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Committing to the Process Over the Points

Embarking on the journey of mental skill development in sports can feel like stepping into a bustling marketplace, with countless voices vying to tell athletes what they should do mentally, and sometimes citing examples from the greats. These – often untrained in sport psychology or counseling - voices make "points" – some insightful, some seemingly profound, and others catchy for easy recall. The intent is to help athletes remember the key principles, but the reality is, this guidance can lead to confusion and frustration, often causing athletes to abandon the idea of building mental skills altogether.

The challenge with all this isn’t in the “points” themselves but rather in the misconceived understanding of the PROCESS for change and development. Common recommendations include staying present, moving on from mistakes, visualizing success, positive self-talk, and responding instead of reacting. 

While these points are undoubtedly valuable, they are also remarkably difficult to implement. Comparable to mastering the most challenging skill in a sport, these mental skills demand personal insight, honesty, challenge, discussion, feedback, setbacks, frustration, new insight, and continuous repetition. 

The key insight is that mental skill development is not about quick fixes, but a deliberate and consistent process guided by a trained professional. It involves finding the right balance between receiving recommendations, performing repetitions, and gaining insights through feedback and shared thoughts.  

When working with my clients, they usually realize that what initially may have hoped to be a quest for quick fixes transforms into a recognition of the substantial work required. “Points” may offer the appearance of a shortcut, but the true substance lies in the intentional and persistent repetitions. The process, delivered by a knowledgeable guide, is what allows athletes to evolve over time.

Here's the critical takeaway about these "points": while absolutely a part of the journey, they’re not the destination. The intentional, consistent repetitions guided by a skilled professional unlock the door to growth and development. As athletes engage in this process, they discover that the points are merely surface-level insights, while the real substance lies in the deep work of the process. The power is in the conversations, the trust, challenging them to go further and dig deeper, holding them accountable to do what we’ve discussed, and exhibiting what true care looks like. 

In essence, the process outweighs the points. It's about putting in the time, confronting challenges, being vulnerable, and continually seeking deeper insights. Each repetition is a step towards personal growth, a journey that transcends the allure of quick fixes. The process, with its emphasis on deliberate practice, promotes lasting change and development. This feels like self-trust and resilience. 

So, to all athletes (and their coaches and parents) navigating the mental maze, remember: it's not about the points you’ve been told but the intentional and consistent process of reps, insights, and feedback. Seek guidance from a trained professional, stay consistent within the journey, and as your mental performance evolves take pride in your investment. “Process over points” — a mantra that paves the way for genuine athletic progression.

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