Why and how the mental coaching is changed in these last 50 years

I would like to talk about how psychological preparation has changed, in my opinion, in this thirty years. Certainly new strategies and technologies have been introduced but this is not what I want to dwell on.

Initially, psychological preparation spread especially among high-level athletes and particularly those who participated in the Olympics and major sporting events. If we think of the psychological programs introduced in the 1970s and spread throughout the world in the 1980s and 1990s, we can see that they tended to develop certain psychological skills essentially linked to the management of competitive stress. From the first programs proposed by Richard Suinn and Lars Eric Unestahl to most of those implemented in those years, these projects were mainly focused on learning relaxation, mental repetition techniques, goal setting and techniques for attention training. My 1987 book “Mental training for athletes” proposes the same strategies within an eight-week program.

In those years working with athletes who were competing for maximum success, the attitude towards training or mindset was not taken into consideration. I remember Ennio Falco, gold medalist in Atlanta 1996 in skeet, a discipline of shooting, that when he made a mistake on a platform, he would take 500 cartridges and train on those two targets until he considered that mistake correct. On the other hand when in 1995 I started to work with the shooting most of them were athletes who had won many international competitions but wanted to learn to be even more concentrated and to better manage stress in some moments of the competition to raise their average by one clay pigeon. Basically for at least 20 years I worked with athletes who wanted to maximize the skills they already had, who trained every day in a motivated way and who wanted to respond immediately to the difficulties they encountered. The same however is true of most psychologists of that period.John Salmela, who constructed a questionnaire for the evaluation of mental abilities, told me that in Canada they considered the abilities sufficient if on a scale of 1 to 5, the athletes showed an average of 4!

It seems to me that today the condition has changed quite a bit, not only because mental preparation has spread to young adolescents and athletes at a lower level than those at the top of the world.

Dealing with this type of athlete, it seems to me that the need to understand and enhance motivation and a growth-oriented mentality has emerged more clearly, allowing them to learn to accept mistakes and to respond to difficulties quickly and effectively. These aspects seem to me to have not been as important among world-class athletes and therefore were not taken into account. The study of psychological dimensions such as optimism, toughness and and resilience seems to me that can also be explained because we have become aware of the lack of these characteristics in many athletes, as you can understand we are dealing with the attitude and the explanation of the results obtained.

Impossible to deepen this theme in the few lines of a blog but I think it should be studied as the psychological preparation has developed from the 70s to today, especially wanting to understand what have been the changes in the mentality of athletes and in the world of sport that could have oriented the choice of new directions of study and application.

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