Why “More Reps” Aren’t Enough to Make Your Athlete Perform Better (and what to do instead)

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Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Early on as a coach, when my team played poorly, the first thing I would think of to “fix” the problem the next day at practice was some sort of drill or more reps in the area we were struggling. 

Now, this approach isn’t wrong. Obviously there had been some breakdown, lack of training, or improvements we needed to make in certain areas in order to get better. 

The problem? Especially as my team became better and the playing field became more even…it wasn’t enough.

Yes, physical training is a big piece of the puzzle to getting athletes to perform to potential. But, if we stop there and think it’s the only thing we need, we are doing our athletes a massive disservice. 

More gym time. More reps. More time on the field/court/pool. 

It seems like the obvious solution when our athletes are underperforming. 

And it makes sense. The physical and technical skills are certainly easier to quantify and notice improvement in. 

But, it’s the belief in the myth that athletes only need more reps and court time that is actually keeping them stuck underperforming. 

Below, you’ll discover why physical training alone isn’t enough to allow athletes to perform to their potential and how mental training is the perfect catalyst to allow an athlete’s physical work to pay off. 

“My athlete just needs more reps” is a myth. Here’s why…

1. Physical training doesn’t address 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. 

2. When talent is equal, it’s the mind 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. 

For example…

-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. 

3. 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. 

They 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. 


The next time you’re tempted to think that it’s only more physical training that will benefit your athlete and improve her performance, think again.

You’ve just discovered why physical training alone isn’t enough to allow athletes to perform to their potential and how mental training is the perfect catalyst to allow an athlete’s physical work to pay off. 

Not sure where to start to allow your athlete to start cultivating these mental skills? Join the (free) Elite Competitor Society! It’s our Facebook group dedicated to bringing together female athletes, moms, and coaches to build lifelong confidence and elite performance. We have tips, resources, and free live weekly trainings! Join us!

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