You notice that your son or daughter is no longer performing at their best in their sport. It’s not just a one-time thing, and the issues continue to worsen with time. Maybe it’s a mental block, they are afraid of getting injured, or their nerves are getting the best of them at game time. You talk to your child and the coach, but no one seems to know what to do. Sound familiar?
As a parent, you’re probably concerned and feeling a little helpless. Maybe you’ve started googling “mental blocks” or “athletic mental coaching”. We often talk to parents who need to find someone to help their child, but they simply don’t know where to begin, what questions to ask, or who will ultimately be the best fit. Hopefully this information will help clear a few things up!
Signs: If you and/or the coach notice one or more of the following issues on a consistent basis and your child’s performance is suffering, it may be time to find a professional. Your child is/has:
- Doing well in practice but not in competition
- Openly negative, extremely hard on themselves, or lacking confidence
- Visibly nervous prior to competition
- Trouble controlling emotions in practice or competition
- Performance slumps or inconsistencies
- Decreased motivation
- Difficulty coping with injury and/or return to sport
- Difficulty with sport transitions, such as from high school to college
Who can help: These are all performance-related issues best suited for a Mental Performance Consultant or Sport Psychologist. What's the difference?
A Mental Performance Consultant, also sometimes known as a Mental Skills Coach, has either a Master’s or PhD in Sport/Performance Psychology and should have significant applied experience working directly with athletes and teams. This is best designated by the CMPC (Certified Mental Performance Consultant through the Association for Applied Sport Psychology) credential, meaning they have completed necessary coursework, mentored hours in the field, and passed a qualifying exam. This is how we practice!
A Sport Psychologist has a PhD or PsyD, should have taken coursework in Sport/Performance Psychology, and is a licensed Psychologist. In addition to supporting athletes who are experiencing performance-related issues, they are also qualified to provide counseling or clinical services. This means they can also help your child with mental health issues related to mood/anxiety, body image/eating disorders, trauma, identity, multicultural concerns, and more. Again, it’s beneficial to look for the CMPC credential as this demonstrates competency in the field of sport psychology.
Specifics to consider:
- Your child’s age. Some practitioners will only work with youth athletes once they are a certain age (for us, it’s 11), and some choose not to work with youth athletes at all.
- Your personal preferences. Consider whether your child would work best with a practitioner of a certain gender, age, experience level, educational background, sport background, title, etc.
- Sport experience. Some practitioners specialize in working with athletes in certain sports, while others are more generalists. Even if practitioners specialize, it’s likely they have experience working with a variety of sports.
- Cost. Contrary to popular belief, this is not an inexpensive endeavor! Additionally, the majority of Mental Performance Consultants do not accept insurance. Some Sport Psychologists do depending on their competencies and how they have structured their practice. Cost per session varies based on the practitioner’s experience, education level, and location, typically ranging from $75 to $250 per session.
- Timeline. Learning and applying mental skills takes time, and as such you’ll find that many practitioners structure their sessions into packages (e.g., 5, 10, and 15 sessions). This helps to ensure that we will see an athlete more than once or twice in order to truly make a difference. It is not unusual for a practitioner to work with an athlete throughout the pre-season and season, or for more than one season in a row.
- Location. Consider if your child would be more comfortable meeting a practitioner online (e.g., via Skype) or in person. Some practitioners see clients online only, some have a mix of online and in-person clients, and some offer in-person sessions only. Also, while some practitioners have offices, others work remotely out of coffee shops and other public spaces, enabling them to meet you close to home.
Next steps: Once you’ve researched practitioners in your area, reach out to see if they offer a free consultation. This is a common practice that’s helpful for you and them! It helps the practitioner to learn more about current issues from your child’s perspective and see if working together would be beneficial. It will also give your child an opportunity to talk with the practitioner and see if they would feel comfortable working with him/her.
If you have further questions about finding a practitioner that can best support your child, feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Abby Keenan is a certified mental performance consultant located in Atlanta, GA. She mentally prepares athletes to perform at their best when it matters most. To learn more about the consultants at Intrepid Performance and see if working with Abby or John would be a good fit for your child, click here.