can provide your daughter with what she needs to access the missing link to her performance! 

Reason #1: Some people don’t understand the value of mental training 

If you’re reading this blog or in our community or programs, I’m willing to bet that you aren’t one of these people that doesn’t understand the value of mental training. 

However, there are many people who don’t understand the value because the physical is so easy to see, and therefore prioritized. 

Most people would agree with the statement that sports are 80% mental and 20% physical, however our training looks nothing like this most of the time. 

In my experience as a high level player, head coach, and mindset coach, it’s not the physical part of the game that is holding players back from reaching their potential. 

They know how to pass, dribble, shoot, serve, hit, swim, and tumble. They’ve done it for hours and hours on end. They’ve received training, coaching, and reps their whole careers. 

It’s the mental that holds them back. 

The inability to do these skills under pressure. 

The rut they get stuck in because they are worried about failure or what people will think. 

Not having the skills to recover from mistakes. 

Mental blocks are often disguised as physical blocks. 

Reason #2: Coaches aren’t trained in mental training (or have lack of resources)

We can’t rely on our child’s coach alone to provide high-quality mental training. 

They likely haven’t been trained in it! It is VERY uncommon to find a coach that is well-versed in both the knowledge of the sport and how to coach it effectively AND has been educated and trained on how to deliver mental training to their athletes. 

That is in part due to the lack of resources that exist to train them. When I started to recognize that it was the mental (not just the physical) that was holding my players back, I had to invest my own time, money, and resources to seek out the best training. It wasn’t easy to find! However, I’m so glad I did because it has made all the difference in my athlete’s lives. 

Not all coaches do this, so we can’t rely on them to provide this aspect of training for our athletes.

Often, parents seek out additional resources for their athletes but only in the areas of more physical training. 

Seeking out high quality people and programs that deliver mental training to athletes should be as normal as investing in training to get extra reps or physical training. 

Reason #3: Mental training is usually an afterthought

Often, athletes, parents, and coaches don’t start to seek out mental training until performance is suffering so much that they don’t know what else to do. 

Can mental training help in these situations? Absolutely!

Even better? Having these skills BEFORE the snowflake turns into an avalanche! 

It’s like getting regular maintenance on your car. We do it to avoid the big disasters that could happen if we don’t. 

Mental training shouldn’t be an afterthought. It should be as embedded into an athlete’s training as all her other foundational physical skills.

It’s when she is armed with mental training skills that she has the confidence to compete and perform at her highest potential. 

Don’t wait until your athlete is struggling to give her the skills of confidence and mental training. Do it now so that she knows how to navigate the struggle! 

  • Reason #1: Some people don’t understand the value of mental training
  • Reason #2: Coaches aren’t trained in mental training (or have lack of resources)
  • Reason #3: Mental training is usually an afterthought

Mental Training Addresses the Underlying Cause of Poor Performance 

When talent is equal, it’s the mental training (not physical) that separates athletes

Physical and mental training compliment each other for peak performance

Remember: The secret sauce: Mental + Physical Training = Elite Performance

If you’re a parent or coach who knows that mental training is the missing link to achieving elite performance, a simple way to get started is what you’re doing right now! 

Make it a part of your weekly routine to tune into the Elite Competitor Podcast. Each week, we are bringing you simple, proven, actionable strategies to help female athletes develop lasting confidence and elite performance. No more wondering what you can do to help your athlete level up and start believing in themselves. You’ve got this, and we’ve got the resources – all you need to do is tune in!

Helpful Links:

All Episodes, Level Up

listen now

In the latest episode of The Raising Unstoppable Girl Athletes Podcast, Coach Bre shares tips on unlocking the power of confidence to help girl athletes excel.

Do This To Be More Confident In Your Next Competition

listen now

Kylie shares her insights into how utilizing resources like those taught inside ECP has helped her level up by improving her mental game.

How To Train The Mental Game w/ D1 Beach Volleyball Player Kylie DeBerg

listen now

ave you ever had to deal with negative teammates? The ones who bring unnecessary drama or negativity to the team dynamic?

Athlete Tip (How To Handle Negative Teammates)

Know what to say with these top episodes

Your Varsity-level skill set

Listen to our most loved 
athlete tips episodes

Looking for tips for your athlete?