Mental Game Coaching

Athletes have to be in the top 1-3% and they have to do what the other 97% are not doing. And to succeed at that next level, all athletes are obviously physically talented. The mental game is what starts to separates the best from the rest. My interest in sport psychology developed while coaching varsity football and basketball at the high school level for eight years. I was attending graduate school at the same time for clinical social work and became interested in how much of a role the mental game plays in sports, and how often times, it isn’t emphasized enough at younger ages. Developing championship thinking takes hard work just like training or lifting weights in the gym. It takes practice, patience, and consistency to reach your peak level of mental fitness, but the payout is always worth it!

Mental Game Assessment Form


What is sport psychology consulting/mental game coaching?

Mental game coaching is a process that helps clients learn and master proficiency in their mental skills. It utilizes a psycho-educational model to develop performers’ psychological skills. Mental game coaches are experts in educational psychology, performance psychology and performance enhancement. Through the implementation of a systematic training program, mental game coaches train their clients to achieve a high level of psychological skill proficiency.

As a mental game coach/sport psychology consultant, what do you do?

A mental game coach is a blend of peak performance coach, counselor, consultant, educator, mental guide and mental mentor. They are trained as facilitators in learning and performance.

A mental game coach can help you in these arenas: awareness, learning,development, change, habit formation, performance,coaching, mentoring, managing, and leading.

What separates you from other mental game coaches/sport psychology consultants?

EMDR gives me a distinct advantage in providing sport psychology services in the Washington DC area.  When a traumatic sports memory (eg. verbal abuse from a coach or serious sport injury) is causing “the files” in the brain to be disorganized, I’m confident in using the modality to desensitize and reprocess the memories that are causing the block.  After those memories are resolved, THEN we can start working on mental game tools and championship thinking.  See “below” for some of the critical skills that I work on with clients.

I also have the flexibility to travel to see the athlete in action.  This is where I gain a general understanding of what the client is thinking, while they are performing.  This allows me to make corrections and adjustments in the moment, which is extremely powerful.  Also, during the session, there is constantly monitoring the athlete’s body language, level of focus, as well as giving and getting feedback from the client.  It is certainly a collaborative approach.

What are some skills that a mental game coach teaches his clients?

You need solid mental skills that will repeat under pressure. You need mental proficiency under the most difficult circumstances. A mental game coach helps you learn and master these critical skills:

  • Block out negative thoughts
  • Become more confident and believe in yourself more
  • Focus on appropriate cues in a performance
  • Handle the stress of competitions
  • Deal better with difficult personalities in sport
  • Communicate better with coaches, parents and teammates
  • Prepare mentally before lessons, drills and events
  • Stop self-sabotage
  • Trust your trained abilities and natural skills when it counts
  • Play closer to your potential more often
  • Handle the fear of failure
  • Reduce anxiety that can cripple performance
  • Enjoy your sport experience more
  • Set smart goals that get results
  • Deal with the adversity inherent in sport
  • Recover from mistakes and stay in the moment
  • Get into the zone more often

Do you travel to the court/field to do your coaching?

I do behind-the-scenes work with athletes at my office and at their home, but I also certainly travel to athletic sites to coach athletes in action.

What are some questions an athlete should be able to answer about him/herself when meeting with me initially?                      

1. Was there one specific event and/or a series of situations where you have displayed performance below what you know you can really do?
2. Please describe what happens to you when you are choking or slumping.
3. What have you tried so far to remedy this performance situation?
4. What have your coaches, teammates, friends or parents tried so far to remedy this performance situation?
5. Of all that you and anyone else have tried to do to help, what approach has had even a slight improvement, if any?
6. Have you consulted any other type of mental coach or psychology professional with regards to these issues?
7. When seems to trigger this choke or slump?
8. How is this situation affecting you in your sport overall?
9. When is your next competition?
10. Tell me about any background you have in stress management, breath control, yoga, hypnosis and self-hypnosis, meditation and mental toughness training, if any.
11. What sports have you played in the past? What sports do you play now?
12. What is your main sport now, and what have you accomplished in it?
13. What are your dreams and major goals in your sport?

Ryan Long, MSW, LICSW


verified by Psychology Today

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