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How Outstanding Student-Athletes Are Maximizing Sports Performance

Introduction

How do you measure someone’s participation in sports? You look at their performance. How an athlete performs on the field reflects their level of preparation and training, mental toughness, and psychological resilience.

Most athletes are passionate about improving their performance because that’s how they reach their goals. For them, the only measure of their improvement is how they show up on the field. Naturally, sports performance is a topic of interest for everyone in sports. However, knowing what improves and decreases performance isn’t always very straightforward. For this reason, we hope this article will clarify this topic and help you better understand the factors affecting sports performance.

In the following paragraphs, you will find a detailed sports performance definition, as well as a lot of information about this concept. By the end of this article, you should feel more knowledgeable about what sports performance is and how you can enhance it using psychological tools.

Overview of sports performance

For many athletes, sports performance will mean different things. For some, it will be how they use their physical skills and training. For others, it is a purely mental concept, reflecting how they feel during a game. In contrast, for some athletes, it’s none of these things. However, sports performance still remains an incredibly important and beneficial part of any athlete’s development. It goes beyond the physical benefits of improved strength, agility, and physical appearance.

Regardless of how athletes relate to this concept, almost all of them are interested in how to improve sports performance. They all want to know how to use their mental skills and physical training to become better and better at what they do. In order to get there, they will have to go through an entire journey where they find out the factors affecting their exercise performance, what training and skills they’re lacking, and how their mental health affects sports performance. Ultimately, they might find that becoming better at their sports is the result of both their training and off-field activities like stretching, nutrition management, rest & recovery, goal setting, and strategic coaching.

All these elements together create optimal conditions for improving one’s performance no matter what kind of sport the person is practicing.

College Baseball Player Hits Home Run

Sports performance definition

According to the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), sports performance refers to a holistic approach to physical training. It encompasses the athlete’s mental state during the performance, as well as their strength, use of skills, speed, endurance, flexibility, and overall coordination for specific movements. Most of the performance is driven by how the athlete feels in a given moment: if they’re feeling confident, focused, prepared, and in control, their performance will also benefit. For this reason, mental performance in sports is just as important as physical training.

Roller Blade Athlete In Street

How to improve sports performance

The goal of all sports performance strategies is to improve the ultimate athlete’s performance. Understandably, this isn’t something that can be done in just a few steps. In order to do that, coaches and athletes themselves must have a look at the factors that affect their performance: this can be anything from nutrition to mindset and social support. You can read more about this topic in the second part of this article, where we will touch on various ideas such as mental performance supplements, cognitive performance, key mental health performance indicators, motivation, and self-talk.

Improving athletic performance should be always addressed from a holistic perspective. This means that it should prioritize the cognitive and psychological domains as much as physical training, strength, agility, or speed. In the following paragraphs, you will also read about the various factors that affect an athlete’s mindset and will see some examples of cognitive performance indicators. Even if different people have different mental performance meanings, there are key aspects most athletes should look out for it comes to cognitive performance.

Importance of physical and mental factors in sports performance

There can be no great sports performance without physical and mental health. If you have ever tried to give a speech, take an exam, or perform intense physical effort while not feeling well, you might appreciate the importance of well-being in performance. Feeling good — both on a physical and mental level — is not optional, especially for student-athletes who want to give their best and thrive in a competition. For this reason, the core pillars of physical health, such as sleep, nutrition, movement, and relaxation should be part of any athlete’s daily routine. Likewise, they shouldn’t neglect their emotional and mental health, either. It is well known that stress and sports performance do not go very well together: as stress increases, physical performance declines. If you want to see exactly how does stress affect sports performance, there are countless research studies that dive deep into this topic. Similarly, anxiety and sports performance is also a well-researched topic in sports psychology that you may want to read if your student-athlete struggles with this issue.

But it’s not just physical performance that declines as a result of poor mental health. The reverse is also true: cognitive performance and health influence each other as well. If you’re in a bad physical condition, your mental performance will start declining. That’s why the answer to what mental performance is will also have a physical component attached to it. As the old Latin saying goes, a healthy mind can only live in a healthy body. Therefore, the factors that affect sports performance are the same ones that can affect mental or physical ones.

Physical factors affecting sports performance

How you feel — mentally and physically — will impact your performance as an athlete. Lately, trends have started emphasizing physical health, outlining the role of nutrition, sleep, and supplements in sports performance. But the mental part of training is just as important, which is why, as a student-athlete, you should also know how to improve mental performance. The following paragraphs will be entirely dedicated to the factors affecting sports performance. They will aim to answer some questions you might already have by now, such as what is sports performance training and how you can include this in your routine to become a better player.

Speed and agility training

All athletes want to be faster — there’s no doubt about this. Being faster means having quicker reactions, moving one’s body at a higher speed. On the playing field, this means more chances of winning and standing out.
Speed means exactly what you think it means: moving as fast as possible in a straight line from A to B. To train for speed, athletes need strength in their arms and legs to push their bodies forward. The stronger their legs become, the faster they are.

On the other hand, agility refers to someone’s ability to accelerate, deaccelerate, and change direction. It is strongly influenced by someone’s reaction time, as well as how quickly they’re able to coordinate their body movements. Agility training focuses on doing a variety of movements in a quick manner. If your student-athlete needs to improve their speed and agility, you can sign them up for various speed and agility training for youth available in your area. If you look up “speed and agility training near me”, you should find a variety of options you can choose from.

Youth speed and agility training near me

Depending on your location, you can access various companies offering speed and agility training near you. Make sure you do a thorough search and ensure that the training meets your requirements, as well as your student-athlete’s needs.

Elite speed and sports training

If you’re looking for high-level training that motivates your ambitious student-athlete, perhaps you can consider elite speed and sports training. This is particularly designed for athletes who already have a strong foundation of skills, but need more support to meet their mental performance goals. In this case, make sure you are looking up training companies that focus exclusively on high-level training.

Athletic performance training

Consistent training and discipline are the key foundations of athletic performance. Just like any other skill, performance in sports gets better the more someone practices it. If you’re a parent of an ambitious student-athlete, do not expect they will simply perform at their best without you investing in their training and preparation. In this respect, you will want to help them perform better by seeking performance training near you that your student-athlete can regularly attend. If you’re also aiming to help them work on their mindset and mental toughness, you could benefit from the support of a sports performance psychologist. Ultimately, athletics sports and performance have two main components: physical training and mental preparation. Both of them combined can yield impressive results for a student-athlete.

Athletic performance training near me

One essential criterion you should consider when signing your student-athlete for performance training is the training provider’s location. Ideally, you will want this to be as close to the student’s home or school as possible. The further the location, the bigger their resistance to attending their training will be.

One way to identify those training providers located close to your home is by allowing the search engine to access your current location. This way, the providers appearing on your internet search will be filtered according to your area’s proximity. It’s also important to use the right search keywords: for example, if you’re simply looking for general performance training, you can type phrases such as ‘athletic performance training near me’. However, if you’re looking for more specific types of training, make sure you customize your search to include the name of the training — such as ‘youth agility training near me’.

Youth athletic training near me

Before you contact the training provider for further information, do have a look at their website first. Ensure that their training is dedicated to your student-athlete’s age group. Since there are so many performance training options, not all of them will be suited to your student-athletic. That’s why it’s important to tailor your online search to those providers that offer performance youth athletic training near your location.

Nutrition, hydration, and Supplements

It is no longer a secret that physical health plays a major role in one’s athletic performance. To function optimally and perform at its highest level, the body must be well-rested, hydrated, and nourished. If you’re looking for the best answers to how to improve your sports performance, start with the basics first. See if your student-athlete needs to address the hydration aspect of their sports performance. Or perhaps they need to get better quality sleep. Alternatively, they might need to eat better: it is a fact by now that protein affects sports performance. Sub-optimal intakes can affect physical strength and recovery.

 How does protein affect sports performance?

How much protein your student-athlete consumes can directly impact how they perform in their sports. If they eat less than their bodies need, it might make them feel weak and fragile. Studies that looked into how protein affects sports performance show that athletes should have a diet containing 12 to 15% of their energy from protein.

Hydration sports performance

Hydration plays an important role in performance, injury prevention, and recovery for athletes engaged in competitive sports. All athletes must ensure that they get their needed intake of water throughout their training and recovery time. To support student-athlete meet this health goal, coaches and parents need to educate and monitor hydration behaviors among collegiate athletes to optimize performance.

 

Student athlete shooting hoops at dusk

Brain performance supplements

Even if brain performance supplements have become more and more popular amongst athletes in the last decade, the evidence of their efficiency isn’t conclusive. While nutrition makes a significant difference in how athletes perform, dietary supplements can improve sports performance in those who lack certain nutrients from their diets. However, not all supplements are equally effective. While some of them can improve mental performance and stress indeed, others are rather optional. Those who look to boost their sports performance should always consult with a medical professional before taking supplements.

Sleep and recovery

Even the best diet and supplement protocol can become ineffective if a student-athlete does not get regular quality sleep. Most research in this area agrees that mental performance and fatigue are closely linked. Likewise, sports performance and sleep recovery always go hand in hand. A general recommendation is that athletes should get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night, but this can vary between individuals. Generally, some studies even argue that athletes will require more sleep in order to fully recover from high training loads and stress from competitions. If an athlete also wants to improve their mental performance, sleep should be their priority.

Sports performance sleep recovery

When athletes are not fully rested, their bodies will take a longer time to recover from training. That’s why one’s quality of sports performance and sleep are likely to look similar. When one increases or decreases, so does the other.

How does fatigue affect sports performance

When athletes do not get sufficient sleep, a series of negative effects will follow. From a mental perspective, their concentration and attention will diminish, and they will have more negative thoughts about themselves. Likewise, sleep-deprived athletes will feel weaker, slowers, and more fragile. It is especially noted in athletes who push themselves to the limits of endurance and is also common among people who engage in strenuous work. The onset of fatigue can be rapid, or the result of cumulative effects after weeks or months of physical effort.

Other factors

Despite the effect of sleep, nutrition, and fatigue on athletic performance, there are other factors that should be considered. Student-athletes can perform poorly for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with how they train or how well they eat. 

Some of these factors can be related to mental health, hormonal changes, or events happening in the athlete’s personal life. For example, major changes like a breakup or personal conflicts can cause the athlete anxiety that in turn worsens their physical performance. The best way to find out what exactly impairs your student-athlete’s performance, try to request a sports performance evaluation from your training provider, a coach, or from health professionals in your area.

How does puberty affect sports performance

During puberty, student-athletes undergo changes that impact how they perform in their sports, besides many other aspects like relationships, self-image, and confidence. Puberty brings a new stage in everyone’s life — and student-athletes are no exception. They will start becoming more isolated as they make sense of the wave of changes, or shift their hobbies and personal interests.

However, puberty can also be a positive thing for student-athletes. During this stage, there is a surge in the production of hormones such as testosterone and growth hormone, which can lead to significant increases in muscle mass, bone density, and physical strength. Because of these changes, some athletes might observe improvements in their athletic and mental performance, strength, and motivation.

How does injury affect sports performance

It’s needless to say that an injured athlete won’t be a high performing one. Despite the obvious physical obstacles to playing at their best, injured athletes will struggle with intense self-doubt and the fear of never performing at their best again. Besides, an injury can also make them more risk-averse, which can translate into the hesitation to push themselves or get out of their comfort zone.

Mental factors affecting sports performance

Black and white photo of Australian pole vaulter clearing the bar

How does stress affect sports performance

Stress refers to the disturbance in the equilibrium of the individual. It occurs as a result of a perceived threat, which leads the brain to activate its fight-and-flight mechanisms so that the individual can cope with the stressor. The effects of stress on the physical and mental well-being of the student-athlete are not negligible. Common manifestations include anxiety, disturbances in sleep, changes in behavior, decreased immunity, and lower performance. Although small doses of stress can lead to motivation and achievement, overwhelming amounts of stress harm the athlete.

What role does sports performance play in focus

The ability to focus on the game strongly impacts athletic performance. If someone’s attention is in a different place, they will miss important moments in the game or be unable to coordinate their body movements efficiently. However, focus is a skill that can be trained – so if your student-athlete isn’t the most focused person, there are solutions for this. For example, mindfulness training has been shown to improve attention and focus in athletes and top performers.

Performance anxiety in sports

Without a doubt, having to do your best in a game does come with a degree of pressure. For many athletes, that pressure translates into performance anxiety. This means that, as an athlete, you have to match some very high expectations that other people or yourself might have from you. The higher those expectations are, the bigger performance anxiety is. Coping with this means doing some mental preparation for performance before a game and making friends with the possibility of failure.

Types of performance anxiety

Not all performance anxiety is experienced in the same way by athletes. Some might feel as a form of perfectionism, wherein they don’t allow themselves to fail or make mistakes. Some others might experience it in a cognitive way, which means that they are flooded by self-limiting thoughts such as “I’m not good enough’. Those who know what high performance anxiety is will be able to identify how this manifests in their case.

Anxiety in sports psychology

The field of sports psychology places a lot of emphasis on the mental aspect of performance. As you already know, the body and the mind work closely together to create behaviors and actions that get us closer to our goals. This mind-body connection is the reason why athletic psychology is such a major aspect of all performance training. In sports psychology, anxiety is closely studied because of its potential to impair performance. You can find more details on this topic later on in this article.

Sports performance anxiety test

If you suspect that your student-athlete suffers from anxiety, the next thing you can do is seek professional advice. You need to know exactly where the problem is if you want to help them access the right sports anxiety treatment. Fortunately, there are now many available tests and assessments that indicate the presence of an anxiety disorder. Besides, the wide research literature on the topic of anxiety in sports psychology can help you understand how to approach the solution.

 

Mental Performance

Half of the athletic performance is getting the mind and the body on the same page. In theory, that’s easy. In practice, however, one has to overcome many fears, internal blocks, and limitations that stop them from performing at their best. For this reason, mental performance in sports occupies a special place, especially for elite athletes.
What does it mean to achieve your best mental performance? Those who are looking for a mental performance definition could start by thinking about physical performance. Even if they are two distinct concepts, they work in a similar fashion. Imagine that you have a really good gym workout: you feel strong, present, and able to give your best. Now imagine that those physical sensations of strength translate into how you’re feeling on a mental level. That’s what mental performance is, in a nutshell.

Mental performance in sports

In sports, performing well — both physically and mentally — is crucial. Athletes need confidence, courage, and positive self-talk to give their best on the field. But they can only access those qualities when they’re in a positive mindset. For this reason, athletes need thorough mental coaching for performance alongside their usual training.

Mental performance supplements

Since performing at your best comes with pressure, many athletes will look outside for support. Those who want to know how to increase mental performance will try many promising tools and products, such as supplements. One thing to note before taking any brain performance supplements is that you should consult with a medical professional. Some supplements can interact with the medication you’re already taking, resulting in unusual side effects.

Cognitive performance

To perform on a cognitive level is to get your brain to achieve certain functions such as thinking, planning, strategizing, etc. The better your cognitive functioning is, the more efficient and accurate you will be when performing those tasks. In sports, especially elite athletics, cognitive performance appears to be an important factor for success.

Cognitive performance definition

A simple definition of cognitive performance is the ability to execute tasks like reasoning, planning, and decision-making in a fast and efficient manner. Those who feel that they need to improve in those areas can look to some cognitive performance enhancement options, such as mindfulness meditation and brain training exercises.

Cognitive performance test

If you want to see what does cognitive performance means, taking a cognitive test could help solidify your understanding. Fortunately, there are several online tests you can take to see how you perform on a cognitive level. These tests will assess various executive functions such as attention, concentration, memory, and decision-making. For example, The Cognitive Performance Test (CPT) “is a standardized cognitive-functional measure that identifies patterns of performance associated with long-term memory stores” (Burns, 2018). It is used to “explain and predict capacity to function in various contexts and guide intervention plans” (Burns, 2018).

Soccer team huddle on sidelines of game at night.

Cognitive performance examples

To get more specific about what cognitive performance is, let’s unpack the process behind it. Cognitive performance is the end result of your cognition, which encompasses various functions. Some of these are:

  • memory
  • speech
  • learning new information
  • making decisions
  • reacting to an external stimulus
  • auditory and visual processing 
  • logic and reasoning

Sports psychology

Sports psychology is the field that studies mental performance. It also looks at the factors beyond high performers and elite athletes, such as mental health, motivation, confidence, and many others. Sport psychology can help you understand, for example, how mental health affects performance and what you can do if this issue is standing in your way.

Sports performance psychologist

Besides sports coaches, sports psychologists can also be involved in training student-athletes who want to enhance their performance. They are professionals who can provide valuable guidance on confidence and self-esteem issues and show you how mental preparation can improve performance. Sports psychologists will ensure that you are in the right mindset when training and competing in a game. For parents of student-athletes, they can help with information on the link between sports performance and parenting. Another area where a sport psychologist can intervene in one’s inner dialogue before a game: they can show you how positive self-talk in sports can make a major difference in performance by providing sports performance counseling.

Sports performance mental training

To perform at their best, student-athletes must with their minds too — not just their physical abilities. Just like they train their bodies and skills, they must also work with their brain and improve it. This can be done by dedicating some time to mental training. In athletics, mental training means preparing the mind to perform at its best and fully concentrate on the game.

Athletic Psychology

Sport psychology answers questions like ‘what is performance psychology’ and aims to equip athletes at all stages with the mental tools they need to become their best version. If you take a sports performance course, you will see that it has a psychological component, too.

Strategies to improve sports performance

So far, we have touched on many physical and mental performance aspects: training, cognitive performance, and sports psychology. But as you know, applying the information is the most important part. In the new few paragraphs, we will discuss techniques and strategies from sports psychology that your student-athlete can use to enhance their training and performance. These techniques will be drawn from various sub-fields in psychology, such as counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy, and positive psychology.

Mental preparation techniques

Many athletes will need to get in ‘the zone’ before a game. In this mindset, they can perform with ease and let themselves fully absorbed in the moment. They can begin by practicing a series of mental preparation techniques to get into this mental state. For example, they can try a guided visualization exercise or a short mindfulness session. The link between sports performance and meditation is well-studied: numerous research studies showed that mindfulness enhances concentration and reduces pre-game nerves. You can also find more mental preparation techniques in the sport performance books available right now.

Positive self-talk in sport

Another mental preparation technique that can be used before a game is positive self-talk. This means the inner dialogue that someone has in a given situation. For example, before a competition, an athlete can choose to tell themselves encouraging words such as “I got this” or “I have all the skills I need to perform well”. Positive self-talk increases confidence, decreases nervousness, and helps the athlete cope with competition stress a lot better.

Sports performance meditation

Meditation is one of the most popular techniques used by high-performers and elite athletes. It helps the athlete connect to the present moment and bring their attention to one single thing. This improves concentration and improves reaction time.

Athlete meditates in mental preparation for a game. Sitting on a stump at sunset

Overcoming performance anxiety

When a game approaches and you have to give it your best, it’s likely that you are going to experience some anxiety. This is normal, to a certain extent. It is rare that you will meet an athlete who won’t feel nervous about their performance. However, there are some athletes who are more prone to nervousness than others. Personality types, self-esteem, and other factors play an important role in how anxious someone will feel before and during a game. For example, if someone has a more neurotic personality type — which means that they are more likely to worry — will impact whether they will feel anxious or not. For those wondering ‘how does personality affect sports performance’, more information can be found online in sources that talk about personality types in competitive environments.

Personality and sports performance are strongly linked. Those who are ambitious, confident, and competitive will respond better to competition-related stress and pressure. Personality greatly influences sport, impacting the activity an athlete chooses to undertake and their performance after that. For this reason, overcoming sports performance anxiety should encompass an understanding of one’s personality traits.

Sports anxiety treatment

Treating sports anxiety should be approached differently than treating generalized anxiety. It is likely that the factors causing student-athlete nervousness are strictly related to the sport itself. For example, one athlete could be anxious because they are afraid of being criticized by their parents and peers for failing to do their best. Others might be afraid of getting injured. This is why, understanding the root cause of one’s anxiety should be the first step in treating performance anxiety. Mental health professionals who work with student-athletes should also examine other psychological factors affecting sports performance, such as mental health history, the relationship between the athlete and their parents & coaches, and potential issues in their social or academic life.

How to deal with sports performance anxiety

Dealing with sports performance anxiety can be done in several ways. First, the student-athlete can identify the biggest causes of stress and pressure in their lives. Secondly, they can start building a variety of tools to use whenever they feel nervous, such as deep breathing techniques, visualization exercises, or mindfulness. In sports psychology, performance anxiety is defined as the fear of one’s ability to perform a specific task. This means that to overcome anxiety, athletes need to remind themselves of the skills and resources they have to get through a competition or training session. Identifying personal resources and skills can be a good approach when aiming to boost mental performance in student-athletes.

Performance analysis

Performance analysis has become an essential element in sports in the last two decades. It is a specialized discipline that provides athletes and coaches with objective information that helps them understand performance. However, the concept is relatively new for coaches and student-athletes, which why is many are not very clear on what performance analysis is.

Performance Analysis is driven by a sports needs to understand and improve tactics, technique, and movement, achieved through the delivery of real and lapsed time objective feedback. The discipline focuses on enhancing interventions within the coaching process to elicit a performance gain and augment learning. In other words, performance analysis informs the athlete and coach about what actually happens when they perform versus what they perceive to be happening. The objectivity of this tool is one reason why performance analysis is so important in sports. It allows an accurate physical performance evaluation that shows the athlete the exact areas where they need to improve.

What is a sports performance analysis

Simply put, a sports performance analysis is a measure of the athlete’s performance. It offers feedback and objective information that helps them identify areas that could be improved.

 

Soccer officials huddle together discussing game rules

Physical performance evaluation

The reason some athletes are not motivated to seek a performance evaluation is that they’re not convinced of how feedback improves performance in sports. Likewise, the process isn’t the simplest one: conducting a comprehensive fitness evaluation for an athlete can be a complicated process.

The evaluation can be conducted by using the appropriate health-risk, physiological, and performance assessments for each student-athlete. Before implementing an athletic performance evaluation it is important to determine the needs of the sport the student athlete practicing. The results from the physical performance evaluation can offer great insights into how athletes can improve their performance. Besides the tools offered by sports psychology, performance enhancement can be achieved by knowing where to start one’s improvement process.

Other strategies – Sports performance vs. Mental performance

Since performing as a student-athlete involves both the mind and the body, many would tend to confuse mental and physical performance. An athlete will most likely perform mentally and physically during a game. The difference is that physical performance focuses on the body and physical skills, such as speed, strength, dexterity, and coordination. On the other hand, mental performance requires focus, confidence, resilience, and the ability to withstand intense moments of stress. A lot of the sports psychology literature outlines the importance of mental performance for athletes and states that one cannot achieve their ultimate potential without also training their mind. Likewise, student-athletes need clear sports performance goals to achieve the practical skills they need. It is safe to say that both types of performance go hand in hand, and they are further enhanced by the student-athlete’s good mental health. By now, most athletes are familiar with the idea that sports performance and mental health are closely linked. Therefore, those who look for how to enhance their mental performance should consider the three components mentioned in this paragraph: physical and mental training and good mental health.

What is the meaning of mental performance

Mental performance is the psychology behind sports performance. Without a strong mind, even the most skilled and talented athlete can fail to achieve their ultimate potential. Performing doesn’t only involve the body: it also encompasses cognitive skills like attention, making the right decisions, handling pressure, and building self-confidence. That’s the reason why mental performance goal setting is an essential part of any comprehensive training program. Numerous pieces of evidence in sports psychology have shown that a performer’s mental state has a strong impact on their actual performance. Student-athletes who feel that they lack some skills in this area can seek training with a mental performance coach, or work on their mental performance mindset. A mental performance coach for athletes can help them identify their weak areas and help them set new goals to work on.

High school baseball game on a summer afternoon.

How to enhance sports performance

Sports performance theories suggest that athletic performance consists of components like biomechanical function, emotional factors, and training techniques. In other words, how an athlete performs is influenced by their physical strength and preparation, their emotional state, and their techniques. To improve how one performs, one needs to address all these components — not necessarily all at once. 

 

For example, a student-athlete who aims to work on their physical strength can choose to focus on things such as:

  • Endurance 
  • Flexibility
  • Muscle strength
  • Body proportions

Seeing which of these areas needs considerable improvement is one way of finding out how to measure sports performance in an athlete. 

Besides working on one’s physical strength, one should also consider how the state of their physical health influences their overall sports performance. If a student-athlete deals with a physical condition or has pain in certain areas of the body, their performance will be disrupted. Therefore, part of enhancing sports performance is addressing the health problems that prevent the athlete from achieving that. Ultimately, the purpose of sports performance is to allow the athlete to thrive — which is not entirely possible when the body isn’t functioning properly. 

Once the body and the mind are working at their maximum potential, the athlete can focus on enhancing their performance. This can be done by working with a coach who guides through the appropriate sports performance techniques tailored to the needs and training level. In sum, enhancing sports performance in student-athletes is achieved through appropriate training and techniques, the right guidance, and an optimal state of physical and mental health.

How to improve mental performance

Most student-athletes will want to feel mentally stronger, more confident, and more focused during their game. Yet, when wanting to boost their mental performance, many will have no idea where to start. The amount of information on mindset and performance available on the internet can be very overwhelming, especially for busy student-athletes. While advice on how to achieve peak mental performance is abundant, it all comes down to simple ideas such as:

  • Getting past the physical discomfort of a hard training session — helps the athlete’s mind to become more familiar with pain and not give up easily. 
  • Ignoring distractions and focusing on the present moment during difficult competitions
  • Remaining motivated and engaged throughout a long season 
  • Forgiving oneself for a mistake and not ruminating on it 
  • Managing difficult emotions and not let oneself overwhelmed by them
  • Remaining optimistic and confident, even during difficult times. 

Although simple in theory, these ideas need to be practiced day in and day in order to boost mental performance. Besides, student-athletes also need to be aware of any underlying mental health conditions that affect their ability to work on their mindset. Those who struggle with conditions like depression and anxiety should aim to treat those alongside bettering their mental and physical performance. It’s well-known that stress and anxiety can impact mental performance, regardless of how confident or resilient the athlete is. Therefore, if this is the case for your student-athlete, you should also seek information on how to overcome sports performance anxiety

Education and resources

If your student-athlete is at the beginning of their training journey, they might need more guidance and resources than an elite athlete. Having access to information often can help reduce the overwhelming feeling of not knowing where to start. If this is the case, you can look online for educational resources that support your student-athlete’s journey. The following paragraphs will provide examples of various sources such as mental performance books, sports performance online courses, blogs, and training providers. You can check each of those resources individually to see which ones are most appropriate to your student-athlete’s needs.

Sports performance courses

Some student-athletes might want to pursue sports performance as an education path. Besides needing the knowledge and tools to enhance their own performance, some of them might also be interested in the science behind this concept. In this case, they can choose to enroll in a sports performance course at an undergraduate level. If this is also the case for your student-athlete, you can start researching universities in your area that offer sports performance courses.

Sports performance online courses

For student-athletes who do not want to study for a sports performance degree and only want someone to work with in this area, some online options are available. For example, some online courses help individuals improve their performance by addressing aspects such as stress, mindset, physical health, and diet. Since all these factors directly affect sports performance, taking an online course focused on them might indirectly improve your student-athlete’s sports performance.

Student athlete taking sports performance class with laptop

Books and Publications

Since improving sports performance is a science in itself, having the right educational resources can help. Plenty of books available on the internet can give you useful insights into how to enhance mental and physical performance. The following paragraphs will guide you to some of these books that you can order online.

Sports performance books

Eventually, most athletes learn that the time they spend outside their training hours is just as important as the training itself. The right knowledge can allow athletes to push themselves to the next level in their sports and continue growing both as a person and an athlete. As a student-athlete, you might want to use the power of books to boost your performance and reach your potential. Below are some examples of books that can help you do that.

Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success – Brad Stulberg and Steve Magnes.
This fast-paced book offers valuable information on performing at your maximum potential as an athlete, intellectual, or artist. It is full of inspiring stories and scientific data, helping you apply the knowledge in your own life and practice. You can find it on Amazon.

Mental Toughness: The Mindset Behind Sporting Achievement – Michael Sheard
Michael Sheard’s hugely valuable book examines what it means to be mentally tough (its characteristics and development) and how it can be developed through psychological skill training. Find the book on Amazon.

The Champion’s Mind: How Great Athletes Think, Train, and Thrive – Jim Afremow
Even if you’re a naturally talented athlete, you need practical techniques to reach your maximum potential. Jim Afremow’s book hopes to take your game to the next level. He provides actionable tips on how to get into the zone, sustain excellence on the long term, and excel in your sport. Besides offering training tools and techniques, the book also highlights the importance of mental fitness and mindset — which are both covered in some chapters. You can order it on Amazon.

Sports performance psychology books

Sports psychology answers many questions about sports performance. For example, concepts like self-assurance, motivation, and concentration can determine whether an athlete wins or loses a game or achieves their desired results. Athletes who work on their mental fitness will have a competitive advantage over those who don’t. In this respect, sports psychology books can make a big difference. While many of them use scientific terms that are often inaccessible to student-athletes, some books are easy to navigate and offer practical information on sports performance.

Here are some of the best sports psychology books available right now:

Think like a warrior: The author of the book condenses his coaching philosophy into actionable advice on how to build self-confidence, improve your self-talk, and increase your mental toughness. The book’s unique perspective is great for athletes who have little experience with sports psychology but want to understand key concepts in a fun way, it can also be used to help you become a powerful leader in your family and business.

The art of mental training: A guide to performance excellence. Authored by performance coach DC Gonzalez, “The Art of Mental Training” teaches readers how to use sports psychology and mental training information for more confidence, mental toughness, and success. The book is excellent for those who want to improve their focus and concentration, which can be extremely useful in the athletic domain of your life.

Professional support

Although knowledge is essential for high-performing athletes, it should always be combined with adequate training and practice. For those who want to get to their ultimate performance level, personal training is essential. For this reason, ambitious student-athletes should never hesitate to get the professional support of an experienced coach.

Ultimate performance personal training

Coaches and personal trainers are some great resources of support that an athlete can rely on. They are competent and experienced professionals who have worked with athletes at all stages and can provide guidance and advice on what the athlete needs to improve to get to their peak performance.

At the beginning of one’s athletic journey, in particular, a personal trainer or a coach is essential. They can correct the athlete’s execution of certain techniques or show them where their weak spots are. For those at a more advanced level, coaches can help them refine minor details in techniques, strategy, and performance — all of which distinguish an average athlete from an exceptional one.

 

Sports counselors on a computers discussing athletic performance

Sports performance counseling

A counselor, sports psychologist, or mindset coach can complement the support provided by a coach or personal trainer. While the latter work with the physical aspect of the athlete’s performance, the former ensures that the mind is optimized for success. Student-athletes who struggle with self-doubt, stress, or concentration issue will particularly benefit from working with a counselor. This professional can also help with sports performance mental training while addressing mental-health-related issues and helping the athlete deal with sports performance anxiety. Overall, the role of a sports performance counselor is to show the athlete how to optimize their mental performance for success and address the mental blocks that hold them back.

Special considerations in sports performance

After you got informed on how you can help your student-athlete improve their sports performance, the only thing you need to consider is your athlete’s unique needs. Depending on where they are in their sports career, your athlete might need special things, such as specific forms of training and support from their coach. In the following paragraphs, we are going to answer some of the questions that might have been left out in the rest of the article.

High-performance sports

For those wondering what high performance in sport is, imagine that every aspect of that sport is performed at the highest level. The training, competition, and physical demands will always look different at an elite level. Here, the athlete must acquire outstanding skill, strength, speed, endurance, and mental focus to excel. High-performance sports typically attract professional athletes who dedicate their lives to training, often with the goal of competing at national and international levels, such as the Olympic Games or World Championships.

What is a high-performance sport

Knowing what peak performance in sports is means that the athlete has reached an elite level in their preparation. However, getting to that level isn’t easy — otherwise, all athletes would get there. To perform in a high-performance sport, athletes must possess a combination of physical abilities, mental toughness, and effective training strategies.

High-performance sports examples

Some high-performance sports examples include: 

  1. Athletics (Track and Field): Events such as sprints, long-distance running, jumping, and throwing.
  2. Swimming: Competitive swimming at various distances and strokes.
  3. Gymnastics: Artistic gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics, and trampoline.
  4. Cycling: Road cycling, track cycling, mountain biking, and BMX.
  5. Tennis: Professional tennis tournaments at the highest level.
  6. Soccer (Football): Professional leagues and international competitions.
  7. Basketball: Professional leagues like the NBA and international tournaments.
  8. Rowing: Competitive rowing in various categories.
  9. Weightlifting: Olympic weightlifting and powerlifting.
  10. Skiing and Snowboarding: Alpine skiing, freestyle skiing, snowboarding, and ski jumping.

Sports and academic performance

Performing at school and in one’s sports is a challenging task. Not surprisingly, sports performance for student athletes has always been a topic of interest for parents, teachers, and coaches. Due to the high pressure from school and their training, many athletes will find themselves stressed and anxious. Parents, in particular, have been trying to see how sports can improve academic performance since exercise is known to improve cognitive abilities.

However, the link between sports and academic results isn’t always clear. While there are students who struggle at school because of their sports career, there is no clear evidence that being committed to a sport affects grades at school. For students who are committed to high athletic performance, high school can be difficult to navigate due to all the stress, tiredness, and additional commitments. But there are also students who can successfully manage both areas. Therefore, the most important thing is to draw a conclusion based on your student-athlete’s feedback.

Do sports improve academic performance

In high school, sports performance can be just as important as academic grades for many student-athletes. While some parents are afraid that their student will neglect their school in favor of training sessions, there are some ways in which athletics actually benefit academic performance. For example, athletes can have better physical and mental well-being as a result of their sports participation. They are also more focused, and disciplined, and learn to manage their time better. All these skills allow them to be better students at school — if they want to become that. Student-athletes who learn what sports performance is in high school from an early age can also take that approach to perform in their academic life.

How can sports improve academic performance

Engaging in sports can have a positive impact on a student-athlete’s academic performance. As anyone knows, a sport requires mental discipline, consistency, and intense effort. When an athlete masters all these skills, they can apply them in the academic area of their lives. Besides, improving your sports performance under pressure fosters resilience and mental toughness — which can be highly valuable traits for a student, especially during stressful times.

Another indirect way in which sports can improve academic performance is through mental skills such as focus and concentration. As research literature shows, exercise does improve mental performance: people who exercise regularly report better concentration. If a student-athlete learns to focus on their sports and exercise cognitive skills like attention and mindfulness, they can do the same when in class. Besides, taking part in a sports team can improve one’s ability to work with other people and develop their social skills.

Therefore, it’s important to note that the impact of sports on academic performance can vary among individuals. Some students may find that sports enhance their academic abilities, while others may need to find a balance between their athletic commitments and their studies.

Personality and sports performance

One less common topic in sports performance is personality. When looking to improve in their sports, many athletes forget that their unique traits play an important role in how fast they progress, what type of environments they enjoy playing in, etc. However, those interested in sports performance development should get to know themselves better before deciding what kind of tools to use in their personal growth journey. Personality and individual differences can impact performance and athletic achievement in several ways.

Personality and sports performance

How a student-athlete performs and improves at their sport is also down to their personality characteristics and individual differences. For example, a neurotic athlete is more like to worry and stress before a competition — which is why it’s important for them to know how anxiety affects sports performance. On the other hand, an athlete with a competitive drive will be stimulated by a competitive environment in a positive way.

 

Football player kneels with elbows on bench after a game loss.

How does personality affect sports performance

Athletes generally choose a sport based on their personality type. For instance, an extrovert may be more inclined to play team sports, while introverts are likely to lean towards individual activities. Confidence is another trait that strongly influences athletic performance: a confident athlete is more likely to succeed than one who is affected by intense self-doubt. There is also a strong link between personality, sports performance, and stress. Athletes who are more mentally tough will recover from stressful competitions more quickly than those who get stressed very easily. In conclusion, personality does affect sports performance — which is why every athlete should aim to get to know themselves better.

Conclusion/Summary

This article aimed to serve as a comprehensive sports performance explanation: what it is, how it can be measured, and how it can be improved. We have touched on various aspects of performance, such as mental performance, and sports performance analysis, and offered some suggestions of tools for improvement.

The importance of a holistic approach to sports performance

Ultimately, the main idea to take away from this article is that sports performance should be approached from multiple angles: athletes must work on their mental, emotional, and physical aspects at once to reach the elite level. Lastly, we aimed to outline the importance of training in sports performance: no matter how many educational materials someone reads, how much they improve will always come down to the amount of effort they put into their training.

Ongoing developments in sports performance research and training

To become the top performer they want to be, any athlete should be continuously dedicated to improvement. They should always seek to better themselves through any means possible, such as training, nutrition, self-care, and through the work with themselves. Becoming a great athlete is a long-term game that can be achieved with effort and passion for one’s game.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is sports performance?

Sports performance refers to the level of achievement and skill demonstrated by an athlete or a sports team in their respective sport or activity. It encompasses a range of factors that contribute to an athlete’s ability to perform at their best during training and competition. Sports performance metrics include things such as speed, strength, agility, endurance, accuracy, technique, and overall success in competitions.

What is sports performance anxiety?

Feeling worried and stressed before a competition can indicate sports performance anxiety. An athlete who struggles with it might be afraid of not meeting the performance standards they’ve imposed on themselves. Anxiety comes with a lot of stress as well — and any student-athlete knows that stress affects sports performance negatively. Luckily, there are plenty of sports performance anxiety tips that can help reduce the emotions associated with this state. For example, mental rehearsal can improve performance and reduce stress, especially when performed before a competition.

Does sports performance affect academic performance?

While some parents are afraid that their student will neglect their school in favor of training sessions, there are some ways in which athletics actually benefit academic performance. For example, athletes can have better physical and mental well-being as a result of their sports participation. They are also more focused, and disciplined, and learn to manage their time better. However, when a student spends too much of their time and personal resources training, they can begin to neglect their academic commitments. In this case, they need to create more balance in their lives and ensure that they dedicate sufficient time to their studies.

How does nutrition affect performance?

It is no longer a secret that physical health plays a major role in one’s athletic performance. To function optimally and perform at its highest level, the body must be well-rested, hydrated, and nourished. If you’re looking for the best answers to how to improve your sports performance, start with the basics first. One such foundational step is nutrition. A good diet will provide an athlete with all the minerals, and vitamins they need to perform optimally. A good diet should have a balanced amount of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.

Do sports drinks affect performance?

Sports drinks can have an impact on performance, particularly during prolonged or intense exercise. They offer a good source of hydration and electrolytes, which are lost during intense physical activity. Sports drinks also act as an energy source and provide glucose and maltodextrin, which lead to a spike in energy. However, it’s important to note that sports drinks are not always necessary or beneficial for everyone. The need for sports drinks depends on the duration and intensity of the exercise, individual sweat rates, and specific nutritional requirements.

What is sports performance coaching?

Sports performance coaching aims to improve an athlete’s level of performance. It focuses on both psychological and physiological preparation and training, helping the athlete identify the areas where they need to improve. If an athlete wants to focus on the mental side of their training, working with a sports performance mental coach can help them build confidence, control their nerves and anxiety, increase attention and focus, and set clear performance goals to work on. A coach can also help with sports performance anxiety.

How does sleep affect sports performance?

A consistent sleep routine is essential for athletes. It allows their bodies to rest and repair from intense training sessions and ensures their overall health and well-being. During sleep, the brain consolidates memories and skills learned during the day — so if an athlete has a bad night’s sleep, their brain will struggle to integrate those new skills. Besides, lack of sleep creates mental and physical fatigue and declines cognitive performance. If you’re wondering how mental fatigue affects performance, it might be useful to know that all your cognitive skills are working slower when you are sleep deprived. Besides, fatigue also affects sports performance on a physical level: the body will have a slower reaction time and a higher chance of injury.

How does fatigue affect sports performance?

Poor quality and quantity of sleep have negative consequences on an athlete’s performance. They will have a reduced ability to think clearly, which increases the risk of poor decision-making. Besides, fatigue increases irritability and the risk of depression and anxiety. Athletes who do not get enough sleep will also suffer consequences in their physical performance, such as getting tired more easily, having decreased performance in their sports, and having a slower reaction time. Besides, fatigue makes them more vulnerable to accidents and injuries, and illnesses associated with decreased immunity, such as the common cold.

How psychological factors affect sports performance?

Both the mind and the body are involved in performance. Think, for example, about how emotions affect sports performance. When an athlete feels down, their motivation to perform will also decline. For this reason, getting one’s psychology aligned with the body is key to high performance. Some psychological factors studied by sports psychology are confidence, resilience, stress, personality, and motivation. These have been found to play a key role in how someone competes and trains in their sports. For example, motivation and sports performance have been found to have a positive relationship in many athletes: the more motivated someone is, the more chances they have to improve at their sports.

Can high school athletes be affected by sports performance?

The most prevalent issues affecting sports performance in high-school athletes are injuries, mental health issues, overtraining, and the pressure to perform. Student-athletes also struggle with balancing their academic and social lives besides their sports. Therefore, it goes without saying that performing at your best as a high school athlete is challenging; however, with the right support, athletes can succeed in whatever they set their minds to.

What are the top three things a student-athletes can do to affect sports performance?

Unfortunately, a student athlete’s performance can be affected by their lifestyle choices, rest and sleep patterns, and substance use. Perhaps the worst thing that a student-athlete could do is engage in substance use on a regular basis or carry out behaviors that put their lives in danger. If they neglect their physical and mental health, their sports performance will also decline over time.

Does mental health affect sports performance?

The effects of a mental health condition on the student-athlete’s performance are not negligible. Common manifestations include anxiety, disturbances in sleep, changes in behavior, and lower performance. Although small doses of stress can lead to motivation and achievement, overwhelming amounts of stress become harmful to the athlete. Mental health issues themselves are an obstacle to seeking support. When someone feels depressed or anxious, they are less motivated to seek help, because these conditions – depression in particular – is marked by a loss of drive and motivation to succeed. In this sense, mental health leads to poorer performance and can act as a barrier to reaching one’s goals.

How can you improve focus by using sports performance?

To reach one’s ideal sports performance, the athlete must improve mental skills such as focus, concentration, and decision-making. But the relationship goes both ways: someone can also use exercise and sport to improve their focus. There is plenty of research showing that engaging in regular physical exercise has a beneficial effect on one’s mental and emotional health. Exercise is essential for our brain health, as it reduces anxiety and promotes a positive mood. Therefore, to improve your focus using sport, simply choose a physical activity you enjoy and practice it several times a week.

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References 

https://www.sportsperformancept.com/
https://velocityspusa.com/
https://www.sportsperformanceandspine.com/
https://nyulangone.org/locations/sports-performance-center
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