Psychology Paper on Using Mental Skills to Inspire Athletic Performance


Mental skills are relevant in inspiring physical performance, particularly in competitive situations. In the same way that mental skills inspire competitive performance, they are also relevant in influencing practice and training (Turner & Barker, 2014). Thus, while athletes have a duty to be physically active, in order to sustain optimal fitness levels, it is equally important that they have the right mindset for their hard-work to pay off.  Psychologists have developed therapies to help individuals to respond rationally and logically to life events. Some of the most effective and well-known therapies include the rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT) and use of imagery (Hall et al., 2009). Using these strategies, it is possible to help athletes to utilize mental strength to better physical exercise, make them better in competitive situations, and help them cope with the pressure of losing in competitions.

A common performance situation that would require athletes to use mental strength in conjunction with physical exercise is the period following a career-threatening injury. At this time, it is to be expected that athletes will have a negative mindset. Thoughts of discouragement, despair and anxiety are likely to make such athletes reluctant to engage in the rigorous level of activity that would help them regain full-fitness.  An effective pre-performance routine, incorporating both mental skill and physical activity is provided below. This pre-performance routine combines elements from REBT, self-talk, and imagery.

  1. Select an appropriate setting to facilitate your workout
  • If you need music, choose the type of music that will give you an optimistic mindset. Avoid noisy and crowded environments. The right setting will make it easier for you to concentrate, making it easier to achieve the goals you set.
  1. Set a goal for every workout session
  • Determine the duration you plan to work out, the range of activities you intend to engage in, and the intensity of these activities. Be sure to push your limits, so that you do better every session. Achieving these goals will give you a sense of satisfaction.
  1. Engage in self-talk during the exercise
  • This will work like the music you play during workout. Before beginning a workout schedule, use positive self-talk to find motivation to train better than you did during the last session and avoid negative emotions.
  • In case you fail to achieve your objectives for the session, use negative self-talk to push yourself to do better next time. However, do not mistake this for negative emotions, which might limit your willingness to pursue further training.
  1. At all times, visualize yourself back in the sport, doing better than you have ever done.
  • Do this to push yourself to train better and to get rid of any negative thoughts that may crowd your vision of going back to the sport. Using your imaging ability positively will also help you to avoid habits that may negatively influence your ability to regain the optimal level of fitness (Cumming & Williams, 2013).
  1. Observe proper dietary, sleeping and behavioral habits.
  • Needless to say, you will need a healthy body to be able to achieve your objectives. Thus, observe healthy dietary habits, get enough sleep and avoid alcoholic drinks. Doing this will help you to train better while keeping your mind focused. It will also make it easier for you to observe the other objectives listed in this routine.




Cumming, J., & Williams, S. E. (2013). Introducing the revised applied model of deliberate          imagery use for sport, dance, exercise, and rehabilitation. Movement & Sport            Sciences, (4), 69-81.

Hall, C. R., Munroe-Chandler, K. J., Cumming, J., Law, B., Ramsey, R., & Murphy, L.    (2009). Imagery and observational learning use and their relationship to sport       confidence. Journal of Sports Sciences27(4), 327-337.

Turner, M. J., & Barker, J. B. (2014). Using rational emotive behavior therapy with            athletes. The Sport Psychologist28(1), 75-90.