top of page
  • rprestonsp

Sport Psychology & Mindset Training: The Ultimate Introductory Guide

Updated: Dec 29, 2023

'What is Sport Psychology and mindset training?' 'How does it all work?' 'Where do I start!?' If these questions have entered your mind as an athlete, this guide is for you.

Close up sweating male face

If you're an athlete or performer I can almost guarantee you've read or heard that performance is "10% physical and 90% mental", or something along those lines. You've also probably been told that elite performers are unimaginably confident, mentally tough, and motivated to incredible levels. As a result, you probably have a pretty good idea of how important your mind is when it comes to performing at your best, but for a lot of athletes and performers, it's challenging to know how exactly sport psychology and mindset training works. Luckily, this introductory guide is here to clear that up for you and demystify what it all actually means.

What Do We Mean By Sport Psychology & Mindset Training?

Mindset training involves working with a Sport Psychologist to gain knowledge and mental skills that can enhance your performance and well-being. Usually, this takes place in organised one-to-one sessions with the sport psychologist and performer, although if you are lucky enough to train somewhere that has a sport psychologist as part of the team then you might be able to get some more mindset training around the training ground.

Mental skills and tools can be learnt in a small number of sessions, but applying them in a way that will benefit your performance long term requires an ongoing commitment to mindset training, just like your commitment to training your technical and physical abilities.

"Mindset Training? Why Would I Want To Do That?"

This is a great question with many great answers. As I mentioned at the start of this blog (thanks for sticking with me this far), you probably have a strong appreciation of the key role your mind plays in how you perform on any given day.

Footballers celebrating a goal

Think back to your best-ever performance. A day you were brimming with self-belief in your ability to perform at your best. You may have felt driven and motivated to give everything you had in the tank, pushing through exhaustion or pain because you could see your goal in touching distance. You were laser-focused on what you needed to do in that moment. Nothing was going to distract you from what you needed to do there and then. After that performance, you might have also thought, "Why can't I do that every time?" Admittedly, I can't guarantee that learning to master your mind will guarantee a 10/10 performance every week. You know better than anyone that sport and performance are far more complex than that - but what if you could increase the chances of it happening more often?

"learn to control the things in your zone of control and manage your mind, giving you the best chance of performing to your potential when you need to."

This is the jigsaw that you can begin to solve by engaging in mindset training. Instead of your thoughts, feelings, and other challenging inner experiences dictating to you what type of performance you'll put in, mindset training will help you learn to control the things in your zone of control and manage your mind, giving you the best chance of performing to your potential when you need to. Sometimes that will be a 10/10 performance, but sometimes a 7/10 is the best you can give due to factors outside of your control. These factors, such as the weather, a bad night's sleep, illness, or injury, are all unpredictable and uncontrollable influencers that can put limits on your performance. However, mindset training can give you the tools to ensure you perform as well as possible on any given day and often results in performers feeling more confident, motivated, and able to focus on the right thing at the right time.

From time to time, you may also lose touch with why you perform. Your 'why' is a simple way of saying the meaning you attach to something you value (e.g., competing in your sport), and it's common for performers to go through this at some point during their lives. However, doing mindset training with a sport psychologist can help you get in touch with your 'why' again by identifying what's important to you, what goals you have, and supporting you in the process of achieving them. Through this type of mindset work, research shows that performers can experience more motivation, fulfilment and enjoyment of their craft. Something that's important to note too is that it's not just your performance that can benefit. Mindset training has also been shown to give individuals psychological skills that also contribute to improving their overall mental well-being.


3 Common Misconceptions About Mindset Training

1. There has to be something wrong

You might believe that you have to be in a slump, or that some part of your mental performance has to have hit rock bottom for working with a sport psychologist to become an option. This is really not the case. Whilst performers often do begin mindset training because they have an issue they want to resolve, those that understand how mindset training can benefit performance and well-being also know that it can be used proactively to prevent problems or to take your mental performance from good to great.

2. Mindset training is only for elite athletes

The skills and tools you learn during mindset training can be applied by and benefit anyone at any level. It's all about your own development journey, whether you are aiming to be elite or simply play/perform for enjoyment.

3. "I won't be able to fit mindset training in"

A Sport Psychologist will understand and appreciate that you probably have a very busy schedule as an athlete or performer. As a result, mindset training sessions are no longer than one hour, generally once a week, and mindset training tools are designed so that they can realistically fit into a performer's schedule. As we've already discussed, that's not to say you won't have to train your new skills outside of sessions, but your sport psychologist can help you fit mindset training into your schedule without it feeling like your life is an endless cycle of training.


"I've decided I want to do mindset training. How does it work?"

Step 1: Choose a Sport Psychologist and Get In Touch

Step 2: Intake Session

Step 3: Set Your Mindset Training Goals

Step 4: Start Your Individualised Mindset Training Sessions

Step 5: Train Your Skills Between Sessions

NOTE: This is a general outline of what the process looks like. This will differ between sport psychologists, depending on their approach.

Step 1: Choose a Sport Psychologist and Get In Touch

This is a really important step as you want to make sure you choose the person that is right for you. Firstly, ensure they are either a fully qualified Sport and Exercise Psychologist that is registered with the HCPC or that they are a Sport and Exercise Psychologist in Training on one of the accredited pathways through BASES or the BPS. Have a conversation over the phone with them to get a sense of whether you can see yourself working with them, discuss any queries, and perhaps what you might want to work on. Also, make sure to find out their approach to see if it sounds right for you. Different Sport Psychologists take different approaches, and some approaches suit certain people more than others. To give yourself a basic idea of the main approaches click here.

Step 2: Intake Session

Mindset training should always start with an intake session. This is the first session you will have either in-person or remotely, where the Sport Psychologist will explain how they work, that what you speak about will be kept private and confidential, and any other relevant information you need to know. After this introduction, the focus will move on to you and the reasons you have decided to engage with sport psychology and mindset training. With this information, the Sport Psychologist can then begin to create an individually tailored plan of what your mindset training programme will look like based on your needs and evidence-based knowledge and tools from sport psychology and other related areas.

Step 3: Set Your Mindset Training Goals

Most approaches in sport psychology involve goal setting or identifying qualities/outcomes that you want to work towards improving or achieving. This is a useful tool to give you direction and purpose in your mindset training, as well as acting as a guide to measuring whether you are improving (through getting closer to or achieving goals). Goals are often re-evaluated as you progress through your sessions.

Step 4: Start Your Individualised Mindset Training Sessions

Depending on the approach of your Sport Psychologist, sessions will involve different techniques and be more or less structured. Some approaches (such as the cognitive-behavioural approach) involve more of a team effort between you and your Sport Psychologist, where you explore your performance thoughts, feelings, and behaviours together and agree on strategies that you think can work for you to reach your goals. Taking what we call a humanistic approach, the focus is more on you taking responsibility for what is discussed in the sessions, going through a process of discovering things about yourself, and working towards what's important to you as a performer and person. As you can see, the approaches are different but enhancing your performance and wellbeing is always at the centre of the work.

Step 5: Train Your Skills Between Sessions

The saying "use it or lose it" applies here. In sessions, you will learn mental skills and techniques, or, discover things about yourself that you believe take you closer to being the person and performer you want to be. However, if you don't practice or reflect on these new sources of development between sessions then your performance and well-being are less likely to benefit. Disappointing for you. Disappointing for your Sport Psychologist who wants you to succeed. You wouldn't go for one golf lesson and then come out assuming you can play like Tiger Woods. The same logic applies to mindset training. It's a form of training that you need to make time for and focus on to improve in the way you want. It doesn't have to take up tonnes of your time, but little and often goes a long way to reaching your mindset training goals. It's also likely that as you go, you'll start to see the benefits in your performance and well-being.


I hope this blog has cleared up areas of sport psychology and mindset training that you weren't as clear on before. Our aim is to make sport psychology and mindset training more understood and accessible to all performers so that more of you can take your performance and well-being to the next level.

If you're an athlete, coach, or performer and you want to start your mindset training journey,

we offer bespoke one-to-one sessions tailored to your needs. Book a FREE 20-minute enquiry call here, or, get in touch via Whatsapp at 07950378048 or by emailing Take the first step in building a challenger mindset today!



bottom of page